So what happened lower down on the Hall of Fame ballot?

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Hooray for Barry Larkin. Now let’s look farther down the ballot and see what’s what.  We’ll do this in random notes format:

  • Jack Morris’ uptick from 53.5% in 2011 to 66.7% this year is, on the surface, a good thing for his candidacy. Not many guys who get that many votes fail to make it. So on one level you’d think he’d be a shoe-in for next year.  The problem, however, is that so many worthy candidates — and candidates who will got lots of support but who maybe not enough for election — will be coming in next two years. And Morris only has two years.  It’s possible that he will become the place where all of the anti-steroid voters go next year, thus pushing him over. It’s also possible that he just missed his last best chance to get in before he’s crowded out;
  • Jeff Bagwell’s elevation from 41.7% to 56% is quite encouraging, both for him personally and for the idea that people who are unfairly lumped in with PED users may actually get a fair shake eventually. Perhaps the real anti-Bagwell sentiment from last year was about making him a first ballot Hall of Famer, not keeping him out entirely.  Either way, with 56% in only his second year on the ballot, his prospects look pretty darn good going forward;
  • Speaking of forward, Tim Raines took a nice leap forward as well, going from 37.5% in 2011 to 48.7% this year. Still no lock — you really need to bust 50% before you get real momentum — but encouraging all the same. It will be interesting to see, however, if he gets crowded out in the coming years like Morris may due to the overcrowded ballots.  Of course, Raines still has another decade on the ballot, so his situation is not as precarious as is Morris’.
  • Lee Smith broke 50% — he got 50.6% — but it wasn’t a big leap over last year’s 45.3%.  Not terrible, but no one really seems to be advocating for him publicly like they did for Bert Blyleven, and no one seems as agitated by is presence like they are by Morris’. Could he be flattening out? We’ll see, as he has five more years before he is the Veteran’s Committee’s problem.
  • Mark McGwire has certainly plateaued at a meager 19.5%. Last year he had 19.8%.  Even those who advocate for the PED guys are going to overlook him somewhat in the interests of pushing for Barry Bonds’ and Roger Clemens’ candidacies going forward, so don’t look for McGwire to make any moves.
  • Alan Trammell shot up 12 percentage points over last year, but he’s still only at 36.8%, so it’s not like his is a vibrant candidacy. Trammell leapfrogged Edgar Martinez, actually, who only went up from 32.9% to 36.5%. In other news, if anyone can tell me what separates Trammell from Larkin that is in any way material, I’d really like to know.
  • Juan Gonzalez dropped off completely, receiving only 4% of the vote. All of that desktop publishing effort, wasted.
  • We made fun of the Pedro Gomez’ vote for Bill Mueller this morning, but Mueller actually got four votes. Other novelty vote recipients: Vinny Castilla (6), Tim Salmon (5), Brad Radke (2), Javy Lopez (1) and Eric Young (1).  Nice going, guys. Now you can tell people that you got Hall of Fame votes from writers who did not take their task particularly seriously.

There’s a lot more fun stuff to be gleaned from the voting results.  Check ’em out and add any of your own observations in the comments.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.