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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.

Zach Britton settles with the Orioles for $6.75 million

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Boston. The Orioles won 6-4. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
AP Photo/Steven Senne
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The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.

Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.

The Blue Jays will also try to sign Josh Donaldson to a multi-year deal

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson gets up after being unable to handle an infield single by Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
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Tacking onto Friday’s report that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to multi-year deals, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the club will try to do the same with third baseman and defending American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that Donaldson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 15, so the two sides will have 10 days to hammer out a contract.

Donaldson, 30, is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. After earning $4.3 million last season, Donaldson filed for $11.8 million and the Blue Jays countered at $11.35 million. The $450,000 difference isn’t much compared to some of the other disparities among arbitration-eligible players and their respective clubs. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, for example, had a gap of $6.5 million.

This past season, Donaldson let the league in runs scored and RBI with 122 and 123, respectively, while batting .297.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He earned 23 of 30 first place votes in AL MVP balloting, with runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels grabbing the other seven votes.

Reds prospect Juan Duran suspended 80 games

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Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.

Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.

Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.

The Blue Jays will talk long term deals with Jose Bautistia and Edwin Encarnacion

Jose Bautista Blue Jays
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Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.

But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.

Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.

But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.