Torii Hunter

The Dodgers are “aggressively pursuing” Torii Hunter…or not

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UPDATE: Hold your horses, everyone. According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers’ interest in Hunter has been overstated.

Hernandez hears that Hunter’s agent approached the Dodgers, who agreed to take a meeting with him. You know how agents used to try to get the Yankees involved in order to get other teams to boost their offers? Perhaps that is what we are seeing with the free-spending Dodgers now.

It doesn’t matter much anyway, as Hunter told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times that he isn’t too keen on the idea of accepting a lesser role. He also denied Mark Saxon’s report that the Dodgers approached him with a two-year deal.

We continue to see conflicting reports on this, but Hernandez was also told by a source that Ethier is not on the trade block.

2:34 PM: Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles reports that the Dodgers have approached Hunter about a two-year contract. Contrary to Ken Rosenthal’s report earlier this afternoon, Saxon is hearing that the Dodgers have made it clear to other teams that they would consider trading Andre Ethier.

1:23 PM: Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Dodgers will not trade Ethier and that Hunter would have to accept a lesser role if he signs with the team.

One would think that Hunter would rather look for a full-time role elsewhere, but since the Dodgers don’t appear to have a budget right now, they could compete and exceed other offers in terms of dollars. Kemp and Crawford are both coming off surgeries, so there’s a chance Hunter could play pretty regularly to begin 2013, but he would be some mighty expensive insurance.

8:55 AM: What do you do when you already have three outfielders under contract with long-term deals? You try to sign another outfielder, of course.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Dodgers are “aggressively pursuing” free agent outfielder Torii Hunter. This must be part of Ned Colletti’s strategy of signing all of the free agents in order to keep them away from potential rivals.

Nothing appears imminent, but Nightengale hears that the Dodgers have some organizational meetings on tap for next week in which they’ll try to formulate a plan to make room for both Hunter and a front-line starting pitcher. They have already spoken with the agents for Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, who many consider the best two starters available in free agency.

The Dodgers have Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier locked into expensive long-term deals, so something will have to give if they want to sign Hunter. We heard a rumor last month that Ethier was on the trade block and this would seem to give some credence to that notion. Yes, it appears the Dodgers may already have a case of buyer’s remorse after signing the 30-year-old to a five-year, $85 million contract extension in June.

Breaking Down the Today’s Game Hall of Fame Ballot: Lou Piniella

TORONTO - JULY 9:  Manager Lou Pinella of the Cincinnati Reds looks on during batting practice prior to the1991 All-Star Game at the Toronto Sky Dome on July 9, 1991 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
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On Monday, December 5, the Today’s Game committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame — the replacement for the Veterans Committee which covers the years 1988-2016 — will vote on candidates for the 2017 induction class. This week we are looking at the ten candidates, one-by-one, to assess their Hall worthiness. Next up: Lou Piniella

The case for his induction:

He notched 1,835 wins, made seven postseason appearances, a won a World Series as a manager. That win total is good for 14th all time. Of the 13 men ahead of him, 12 are already in the Hall. The only who isn’t is Gene Mauch, who was under .500 for his career. Connie Mack and Bucky Harris are in that crowd and they were under .500 too, but Mack is kind of a special case as the all-time wins leader and Harris, well, I dunno, he hung around forever and the Veterans Committee was a different beast back in the 1970s. Point is, if you have Piniella’s win total and you’re over .500, as Piniella is, you’re probably getting in, at least eventually.

A lot of those wins came in some good places and at some good times, adding some psychological weight to that record. Taking the 1990 Reds to the World Series and beating the heavily favored A’s was a great story and, as the Reds’ last title for 26 years and counting, stands as a more memorable accomplishment than doing it someplace else. Likewise, his next job, in Seattle, coincided with the franchise’s best seasons thanks to the emergence of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez under Piniella’s command. Mariners’ history fundamentally changed during the Piniella era and he will always be associated with that. Oh, and his 2001 team set the single season record for wins with 116. He made two playoff appearances with the Cubs too. That’s been eclipsed by the 2016 team’s exploits, but it was a pretty big deal at the time.

It’s also worth noting that Piniella likewise had a very fine playing career, with 18 seasons of 109 OPS+ hitting, a Rookie of the Year Award and a couple of World Series rings on his resume. That’s not enough by itself to get him in the Hall, but he presents a nice total package as a Baseball Man Supreme who has been thought highly of for close to 50 years now.

Oh, one other thing: he was colorful. He had a temper and a repuatation as kind of a red ass, with a good number of on-the-field incidents which stick in people’s minds. That sort of thing doesn’t necessarily make someone a good manager or a good person, but Piniella has been seen as a guy who mellowed with age and, at various times in his career, showed that he had a sense of humor about all of that stuff which makes it play a heck of a lot better. For Hall of Fame purposes, it certainly plays a heck of a lot more memorably.

The case against his induction:

His years in Tampa Bay weren’t all that great and, by the time his days in Chicago were over there was a sense that he was sort of running on fumes and padding that win total to get him into that top 14. In both places Joe Maddon eventually came along and did better things and, in some cases, undoing some bad things Piniella did. Some believe he should’ve won another pennant or two and, yes, some of those Mariners teams disappointed in the postseason. Some people look less amusingly on his temper tantrums over the years and, I suppose, one could characterize them a bit more sinisterly than I did above without being too dramatic.

Would I vote for him?

I think so. As I mentioned in the George Steinbrenner entry, when it comes to managers and executives, I put a lot of weight on whether one could tell the story of baseball in a guy’s era without mentioning his name. Piniella is no Joe Torre, Bobby Cox of Tony La Russa in that regard, but he’s pretty close to that group in terms of the figure he cut in the game and, as I mentioned, he’s critical to the story of a couple of franchises. Certainly the Mariners but also the 1970s Yankees as a player and, possibly, the 1990 Reds. I tend to be a softer Hall of Fame touch than a lot of people, so I get that people may disagree, but I’d put him in.

Will the Committee vote for him?

Hard to say. On the one hand, Piniella feels like the sort of baseball man that gets rewarded by the Veterans Committee. On the other hand, the Veterans Committee took ages to vote in some other notable managers such as Whitey Herzog, suggesting that maybe Piniella will have to wait. This is the first year for the new composition of the Veterans Committe, however, so it’s hard to say if they’ll be tougher or easier graders. He may be the hardest call of all of the guys on this year’s ballot.

Twins hire James Rowson as their hitting coach

BOSTON, MA - June 4: The Minnesota Twins logo is seen during the fifth inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 4, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
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The Minnesota Twins have announced that they have hired James Rowson as their hitting coach.

Rowson was the minor league hitting coordinator for the New York Yankees for seven of the last nine seasons, interrupted by a short stint with the Chicago Cubs as minor league hitting coordinator. He also worked at the minor league levels with the Los Angeles Angels. He played in the minors for the Seattle Mariners and Yankees.

Rowson replacesTom Brunansky, who was hitting coach for the past four seasons.