Bob Ryan’s curious Hall of Fame column

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Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe actually has a pretty good Hall of Fame ballot. He leaves off Bonds, Clemens and Sosa — lots of people will be doing that — but then gives the nod to Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, and Curt Schilling.

I am against Morris but it’s probably inevitable that he gets in so I’m not gonna waste too much effort fighting that fight anymore (though I’ll expend a modicum of effort below). I don’t know what I think about Schilling. If I were a voter I’d probably have decided by now, but as it is I’m on the fence. It wouldn’t bother me too much if he got in, but I think he’s a harder sell than others. I’m all for Bagwell, Biggio, Martinez, Piazza and Raines, and I applaud anyone who has them on their ballot, even if I think they’ll fall short this year.

But even if Ryan gets to a good place in the results, the path he takes to get there is a bit curious.  In talking about Bonds, Clemens and Sosa:

It’s easy for a few voters. They believe Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa are innocent of all charges.

Ryan says that there aren’t many who believe that, but I defy him to name me one, and I can’t believe such a beast exists. On Piazza and Bagwell who, again, he supports:

I am speaking, of course, of Mike Piazza, who may very well be the greatest hitting catcher of all time, but who, despite the lack of any concrete evidence, is regarded as a cheater by some because he flunked the Eyeball Test. See? This is why the drug issue is so insidious … Jeff Bagwell’s résumé is similarly persuasive but, he, too, failed to pass the Eyeball Test.

Actually, it’s not “the drug issue” that’s insidious. It’s the people who tar guys like Bagwell and Piazza without evidence or cause. If one supports Bagwell and Piazza despite being opposed to allowing PED users in the Hall — as Ryan does — one necessarily rejects that awful approach. Yet Ryan declines to criticize those he believes are being irrational and unfair. How much better it would be if someone of Ryan’s tremendous stature in the industry were to shame those who traffic in baseless accusations rather than to simply throw his hands up and say “oh well, it’s insidious!” But I guess that would make BBWAA dinners awkward.

But just in case his actual, reasonable votes rankle his crusty colleagues a bit, he covers himself with some de rigueur stathead hate:

The Morris candidacy has become extremely controversial, his advocates being old-line baseball sorts who view him as the quintessential gun-slinging Ace of the Staff (14 Opening Day starts) and his detractors being Sabermetric zealots who decry a 3.90 career ERA that would be the highest ever to be so enshrined, and who discredit the notion that he pitched to the score, thus accounting for an inflated ERA.

Lots of fun packed into one lengthy sentence:

  • A shoutout to “Opening Day starts,” which is a statistic that was never once mentioned before people started trying to justify Morris’ candidacy and will never be used again because, outside the context of Jack Morris, everyone knows it’s meaningless;
  • “Sabermetric zealots” is a good phrase! Too bad the word zealotry — which means a fanatical devotion — is far more apt for Morris supporters than detractors. The statheads merely believe Morris’ numbers aren’t good enough. The Morris supporters have deified Morris as both a pitcher and a human being and have a far greater opinion of him now than the people who covered him or watched him pitch ever had back in the day.
  • That said, we zealots do not “discredit” the idea that Morris pitched to the score. To “discredit,” in the present tense, is to harm the good reputation of something or to refuse to believe something. The zealots no more “discredit” the idea that Jack Morris pitched to the score than doctors discredit bleeding with leeches or paleontologists discredit Piltdown Man. Rather, the notion has been unequivocally rejected as fantasy. Statheads don’t discredit that Morris pitched to the score. Those who believe he pitched to the score discredit reality.

All very clever, Ryan. Cover yourself with enough silly old school writer ignorance and verbiage, slam the statheads, give a free pass to those who smear certain ballplayers and then submit a ballot that looks a lot like one a stathead would submit anyway.  I don’t know what your end game here is, but it may just be genius.

Eric Hosmer’s eight-year, $144 million contract isn’t that bad

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Late Saturday night, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres and first baseman Eric Hosmer agreed to an eight-year, $144 million contract, the new largest contract in club history. According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports, the contract includes an opt-out after the fifth year. Further, Hosmer will average $21 million per year for those first five years and $13 million for the final three years, so it’s severely front-loaded.

Hosmer, 28, had a career year last season, playing in all 162 games while batting .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs, 94 RBI, and 98 runs scored in 671 plate appearances. Per Baseball Reference, Hosmer accrued 4.0 Wins Above Replacement, only one of six first basemen to do so. He was 0.4 WAR behind Anthony Rizzo and 0.4 WAR ahead of Logan Morrison.

Wil Myers had previously told the Padres he would accept a position change if the club were to sign Hosmer. He will be moving to the outfield as a result. The Padres now have a logjam in the outfield, so Jose Pirela could move moved to the infield. How the Padres plan to handle that situation remains to be seen.

The general consensus about the Hosmer signing once news broke was that it is laughably bad. Back in November, Dave Cameron — ironically now in the Padres’ front office — called Hosmer a “free agent landmine.” That thought hasn’t really changed among many writers. For example, using restraint, Dennis Lin of The Athletic calls the deal “a big gamble.” MLB Network’s Brian Kenny said Hosmer has at least three “red flags.”

FanGraphs projects the Padres to finish 71-91, so adding Hosmer isn’t likely to transform the club into a contender on his own. That being said, the Padres’ payroll was only at $70 million prior to the Hosmer signing, so the contract won’t hamstring them going forward. If the young nucleus of players — including Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe — perform as expected, the Padres could be a threat in the NL West relatively soon with plenty of cheap, cost-controlled players and having some experienced veterans like Hosmer and Myers could be useful for their intangibles — pennant race/playoff experience, clubhouse presence, leadership, etc.

Hosmer has had three seasons of 3.5 WAR or more, according to Baseball Reference. He’s had four between -0.5 and 1.0. Now entering his age-28 season, it’s hardly a guarantee he’ll be an All-Star-caliber player in 2018, let alone in 2022 when he is 32 years old. From a strict dollars-to-WAR standpoint in a complete vacuum, one could’ve done better than Hosmer at eight years, $144 million.

The Padres, however, aren’t a small market team; they just operate like one. Forbes valued the club at $1.125 billion last April. The Padres don’t have the financial muscle of the Dodgers or Yankees, but paying Eric Hosmer $18 million on average for the first five years of his contract won’t come close to hurting the organization in any way, shape, or form. More importantly, signing Hosmer shows the rest of the team and the fans a commitment to being legitimate, bumping the payroll up towards $90 million. That now dwarfs teams like the large-market Phillies, who opened up spring training with just over $60 million in player obligations.

In the grand scheme of things, the Hosmer signing is also a good sign given the standstill in the free agent market. Many veteran players — even reliever Fernando Abad, who posted a 3.30 ERA last season — had to settle for minor league contracts instead of guaranteed major league deals. Many others, including the likes of Jake Arrieta and J.D. Martinez, remain unsigned. The rumor that Hosmer wanted more than seven years and close to $150 million was laughed at last month. Agent Scott Boras was still able to get his client the deal he wanted, which could bode well for those still teamless. Martinez’s patience may yet be rewarded like Hosmer’s was; money may once again start flowing in the free agent economy.

In summation, the Eric Hosmer contract is good if: you are Eric Hosmer, related to or a friend of Eric Hosmer, a teammate of Hosmer’s, Scott Boras, a current or soon-to-be free agent, a Padres fan, and a baseball fan in general. The Hosmer contract is bad if: you are a penny-pinching owner of a Major League Baseball team, or someone who cares more about $/WAR than an actual good product being put on the field.