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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.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.