Roger Clemens

My imaginary Hall of Fame ballot

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I don’t have a Hall of Fame vote, obviously, but I’ve written enough about it and criticized enough people who do have a vote that I may as well say what I’d do if I had the franchise.

Here’s my whole ballot. I include everyone on it because, unlike so many of the voters, I really don’t think this is some monumentally impossible task that requires long hours examining the dark recesses of my soul.  I write about baseball, I read about baseball and I love baseball and I’ve had a pretty good handle on what has gone on with it in both my lifetime and historically. And, contrary to popular opinion, this is fun.

Here’s my take on all of these guys. Since I’m going with the ten-slot limit, I’ll tally the whole ballot at the end, as some of these guys are “if I have room” choices:

  • Sandy Alomar Jr.: A tough call for the Hall of Alomars.
  • Jeff Bagwell: Passes my eyeball test even if he fails others’.
  • Craig Biggio: He was good at everything, great at many things and maintained his excellence for a long time. Once upon a time that was an easy Hall of Famer. I’d like to think it still is.
  • Barry Bonds: Duh. Yes.
  • Jeff Cirillo: Once held the record for the most regular season games played without playing in the postseason at 1,617. But, sorry, no.
  • Royce Clayton: Best Royce to ever play the game. But no.
  • Roger Clemens: Duh. Yes again.
  • Jeff Conine: How many guys can call themselves “Mr. [team name]?” Not many. As Mr. Marlin he’s one. But no.
  • Steve Finley: Was drafted by the Braves in 1986 but didn’t sign. So we were stuck with the Dion James/Albert Hall platoon. Sigh. No.
  • Julio Franco: I’m sure he’s in his Lazarus Pit right now preparing for a comeback so we’ll deal with him when he’s eligible once again. But no.
  • Shawn Green: Nice player. No.
  • Roberto Hernandez: Thanks to Fausto Carmona’s stuff, he’s the only guy in the Hall of Fame ballot who is automatically hyperlinked as an active player by the HBT blogging platform. Pretty cool! But no.
  • Ryan Klesko: If I were tipsy I’d go on about how he was better than you remember and how Bobby Cox treated him kinda poorly, but I’m not tipsy so let’s just say no.
  • Kenny Lofton: He’s a popular choice among the statheads and I think he’s way better than the exceedingly low Hall of Fame vote totals he’ll get, but I’d have a hard time pulling the lever. He was always good but didn’t have the sort of peak I like to see in a Hall of Famer. I’d give a no, but it’d be one that I’d think hard about. And even if I wavered more, having so many qualified guys on the ballot would probably push him off mine.
  • Edgar Martinez: Down with anti-DH prejudice! Vote for Edgar! Yes.
  • Don Mattingly: Nope. People say “but for the injuries …” I say “he had a lot of injuries.” The Hall should be about the career a guy had, not the one he would have had if x, y, z didn’t happen.
  • Fred McGriff: Really, really hard choice. I’ve gone back and forth over the years (if you check the archives I think I have posts supporting him and not supporting him in the past). As I sit here today I’m inclined to give him a bigger era adjustment than I used to, realizing that his pre-1993 numbers were really damn good for the time and he, unfortunately, straddled the eras in a way that made his overall stats look less impressive. If I have ten others I like better he falls off, but a provisional yes.
  • Mark McGwire: I think yes. I know he was one dimensional, but it was a hell of a dimension.
  • Jose Mesa: No, obviously. But when everyone goes Hall-crazy about Omar Vizquel in a few years, I may talk Mesa up just to be a contrary S.O.B.
  • Jack Morris: I believe he was a very good pitcher. Call me back when they build a Hall of Very Good.
  • Dale Murphy: Nice peak, but fell off a cliff. He and Don Mattingly are in the same boat for me, even if we don’t know why Murphy lost his footing.
  • Rafael Palmeiro: A close call as his numbers — 500 homers and 3000 hits — look less impressive when you adjust for the parks he played in and the era in which he walked the Earth. I’d lean yes, however, if I have room.
  • Mike Piazza: Best hitting catcher ever. Anyone not voting for him this year is deranged.
  • Tim Raines: One of the best leadoff hitters ever and did everything well. Anyone not voting for him this year is equally deranged.
  • Reggie Sanders: No, but I always liked him, even though he laid a major egg when he played for Atlanta. That above-average journeyman thing is pretty fun. Wish we’d see more of it, both for the players’ sake and the teams’.
  • Curt Schilling: Close call. More deserving than Morris. I’d be inclined to say yes, pending the availability of ten slots.
  • Aaron Sele: Heh, no.
  • Lee Smith: Lots of people like him, but my post-La Russa Era closer standards are probably way higher than most people’s. I’m, like, Eckersley Mariano Rivera and … call me later.
  • Sammy Sosa: He’s like Palmiero for me, but that peak was really something to behold. A maybe, slot-pending kind of guy.
  • Mike Stanton: I loved him as a Brave and he annoyed me as a Yankee, which means he was good, because I’m only annoyed by good players who give my team a hard time. But, of course, no.
  • Alan Trammell: Yes. And I would say this even if he wasn’t my favorite childhood player. See Biggio: he did it all and did it well and was arguably the best player on an always good and often excellent team for, like, a decade.
  • Larry Walker: Hard choice. I lean no, just as I do on Lofton. I could be persuaded to change my mind at some point.
  • Todd Walker: Man, guy will be a one-and-done and he’s not even the best Walker on the ballot. Sad.
  • David Wells: Better than people give him credit for. Maybe because he didn’t hit is groove for a bit and maybe because the personality often took center stage as opposed to the pitching. I’d vote for him before I’d vote for Morris too, but ultimately I wouldn’t vote for him either.
  • Rondell White: Lots of Expos on this year’s ballot, huh? No.
  • Bernie Williams: No. Very good, but never had a Hall of Fame peak. His playoff numbers are nice, but he was obviously a huge beneficiary of the playoff expansion of the mid-90s and of being on the New York Yankees of that era.
  • Woody Williams: Always loved his name. If you had a friend named Woody Williams, you’d know you had a reliable friend. Old Woody would never leave you stranded at the airport and would always be around to help you move a couch. But no.

So, where does that leave us? My ballot:  Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Martinez, McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Trammell and … one least spot for all of my maybes.  Let’s suck it up and say — Fred McGriff.  There. McGriff gets the tenth slot.

Sorry to Palmeiro, Schilling, Sosa and the others. If you’re around next year I’ll consider you again. Or if they do the right thing and expand the ballot.

How hard was that?

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.

Report: Juan Uribe is too expensive for the Giants

New York Mets' Juan Uribe follows the flight of his solo home run off Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Chris Rusin in the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that, while the Giants are interested in free agent Juan Uribe, the utilityman’s asking price is too high for the club. Despite having a capable starter at every position, the Giants are a bit thin on depth and Uribe would be a nice fit given his versatility.

Uribe, 36, spent last season with the Dodgers, Braves, and Mets. He hit a combined .253/.320/.417 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI over 397 plate appearances. In his only postseason plate appearance for the Mets, he hit an RBI single in Game 3 of the World Series against the Royals.

Uribe has mostly played third base in recent seasons, but also has plenty of experience at second base and shortstop.

A study showed “grit” isn’t always a great attribute

Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper slides into third with a three RBI triple during the third inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Friday, April 25, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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This popped up in my Twitter feed and I felt it had some applicability to baseball. This past October, Olga Khazan of The Atlantic highlighted a study in which researchers from the University of Southern California and Northeastern University performed three separate but related experiments to determine how “gritty” their subjects were.

One experiment had them solve anagrams. The second, a computer game. Finally, the third test had them solve math problems. Those who were deemed “grittier” attempted to solve fewer anagrams, which means they were sticking too long with difficult words rather than skipping and moving onto easier ones. The “grittier” crowd worked harder when losing at the computer game, but worked only as hard as the less-gritty when winning. With the math problems, the subjects when stuck were given a choice to take $1 and quit or keep going for a potential reward of $2 but $0 if they failed. The study showed that the “grittier” people weren’t any more productive but were more willing to risk the $1 for the doubled prize.

“Grit” is also a common colloquialism in baseball circles, used to refer to players who always run out a routine ground ball or pop-up. Other common characteristics include a willingness to dive for fly balls, slide into players to break up double plays, and to stick up for their teammates when there’s a disagreement between members of two teams. Often, those deemed “gritty” are in many other ways subpar players, but their perceived “grit” gives them value.

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is a rare superstar player who has earned the “grit” descriptor. There are many examples showing why he has earned it, but the most famous incident occurred on May 13, 2013 at Dodger Stadium. Harper turned his back to the field to chase an A.J. Ellis fly ball but went face-first into the wall, suffering abrasions on his face and a jammed left shoulder. This was during a game the Nationals were comfortably winning 6-0 in the sixth inning. At the time, the Nationals were 95 percent favorites to win the game, according to FanGraphs. Is the risk of suffering an injury — which could keep Harper out only a game or two, or cause him to miss the rest of the season — worth potentially turning a double or triple into an out?

Famously, Philadelphia fans and talking heads got on outfielder Bobby Abreu’s case in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s because he appeared gun-shy when approaching the outfield fence on fly balls. He was under a lot of pressure to sacrifice his body for the supposed good of the team, and developed a reputation as “soft”. As a more recent example, former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins caught flack from fans when he didn’t run out a routine pop-up against the Mets on August 30, 2012. Then-manager Charlie Manuel benched the veteran. At the time, the Phillies were 62-69 and 17.5 games back of first place in the NL East and 8.5 games behind the second Wild Card. Freak injuries can happen, as Rollins’ teammate Ryan Howard showed when making the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals. Is that non-zero injury risk worth the tiny chance that the infielder drops the pop-up and Rollins gets a single (or, in rarer cases, a double) in a game that is essentially meaningless?

The aforementioned study shows that maybe Abreu and Rollins had it right after all. Statistically, a freak injury that occurs on a “hustle” play is bound to happen. Maybe that’s what it will take to stop expecting athletes to put their bodies on the line for no realistic gain.

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.