thomas

How to handle this overstuffed Hall of Fame ballot

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We have a problem here, one that’s going to keep getting worse in future years. The Hall of Fame electorate is permitted to vote for only 10 players per year, but this ballot contains more than 10 Hall of Famers:

Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Tom Glavine
Greg Maddux
Mark McGwire
Mike Mussina
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Frank Thomas
Alan Trammell

That’s 13 clear Hall of Famers in my book, without even counting the still interesting cases of Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Larry Walker.

Maddux is getting in. That we know. Biggio, Glavine and Thomas have shots; I’m guessing that all three will end up in the 70-80 percent range (with 75 being the cutoff for election). Perhaps one of the trio will get in, probably Glavine or Thomas, but I doubt all three will.

If two get in, that still doesn’t alleviate things for next year. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield are all joining the ballot then.

So, what’s a voter to do? Or at least a stats-friendly voter? Some will check the names of Maddux and Jack Morris, maybe one or two more, and be done with it. But let’s think instead about the more modern voter who recognizes that most or all of these guys above surpass the Hall of Fame standard.

My thought would be to leave Bonds, Clemens and McGwire off the list. I would have voted for all three last year, and I’d vote for the three again. However, I don’t want to take either over cleaner players. Not that everyone else on my 13-man ballot was necessarily clean. I don’t really believe that.

Subtracting those three gives me a ballot of Bagwell, Biggio, Glavine, Maddux, Mussina, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Thomas and Trammell.

But, I would be wavering on one subject: I’d hate to see Kent fall off the ballot after one year, something I think has a legitimate chance of happening. An adequate defender with a career .290/.356/.500 line, Kent has 76 more homers than any other second baseman in history (377), and he’s second to Rogers Hornsby with 1,518 RBI. That’s not too shabby, and it deserves a heck of a lot more than a one-and-done.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to remove my support from any of the other guys who need it. Maybe take it from the one guy who doesn’t: Maddux. He’s going in, but it’s not like it’d be unanimous anyway. Let’s squeeze Kent in there in his place.

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.