Tom Glavine

My imaginary Hall of Fame ballot

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I don’t have a Hall of Fame ballot, of course, but most people don’t and they pick their hypothetical ballot, so I’ll pick mine.

Note: this is not my assessment of who I think will get in. I’ll get to that later. These are just my thoughts on the guys and my selections. And, in case you’re new around here, I (a) do not disqualify guys who have been linked to or accused of performance-enhancing drug use for a host of reasons I’ve expained numerous times before, though I may discount their accomplishments somewhat as a result of drug use; and (b) I don’t limit myself to ten choices because the ten-vote rule real Hall of Fame voters have to abide by is dumb.

So, without further ado, here is my take on everyone on this year’s ballot, with my choices bolded:

  • Moises Alou: Very good for a long time, never great, though. I usually prefer to see a Hall of Fame peak and a long valuable career. Not seeing the peak here.
  • Jeff Bagwell: Yep.Been making this case for two years. For about a decade he was the third best hitter in baseball, behind only Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas.
  • Armando Benitez: Hahaha, no. Though he did once have a Hall of Fame-level quote, telling reporters “I did MY job” after he blew a save because of a defensive miscue behind him. Armando always had your back.
  • Craig Biggio: Crazy underrated. Was not just some guy who limped to 3,000 hits. Plus defense, did everything well, played in bad hitting ballparks for many years. No argument for Ryne Sandberg excludes Biggio and Sandberg is in the Hall.
  • Barry Bonds: If you have to ask.
  • Sean Casey: Great guy. Aesthetically speaking, I love first basemen like him. More fun than the fat guys who hit 50 homers. But my aesthetic preferences don’t a Hall of Famer make.
  • Roger Clemens: If you have to ask.
  • Ray Durham: Looking back, he’s better than I remembered him. Enjoy your one year on the ballot, though, Ray.
  • Eric Gagne: Really looking forward to someone saying “hey, he may have been ‘roided up to his eyeballs, but the ninth inning IS THAT TOUGH. Closers have an excuse because they have the most difficult job this side of hostage negotiators and powder monkeys!” OK, maybe they won’t, but it is fun to think of PED-hysteria clashing head-on with Closer Fixation Syndrome.
  • Tom Glavine: He’s what Jack Morris supporters like to pretend Jack Morris was, even though he wasn’t. A workhorse who just knew how to win and all of that. Except Glavine was, actually, among the best pitchers in baseball for most of his prime and has contemporary awards and accolades to back up the retrospective praise.
  • Luis Gonzalez: He hit 26 more homers in 2001 than he ever did in any other year. But he didn’t break any records doing it, so no one gives him any crap about it. I guess the key to a 90s-2000s player securing his legacy was to be just short of truly great.
  • Jacque Jones: The anti-Ray Durham. I feel like people talked about him as way better than he was, mostly because he hit 27 homers a couple of times and 27 is sort of a magic homer number in a lot of people’s minds. If you hit 27 homers, you’re a “power hitter.” If you hit 26, you’re a “20 homer guy.” And those things aren’t the same.
  • Todd Jones: Points for a mustache and closing down old Tiger Stadium I guess.
  • Jeff Kent:  .290/.356/.500 while playing a pretty darn solid second base for 17 years? Yes, please. If you’re going with Biggio and went with Sandberg as I did, I’m not sure how you go against Kent. I suppose if he gets less support it’s because he didn’t really fit the mold and expectations of a second baseman as a pesky little guy with gap power and because he switched teams several times. For those reasons I feel like he’s going to be a good example of how crazy and subjective Hall of Fame voting can be.
  • Paul Lo Duca: Guy should get a sympathy vote for paying for his PEDs with a personal check, as described in the Mitchell Report.
  • Greg Maddux: I tend not to get too wound up about the actual vote totals guys get, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the explanation of the folks who leave Maddux off the ballot and keep him from being unanimous. As someone surely will. Maybe because he got LASIK surgery that time? A character objection based on that story about him peeing on guys’ feet in the shower? Can’t wait.
  • Edgar Martinez: I think he belongs. I also wonder if I’d include him if I was limited to ten slots like real Hall of Fame voters are. He’s not a slam dunk, but as the best or, by the time Ortiz is done, maybe second base full-time DH ever, I think he’s deserving.
  • Don Mattingly: Close but no cigar. He had the peak, but not the staying power. “But … injuries!” is no excuse. They kept him from providing value to his teams. Not fair, not his fault, but no one said fair or fault had anything to do with it.
  • Fred McGriff: I’ve wavered on him for years. I used to say no, then I started saying yes once I looked at just how different the pre-1993 era and post-1993 eras were for offense. McGriff’s pre-1993 numbers were really damn good for the time and he, unfortunately, straddled both eras in a way that made his overall stats look less impressive than they were. A yes for these purposes, but if I only had ten he falls off.
  • Mark McGwire: Yes. He hit for power and walked like crazy and was simply fantastic.
  • Jack Morris: He’s a no for me — just not good enough — but I’ve put down my pitchfork.
  • Mike Mussina: 270 wins, 123 ERA+, durability, a lot of good postseason work. Yeah, I think he makes it, even if there wasn’t a peak where he was clearly the best pitcher in baseball. He’s like Jeff Kent in a lot of ways. People didn’t routinely talk about him as a Hall of Famer during his career, but when you look at the value he provided he was way better than a lot of guys people do tout as shoe-ins. He was better than Pettitte. Better than Catfish Hunter. Better than Jim Bunning, Early Wynn and, depending on how you measure things, Whitey Ford.
  • Hideo Nomo: He is a first-ballot crazy windup Hall of Famer.
  • Rafael Palmeiro: A closer call than his raw numbers would suggest — 500 homers and 3000 hits still turns heads —but he looks less impressive when you adjust for the parks he played in and the era in which he played. I’d lean yes, however, if I had room on the ballot.
  • Mike Piazza: Best hitting catcher ever. A travesty that he wasn’t in last year.
  • Tim Raines: Was baseball’s best player for several years in the mid-80s. Suffers because his most similar player was Rickey Henderson and they were contemporaries. He was way closer to Rickey than, say, Omar Vizquel was to Ozzie Smith, so let’s watch how those kind of comps work one day. He shoulda been in long ago.
  • Kenny Rogers: Can’t wait for the re-hashed “he couldn’t handle New York” columns from some bored New York columnist this holiday season.
  • Curt Schilling: Better than Morris. Similar to Mussina. Dominant in peak seasons, but strangely had peak years more scattered over his career than many. Killer in the playoffs. I think he’s a Hall of Famer.
  • Richie Sexson: The phrase “tall drink of water” always pops into my head when I think of him.
  • Lee Smith: He gets a lot of support, but nah. I’m a tougher grader on closers than a lot of people are. Too much hoodoo and mythology surrounds the concept if you ask me.
  • J.T. Snow: Really loving the “guys I watched play minor league ball when I was in college make the Hall of Fame ballot” era. Really not making me feel old or anything.
  • Sammy Sosa:  Crazy peak. I know people like to discount the steroids guys, but people discount him too much. One cannot be a mere PED-creation and still dominate like Sosa did. There was real baseball talent there. More than folks want to admit now, probably because Sosa was weird and has seemed to have gotten weirder since he retired.
  • Frank Thomas: No-brainer. He was a beast. One of the rare guys everyone will admit was among the best hitters ever yet still winds up underrated.
  • Mike Timlin: Four World Series rings. That’s four more than Barry Bonds has, suckers.
  • Alan Trammell: Criminally underrated. The guy who makes me still want to argue about MVP awards, because if he won it like he deserved to in 1987, I feel like the perception of him would be totally different among a certain class of Hall of Fame voter. He did everything well at a premium defensive position on a championship-caliber team for a decade.
  • Larry Walker: I’ve always leaned no, mostly because of Coors. A lot of people tell me I’m wrong to do that. I may be. He was good on the road too. A five-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove winner in right, an MVP and three batting titles? Power and speed? You know, I think I may have been wrong about him. Changing my mind.

Cripes, that’s 19 dudes. Oh well, blame the voters who haven’t voted in the multiple guys who should have been elected years ago for allowing the ballot to get all clogged up like this.

If I had to drop it to ten, I’d cut off Walker, Sosa, Palmeiro, McGriff, Martinez, McGwire, Schilling, Mussina and Kent. But I wouldn’t be happy about most of those guys. As for who I think makes it? If I had to guess I’d say Maddux, Glavine, Biggio, Thomas and Jack Morris. That’s it. And I may be wrong about Morris.

Anyway, that’s mine. What’s yours?

Eddie Perez likely to be Braves’ interim manager if Fredi Gonzalez is fired

Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, left, stands with manager Fredi Gonzalez during a spring training baseball workout, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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There’s been a lot of rumbling that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon get the pink slip. His team is 7-20 entering Thursday’s action. Historically, front offices — particularly those of rebuilding/restructuring teams — respond to that by making coaching and/or managerial changes.

Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, bullpen coach Eddie Perez is likely to fill in as the Braves’ manager on an interim basis if and when Gonzalez is fired. Perez has been with the Braves as a coach since 2007. He played for the Braves in 10 out of his 11 seasons from 1995-2005. Perez wasn’t known for his bat, but was respected for the way he called games and handled the Braves’ then-elite pitching staff.

Bowman notes that Gonzalez isn’t expected to be fired over the weekend. If the team plays well, that could extend Gonzalez’s leash, so to speak.

First baseman Freddie Freeman issued a vote of confidence for his skipper, saying, “I think everything is getting magnified since we’re off to this start. I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he’s not a player. We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

The Phillies are seeing to it that their minor leaguers eat well

Crop of vegetables. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other vegetables.
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For years we’ve talked about how odd it is that baseball teams are in the extraordinarily competitive business of developing highly-trained athletes yet, for whatever reason, it pays minor leaguers virtually nothing and all but forces them to subsist on junk food and other cheap options.

As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, however, the Phillies are changing that. Indeed, they’re plowing serious money into nutritious food options for their minor league players:

The Phillies are teaching their minor leaguers how to play baseball, so why not teach them how to eat well, too?

“We want them to not have to worry about anything other than baseball,” assistant general manager Ned Rice said. “When they’re playing for the Phillies, they’ll have that stuff taken care of for them.”

 

That this is a news story — and it is a good and novel one — is kind of sad in some ways. How teams haven’t been on board with this approach for decades is beyond me.

Tracking baseball’s “Naturals”

The Natural
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Rob Neyer has a great column in today’s New York Times in which he tracks the real life players who, at one time or another, were dubbed “The Natural.” A la Roy Hobbs in the book and movie of the same name.

There are some that a lot of people probably remember: Jeff Francoeur and Ken Griffey, Jr. as “The Natural” come to mind easily. There are some who I don’t ever recall being called “The Natural” but were, apparently, like Terry Pendelton and Karim Garcia. There are also some whose stories were far odder and far more tragic than any version of Hobbs’ tale (oh man, a Toe Nash sighting!). Then there’s Rick Ankiel, whose path may be the closest one to Hobbs’ of them all, at least broadly speaking.

Fun stuff that, in addition to being a walk down memory lane, is also an instructive lesson about how the power of narrative works in sports.