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?

The Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager

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Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported over the weekend that the Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager. Part of that comes after team meetings between Snitker and top brass. Some of it, however, is likely attributable to player sentiment, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting this morning that Freddie Freeman and several Braves players have told the Braves front office that they want Snitker back.

Is it a good idea to bring Snitker back? Eh, I’m leaning no, with the caveat that it probably doesn’t make a huge difference in the short term.

The “no” is based mostly on the fact that Snitker has had a disturbing trend of preferring veterans over young players, as Bradley explains in detail here. For a brief moment this summer the Braves seemed surprisingly competitive. Not truly competitive if anyone was being honest, but they were hovering around .500 and were arguably in the wild card race. Around that time he made a number of questionable decisions that favored marginal and/or injured veterans over some young players who will be a part of the next truly competitive Braves team, likely messing with their confidence and possibly messing with their development.

These moves were not damaging, ultimately, to the 2017 Braves on the field — they were going to be under .500 regardless — but it was the sort of short-term thinking that a manager for a rebuilding team should not be employing. Part of the blame for this, by the way, can be put on the front office, who only gave Snitker a one-year contract when they made him the permanent manager last year, creating an incentive for him to win in 2017 rather than manage the club the way a guy who knows when the team will truly be competitive should manage it. Then again, if Snitker was so great a candidate in the front office’s mind, why did they only give him a one-year contract?

I suspect a lot of it has to do with loyalty. Snitker has been an admirable Braves company man for decades, and that was certainly worthy of respect by the club. That he got the gig was likewise due in part to the players liking him — the veteran players — and they now are weighing in with their support once again. At some point, however, loyalty and respect of veterans has to take a back seat to a determination of who is the best person to bring the team from rebuilding to competitiveness, and Snitker has not made the case why he is that man.

Earlier, of course, I said it probably doesn’t matter all that much if they do, in fact, bring Snitker back. I say this because he will, in all likelihood, be given a short leash again, probably in the form of a one-year extension. It would not surprise me at all if, in the extraordinarily likely event the Braves look to be outclassed in the division by the Nationals again in 2018, they made a managerial switch midseason, as they did in 2016. If that is, indeed, the plan, it seems like the front office is almost planning on losing again in 2018 and using the future firing of Snitker as a time-buying exercise. Not that I’m cynical or anything.

Either way, I don’t think Snitker is the right guy for the job. Seems, though, that he’ll get at least an offseason and a couple of months to prove me wrong.

Bruce Maxwell on anthem protest: “If it ends up driving me out of baseball, then so be it”

Associated Press
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For the second straight day, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the national anthem before the A’s game against the Texas Rangers. Afterward, he said he did not care what the repercussions might be:

“If it ends up driving me out of baseball, then so be it. This is bigger than a monetary standpoint, this is bigger than the uniform I put on every day. This is about the people in this country and we all deserve to be treated equally. That’s the whole purpose of us taking a knee during the national anthem.”

And make no mistake, there will be repercussions of one kind or another. The immediate ones are pretty predictable: Maxwell says he has received threats since his first protest on Saturday night, including racial epithets and warnings “to watch [his] back.” These came via the Internet and Maxwell has brushed it off as the act of “keyboard warriors.”

The more interesting question will be whether there will be career repercussions. He has received support from the A’s, but even the supportive comments come with at least a hint of foreboding. Here’s his manager, Bob Melvin:

“It does take a lot of courage because you know that now the potential of the crosshairs are on you and for a guy who’s not as established, I’m sure, and I’m not speaking for him, but I’m sure there were some feelings for him that there was some risk. I do know that he felt better about it afterwards because there’s a lot of uncertainty when you take that type of step.”

I don’t feel like Melvin is referring to the threats exclusively, there, given the reference to Maxwell not being “as established.” That’s a phrase used exclusively to refer to a player’s standing within the game. As long as Melvin is the A’s manager and Maxwell plays for him, sure, it may very well be the case that only Maxwell’s ability as a player will impact his future. But Melvin seems to be acknowledging here — correctly — that this act of non-conformity on Maxwell’s part could be career limiting. Heck, his teammate, Mark Canha, voices concern over the fact that he merely put his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder in support. He’s worried that that might be seen as bad for him.

And if you don’t read that into Melvin or Canha’s words, fine. Because it’s very clear based on the words of others around the league that Maxwell’s sort of protest might be considered . . . problematic. From the story that Ashley linked yesterday, let’s focus again on the words of Pirates GM Neal Huntington:

“We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Does that sound like a man who is going to judge a player based solely on his baseball contributions? Heck no it doesn’t. How about if Maxwell lands on the Dodgers?

Make no mistake: Matthews is taking a risk with his protest. There are a number of teams — likely more than will admit it publicly — who will hold this against him as they evaluate him as a player.

You can react to this in a couple of ways, I figure. You could nod your head like a sage, adopt the tone of some inside-baseball guy and say “Well, of course! There are consequences for one’s behavior and only those who are naive don’t believe that.” If you do, of course, you’re ignoring the fact that Maxwell has already acknowledged that himself in the quote that appears in the very headline of this story.

Another option: acknowledge his bravery. Acknowledge that he knows damn well that, especially in baseball, that this kind of thing is far more likely to harm his career than help it. If you acknowledge that, you have no choice but to then ask why Maxwell nonetheless continues to protest. Why this is so important to him despite the risks.

That’s when your reacting and your second-guessing should stop and your listening should begin.