Bobby Parnell

Bobby Parnell: “In my head I feel like I’m still the closer”

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Mets closer Bobby Parnell went on the disabled list after a perfect inning of relief on July 30 and did not return, eventually undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. It was an unfortunate end to his first season as the team’s full-time closer, as he had a 2.16 ERA and 22 saves in 50 innings before landing on the shelf.

Parnell, now 29 and ready for spring training, believes the closing job is still his. He said in a conference call, “In my head I feel like I’m still the closer. I’m going to go along with that until told otherwise.” The Mets and Parnell recently avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $3.7 million deal in his second year of arbitration eligibility.

While the bullpen last year had a few veterans with a modicum of closing experience, their bullpen going into 2014 is relatively young and inexperienced. Behind Parnell, the Mets have Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen, Vic Black, and Scott Rice, with the 32-year-old Rice being the only one older than 27.

Athletics sign Yonder Alonso to a one-year deal

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 20:  Yonder Alonso #17 of the Oakland Athletics reacts after tagging Jake Marisnick (not pictured) of the Houston Astros and Teoscar Hernandez (not pictured) at first base during the third inning at the Oakland Coliseum on September 20, 2016 in Oakland, California. Hernandez was ruled safe on the play after an official review.(Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Oakland Athletics and first baseman Yonder Alonso avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $4 million contract this afternoon.

Alonso had a pretty bad 2016, hitting .253/.316/.367 with seven home runs. He made $2.65 million this past season and it looked like he’d be an obvious non-tender candidate. The A’s still want him, however. It’s an open question what he would’ve made if he went to arbitration, but now the question is a moot one too.

Breaking Down the Today’s Game Hall of Fame Ballot: Lou Piniella

TORONTO - JULY 9:  Manager Lou Pinella of the Cincinnati Reds looks on during batting practice prior to the1991 All-Star Game at the Toronto Sky Dome on July 9, 1991 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
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On Monday, December 5, the Today’s Game committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame — the replacement for the Veterans Committee which covers the years 1988-2016 — will vote on candidates for the 2017 induction class. This week we are looking at the ten candidates, one-by-one, to assess their Hall worthiness. Next up: Lou Piniella

The case for his induction:

He notched 1,835 wins, made seven postseason appearances, a won a World Series as a manager. That win total is good for 14th all time. Of the 13 men ahead of him, 12 are already in the Hall. The only who isn’t is Gene Mauch, who was under .500 for his career. Connie Mack and Bucky Harris are in that crowd and they were under .500 too, but Mack is kind of a special case as the all-time wins leader and Harris, well, I dunno, he hung around forever and the Veterans Committee was a different beast back in the 1970s. Point is, if you have Piniella’s win total and you’re over .500, as Piniella is, you’re probably getting in, at least eventually.

A lot of those wins came in some good places and at some good times, adding some psychological weight to that record. Taking the 1990 Reds to the World Series and beating the heavily favored A’s was a great story and, as the Reds’ last title for 26 years and counting, stands as a more memorable accomplishment than doing it someplace else. Likewise, his next job, in Seattle, coincided with the franchise’s best seasons thanks to the emergence of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez under Piniella’s command. Mariners’ history fundamentally changed during the Piniella era and he will always be associated with that. Oh, and his 2001 team set the single season record for wins with 116. He made two playoff appearances with the Cubs too. That’s been eclipsed by the 2016 team’s exploits, but it was a pretty big deal at the time.

It’s also worth noting that Piniella likewise had a very fine playing career, with 18 seasons of 109 OPS+ hitting, a Rookie of the Year Award and a couple of World Series rings on his resume. That’s not enough by itself to get him in the Hall, but he presents a nice total package as a Baseball Man Supreme who has been thought highly of for close to 50 years now.

Oh, one other thing: he was colorful. He had a temper and a repuatation as kind of a red ass, with a good number of on-the-field incidents which stick in people’s minds. That sort of thing doesn’t necessarily make someone a good manager or a good person, but Piniella has been seen as a guy who mellowed with age and, at various times in his career, showed that he had a sense of humor about all of that stuff which makes it play a heck of a lot better. For Hall of Fame purposes, it certainly plays a heck of a lot more memorably.

The case against his induction:

His years in Tampa Bay weren’t all that great and, by the time his days in Chicago were over there was a sense that he was sort of running on fumes and padding that win total to get him into that top 14. In both places Joe Maddon eventually came along and did better things and, in some cases, undoing some bad things Piniella did. Some believe he should’ve won another pennant or two and, yes, some of those Mariners teams disappointed in the postseason. Some people look less amusingly on his temper tantrums over the years and, I suppose, one could characterize them a bit more sinisterly than I did above without being too dramatic.

Would I vote for him?

I think so. As I mentioned in the George Steinbrenner entry, when it comes to managers and executives, I put a lot of weight on whether one could tell the story of baseball in a guy’s era without mentioning his name. Piniella is no Joe Torre, Bobby Cox of Tony La Russa in that regard, but he’s pretty close to that group in terms of the figure he cut in the game and, as I mentioned, he’s critical to the story of a couple of franchises. Certainly the Mariners but also the 1970s Yankees as a player and, possibly, the 1990 Reds. I tend to be a softer Hall of Fame touch than a lot of people, so I get that people may disagree, but I’d put him in.

Will the Committee vote for him?

Hard to say. On the one hand, Piniella feels like the sort of baseball man that gets rewarded by the Veterans Committee. On the other hand, the Veterans Committee took ages to vote in some other notable managers such as Whitey Herzog, suggesting that maybe Piniella will have to wait. This is the first year for the new composition of the Veterans Committe, however, so it’s hard to say if they’ll be tougher or easier graders. He may be the hardest call of all of the guys on this year’s ballot.