Mel Hall is a Major League Baseball version of “that guy” for people my age. He never starred, but he was visible. He never played for winning teams but he was a halfway-decent player for bad ones. You probably remember his baseball cards more than remember him playing. The name is just north of the anonymity line in that, when you hear it, it makes you think “oh, yeah, the ballplayer from the 80s,” whereas someone just a notch down from him would require a Baseball-Reference.com search to confirm that, yes, he did play in the bigs.
He’s also at a level where you can be forgiven if you didn’t give him a single thought after he stopped playing. And if you didn’t give him a single thought, it means you missed the fact that he was arrested, charged and convicted of raping multiple young girls — some as young as 12-years-old — during and following his playing career. He’s now in a Texas prison, where he’ll be for at least another 17 years.
Yesterday Greg Hanlon of SB Nation wrote an in-depth look at Mel Hall and his awful crimes. It’s not for the feint of heart. The term “monster” gets used for a lot of bad guys, but it is an understatement in Hall’s case. Hanlon, through an in-depth look at the police and court records and interviews with some of Hall’s victims, explains how Hall used his fame, his friendly, outgoing nature and no small amount of bald-faced lying to get close to the young girls on which he preyed.
One clear takeaway here is that there is real evil in the world. But another one is that Hall couldn’t have done what he did nearly as easily if he had not been a professional athlete and if professional athletes were not treated the way they are treated in our society.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.