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Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez top newcomers on 2017 Hall of Fame ballot

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Hall of Fame ballots for the 2017 induction class have been mailed out to the Baseball Writers Association of America voters and the names on the ballot were released to the public this morning. The top newcomers: Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. There are 19 new candidates in all. There are, of course, several holdovers too.

The newcomers, in alphabetical order:

Casey Blake
Pat Burrell
Orlando Cabrera
Mike Cameron
J.D. Drew
Carlos Guillen
Vladimir Guerrero
Derrek Lee
Melvin Mora
Magglio Ordonez
Jorge Posada
Manny Ramirez
Edgar Renteria
Arthur Rhodes
Ivan Rodriguez
Freddy Sanchez
Matt Stairs
Jason Varitek
Tim Wakefield

Guerrero and Rodriguez, each frequently referred to as future-Hall-of-Famers, should each get a substantial number of votes. Guerrero may even make it in on his first ballot, though there is a lot of congestion in terms of holdovers, as we’ll see below. I suspect Pudge will have to wait a bit, though his first year support should be strong. Manny Ramirez would, based on his production, be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but multiple suspensions due to performance enhancing drugs will almost certainly doom his candidacy for the foreseeable future.

None of the other new names will likely get substantial consideration, though I do expect Jorge Posada and possibly Jason Varitek to hang around on the ballot for several years. Beyond that, we’re dealing primary with one-and-done guys, with some “he was a good guy, so I’ll vote for him” votes being scattered around.

The top holdover voters from 2016 are Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Trevor Hoffman, and Curt Schilling with no one else getting above 50% support in last year’s tally. The holdovers in alphabetical order, with 2016 support in parenthesis:

Jeff Bagwell (71.6%)
Barry Bonds (44.3%)
Roger Clemens (45/2%)
Trevor Hoffman (67.3%)
Jeff Kent (16.6%)
Edgar Martinez (43.4%)
Fred McGriff (20.9%)
Mike Mussina (43.0%)
Tim Raines (69.8%)
Curt Schilling (52.3%)
Gary Sheffield (11.6%)
Lee Smith (34.1%)
Sammy Sosa (7%)
Billy Wagner (10.5%)
Larry Walker (15.5%)

There are a ton of Hall of Fame-worthy players here, but many of them are simply not getting the sort of support one would assume they’d receive given what they did in their careers. Some of that is for obvious reasons, with Bonds, Clemens and Sosa being shunned as PED users, bet it alleged or confirmed. Others’ lack of support is somewhat more inexplicable and, I suspect, with voters simply being unable to accept the the starts of the 90s and 2000s compare with players of the more distant past. We all have some trouble contextualizing, I suppose, but the recent Hall of Fame candidates have suffered due to that shortcoming more than their predecessors ever did.

I presume Bagwell will make it this year and I believe Raines will be a close call in this, his final year on the ballot. Hoffman seems a likely inductee one day too, though it’s unclear if the new candidates this year will prevent him getting past the necessary 75% this time around. Anyone who dips below 5% on the ballot falls off.

Voters must return ballots with a Dec. 31 or earlier postmark. Results will be announced at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, on MLB Network.

 

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.