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McGwire, Steinbrenner, Selig among Hall of Fame candidates for new Veterans Committee

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The Baseball Hall of Fame has revamped its Veterans Committee many times in the past several years. Mostly because its committee of veterans has had a bad habit of, you know, not electing anyone, and what’s the point of having one if no one ever makes it in?

And yes, this is a bit of a problem. There are twice as many players in the Hall of Fame who debuted before 1950 as compared to afterward, despite there being nearly double the eligible candidates after 1950 than prior. So, no, this is not a matter of folks wanting to hand out participation trophy versions of a Hall of Fame induction. It’s a matter of electors baselessly raising the standards of induction far too high compared to past precedent, most likely because they misguidedly believe that players from the sepia-toned “Golden Age” of baseball were more worthy than players of a more recent vintage. Which is pure poppycock.

So, last summer, the Hall of Fame’s board of directors tweaked the era-based system the Veterans Committee had been using for several years, adding a couple of separate, era-based dedicated committees. Now there are separate committees for Today’s Game (1988-2016), Modern Baseball (1970-87), Golden Days (1950-69) and Early Baseball (1871-1949). As befitting their underrepresentation, Today’s Game and Modern Baseball will vote twice every five years, Golden Days once every five years and Early Baseball once every 10 years. Committees consist of 16 people, with a vote of at least 75 percent needed for election. Committee members can vote for 10 candidates per ballot.

This year the Today’s Game candidates will be up for consideration. Here are the candidates who will be considered when that committee meets next Monday at the Winter Meetings:

  • Harold Baines
  • Albert Belle
  • Will Clark
  • Orel Hershiser
  • Mark McGwire
  • Davey Johnson
  • Lou Piniella
  • John Schuerholz
  • George Steinbrenner
  • Bud Selig

Yes, some of these guys straddle the Today’s Game and Modern Baseball eras. The Hall just makes a choice with ’em, so we’ll let it slide.

Given that it’s likely to be a slow week, news-wise, I’m going to deal with these guys in two ways. First, here, I’ll give a kneejerk vote based on no new research and only the impressions I’ve formed of them over the years. Then, between today and Friday, I’ll look at each of the candidates in greater depth and with a more open mind. On Friday, we’ll talk about who the committee likely will vote in and see how that compares to our assessment of merit.

The short, kneejerk answer for me, doing no new research, would be to vote for McGwire, Schuerholz, Steinbrenner and probably Davey Johnson. Bud Selig, who I once called Baseball’s Greatest Commissioner, is a super complicated case. At the moment I’d lean no for a lot of political reasons, but we’ll deal with him separately.

What say you? And why?

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.