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Breaking Down Today’s Game Hall of Fame Ballot: George Steinbrenner

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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: George Steinbrenner 

The case for his induction:

It’s certainly a lot harder to make a Hall of Fame case — for or against — an executive or anyone else who didn’t actually play the game. There aren’t many good numbers to look at and the ones that do exist — how many rings did the guy win? — are pretty crude and vague. On the surface, one might say “hey, George Steinbrenner owned the Yankees and the Yankees won seven world titles,” but as we’ll see below, that’s not the be-all, end-all consideration either.

If one wants to go beyond just the rings, one could argue that it’s awfully hard to talk about baseball in the last quarter of the 20th century without mentioning George Steinbrenner’s name. And not just for the tabloid headlines he constantly generated. Steinbrenner was a lot of things, but he made an important mark on baseball in that he was the first owner to take full advantage of free agency and forced other teams to keep pace. That pretty radically changed how teams were built. Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it certainly changed the game and that’s worthy of . . . something.

The case against his induction:

There is an argument to be made — a pretty good one, actually — that the Yankees greatest successes during Big Stein’s reign coming in spite of him rather than because of him. He was suspended twice during his time as owner of the Yankees, once in the mid-70s, once in the early 90s. There’s a strong argument that the seeds of the 1977-78 and then the 1996, 1998-2000 World Series championship teams were planted during Steinbrenner’s absence, with his underlings finally being given free reign to make smart moves Steinbrenner would have avoided in the name of BIG moves. If you add in character considerations, Steinbrenner’s legal issues and his treatment of Dave Winfield which led to his second suspension are not gold stars in his column.

Would I vote for him?

I’ve gone back and forth on him for years. He was a piece of work, at times a bad guy and not the biggest reason for the Yankees’ success during his reign. At the same time he was definitely a transformative figure and an historic one. If you’re wanting to explain baseball history, you really can’t do it without including The Boss. I’d probably vote for him he’s baseball’s weird uncle who makes everyone uncomfortable but hey, he’s family.

Will the Committee vote for him?

There was a time I thought he’d get in easily, the way a lot of team owners and executives have over the years. But he didn’t have the same sorts of allies among the baseball establishment as a lot of those guys for a lot of obvious reasons. And I think players liked him only insofar as he was signing checks. So my guess is that he won’t get a ton of support. Really, though, nothing would surprise me.

Drew Smyly has a torn UCL, will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports that Mariners starter Drew Smyly has a torn UCL and will undergo Tommy John surgery.

Smyly was diagnosed with a flexor strain in his left elbow at the end of spring training. He had been on the shelf since then, but was throwing bullpen sessions. He was set to throw his first simulated game today, but that was scratched after he said his arm didn’t feel right in his last throwing session. The Mariners called it “a little setback.” A reexamination shows that this is not little, obviously.

The Mariners acquired Smyly in January for outfielder Mallex Smith and two minor leaguers, and were expected to utilize the lefty as a core member of their rotation in 2017. Now he’s going to miss all of this season and, given that he’s on a one-year deal, will be released by the team at the end of the season. Odds are that he’ll be unable to pitch for most of 2018.

Tough break.

Miguel Montero to be designated for assignment

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A play in three acts:

I.

Miguel Montero talks smack about his teammate

II.

A team leader talks smack about Miguel Montero

III.

The Cubs get rid of Miguel Montero:

This is rather surprising. As I said in the last post, I figured he’d apologize today and it’d all be in the past. Guess not. Even more surprising: we learned earlier this week that the key to good clubhouse chemistry is having a teammate everyone hates. Guess that only works for the Giants.

Montero is making $14 million this season, so the Cubs are definitely eating some money to make a headache go away. They’re also losing some offensive production, as Montero has hit a nice .286/.366/.439 on the season. His terrible defense against opposing baserunners mitigates that, of course. And the whole “pissing off everyone in the clubhouse” thing isn’t exactly working out for him either, so here we are.

Oh well, have a good one, Miguel.