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Leo Mazzone talks about the pros and cons of being a maverick

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Over at The Sporting News, Graham Womack has a story up about Leo Mazzone, whom he recently interviewed. Mazzone, of course, was the longtime Braves pitching coach who, since moving to the Orioles for a brief stint a decade ago, has been out of baseball.

There are a lot of reasons for that, I presume. The manner in which he left the Braves for the Orioles was somewhat abrupt and ill-advised, which Mazzone admits in hindsight. Also, his reputation as a pitching guru/genius has taken a bit of hit in the past decade, as the Braves continued on to feature good pitching under Bobby Cox following Mazzone’s departure, resulting in some reassessment regarding how much of their success while Mazzone was there was truly attributable to Mazzone.

All of that would likely be survivable, but Mazzone likewise has a reputation as a maverick, and that doesn’t help a guy build a strong network among baseball lifers. This is made clear in Womack’s story, as Mazzone talks a lot about his mentor, Johnny Sain, who like Mazzone fought conventional wisdom when it came to pitching during his coaching career and, like Mazzone, found himself on the outside looking in later in life.

Still, Mazzone seems fairly content. And Womack’s article is worth a read for anyone interested in pitching philosophy and the legacy of coaches. Oh, and it contains this awesome Greg Maddux anecdote:

Certainly, pitchers such as Maddux didn’t need overpowering speed to thrive.

“Maddux said it best one time when he got a group of young pitchers together in spring training,” Mazzone said. “He said, ‘You know why I’m a millionaire?’ He said, ‘Cause I can throw my fastball where I want to.’ He said, ‘You know why I got beachfront property in LA? Because I can change speeds. Thanks, Leo. Thanks for letting me talk to the pitchers.’ That’s all he said and walked off.”

Maddux now spends time in the spring coaching Cubs pitchers. I hope to god he’s still telling that story and then walking away to do whatever it is Greg Maddux does in his free time.

Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel lead 19 newcomers on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot

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Hall of Fame ballots for the 2018 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. Among the top newcomers: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones, Kerry Wood and Jamie Moyer . There are 19 new candidates in all. There are, of course, several holdovers too.

The newcomers, in alphabetical order:

Chris Carpenter
Johnny Damon
Livan Hernandez
Orlando Hudson
Aubrey Huff
Andruw Jones
Chipper Jones
Jason Isringhausen
Carlos Lee
Brad Lidge
Hideki Matsui
Kevin Millwood
Jamie Moyer
Scott Rolen
Johan Santana
Jim Thome
Omar Vizquel
Kerry Wood
Carlos Zambrano

Chipper Jones, the 1999 MVP, one of the best switch-hitters of all time and the unparalleled offensive star of the great Braves teams of the 1990s and early 2000s seems like a shoe-in. His case is boosted above his fantastic offensive numbers in the eyes of many voters by virtue of playing for the same team for his entire career.

Jim Thome is probably going to get a very large vote total and possibly will be inducted, having hit over 600 homers in his career. A challenge to his first-year induction is presented by the very large backlog of deserving candidates, which we’ll discuss in a moment, and by the fact that Thome’s career corresponded with baseball’s home run boom of the 1990s. Unlike other passed-over candidates of his era, Thome was never implicated in performance enhancing drug use, but it is the case that homers became cheaper for everyone during his career, and some may consider him a one-dimensional candidate. I suspect he’ll be in Cooperstown soon, be it this year or next year.

Omar Vizquel will receive a lot of support but his candidacy will also draw a lot of controversy. His backers will cite his defense and his longevity. His detractors will note that his defense was nowhere near as good as other defense-first inductees in the past such as Ozzie Smith, and that it was in no way good enough to make up for his below average bat. Complicating all of this will be fact that two superior defensive candidates who happened to have outstanding offensive numbers to go with them — Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen — are unlikely to receive anything approaching the level of support Vizquel will get, leading to . . . a lot of arguing.

And now the holdovers from last year’s ballot and ballots past, with last year’s percentage of the vote in parenthesis. Candidates need 75% of the vote in order to be inducted:

Barry Bonds (53.8)
Roger Clemens (54.1)
Vladimir Guerrero (71.1)
Trevor Hoffman (74.0)
Jeff Kent (16.7)
Edgar Martinez (58.6)
Fred McGriff (21.7)
Mike Mussina (51.8)
Manny Ramirez (23.8)
Curt Schilling (45.0)
Gary Sheffield (13.3)
Sammy Sosa (8.6)
Billy Wagner (10.2)
Larry Walker (21.9)

We’ve talked about all of these guys before, of course. Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero seem likely to be elected given how close they came to induction last year. Many quite worthy candidates such as Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling will likely continue to receive less support than they deserve. PED-associated candidates Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a boost in their previously-flagging candidacies last year, getting over 50% of the vote for the first time, but it’s unlikely that they’ll jump 22 and 21 points, respectively. Lesser PED-associated candidates such as Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez will likely forever remain on the outside looking in.

The results of the election will be announced by Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson at 6 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, live on MLB Network.