Craig Calcaterra

Marlon Byrd

The Phillies and Orioles met to discuss Marlon Byrd

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Ken Rosenthal reports that the Orioles met with the Phillies today to discuss a trade for outfielder Marlon Byrd.

Byrd makes some degree of sense in Baltimore, what with the loss of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. And he’s not terribly expensive — $8 million for 2015 with another $8 million vesting option for 2016. Of course Byrd is 37, but he did hit 264/.312/.445 with 25 home runs this past.

The key, obviously, is what if anything the Phillies would get in return. Moments ago Ryne Sandberg told the assembled press here at the Winter Meetings that he hoped they’d get players who could help the Phillies win next year back in the trades the team eventually makes.

Which, well, good luck with that.

The Braves told one team that if they wanted Evan Gattis they had to take B.J. Upton too

B.J. Upton
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Think the Braves want to trade Evan Gattis? Think again:

That’s not the kind of thing someone who really wants to trade Evan Gattis behaves.

The Giants’ assistant GM said he thinks they’re in “the back seat” on Jon Lester

Jon Lester
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We continue read tea leaves and churn silliness as we wait for Jon Lester to make up his mind about where he may go. The latest: Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans said Tuesday on SiriusXM that he believes his club is in the “back seat” for Lester’s services.

Evans suggested that the Cubs and Red Sox are both ahead of the Giants in the bidding. Which is a curious thing to say when you’re still, theoretically, in the bidding. It could be an exercise in expectation management, of course. It could mean anything. But if Evans is being straight up, it could mean one suitor is eliminated.

Now, Lester, seriously: make up your dang mind.

BBWAA votes to recommend Hall of Fame ballot increases from 10 players to 12

Hall of Fame ballot
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SAN DIEGO — The Baseball Writers Association of America met this afternoon and, among its other business, it has voted to recommend that the Hall of Fame ballot increases from 10 players to 12.

Color me less than impressed.

For one thing, it’s just a recommendation, and the Hall of Fame has not always been eager to take the recommendations of the BBWAA or listen in any substantive way to its complaints. Often it makes its own changes which, however well-intentioned, make matters worse, not better.

For another thing, that recommendation is not going to make a big difference. As I noted the other day, two years ago only 22% of ballots contained a full ten-player slot. Last year, with perhaps the most stacked ballot of all time, only 50% of voters submitted full ballots. If you increase the number from 10 to 12, great, now you get a couple hundred ballots that go from just less than half full to a bit more than a third full. Whoop-de-do.

More generally, the recommendation doesn’t impress me because it’s so damn small a recommendation. Which means either (a) people in the BBWAA don’t think there is much of a problem with the Hall of Fame process that it needs substantial change; or (b) people in the BBWAA just don’t know how to negotiate with an unreasonable organization like the Hall of Fame. You want two slots added? Ask for five. That’s how negotiation works.

What would’ve been great to see? Derrick Goold’s recommendation for a binary ballot to be adopted. Or — and this would not require a recommendation at all but, rather, internal change from the BBWAA — an alteration of the composition of the electorate. An electorate which, now, consists of scores of people who do not write about baseball at all and have not for years. Sometimes decades.

Hell, if they tried to do that today, it probably wouldn’t have had big opposition. After all, none of those people are here covering baseball’s biggest offseason event or involving themselves in any way in today’s discussion of Hall of Fame voting procedures.

Tom Gage of the Detroit News wins the J.G. Taylor Spink Award

Cooperstown
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The Baseball Writers Association of America has named Tom Gage, who has covered the Tigers for the Detroit News since 1979, as the 2014 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. He will be honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame during the induction ceremonies in Cooperstown next July.

The Spink Award is given for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing.” Winners of the Spink Award, which dates back to 1962 are honored by being included in a special permanent media exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

The other finalists were Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe and the late Furman Bisher, longtime columnist of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.