Craig Calcaterra

B.J. Upton

The Braves’ “Plan B” for B.J. Upton is pretty hilarious


Joel Sherman’s latest notes column passes along something hilarious. It’s the Braves’ plan B in case B.J. Upton continues to stink. Sherman himself calls it “comical” in the sub-hed, and I have to agree with him. Get this:

Privately, the Braves are saying they will not tolerate more of the same and keep feeding Upton consistent at-bats. In fact, Upton has fallen so far that Atlanta would consider a Plan B that is a platoon between Yankees castoff Zoilo Almonte and Todd Cunningham, whose eight major league at-bats came in 2013.

I’d be up for that. Heck, Almonte’s career line of .211/.242/.282 in 149 plate appearances is only a tick below what Upton has done over his past two full seasons. And he has the added benefit of not being B.J. Upton, meaning that I’m way less likely to pull out a .38 and shoot my television when he comes on the screen. So really, it is an improvement.


Athletics, Padres, Yankees and Nats are players for Hector Olivera

cuba hat

Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Athletics, Padres, Yankees and Nationals are all players for Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera.

Olivera, 29, defected back in September. He has yet to be cleared by the U.S. government so it’s still not time for him to sign. He also has some health concerns, having missed considerable playing time with thrombosis in his left biceps, keeping him out of international competition. In club play this past season he hit .316 with an .886 OPS and had more walks than strikeouts. His bat isn’t a question, just his age and health.

The most very special Hall of Fame ballot so far

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We’ve actually had fewer stone cold bummer Hall of Fame ballots publicly revealed so far this year than we usually get. Maybe because bad voters don’t publicize them as much, realizing that jackasses like me are going to criticize them. Maybe because there are so darn many Hall of Fame worthy candidates floating around these days that it’s truly hard to make out an awful ballot, at least as long as you put more than five or six names on it.

But give some credit to Jay Dunn of the Trentonian, who tries his able best to do so.

It starts out well enough, with a full-throated argument in favor of Craig Biggio. Good show! Biggio belongs. Thanks for your vote, Jay! He’s also adding Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. Nothing unusual there.

But then we get this kind of thing:

But I don’t agree that I should stop after casting three or four votes. In fact, I just placed an X next to Fred McGriff’s name . . . As a point of reference, his home run total (493) is exactly the same as Lou Gehrig. His RBI total (1,550) exceeds Joe DiMaggio’s achievement by 10.

This is my favorite bad vote defense. “Player X had more [stat] than Player Y and more [stat] than Player Z!” Usually, as is the case here, Player Y and Player Z were not best known for the cited stats. Great, you had more stolen bases than Willie Stargell, but that doesn’t make you a hall of Famer. Even here, this is ridiculous. If you asked Dunn straight up if McGriff was anywhere close to the players that Lou Gehrig or Joe DiMaggio were, he’d obviously say no. To therefore listen to this kind of argument in his favor is practically insulting. Then this:

When Lee Smith retired he was the all-time leader in saves, a distinction subsequently passed by two players. I’ve been voting for him for years and I don’t see any reason to stop now.

I dunno, because there are several players on the ballot better than Smith is and you have a finite number of votes? Go on, Mr. Dunn:

My ballot is starting to filling up and I still haven’t voted for Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines or Alan Trammell, players I’ve voted for in the past. I can’t vote for all of them this year and I might not be able to vote for any of them.

But . . . but . . . the Lee Smith rule? Why do you have reason to stop voting for these guys if not Smith?

That’s because there are two other newcomers — Nomar Garciaparra and Gary Sheffield — who can’t be overlooked.

No, man. They really can! I swear to you, they can!

Garciaparra played in what I believe was the golden era of shortstops. He played in the same league as Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Omar Vizquel and still earned six trips to the All-Star Game.

His fielding was always sparkling and his career batting average was .313. That gets my vote.

Actually, his fielding wasn’t always sparkling. For a great portion of his career — most of it after he left Boston — he was a subpar defensive player. But don’t let get in your way. And one man’s Golden Age is another man’s Glut. Is it better to have been, I dunno, the third or fourth best shortstop in an age where there weren’t a ton of great ones like Alan Trammell was, or is it better to be the third or fourth best in an age where it really wasn’t that had to find a good one, like Nomar?

As for Sheffield, he notes the PED taint — Sheffield was named in the Mitchell Report — and holds solid PED evidence against Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. But he excuses Sheffield because “he says he used them unwittingly.” OK.

That’s weird. Almost as weird as a voter having McGriff, Smith, Sheffield and Nomar over Bagwell, Raines, Trammell, Edgar Martinez and others. I don’t know how that even happens.

The Yankees trade Shawn Kelley to the Padres

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Jack Curry of YES reports that the Yankees have traded righty reliever Shawn Kelley to the San Diego Padres. They receive minor league righty Johnny Barbato in return.

Kelley pitched in 59 games for the Yankees this past season, though not particularly well. He strikes out a lot of guys but walked 20 batters in those 59 innings and put up a 4.53 ERA. Barbato saved 16 games in Double-A. He had a smidge better K/BB ratio and a lower ERA. Curry suggests he could need Tommy John surgery. Kelley is arbitration eligible and will make more than the $1.76 million he made this past season.

Ozzie Guillen wants to manage again

Chicago White Sox manager Guillen sits in the dugout against the LA Angels during MLB American League baseball game in Anaheim

Ozzie Guillen was one-and-done in Miami, a victim of Jeff Loria’s weirdness, his own mouth and unmet expectations. But the guy brought Chicago its first World Series title in close to a century and was over .500 as a manager in nine seasons and it is weird that, since his departure from the Marlins, he hasn’t had a job with a baseball team.

Scott Merkin of caught up with him and finds that that’s something Guillen wants to remedy:

“I hope so. I want to, yes. I mean, that’s my life. That’s what I like to do,” Guillen told during a recent interview. “Am I waiting, sitting by the phone, waiting for a phone call? No. I will be lying to you [if I say], ‘Oh, my god. My phone is not ringing.’ If somebody [thinks] I can help, of course I want to do it. If that comes, that would be awesome. But if not, my life right now is pretty healthy.”

As Merkin notes, Guillen is honest to a fault — often an extreme fault — so it’s weird to even think that he’s not being 100% honest when he says that. But there have been enough of these “Guillen wants back in the game” stories over the past couple of years to where I’m actually surprised he puts it as mildly as that. Yes, he’s being paid to do nothing by the Marlins through 2015, but you get the sense the guy wants to manage again.

People always talk about Guillen’s personality — a lot for some to take — when looking for reasons why he hasn’t been hired anyplace else. Merkin talks about all of that. Specifically, his shoot-from-the-hip media style and the fact that, yes, he will tell his boss exactly what he thinks. That can be a definite problem in the go-along, get-along culture of major league baseball. But I almost wonder if a different kind of honesty — more of a self-deprecating honesty — is a problem for him too.

Back when he was with the White Sox he used to openly admit — and honestly, I think, in a way more managers would admit if they allowed themselves — that he’d sometimes daydream during the early innings of a game, realizing that he didn’t have a ton to do until the bullpen came into play. He also used to give tons and tons of credit to Joey Cora as his bench coach, crediting him with all of the thinking and hard work. That was likely partially humorous, but the idea of “Ozzie Guillen: managerial genius” never took hold, not even a little. In no small part, I bet, because of his own demeanor which inadvertently or otherwise took a lot of the air out of the balloon that is the Genius Manager. For the good, in my view, but likely in a way baseball teams don’t much care for or to which they maybe can’t easily relate.

But he was a successful manager. Colorful and sometimes the sort who got into it with his superiors, but I am surprised he’s not had a job in baseball over the past couple of years.