Author: Matthew Pouliot

Jose Veras

Braves add Jose Veras to their suddenly aged bullpen


The 2014 Braves didn’t get a single relief appearance from a pitcher in his 30s. With John Hart at the helm, the 2015 Braves are going in a much different direction with the bullpen.

34-year-old Jose Veras is Hart’s latest pickup for the relief corps, joining Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, Josh Outman and Matt Capps. Like Capps, Veras is getting a minor league deal, though he seems like a pretty good bet to claim a spot.

After saving 21 games with a 3.02 ERA in 2013, Veras received a one-year, $4 million deal to close for the Cubs last year. He was an immediate bust, amassing an 8.10 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, but after rejoining the Astros, whom he pitched for during the first two-thirds of 2013, he had a 3.03 ERA and a 37/16 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. Over the last three seasons, he had a 3.64 ERA and a 189/89 K/BB ratio in 175 2/3 innings.

As things stand now, Craig Kimbrel, Grilli, Johnson and James Russell would seem to be guaranteed spots in the Atlanta bullpen. Outman and Veras will be clear favorites for two of the three remaining spots. Ideally, Shae Simmons would be there, too, but the youngster needs to prove he’s healthy after missing most of the second half of last season with shoulder troubles. Lefties Luis Avilan and Ian Thomas will also provide competition.

Yankees meet with Alex Rodriguez, put out terribly generic press release

Alex Rodriguez

Get ready for a joint statement from the New York Yankees.

Excited yet?

Hal Steinbrenner, New York Yankees Managing General Partner / Co-Chairperson
Randy Levine, New York Yankees President
Brian Cashman, New York Yankees Senior Vice President, General Manager
Jean Afterman, New York Yankees Senior Vice President, Assistant General Manager
Alex Rodriguez
Jim Sharp, Legal Counsel to Alex Rodriguez

“Today we held a meeting at Yankee Stadium between Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, Brian Cashman, Jean Afterman, Alex Rodriguez and Jim Sharp. Alex initiated the meeting and apologized to the organization for his actions over the past several years.

“There was an honest and frank discussion on all of the issues. As far as the Yankees are concerned, the next step is to play baseball in spring training.”

That’s the extent of it. Unanswered are questions like “who spent the most time fake smiling during the meeting?” and “how come Alex doesn’t get a title?” How about…

Alex Rodriguez, centaur-wannabe


Alex Rodriguez, the guy whose ridiculous contract we’re still trying to void


Alex Rodriguez, who hit six postseason homers and drove in 18 runs for the 2009 World Series-winning Yankees

Rodriguez probably didn’t specifically apologize for leading the team past the Phillies in 2009 or for winning MVP honors in 2005 and 2007. He really should have just said “sorry if you were offended” and left it at that. Maybe we’ll find out more when they try out this whole “play baseball in spring training” idea.


The Brewers are trying to trade for Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon

Here’s one that wouldn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense: why trade for a $13 million closer when the guy who saved 44 games for you last season is still sitting there with no takers in free agency?

Alas, the Brewers are looking to acquire Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies, says Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan. Unclear is whether Milwaukee is one of the 17 teams on Papelbon’s no-trade clause. Also unclear is whether Papelbon would block a deal if he could.

The 34-year-old Papelbon is coming off a fine season for the Phillies, albeit one that involved an unfortunate crotch-grabbing incident in September. He finished with a 2.04 ERA and a 63/15 K/BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings, allowing just two homers in the process.

Still, even with last year’s success, it’s hard to get excited about Papelbon these days. His former mid-90s fastball has dropped by one mph annually the last three years, and his strikeout rate has tumbled with it. He’s also owed $13 million next year with a $13 million vesting option for 2016 that kicks in with 48 games finished. That’s a figure he’s reached nine years running.

One wonders why the Brewers wouldn’t just re-sign Francisco Rodriguez instead. He’s probably going to to have to settle for half of what Papelbon is making. He wasn’t quite as effective as Papelbon last year, because he allowed a whopping 14 homers, but that looks like something of a fluke. His strikeout rates are better than Papelbon’s of late, and he’s stopped walking batters these last two years. He’s also actually over a year younger than Papelbon, though he would seem to have more mileage on his arm.

Also out there is Rafael Soriano, who might settle for even less than Rodriguez just to remain a closer. Other than Toronto, there aren’t any clear opportunities for ninth-inning guys out there, and it seemed like the Brewers were playing it smart, waiting for one of the veterans to cave and sign cheap. As is, they do have Jonathan Broxton available to pitch the ninth, but they’d still need a guy for the eighth inning anyway.

So, why move on if you’re the Brewers? Maybe K-Rod still isn’t willing to settle and ownership is getting antsy. Maybe the Phillies are willing to pay a substantial portion of Papelbon’s salary and still settle for meager talent in return. Because if the Brewers do give up any talent for Papelbon when a seemingly equal bet in Rodriguez is still sitting out there without a suitor, it’d seem to be an awful waste of resources.

2015 Free Agent Tracker

Hanley Ramirez

Here’s our annual free agent tracker, which will be updated regularly throughout the offseason. The rankings are based on the Top 150 Free Agents column. Players who didn’t make it into the top 150 are included at the end.

Re-signings are in red. Players signing with new clubs are in blue. The 12 players to turn down qualifying offers (and thus require draft pick compensation) are listed with asterisks.

All ages are as of April 1, 2015.

1. Max Scherzer (RHP Tigers, 30)*: Nationals – seven years, $210 million
2. Jon Lester (LHP Athletics, 31): Cubs – six years, $155 million + vesting option
3. Yasmany Tomas (OF Cuba, 24): Diamondbacks – six years, $68.5 million
4. Hanley Ramirez (SS Dodgers, 31)*: Red Sox – four years, $88 million + $22 million vesting option
5. James Shields (RHP Royals, 33)*: Padres – four years, $75 million + $16 million option
6. Pablo Sandoval (3B Giants, 28)*: Red Sox – five years, $95 million + option
7. Russell Martin (C Pirates, 32)*: Blue Jays – five years, $82 million
8. Victor Martinez (1B-DH Tigers, 36)*: Tigers – four years, $68 million
9. Nelson Cruz (OF-DH Orioles, 34)*: Mariners – four years, $58 million
10. Chase Headley (3B Yankees, 30): Yankees – four years, $52 million
11. Ervin Santana (RHP Braves, 32)*: Twins – four years, $55 million + option
12. Francisco Liriano (LHP Pirates, 32)*: Pirates – three years, $39 million
13. Melky Cabrera (OF Blue Jays, 30)*: White Sox – three years, $42 million
14. Adam LaRoche (1B Nationals, 35): White Sox – two years, $25 million
15. David Robertson (RHP Yankees, 29)*: White Sox – four years, $46 million
16. Brandon McCarthy (RHP Yankees, 31): Dodgers – four years, $48 million
17. Jake Peavy (RHP Giants, 33): Giants – two years, $24 million
18. Andrew Miller (LHP Orioles, 29): Yankees – four years, $36 million
19. Jose Fernandez (2B Cuba, 26): Still in Cuba / unlikely to sign
20. Aramis Ramirez (3B Brewers, 36): Brewers – $14 million mutual option exercised
21. Alex Rios (OF Rangers, 34): Royals – one year, $11 million
22. Jung-Ho Kang (SS Korea, 27): Pirates – four years, $11 million ($5 million posting fee)
23. Hiroki Kuroda (RHP Yankees, 40): Japan
24. Colby Rasmus (OF Blue Jays, 28): Astros – one year, $8 million
25. Jason Hammel (RHP Athletics, 32): Cubs – two years, $20 million + option
26. Nick Markakis (OF Orioles, 31): Braves – four years, $44 million
27. Michael Cuddyer (OF-1B Rockies, 36)*: Mets – two years, $21 million
28. Jed Lowrie (SS Athletics, 30): Astros – three years, $23 million
29. Edinson Volquez (RHP Pirates, 31): Royals – two years, $20 million
30. Torii Hunter (OF Tigers, 39): Twins – one year, $10.5 million
31. Asdrubal Cabrera (2B-SS Nationals, 29): Rays – one year, $7.5 million
32. Kwang-Hyun Kim (RHP Korea, 26): Remaining in Korea
33. Norichika Aoki (OF Royals, 33): Giants – one year, $4.7 million + option
34. Mike Morse (OF Giants, 33): Marlins – two years, $16 million
35. Luke Gregerson (RHP Athletics, 30): Astros – three years, $18.5 million
36. Francisco Rodriguez (RHP Brewers, 33):
37. Sergio Romo (RHP Giants, 32): Giants – two years, $15 million
38. Hector Olivera (2B Cuba, 29):
39. Adam Lind (1B-DH Blue Jays, 31): Blue Jays – $7.5 million option exercised (traded to Brewers)
40. Joakim Soria (RHP Tigers, 30): Tigers – $7 million option exercised
41. Justin Masterson (RHP Cardinals, 30): Red Sox – one year, $9.5 million
42. A.J. Burnett (RHP Phillies, 38): Pirates – one year, $8.5 million
43. Rafael Soriano (RHP Nationals, 35):
44. Zach Duke (LHP Brewers, 31): White Sox – three years, $15 million
45. Jason Grilli (RHP Angels, 38): Braves – two years, $8 million
46. Casey Janssen (RHP Blue Jays, 33): Nationals – one year, $5 million + option
47. J.A. Happ (LHP Blue Jays, 32): Blue Jays – $6.7 million option exercised (traded to Mariners)
48. Aaron Harang (RHP Braves, 36): Phillies – one year, $5 million
49. Billy Butler (DH-1B Royals, 28): Athletics – three years, $30 million
50. Stephen Drew (SS Yankees, 32): Yankees – one year, $5 million
51. Kendrys Morales (1B-DH Mariners, 31): Royals – two years, $17 million
52. Carlos Villanueva (RHP Cubs, 31): Cardinals – minor league deal ($2 million)
53. Pat Neshek (RHP Cardinals, 34): Astros – two years, $12.5 million + option
54. Rickie Weeks (2B Brewers, 32): Mariners – one year, $2 million
55. Ryan Vogelsong (RHP Giants, 37): Giants – one year, $4 million
56. Brett Anderson (LHP Rockies, 27): Dodgers – one year, $10 million ($4 million in incentives)
57. Burke Badenhop (RHP Red Sox, 32): Reds – one year, $2.5 million + mutual option
58. Chris Young (RHP Mariners, 35):
59. Kyle Kendrick (RHP Phillies, 30): Rockies – one year, $5.5 million
60. Joba Chamberlain (RHP Tigers, 29):
61. Chris Denorfia (OF Mariners, 34): Cubs – one year, $2.6 million
NT. Everth Cabrera (SS Padres, 28):
62. Nick Hundley (C Orioles, 31): Rockies – two years, $6.25 million
63. Brandon Morrow (RHP Blue Jays, 30): Padres – one year, $2.5 million ($5 million in incentives)
64. Gavin Floyd (RHP Braves, 32): Indians – one year, $4 million ($6 million in incentives)
65. Geovany Soto (C Athletics, 32): White Sox – minor league contract
66. Luke Hochevar (RHP Royals, 31): Royals – two years, $10 million
NT. Kris Medlen (RHP Braves, 29): Royals – two years, $8.5 million ($10 million in incentives)
67. Chris Young (OF Yankees, 31): Yankees – one year, $2.5 million ($3.825 million in incentives)
68. Tim Stauffer (RHP Padres, 32): Twins – one year, $2.2 million
69. Misael Siverio (LHP Cuba, 25): Mariners – minor league contract
70. Ichiro Suzuki (OF Yankees, 41): Marlins – one year, $2 million
71. Jonny Gomes (OF Athletics, 34): Braves – one year, $4 million
72. Josh Johnson (RHP Padres, 31): Padres – one year, $1 million ($6.25 million in incentives)
73. Mike Aviles (INF Indians, 33): Indians – $3.5 million option exercised
74. Tsuyoshi Wada (LHP Cubs, 34): Cubs – one year, $4 million ($2 million in incentives)
75. Chad Billingsley (RHP Dodgers, 30): Phillies – one year, $1.5 million ($6.5 million in incentives)
76. Neal Cotts (LHP Rangers, 35): Brewers – one year, $3 million
77. Jason Motte (RHP Cardinals, 32): Cubs – one year, $4.5 million
78. Emilio Bonifacio (2B-OF Braves, 29): White Sox – one year, $4 million
79. Tom Gorzelanny (LHP Brewers, 32): Tigers – one year, $1 million
80. Josh Willingham (OF-DH Royals, 36): Retired
81. Joe Beimel (LHP Mariners, 37):
NT. Gordon Beckham (2B-3B Angels, 28): White Sox – one year, $2 million
82. A.J. Pierzynski (C Cardinals, 38): Braves – one year, $2 million
83. Joel Peralta (RHP Rays, 39): Rays – $2.5 million option exercised (traded to Dodgers)
84. Kelly Johnson (2B-3B Orioles, 33): Braves – minor league contract
85. Alberto Callaspo (2B-3B Athletics, 31): Braves – one year, $3 million ($1 million in incentives)
86. Joel Hanrahan (RHP Tigers, 33): Tigers – one year, $1 million ($2.5 million in incentives)
**. Roberto Hernandez (RHP Dodgers, 34):
87. Clint Barmes (INF Pirates, 36): Padres – one year, $1.5 million + option
88. Mark Reynolds (1B-3B Brewers, 31): Cardinals – one year, $2 million ($800,000 in incentives)
89. Colby Lewis (RHP Rangers, 35): Rangers – one year, $4 million
90. David Ross (C Red Sox, 38): Cubs – two years, $5 million
91. Jared Burton (RHP Twins, 33):
92. Delmon Young (OF-DH Orioles, 29): Orioles – one year, $2.25 million
93. LaTroy Hawkins (RHP Rockies, 42): Rockies – $2.25 million option exercised
94. Alfonso Soriano (OF FA, 39): Retired
95. Jose Veras (RHP Astros, 34): Braves – minor league contract
NT. Justin Smoak (1B Blue Jays, 28): Blue Jays – one year, $1 million
96. Corey Hart (1B-DH Mariners, 33): Pirates – one year, $2.5 million ($2.5 million in incentives)
97. John Axford (RHP Pirates, 32): Rockies – minor league contract ($2.6 million)
98. Chris Capuano (LHP Yankees, 36): Yankees – one year, $5 million
NT. Andy Dirks (OF Blue Jays, 29): Blue Jays – minor league contract
99. Jim Johnson (RHP Tigers, 31): Braves – one year, $1.6 million ($900,000 in incentives)
NT. Daniel Descalso (INF Cardinals, 28): Rockies – two years, $3.6 million
NT. Alexi Ogando (RHP Rangers, 31): Red Sox – one year, $1.5 million ($1.5 million in incentives)
100. Jason Frasor (RHP Royals, 37): Royals – one year, $1.8 million + option
101. Matt Belisle (RHP Rockies, 34): Cardinals – one year, $3.5 million
102. Andrew Bailey (RHP Yankees, 30): Yankees – minor league contract
103. Jeanmar Gomez (RHP Pirates, 27): Phillies – minor league contract
NT: Wesley Wright (LHP Cubs, 30): Orioles – one year, $1.7 million
104. Kevin Correia (RHP Dodgers, 34):
105. Mike Adams (RHP Phillies, 36):
NT. Gaby Sanchez (1B Pirates, 31): Japan
NT. Juan Francisco (1B-3B Red Sox, 27): Rays – minor league contract
106. Phil Coke (LHP Tigers, 32):
107. Dustin McGowan (RHP Blue Jays, 33):
108. Ernesto Frieri (RHP FA, 29): Rays – one year, $800,000 ($2.35 million in incentives)
109. Nate Schierholtz (OF Nationals, 31): Rangers – minor league contract ($1.75 million)
NT. Brandon Beachy (RHP Braves, 28):
110. Ramon Santiago (INF Reds, 35): Blue Jays – minor league contract ($1.1 million)
111. Craig Breslow (LHP Red Sox, 34): Red Sox – one year, $2 million
NT. Kyle Blanks (1B-OF Athletics, 28): Rangers – minor league contract ($1 million)
112. Matt Lindstrom (RHP White Sox, 35):
113. Kyuji Fujikawa (RHP Cubs, 34): Rangers – one year, $1 million plus incentives
114. Wily Mo Pena (OF Japan, 33):
115. Mark Ellis (2B Cardinals, 37):
116. Bruce Chen (LHP FA, 37):
117. Jesse Crain (RHP Astros, 33): White Sox – minor league contract
118. Daisuke Matsuzaka (RHP Mets, 34): Japan
119. Endy Chavez (OF Mariners, 37): Mariners – minor league contract
120. Rafael Betancourt (RHP Rockies, 39): Rockies – minor league contract
NT. John Mayberry Jr. (OF Blue Jays, 31): Mets – one year, $1.45 million
121. Ryan Ludwick (OF Reds, 36): Rangers – minor league contract ($1.75 million)
122. Paul Maholm (LHP Dodgers, 32): Reds – minor league contract
123. Scott Hairston (OF Nationals, 34):
124. Chris Perez (RHP Dodgers, 29): Brewers – minor league contract ($1.5 million)
NT. Eric Young Jr. (OF Mets, 29):
125. Matt Albers (RHP Astros, 32):
126. Munenori Kawasaki (INF Blue Jays, 33): Blue Jays – minor league contract
127. Yozzen Cuesta (1B Cuba, 26?):
128. Sergio Santos (RHP Blue Jays, 31): Dodgers – minor league contract
129. Franklin Morales (LHP Rockies, 29):
130. Mike Carp (1B FA, 28): Nationals – minor league contract
131. Juan Carlos Oviedo (RHP FA, 33): Rangers – minor league contract
132. Ryan Doumit (C-DH Braves, 33):
133. J.J. Putz (RHP FA, 38): Retired
134. Joe Thatcher (LHP Angels, 33):
135. Gerald Laird (C Braves, 35): Diamondbacks – minor league contract
NT. Logan Ondrusek (RHP Reds, 30): Japan
136. Felipe Paulino (RHP White Sox, 31): Red Sox – minor league contract
137. Jamey Wright (RHP Dodgers, 40):
138. Reed Johnson (OF Marlins, 38):
139. Wandy Rodriguez (LHP FA, 36): Braves – minor league contract
140. Franklin Gutierrez (OF FA, 32): Mariners – minor league contract
NT. David Huff (LHP Yankees, 30): Dodgers – minor league contract
141. Jason Marquis (RHP FA, 36): Reds – minor league contract
142. Dan Uggla (2B FA, 35): Nationals – minor league contract
143. Kevin Kouzmanoff (1B-3B Rangers, 33):
144. Nolan Reimold (OF Diamondbacks, 31): Orioles – minor league contract
145. Sean Burnett (LHP Angels, 32):
146. Rafael Furcal (2B-SS Marlins, 37):
147. Josh Outman (LHP FA, 30): Braves – one year, $925,000
148. Scott Baker (RHP Rangers, 33): Yankees – minor league contract
149. Scott Downs (LHP Royals, 39): Indians – minor league contract
150. J.P. Arencibia (C Rangers, 29): Orioles – minor league contract

Signed pre-rankings:
Orioles re-signed SS J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $40 million contract ($14 million option for 2018)
Red Sox re-signed RHP Koji Uehara to a two-year, $18 million contract
Phillies re-signed RHP Jerome Williams to a one-year, $2.5 million contract
Phillies re-signed OF Grady Sizemore to a one-year, $2.5 million contract

Other signings:
Diamondbacks signed RHP Yoan Lopez for an $8.27 million bonus (minor league deal)
Braves signed OF Dian Toscano to a four-year, $6 million contract.
Cardinals signed INF Dean Anna to a one-year contract
Braves signed OF Zoilo Almonte to a one-year contract
Braves signed RHP Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league contract
Blue Jays signed LHP Jeff Francis to a minor league contract
Phillies signed OF Jeff Francoeur to a minor league contract
Royals signed INF Ryan Roberts to a minor league contract
Reds signed OF Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract
Indians re-signed RHP Shaun Marcum to a minor league contract
Pirates signed RHP Brad Lincoln to a minor league contract
Rockies signed LHP John Lannan to a minor league contract
Mariners signed RHP Mark Lowe to a minor league contract.
White Sox signed C George Kottaras to a minor league contract.
White Sox signed RHP Brad Penny to a minor league contract.
Blue Jays signed 1B Daric Barton to a minor league contract.
Rockies signed OF Roger Bernadina to a minor league contract.
Reds signed LHP Jose Mijares to a minor league contract.
Reds signed RHP Michael Bowden to a minor league contract.
Blue Jays signed LHP Andrew Albers to a minor league contract.
Diamondbacks re-signed INF Jordan Pacheco to a minor league contract.
Giants re-signed RHP J.C. Gutierrez to a minor league contract.
Nationals signed RHP Heath Bell to a minor league contract.

Why is John Smoltz a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame?

(FILES) This 25 August, 2002, file photo

Let’s get this out of the way first: this is not me arguing against John Smoltz as a Hall of Famer. I think he’s above the cut line. I just don’t see why one would include him on their ballot without also placing checkmarks next to the names of Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.

213-155, 3.33 ERA, 125 ERA+, 3,084 K in 3,473 IP – Smoltz
216-146, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+, 3,116 K in 3,261 IP – Schilling
270-153, 3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+, 2,813 K in 3,563 IP – Mussina

How do you draw a line in between those three careers?

By any objective measure, the other two were at least slightly better regular-season starting pitchers than Smoltz. The line above includes Smoltz’s 242 appearances as a reliever. As a starter, he had 209 wins and a 3.40 ERA, dropping his ERA+ down to Mussina’s level. Schilling also made 133 relief appearances, most coming as a middle reliever early in his career, but was worse in them (3.62 ERA) than he was as a starter (3.45 ERA).

Smoltz also pitched in the easier environment, throwing 99 percent of his career innings in the NL. Schilling pitched 77 percent of his innings in the NL, and Mussina was, of course, a full-time American Leaguer.  Plus, Smoltz put in more innings before offense began to take off. He pitched 980 innings prior to 1993, compared to 371 for Schilling and 329 for Mussina.

Schilling also has one other significant edge on the other two: as such a big flyball and strikeout pitcher, he limited the chances for unearned runs behind him. giving up just 65 in his career. Smoltz allowed 107, and Mussina gave up 101. Going by RA, instead of ERA, gets us:

Smoltz – 3.60 (3.69 as a starter)
Schilling – 3.64 (3.63 as a starter)
Mussina – 3.94

Smoltz is the only one of the trio with a Cy Young Award, but the others fared better on the leaderboards overall:

Times in top 3 in league in ERA: Mussina 4, Schilling 2, Smoltz 0
Times in top 10 in league in ERA: Mussina 11, Schilling 9, Smoltz 8
20-win seasons: Schilling 2, Mussina 1, Smoltz 1
Times getting Cy Young votes: Mussina 9, Smoltz 5 (including once as RP), Schilling 4
Times leading league in strikeouts: Schilling 2, Smoltz 2, Mussina 0
Times in top 10 in league in strikeouts: Mussina 10, Smoltz 10, Schilling 9

Baseball-reference WAR has Mussina at 82.7 (24th among pitchers), Schilling at 80.7 (26th) and Smoltz at 66.5 (39th). Fangraphs WAR, which I’m less fond of for pitchers, has Schilling 17th, Mussina 18th and Smoltz 22nd.

And yet, Schilling was named on 29.2 percent of HOF ballots a year ago in his second year of eligibility. Mussina came in at 20.3 in his first year on the ballot. Right now, Smoltz has been named on 33 of 37 public ballots, as tallied up by Ryan Thibs.

So, why Smoltz? I spy three factors aiding his cause.

1. Excellent postseason record

Smoltz had a reputation for coming up big in October and was 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 27 starts and 14 relief appearances during his postseason career. It led to only one World Series victory, but I think the narrative there is that it’s because Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine weren’t as good in the postseason as during the first six months; Smoltz is the one who “stepped up.”

(Schilling also has this, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts and winning three World Series, for all of the good it’s done him so far. Mussina was 7-8 with a 3.42 ERA in 21 starts and two relief appearances in the postseason, never winning a World Series.)

2. His three years as closer

Dennis Eckersley cruised right into the Hall of Fame, too. The voters like their narratives and Smoltz’s time as an ace reliever differentiates him from pitchers with similar qualifications.

3. He was part of a “Big Three” with two guys already in the Hall of Fame.

I think it’s the last that seals it. Maddux and Glavine were just inducted into the Hall last year, with Glavine making it on the first ballot by a surprisingly easy margin. I think everyone realizes that Smoltz was the third best pitcher in the group, but the momentum is still carrying him. They’re a package deal.

In the grand scheme of things, Smoltz getting in the first ballot would be a very good thing for both Schilling and Mussina. They’d enter next year as the top starting pitchers on the ballot with Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez also quickly graduating. Next year’s class of new entries will include Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner, but no starters worthy of consideration (Mike Hampton is the best of the bunch) and only one lock among the hitters (Ken Griffey Jr.). Plus, I would think it’d become increasingly difficult for voters who marked Smoltz on their ballots not to go for the other two when their credentials are so similar.

Still, it frustrates me that so many voters aren’t giving Schilling and Mussina their due now. By the standards of the Hall of Fame, both are clearly worthy.