Brewers to consider dealing Prince Fielder

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fielder_prince_090928.jpgMilwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he and general manager Doug Melvin are exploring every avenue to improve their team for next season, even if that means trading its best hitter, Prince Fielder.

“I don’t like thinking about the Milwaukee Brewers without Prince Fielder, I’ll tell you that,” Attanasio said. “It’s a challenge, because on the other side, if you concentrate too much on one player. … It’s not like basketball. If LeBron James or Michael Jordan is on your team, you can dominate. Prince could not have been more of a dominant player and we’re scuffling to get to .500 with the challenges we’ve had with starting pitching. What do you do?

Attanasio states that Fielder’s trade value will never be higher than it is right now, and if that were really the issue, he might be right. Fielder has put together arguably his best season, a .297/.406/.596 line with 43 homers and 137 RBIs. He’s walked more than 100 times for the first time in his career, and doesn’t turn 26 until May.

Has Fielder peaked? It seems unlikely for a guy that young, but concerns over his physique might change the formula a little bit, and Fielder’s next contract will be a big one.

And that’s really what it comes down to: Money.

Milwaukee was smart to lock up Ryan Braun, who won’t even make as much as $8.5 million until the 2013 season. Fielder, though, resisted following a similar path, opting instead to keep one year of arbitration eligibility after his current two-year deal expires (after 2010) before heading into free agency.

On the other hand, Fielder’s presence undoubtedly sells a lot of tickets (Milwaukee topped the 3-million mark in attendance for the second straight season) so you might want to keep him around a bit, patch some holes and hope for a rebound in 2010. Either way, it’s not an easy decision.

“If you play that player too much you have to surround him with good enough players to win. On the other hand, players like Ryan Braun and Prince, they come along only every 10 years or so. Believe me, I think Doug thinks about that every day.”

What would you do?

No, New York players do not get an unfair bump in Hall of Fame voting

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Angels owner Arte Moreno said something interesting yesterday. He was talking about the retired former Angel, Garret Anderson, and said “If he would have played in New York, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.”

The initial — and, I would add, the most on-point — response to this is to note that, for however good a player Anderson was at times, no definition of the term “Hall of Famer” really encompasses his legacy. He was OK. Pretty good on occasion. Nowhere near a Hall of Famer, and I don’t think you need me to go over the math to establish that. The only way Anderson would ever sniff the Hall of Fame one day is if we sent Tony La Russa back in time to manage him for several years and then brought him back from the past to strong-arme the Veterans Committee.

The more interesting question to me is the matter implied in Moreno’s comment: that players in New York get an unfair boost when it comes to the Hall of Fame.

I get why he might say that and I get why people might believe it. New York gets all the press. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere and, my God, people in New York will not let you forget it for a second. East Coast Bias™ and all of that.

Except it’s baloney, at least as far as the Hall of Fame goes.

I think it’s fair to say that, yes, if you play in New York, your reputation gets elevated more than if you played elsewhere, but I think there are limits to that what that elevation gets you. You’re more famous if you knock in 100 as the third-best guy on a Yankees team or if you are involved in a notable game or series or controversy as a Met, but it doesn’t mean you get some extra helping hand from the BBWAA five years after you retire.

At least one guy I know, Adam Darowski, has taken a rough look at this on the numbers. He has determined that, by at least his measure, Yankees players are the fourth most underrepresented contingent in Hall of Fame voting. Red Sox are fifth. Mets are in the middle of the pack. It may be more useful to think of this without reference to any numbers, though, and look at it in terms of who is and who isn’t getting some sort of unfair bump.

If there was a New York Premium to Hall of Fame consideration, wouldn’t Bernie Williams, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Elston Howard, Don Mattingly, Roger Maris, Jorge Posada, David Cone, John Franco, Keith Hernandez, Andy Pettitte and a bunch of other guys of that caliber get more support than they’ve historically gotten? I’m not saying all of those guys deserve to be in the Hall, but they all have better cases than Garret Anderson and none of them got in or appear to be getting in any time soon. They are close enough on the merits that, one would think anyway, an aura of New Yorkness surrounding them would have carried them over the line, but it never did.

Meanwhile, almost all of the most borderline Hall of Famers are old, old, old timers who were either poorly assessed by the Veterans Committee or who had the good fortune of being good friends with Frankie Frisch. Again, not a ton of Yankees make that cut. A whole lot of Giants do, but I suppose that’s another conversation. The questionable Hall of Famers of more recent vintage represent guys from all over the big league map. The only Yankee I can think of in relatively recent years who raised eyebrows was Catfish Hunter, and I suspect more of that was based on his legacy with the A’s than with the Yankees, where he really only had one great season.

Here’s what I think happens, practically, with New York players: If you play in New York, merely good and notable performance makes you huge in the moment and in casual remembrance, but your historical legacy is often written down a bit as a function of overall team success. Also — or, maybe, alternatively — it’s a matter of every good Yankees era being defined by such a big meagstar — Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Reggie, Jeter — that the really good, even Hall of Fame-worthy guys who played with them are overlooked to some degree. Which, when you think about it, kinda sucks even worse for them because their megastar teammate is, thanks to the rings, in some ways getting elevated by team success while the lesser stars are denigrated because of it.

Which is not to say that we should cry for New York players. Paul O’Neill will never have to pay for a steak dinner in Manhattan for the rest of his life and, thanks to all of his friends in the press, Andy Pettitte’s obituary won’t mention his PED use at all while Barry Bonds’ obit will mention it in the first graf. It’s getting to the point where if you can simply avoid infamy and not suck for a five-year stretch you can get your number retired and a place in Monument Park.

But New York players aren’t getting unfair consideration in Hall of Fame voting. Indeed, I think they’re probably getting graded a bit too harshly.