Harden picks odd spot to rebuild his value

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As our own Craig Calcaterra reported earlier, Rich Harden is joining the Rangers on a one-year, $7.5 million deal with an $11.5 million option for 2010.
The price seems about right, but the destination is still rather surprising. It’s hard to imagine that there weren’t going to be teams willing to present similar, if not superior, offers. And if Harden’s goal is to land a big multiyear deal at some point, it would have been easier to accomplish had he been pitching in Safeco or just about any National League park. Or pitching for the Red Sox or Yankees would have gained him more exposure and perhaps have allowed him to showcase himself in the postseason.
Pitching in Texas is famously difficult, of course. The ballpark is as hitter friendly as any in the American League, and the heat is well known for wearing players down over the course of a 162-game season. In the last dozen years, the Rangers have had three pitchers qualify for the ERA title and finish under 4.00:
Kevin Millwood – 3.67 ERA in 2009
Kenny Rogers – 3.46 ERA in 2005
Kenny Rogers – 3.84 ERA in 2002
That’s not to say teams won’t necessarily recognize that Harden has had a successful season if he comes in at 4.20 in 2010. But given that there was a significant market for his services, he may well have been better off heading elsewhere.

Mariano Rivera elected to Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously

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Former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera deservingly became the first player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame unanimously, receiving votes from all 425 writers who submitted ballots. Previously, the closest players to unanimous induction were Ken Griffey, Jr. (99.32% in 2016), Tom Seaver (98.84% in 1992), Nolan Ryan (98.79% in 1999), Cal Ripken, Jr. (98.53%), Ty Cobb (98.23% in 1936), and George Brett (98.19% in 1999).

Because so many greats were not enshrined in Cooperstown unanimously, many voters in the past argued against other players getting inducted unanimously, withholding their votes for otherwise deserving players. That Griffey — both one of the greatest outfielders of all time and one of the most popular players of all time — wasn’t voted in unanimously in 2016, for example, seemed to signal that no player ever would. Now that Rivera has been, this tired argument about voting unanimity can be laid to rest.

Derek Jeter will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time next year. He may become the second player ever to be elected unanimously. David Ortiz appears on the 2022 ballot and could be No. 3. Now that Rivera has broken through, these are possibilities whereas before they might not have been.

Another tired argument around Hall of Fame voting concerns whether or not a player is a “first ballot” Hall of Famer. Some voters think getting enshrined in a player’s first year of eligibility is a greater honor than getting in any subsequent year. I’m not sure what it will take to get rid of this argument — other than the electorate getting younger and more open-minded — but at least we have made progress on at least one bad Hall of Fame take.