The Jerome Holtzman Award?

Leave a comment

Jayson Stark thinks that closers don’t already get enough phony glory due to their often meaningless, personalized stat, so he proposes a special award just for them:

It’s time for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to establish
a new award for relief pitchers. And if it were up to us, we’d call it
the Jerome Holtzman Award, in honor of the late, great Chicago
baseball-writing legend who invented the modern save rule

Stark’s argument in favor of it basically comes down to his belief that closers are somehow the “forgotten men” during awards season and that we need something special to recognize their accomplishments.

I actually think we have the opposite problem: because they have a special stat open only to them, the value of the closer has become so artificially inflated, both in financial terms and in terms of perceived value to winning ballgames, that their very existence has altered traditional baseball strategy.

As so many others have noted, modern managers routinely hold their best relievers out of the highest leverage situations because someone — maybe Tony La Russa — decided that it’s more important to put them in the game when there are no base runners and they have a three-run lead. Creating some new award to honor that interesting but by no means critical role would only make this worse.

Neat idea, Jayson, but as far as January-doldrum conversation starters go, I’ll take a half dozen more steroid arguments.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

Rick Yeatts/Getty Images
34 Comments

In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.