The Roger Maris discussion heats up

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George Vecsey wrote a column on Sunday — and follows up with a blog post today — about Roger Maris, his legacy and his Hall of Fame chances.  In both places Vecsey says that he would not vote for Maris for the Hall of Fame if he had the franchise (he doesn’t, because the New York Times does not allow its writers to vote). The blog post, however, features many reader comments in support of Maris for the Hall.

As I said last month, I’m sort of keeping track of this stuff because Maris will be up for consideration by the Veteran’s Committee this December.  I think the general shape of this coverage in the Times — “we really need to appreciate Maris’ accomplishments more in light of what happened in the 1990s and 2000s, but I’m not sure he’s a Hall of Famer — will be the dominant one.

I agree with Vecsey. My view is that Maris is decidedly not a Hall of Famer, because two really good seasons is not enough, even when one of them featured a significant record. His career is worthy of celebration, of course, but it’s not like it’s been lacking celebration, especially in recent years as folks have used his accomplishment to draw distinctions between the Steroid Era sluggers and those who came before.

Which is fine if illumination and understanding of these things go is all you’re interested in doing.  But if you take the next step and decide that he’s now Hall of Fame worthy because of that comparison, it seems to me you’re making a political argument (“take that, PED guys!”) as opposed to a genuine assessment of Maris’ Hall-worthiness.  That assessment was done for years and years prior to the Steroid Era and Maris was found lacking.  What has changed?

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”