Russell Branyan joins Yankees on minor-league contract

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Russell Branyan has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Yankees, according to Dan Martin of the New York Post.

He’ll compete for a bench spot in spring training after hitting just .197 in 68 games for the Diamondbacks and Angels last season.

Branyan’s low batting averages and high strikeout totals have often masked otherwise solid production, as his .814 career OPS is higher than guys like Raul Ibanez, Aubrey Huff, Michael Young, Torii Hunter, Adrian Beltre, Michael Cuddyer, Miguel Tejada, Vernon Wells, Ichiro Suzuki, and Johnny Damon.

However, given how poorly he hit in limited action last season and the fact that he’s now 36 years old it’s possible Branyan is just about finished. On the other hand, he’s certainly a worthwhile pickup on a no-risk deal and did smack 56 homers between 2009 and 2010.

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.