Hall of Fame weekend “kind of sad”, “not as much excitement”

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The Baseball Writers Association of America opted not to elect any new living members to the Hall of Fame for the first time since 1965. Scott Miller of CBS Sports asked some living legends about the atmosphere in Cooperstown, New York, and the sentiment wasn’t very positive.

“This year, it’s kind of sad,” former Cardinals great Bob Gibson said.

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“There’s not as much excitement on Main Street as there usually is, and there are fewer guys,” Reds infield legend Joe Morgan said. “There’s usually 40 to 50, and I heard there’s 34. So obviously, that’s a little different.

“But it’s still the Hall of Fame, know what I mean?”

When balloting was completed in January, first-timers Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and others fell short of the 75 percent requirement. Biggio came closest with 68.2 percent of the vote. Jack Morris, in his 14th year on the ballot, received 67.7 percent and will have one more shot at getting in next year.

Major League Baseball seems to enjoy shooting itself in the foot over the performance-enhancing drugs issue. By allowing the BBWAA to make a moral stand against PED users, known or suspected, they effectively kill interest in the Hall of Fame. What reason do fans have to visit the Hall of Fame, or watch the induction ceremony? By suspending Ryan Braun for the rest of the season, what reason do Brewers fans have to keep up with the team over the final two months? MLB is its worst enemy, even when they outsource outrage to the BBWAA.

Eventually, the process will need to be amended to get a more diverse set of opinions and to ensure that at least one new member is inducted every year, lest we have a second consecutive year of… well, nothing. The 2014 ballot will feature a handful of shoo-ins, including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Mike Mussina.

Six of seven players decline $17.9 million qualifying offers

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Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one of seven eligible players to accept his $17.9 million qualifying offer. Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Craig Kimbrel, Patrick Corbin, Yasmani Grandal, and Dallas Keuchel each rejected his, officially making them free agents. Teams that had their QO’s rejected will recoup a draft pick once the player signs elsewhere.

That Harper rejected his QO comes as no surprise, as he is expected to strike perhaps the largest free agent contract in baseball history. Though the free agent market has been less lucrative lately than in previous years, the combination of Harper’s elite talent and his age — he’s only 26 years old — makes him a primary target for more than a handful of teams. Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract extension offer from the Nationals, so that would seem to be a baseline.

It is also not surprising that Kimbrel, 30, turned down his QO from the Red Sox. Despite a so-so showing during a championship run, Kimbrel is still young and talented enough to land another lucrative contract on the free agent market.

Keuchel bet on himself in turning down the Astros’ QO. He’s been solid since winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, owning a 3.77 ERA across 83 starts over the last three seasons. However, he turns 31 years old at the beginning of 2019, and his already mediocre strikeout rate declined even further this past season, so there may be some skepticism about his ability to perform over the course of a multi-year deal. Keuchel will still get one eventually, but his market may be slower to develop.

Pollock, soon 31 as well, will be the outfielder most coveted once Harper is off the market. When he’s healthy, he’s a dynamic five-tool player. However, Pollock hasn’t played in more than 113 games in a season since 2015, so that may be a red flag. Pollock ended 2018 batting .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs, 65 RBI, 61 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 460 plate appearances while playing above-average defense according to various defensive metrics.

Grandal, 30, could’ve gone either way with his QO, but ultimately chose to decline. He had a disappointing postseason, both offensively and defensively. Given how humans are prone to recency bias, it stood to reason that his October performance could have hurt his market. The catching position, however, is rather weak and Grandal stands out in a market that is otherwise focused on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Grandal did swat 24 home runs with an .815 OPS in 140 games for the Dodgers this past season.

Corbin, 29, was the most obvious QO decline after Harper. The lefty is coming off of a career year, finishing with a 3.15 ERA and a 246/48 K/BB ratio in exactly 200 innings. Corbin is the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. The Yankees have been seriously linked with Corbin even before the season ended.

Ryu likely chose to accept his QO because of his age and injury history. It would have been a gamble to pursue a multi-year deal. He did, however, make 15 starts during the regular season to the tune of a 1.97 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 15 walks in 82 1/3 innings. Those are great numbers. And most clubs would have been smart enough to look beyond his 5.21 ERA in the postseason, which has more to do with a leaky bullpen than his own personal failings. Still, it’s hard to fault Ryu for playing it safe and taking the guaranteed $17.9 million for one year.