What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday’s action

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We’re finally into baseball’s third month and Daniel Murphy is dangerously close to .400. With another multi-hit game on Tuesday against the Phillies, the Nationals’ second baseman sits with a MLB-best .397 average. As Craig noted in this morning’s ATH, we’re probably going to see a lot of “Can Murphy hit .400?” articles.

We have had .400 threats much deeper into the season. Tony Gwynn, for example, was hitting .394 on August 11, 1994 before play was suspended due to the strike. Gwynn also ended June 1987 hitting .381. Todd Helton was hitting .420 at this time in 2000. George Brett ended his September 4, 1980 game against the Brewers with a .401 average. All of them failed to finish the season there.

Just because Murphy won’t hit .400 doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate what he’s done. Along with his major league-best batting average, Murphy leads the National League with a .634 slugging percentage and a 1.062 OPS, and his total of 77 hits is best in the game. Going by wRC+, an offensive Sabermetric stat at FanGraphs, only David Ortiz has been more productive at the plate than Murphy. It didn’t exactly come out of nowhere.

Once Yoenis Cespedes arrived in Queens last year from the Tigers, Murphy seemed to take off. From his return to the disabled list through July 31, Murphy had a tepid .245/.297/.353 line. From August 1 through the end of the season, Murphy hit .296/.321/.533 with eight of the 14 home runs he would hit on the year. And, of course, there was his historic postseason during which he homered in six consecutive games, helping the Mets escape the NLDS against the Dodgers, then skate into the World Series after beating the Cubs in the NLCS.

Murphy will look to extend his hitting streak to 11 games and push his batting average up over .400 on Wednesday night against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, starting at 7:05 PM EDT. The Nats’ Max Scherzer will oppose the Phils’ Adam Morgan.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Joe Kelly) @ Baltimore Orioles (Mike Wright), 7:05 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Los Angeles Angels (Matt Shoemaker), 7:05 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez), 7:07 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Jon Niese) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Albert Suarez) @ Atlanta Braves (Williams Perez), 7:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Mike Bolsinger) @ Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester), 8:05 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Houston Astros (Mike Fiers), 8:10 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Chris Archer) @ Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy), 8:15 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (John Lamb) @ Colorado Rockies (Tyler Chatwood), 8:40 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (James Paxton) @ San Diego Padres (Christian Friedrich), 10:10 PM EDT

Jones, Maddux, Morris consider Bonds, Clemens for Hall

USA TODAY Sports
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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Hall of Famers Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris and Ryne Sandberg are among 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee that will meet to consider the Cooperstown fate of an eight-man ballot that includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro.

Hall of Famers Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also are on the panel, which will meet in San Diego ahead of the winter meetings.

They will be joined by former Toronto CEO Paul Beeston, former Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs executive Theo Epstein, Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno, Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng, Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter and Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams.

Three media members/historians are on the committee: longtime statistical analyst Steve Hirdt of Stats Perform, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Neal and Slusser are past presidents of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark will be the committee’s non-voting chair.

The ballot also includes Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Curt Schilling. The committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A candidate needs 75% to be elected and anyone who does will be inducted on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the BBWAA vote, announced on Jan. 24.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their 10th and final appearances on the BBWAA ballot. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program, just over two weeks after getting his 3,000th hit.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) in 2021. Support dropped after hateful remarks he made in retirement toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the BBWAA ballot in 2019. Murphy was on the BBWAA ballot 15 times and received a high of 116 votes (23.2%) in 2000. Mattingly received a high of 145 votes (28.2%) in the first of 15 appearances on the BBWAA ballot in 2001, and Belle appeared on two BBWAA ballots, receiving 40 votes (7.7%) in 2006 and 19 (3.5%) in 2007.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.

This year’s BBWAA ballot includes Carlos Beltran, John Lackey and Jered Weaver among 14 newcomers and Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and Billy Wagner among holdovers.