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Looking ahead to next year’s Hall of Fame ballot

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With last night’s Hall of Fame voting announcement behind us, let’s look ahead to 2020’s ballot, shall we?

This year’s vote — particularly the election of Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina, who had been on ballots for several years — certainly cleared out some of the multi-year backlog we’ve been experiencing. On the less uplifting end of things, Fred McGriff failed to gain induction in his 10th and final year on the ballot, receiving just under 40% of the vote. Whatever you think of that, it does clear up a slot on many ballots for other candidates.

Unlike Martinez from last year, none of the holdovers on the 2020 ballot are a lock for induction. The next three highest vote-getters after the inductees were Curt Schilling (60.9%), Roger Clemens (59.5%) and Barry Bonds (59.1%). While it’s quite possible the elimination of the backlog allows a lot of voters who were not including them before to include them next year, it’s also the case that a lot of voters would simply never vote for those guys no matter what, so there is a practical limit to the amount of support they may gain year-over-year, They will certainly be a focus of a lot of debate next Hall of Fame season, however.

Larry Walker likewise returns. He made a big leap between 2018 and 2019 — from 34.1% of the vote to 54.6% — but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll get the bump of another 21% that is required for election. It’s possible I suppose. Notably, 2020 will be his last year on the BBWAA ballot.

With no returning candidates a lock for induction, let’s look at the new names we’ll see:

Derek Jeter: OK, we know one guy who will make it for sure. The only thing to discuss about his candidacy next season is whether or not he’ll match his teammate Mariano Rivera’s unanimous selection. Which, ugh, that’ll be a tedious discussion given that whether someone is elected unanimously or with only 75% of the vote is irrelevant. There are no tiers or circles or levels of a pyramid in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Let’s not start imposing them, shall we? Jeter is a lock to go in, he deserves it and he’ll get there. Let’s talk about his excellent career instead of the weird habits of Hall of Fame voters.

Bobby Abreu: You know what? He was better than you might remember. He had speed and power. He notched 2,470 hits, 574 doubles, 288 home runs, 1,363 RBI, had 400 stolen bases, a 128 OPS+ and 60 career WAR. All of that said, he still falls a bit short of objective Hall of Fame standards and, more significantly when it comes to handicapping his chances, he is not a guy many if any voters has ever argued was a Hall of Famer. His case, to the extent he has one, will be a Larry Walker-style “hey, he was better than you think” sort of thing with a lot of advanced analytics deployed to show his all-around greatness. Except he, you know, was not as good as Larry Walker, so, yeah.

Jason Giambi: I imagine there was a couple of year stretch in the late 90s and early 2000s when people talked about him as a Hall of Famer. But then the PED stuff happened and then he fell off significantly and all of that went out the window. His case would be his 1999-2003 peak during which he won the MVP award, led some super interesting A’s teams and then made a huge, high-profile move to New York, but that peak was subsequently tainted in the eyes of most voters by PEDs. Where does that leave us? Expect his vote totals to look more like Sammy Sosa’s or, at best, Mark McGwire’s, and less like someone who is deeply embedded in the Hall of Fame conversation for multiple years. If I had to guess it’ll mirror McGwire’s because Giambi did gain a lot of nice guy/grizzled veteran points at the tail end of his career and was never considered persona non grata like Sosa has been.

Cliff Lee: At his best he was the best but, unfortunately, he did not emerge as a great pitcher until his late 20s and then injuries deprived him of a run of greatness past his mid-30s. He was a Hall of Fame level pitcher at his best, but he did not have enough production surrounding his best years to justify election.

After Lee there are a bunch of “oh man, has that guy been retired for five full seasons now?” dudes whose time on the Hall of Fame ballot will likely be short and which will likely be most notable for serving as the basis for “remember that guy?” columns as opposed to full-throated support. Guys like Eric Chavez, Paul Konerko, Josh Beckett, Rafael Furcal and Alfonso Soriano. Maybe one or two of them — Beckett and Konerko? — will get more than 5% of the vote to stay afloat for another year, but not much beyond that.

Which leaves us with (a) Derek Jeter, who will float on in his first year; (b) a pretty big and, I suspect, ugly conversation about Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens; and (c) a valiant but, I also suspect, vain final push for Larry Walker.

If I had to guess, Jeter stands alone on the stage in Cooperstown in July 2020.

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”