Lance Berkman is salty about dropping off the Hall of Fame ballot

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Former Astros slugger Lance Berkman got just five of 425 votes in his first year of eligibility on the Hall of Fame ballot. Due to getting less than five percent of the vote, he fell off and can only later be considered by the Today’s Game Committee.

Fox 26’s Mark Berkman asked Berkman for his thoughts on dropping off of the ballot. Berkman said (slightly edited for clarity):

It’s hard to figure that a guy in Edgar Martínez, who had a great career, gets 85 percent of the vote and I virtually had the same career and I get less than five percent. So there’s something off about that. It sounds like sour grapes and maybe it is a little bit, but the only thing you can do is keep moving forward.

Berkman is right about one thing: offensively, the two were very similar. He retired with a .943 OPS and a 151 adjusted OPS (also known as OPS+), which accounts for league and park effects. Martínez retired with a .933 OPS and a 147 OPS+.

Martínez, however, accrued 68.4 Wins Above Replacement during his 18-year career, according to Baseball Reference. Berkman accrued 52.1 WAR. FanGraphs’ version of WAR puts Martínez at 65.5 and Berkman at 56.0. WAR accounts for quality of defense as well as the importance of positions played. Martínez spent 4,605 1/3 defensive innings at third base and had some above-average seasons with the glove, at least according to still-questionable defensive data. Baseball Reference put him at 17 runs above average with the glove. Berkman spent 6,345 innings at first base, 4,189 2/3 in left field, 2,898 in right, and 1,292 1/3 in center. Baseball Reference says Berkman was 15 runs below average with his glove overall. Additionally, WAR penalizes DH’s the heaviest, followed by first basemen and corner outfielders. Third basemen get a slight bump in the adjustment.

As for hardware, Martínez twice won a batting title and won five Silver Slugger Awards. Berkman never won a batting title or a Silver Slugger. Martínez led the league in runs scored once, doubles twice, RBI once, on-base percentage three times, and OPS once. Berkman led the league in doubles twice and RBI once, but otherwise never led the league in any other category. Part of that was playing most of his career in the same league as Barry Bonds, but still.

Berkman’s off-field work once his career was over could have impacted his popularity, not unlike Hall of Fame candidate Curt Schilling. In September 2015, Berkman spoke for a group — Campaign for Houston — opposed to a ballot initiative in Houston known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which would have provided equal protection for transgender people in public bathrooms. Berkman rightly received criticism at the time. He appeared as a guest on a Houston radio station a month later and said, “To me, tolerance is the virtue that’s killing this country. We’re tolerant of everything. You know, everything is okay, and as long as you want to do it and as long as it feels good to you, then it’s perfectly acceptable to do it. Those are the kinds of things that lead you down a slippery slope and you’ll get in trouble in a hurry.” Craig spoke with Berkman at length about his comments and made a post about it, which is worth re-reading.

It’s quite possible the support for Berkman wasn’t there, to some degree, due to his anti-LGBTQIA work. Hall of Fame voters are younger and more progressive-thinking than they used to be. Berkman has been mostly quiet since his 2015 foray into politics. But the Cardinals did invite him to “Christian Day” in 2017. The club immediately received criticism for that decision and defended itself. That wasn’t Berkman injecting himself back into the spotlight, but perhaps it helped the event linger in the memories of voters.

Lastly, Martínez was on the ballot for the 10th and final time and got in with 85.4 percent of the vote thanks to a sustained and energetic campaign by advocates. Berkman had no such noteworthy campaign.

If Hall of Fame voters strictly considered only offensive numbers for position players, then the disparity in votes for Martínez and Berkman wouldn’t have made sense. But there are plenty of other factors that led to his getting just 1.2 percent of the vote. He is welcome to feel salty about it, at any rate.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.