Schilling, Clemens, Bonds lead candidates on Hall ballot

Curt Schilling
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NEW YORK — Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are the leading candidates returning to baseball’s Hall of Fame ballot in a year without any favorites among the new names.

Schilling was third behind Derek Jeter and Larry Walker with 278 of 397 votes last year, finishing at 70% and 20 votes shy in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Clemens had 242 votes for 61% and Bonds 241 for 60.7%, both well short of the 75% needed, which was 298 votes last year. Both were overwhelming favorites before suspicions of steroids use.

Clemens has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, and Bonds says he never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.

All three will be making their ninth appearance on the BBWAA ballot this year, one short of the limit. Omar Vizquel was next in last year’s voting with 209 ballots for 52.6%.

Pitchers Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle and A.J. Burnett, and outfielder Torii Hunter are among the top newcomers on the ballot announced Monday.

Zito was 165-143 with a 4.04 ERA for Oakland and San Francisco, including 23-5 in 2002. Hudson was 222-133 with a 3.49 ERA for Oakland, Atlanta and San Francisco.

Buehrle was 214-160 with a 3.81 ERA, throwing a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox against Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009, and a no-hitter for the White Sox against Texas on April 18, 2007. Burnett was 164-157 and pitched a no-hitter for the Marlins against San Diego on May 12, 2001.

Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove center fielder, had a .277 average, 2,452 hits, 353 home runs and 1,391 RBIs.

Voting will be announced Jan. 26 and anyone elected will be inducted July 25 along with Jeter and Walker, whose inductions were postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Other holdovers on the ballot include Andy Pettitte, Billy Wagner, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Bobby Abreu, Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa.

Newcomers also include Dan Haren, LaTroy Hawkins, Aramis Ramirez, Michael Cuddyer, Nick Swisher and Shane Victorino.

Ballots by members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years or more must be postmarked by Dec. 31.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”