Gammons Notes: The Hall of Fame Voting Process, Yankee shortstops, Red Sox and more

curt schilling

Sometimes the rhetoric gets pretty heated, to the point where honest opinion is demeaned; I had someone rail at me on twitter about Alan Trammell v. Lou Whitaker. Someone who clearly never saw them play regularly, did not discuss them with teammates and opponents and knew only what the screen blinked, as if baseball players are Math SAT answers, in a universe where they are not to be enjoyed as entertainers and competitors.

Still, as the 2015 Hall of Fame ballots are folded forward to 2016, it is clear that the passion of the analytics world has been great for the process and for the interest in the game itself. Tom Verducci says this HOF election may be secondary only to the presidential election, and the divided and heated debates have resulted in more names, more thought and more analysis per ballot, and I am one person who is skeptical about the BBWAA sending ballots to administrators and others who did not actually cover the game.

For instance, do Joe Sheehan and I or Keith Law and I and even Brian Kenny-a longtime friend whose arrival at MLB Network was a shared dream—disagree? Of course. It’s OK.

Every mind should be open to discussion, one reason I opposed both the limit on the number of players for whom one can vote—what’s wrong with keeping a Larry Walker or Gary Sheffield on the ballot for years to fully examine their careers?—and the shortening of the time they can be eligible. As it has caused widespread fascination that out of the heart of the darkness of The Steroids Era that five starting pitchers have been voted in the last two elections, all first ballot HOFers; as Jayson Stark pointed out, Bert Blyleven was the only starter voted in from 2000-2013, and he took 15 tries to get it.

I adamantly feel that Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling belong, and can grab the waterski lines and ride in off the wake of the Maddox/Glavine/Johnson/Martinez/Smoltz elections. Many of us who have voted for Tim Raines every time he’s been on the ballot can thank our fanatical analytic friends for furthering his cause.

Also, between now and when the 2016 ballots are mailed, everyone eligible to vote should re-listen to the discussion Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette had on MLB Radio about the PED whispers that are the only reason Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell have been kept out. “Neither failed a drug test,” Ferrin said Wednesday morning. “They’ve been out for ten years. So if there’s proof, bring it forward. If not, allow them to be voted on according to their merits.” It was pointed out by several people that some voters declared they “only vote for clean players.” So, fine, proof, not insinuation. And hopefully we have enough time to figure exactly where Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens fit into The Hall.

If the process had not become so hot a topic, Raines, Mussina, Schilling, Bagwell, McGriff and maybe even Piazza would have been allowed to be passed on without examination.

Standing on the steps of the museum last July awaiting the players in the Saturday night parade, Henry Aaron said, “this has to be the biggest crowd ever. How great is this for baseball?”

It is great. People care. There aren’t columns written wondering why an offensive guard isn’t inducted in Canton, or why Wayne Cashman isn’t in the Hockey Hall of Fame. In many ways, it is the golden era for one of the great American Museums, and we have been reminded that this isn’t a tabernacle, it is a museum of American Baseball, and from King Kelly to Ty Cobb to Babe Ruth, the walls are not those of Westminster Abbey; there are owners inducted who prevented African-Americans from playing in the major leagues.

We may never have any clue whether a team or teams won World Series on the arms of relievers who could throw harder and more often because of PEDS, we may never know many things about the period 1978-2005. What we do know is that the Hall of Fame is something people who care about baseball are passionate about, respect that passion and rejoice in the scrutiny every one of our ballots now encounters.

I do know this: that induction’s impact on each player goes way beyond your imagination. I’ve walked the family finca in Monte Guaynabo with Pedro Martinez, I saw Randy Johnson pitch in Palmer, Alaska, I picked John Smoltz to win the Cy Young Award the year he started 2-11, and their day will be a great day for baseball.

 

Everyone gets the questions about Stephen Drew. Since he hurt his ankles in 2011, he has batted .220 with a .301 OBP, and he hit .119 against lefthanders last season. But there are side issues, two years ago he demonstrated pull power that could translate to Yankee Stadium, and, of course, he provides a safety net for Didi Gregorius should he struggle filling the shoes of Derek Jeter.

Gregorious will be 25 in February, has a .243/.313/.366 slash, and has batted .184 against lefties. Fine. Brendan Ryan is there, as well. The only lefthanded starters in the AL East the Yankees will face as of now are Wei Chen, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore (come midseason) and Mark Buehrle, until and if Boston brings in one of their three lefthanded starting candidates.

And last season one general manager poured through the adjustment struggles of the young players from Aruba and Curacao like Xander Bogaerts,  Andrelton Simmons and Jurickson Profar and summed it up thusly: ”all these kids are very well educated and come from very good homes. They have little social adjustments. That allows them to blow through the minors, but when they get to the major leagues and are forced to adjust to everything players have to deal with—strike zone, relievers, shifts, everything—it’s hard because of the background of the baseball played on those islands.”

Giants coach Hensley Meulens, a likely future major league manager, says, “they play 11 little league games a year. There are a lot of game issues they aren’t prepared to face, even though socially they do not have issues.”

So this year, Gregorius and Bogaerts, now 22, are key factors in the division. Bogaerts has a .241/.299/.363 slash in 644 major league plate appearances, although his minor league OBP at ages 17-20 was .373, his OPS .862.

One adjustment the Red Sox are not worried about after his month with Alex Cora in Puerto Rico is Rusney Castillo. “He’s extremely intelligent, he is very well educated and he has very good in-game instincts,” says Cora, who thinks Castillo is also going to hit upwards of 20 home runs. There is appeal in the Cubans because of their educational background coming from a country with the world’s highest literacy rate. As for Castillo, “athletes like him don’t play baseball in the United States,” says Allard Baird.

The Red Sox appreciate that there will be adjustments for Castillo and Mookie Betts playing 162 game schedules, which is why they have been cautious about trading other outfielders. What is hard to fathom about the Phillies is that they have taken a totally opposite rebuilding approach, even though they, like the Braves, are not going to be contenders until 2017. Ruben Amaro has repeatedly asked for Betts and Blake Swihart for Cole Hamels, which for Boston means trading their everyday leadoff hitter at age 22 as well as their best prospect plus at least $100M, knowing that at age 33 (not one won 16 games last year) pitchers today begin their decline. One NL club wondered why the Phillies didn’t start with 20-year old center fielder Manuel Margot. “We have him as their best tools prospect,” said the GM. “He’s a classic Pat Gillick player—speed, power, great defensive skills. If you trade Hamels and ask someone to take on $100M, you don’t ask for their best everyday young player.”

The Braves have gone the opposite route, for Max Fried and Ricardo Sanchez and other big arms that will be surfacing in 2017 when they move into their new park. Philadelphia’s preference has been immediate gratification players, without the ceilings.

Comments

  1. I agree with you about the PED issue. We truly have no way of knowing unless someone failed a drug tests. All the whispers, being named in reports, etc. is not PROOF that anyone did anything. The whole Mitchell report thing was close to a McCarthy-era report about communism, in my opinion. Granted, it’s not quite the same level of accusation, but there was hardly slam-dunk proof against all the players named in the report. In fact, only six of the players named were ever actually suspended for their use.

    I have no doubt that many players used PEDs, but to condemn players like Piazza and Bagwell without proof is, frankly, un-American! I have a problem with the sportswriters who have holier-than-thou attitudes when it comes to voting. Heck, one writer even came right out and said he will vote for no one that even played in the “steroid era.” It seems to me that the time period for that era is a very subjective thing.

  2. Isn’t Wade Miley a left-handed starter?

  3. Bob Thacher says:

    The worst offender of keeping Black players out of the game was Tom Yawkey. They were the last team to succumb to the pressure and signed a mediocre utility player named Pumpsie Green in 59. They didn’t win a pennant from 46 to 67. The 67 team won the pennant with a goodly amount of Black players on the roster.One thing to look at is some of the 50’s teams which could have had outfields of Ted Williams Willie Mays and Jackie Jensen, as the Sox passed on signing Mays. One big mistake they made in mid 66′.Trading Earl Wilson to the Tigers. Word was Yawkey was fed up with Wilson’s complaining.As soon as he got to Detroit, he blossomed,going a combined 18-11 with a 3.00 ERA. In 67,he practically matched Jim Lonborg’s Cy Young season with 22 wins of his own. Boston would have run away with the pennant and might have won the WS with Wilson and Lonborg.