Yankees Belt-Tightening, Part II—the Aftereffects of Austerity

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In normal circumstances, the words “austerity measures” would never be linked with “$200 million payroll,” but that’s where the Yankees currently are.

With that $200 million payroll and the upcoming strict penalties on franchises with higher payrolls, the mandate has come down from ownership for the Yankees to get the total down to $189 million by 2014. This will supposedly save as much as $50 million in taxes and they’ll be able to spend again after 2014.

I wrote about this in detail here.

But what will the team look like by 2014 and will players want to join the Yankees when they’re no longer the “Yankees,” but just another team that’s struggled for two straight years and whose future isn’t attached to the stars Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte who will either be gone by then or severely limited in what they can still accomplish?

To illustrate how far the Yankees have fallen under this new budget, the catcher at the top of their depth chart is Francisco Cervelli who couldn’t even stick with the big league club as a backup last season. They lost Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Eric Chavez, and Raul Ibanez. The latter three, they wanted back. They couldn’t pay for Martin, Chavez and Ibanez? What’s worse, they appeared to expect all three to wait out the Yankees and eschew other job offers in the hopes that they’d be welcomed back in the Bronx.

What’s worse: the ineptitude or the arrogance?

If George Steinbrenner were still around, he’d have said, “To hell with the luxury tax,” and qualified such an attitude by referencing the amount of money the team wasted over the years on such duds as Carl Pavano, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Steve Karsay, Kyle Farnsworth, Pedro Feliciano and countless others, many of whom were total unknowns to George, therefore he wouldn’t have received the convenient blame for their signings with a baseball exec’s eyeroll, head shake and surreptitious gesture toward the owner’s box, “blame him, not me,” thereby acquitting themselves when they were, in fact, guilty. But now, the bulk of the responsibility falls straight to the baseball people. He’d also be under the belief that the Yankees brand of excellence couldn’t withstand what they’re increasingly likely to experience in 2013-2014 and that the money would wind up back in their pockets eventually due to their success.

Are there financial problems that haven’t been disclosed? A large chunk of the YES Network was recently sold to Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. In years past, that money would’ve functioned as a cash infusion and gone right back into the construction of the club, but it hasn’t. They’re still not spending on players over the long term with that looming shadow of 2014 engulfing everything they plan to do. Every improvement/retention is on a one or two year contract: Kevin Youkilis—1-year; Hiroki Kuroda—1-year; Ichiro Suzuki—2-years. It’s hard to find younger, impact players when constrained so tightly and the players they’ve signed are older and/or declining which is why they were available to the Yankees on short-term contracts in the first place.

The Yankees don’t have any young players on the way up to bolster the veteran troops.

It takes inexplicable audacity for GM Brian Cashman to trumpet the pitching prospects the club was developing under stringent rules to “protect” them, then to dismiss their failures leading to a release (Andrew Brackman); a demotion to the lower minors to re-learn to throw strikes (Dellin Betances); and injury (Manny Banuelos). The reactions to the injuries to Banuelos, Jose Campos and Michael Pineda are especially galling. Banuelos’s injury—Tommy John surgery—was casually tossed aside by Cashman, pointing out the high success rate of the procedure as if it was no big deal that the pitcher got hurt. But he got hurt while under the restrictions the Yankees has placed on him—restrictions that were designed to simultaneously keep him healthy and develop him, yet wound up doing neither.

Campos was referenced as the “key” to the trade that brought Pineda; Campos was injured in late April with an undisclosed elbow problem and is now throwing off a mound and expected to be ready for spring training. That he missed almost the entire 2012 season with an injury the Yankees never described in full would give me pause for his durability going forward. The 2013 projections for Pineda to be an important contributor are more prayerful than expectant, adding to the uncertainty.

There’s a streamlining that may make sense in the long run such as the decision to drop StubHub as an official ticket reseller and instead move to Ticketmaster. They sold that chunk of YES and are in the process of slashing the payroll.

Any other team would be subject to a media firestorm trying to uncover the real reason for the sudden belt-tightening with the luxury tax excuse not be accepted at face value. Is there an underlying “why?” for this attachment to $189 million, the opt-out of the StubHub deal, and the sale of 49% of YES? The potential lost windfall of missing the post-season and the lack of fans going to the park, buying beer and souvenirs, paying the exorbitant fees to park their cars and bottom line spending money on memorabilia is going to diminish the revenue further.

Perhaps this is a natural byproduct of the failures to win a championship in any season other than 2009 in spite of having the highest payroll—by a substantial margin—in every year since their prior title in 2000. Could it be that the Steinbrenner sons looked at Cashman and wondered why Billy Beane, Brian Sabean, Andrew Friedman, and John Mozeliak were able to win with a fraction of the limitless cash the Yankees bestowed on Cashman and want him to make them more money by being a GM instead of a guy holding a blank checkbook? In recent years, I don’t see what it is Cashman has done that Hal Steinbrenner couldn’t have done if he decided to be the final word in baseball decisions and let the scouts do the drafting and he went onto the market to buy recognizable names.

Anyone can buy stuff.

Cashman’s aforementioned failures at development show his limits as a GM. It’s not easy to transform from the guy with a load of money available to toss at mistakes and use that cash as a pothole filler and be the guy who has no choice but to be frugal and figure something else out. Much like Hank Steinbrenner saying early in 2008 that the struggling righty pitcher Mike Mussina had to learn to throw like the soft-tossing lefty Jamie Moyer, it sounds easier when said from a distance and a “Why’s he doing it and you’re not?” than it is to implement.

No matter how it’s quantified, this Yankees team is reliant on the past production of these veteran players without the money that was there in the past to cover for them if they don’t deliver.

The fans aren’t going to want to hear about the “future.” They’re going to want Cashman and the Steinbrenners to do something. But given their inaction thus far in the winter of 2012-2013, it doesn’t look as if they’re going to with anyone significant.

This time, they don’t have a prior year’s championship to use as a shield. The Yankees were subject to a broom at the hands of the Tigers. That’s not a particularly coveted memory. In fact, it might have been a portent of what’s to come, except worse.

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Baseball Will Adapt to Playoff Expansion

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When the devastation of the 1994 strike and subsequent canceling of the World Series is discussed, the main topics are usually the Expos’ demise; the Yankees’ interrupted return to glory; Matt Williams’s run at Roger Maris; and Tony Gwynn’s shot at hitting .400.

That the Texas Rangers were in first place with a record of 52-62 is rarely mentioned.

So what would’ve happened had those Rangers made the playoffs with a record under .500?

It’s easy to say, “Oh, they’d have gotten swept in the first round by the Yankees.”

But would they have?

The Rangers of 1994 had Kevin Brown and Kenny Rogers in their starting rotation; they had Tom Henke as their closer; and they could bash.

Is it so farfetched to think they could’ve bounced the Yankees?

In addition to the other division leaders—the Yankees and White Sox—there were eight teams in the American League alone with better records than the Rangers when the strike hit.

Eight.

Would it be absurd to think that those Rangers would’ve made the playoffs with a record of 77-85, entered with house money thinking they had nothing to lose and gotten a hot pitcher like Brown—who happened to be unhittable when he was on—and rode their lineup and closer to a title that would’ve been seen as a large black spot on baseball’s system had it happened?

You don’t think it was possible?

It’s happened before.

The 1973 Mets and 1987 Twins were two clubs that shouldn’t have been in the playoffs if they’re judged on their regular season records. The Mets had a hellacious starting rotation and upset the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds in the then-best of 5 NLCS; the Twins had won 29 games on the road all season, knocked out the high-powered Tigers in the best of 7 ALCS and won the World Series by winning all of their games at home against the Cardinals.

At the time, home field advantage in the World Series was rotated. If the Twins had won the pennant in an even numbered year, they might not have won the championship.

It was circumstance. Or luck. Or design. Or all of the above.

Drastic changes to the game’s foundational rules have long been lamented as ruinous. The shift in strategy of inside baseball to the reliance on the home run; the outlawing of the spitball; expansion to the West Coast; the lowering of the mound; the draft; divisional play; the DH; free agency; the Wild Card; deep statistical analysis; drug allowance and drug testing—I can go on and on.

But the game survived and thrived.

It adapted.

You can be a purist and point out all the things that might’ve been better had certain new rules not been enacted, but it’s hindsight and one small alteration in the fabric of time sets in motion a million other possibilities.

I have no issue with 10 teams out of 30 having a chance to win a World Series after 162 games. Teams that win their divisions will have a far better chance in doing so than the four Wild Card teams that are going to be playing one game to get to the dance.

One game.

Anything can happen in one game.

Anything.

For every really good team that missed out on the playoffs under the old rules—the 1993 Giants and 1980 Orioles come immediately to mind—there are teams that weren’t very good and made the playoffs because of the Wild Card or that they were in a weak division.

Is it fair? Should they have been left on the outside looking in because they happened to be trapped in a division with a team that wound up with a better record than they did? Should they have been excluded because they won their division with 82 wins?

Maybe they should. But maybe they shouldn’t.

Yes, there will be teams that play for third place, get into the playoffs and eventually win the World Series.

But so what?

With the one game playoff, the Wild Card is no longer as easy an avenue as it once was. A one game playoff is not what any team wants to bank their hopes on, so in essence this new configuration will provide more motivation for a team to win their division.

It’s in human nature to adapt.

And baseball will adapt as well.

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Keys To Tigers-Yankees, Game 5

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Pitching.

Ivan Nova and Doug Fister are essentially the same guy.

Neither strikes out a lot of hitters; neither allows many homers; they rely on a pitch-to-contact strategy and need their defense.

In tonight’s game, both will have to keep the ball away from the batters and coax them to try and pull pitches they should be taking to the opposite field; and they need to keep the ball down.

Nova has shown a fearlessness of intense situations and actually appears to relish it—something the Yankees discounted in assessing him. I’d prefer to have someone with average-to-above average stuff and an attitude than brilliant stuff and reluctance to pitch in a do-or-die game.

Fister’s numbers are consistent vs righties and lefties—link.

The pitcher who makes the mistake up in the strike zone to the wrong hitter is the one who’s going to fall.

Controlling the hitters.

Everyone’s going to be concerned about one specific hitter in the Yankees or Tigers lineup.

For the Yankees, it’s going to be Robinson Cano;  Cano hammers pitchers like Fister because he likes the ball down; the one bat I’d be concerned with more than Cano is Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod was just missing pitches that were in his wheelhouse in game 4 and the Tigers have made the decision to not only challenge him, but to prefer pitching to him rather than the alternatives.

Miguel Cabrera is the hitter the Yankees were expected to have to stop.

Miguel Cabrera is the hitter the Yankees do have to stop.

The Tigers want to get Cabrera up to the plate with runners on base and he lives for games like this. If he’s overanxious and tries to do too much, he’s going to either strike out or hit into a double play; if not, he’s got the capability to wreck the game early.

The defense.

Don Kelly is playing third base instead of Brandon Inge and Wilson Betemit because Kelly’s been hitting. Inge is a good defensive third baseman and Kelly is average. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta has limited range; if Fister is successful in keeping the ball away from Cano and mitigating his power, the left side of the infield has to catch it when it’s hit.

Curtis Granderson saved A.J. Burnett in the midst of his transformation from “we don’t know which A.J.” into “bad, chase him out of town A.J” with that over the shoulder catch of Kelly’s rocket with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the first inning of game 4. Yankee Stadium is an easier venue in which to hit a home run than Comerica Park, leaving less room to make these game/season-saving catches.

Defensively, Cabrera has a tendency to fall asleep while playing first base and do something airheaded.

Managers.

Who’s going to be the first reliever into the game if either gets into trouble?

There’s no messing around here and if Phil Hughes or Brad Penny are needed in the second inning, things could go downhill fast; if either starter gets off to a poor start, the next reliever’s main job is to stabilize the game and keep it from getting out of hand. I don’t trust either Hughes or Penny to do that.

Of the two managers, the one more likely to do something stupid and panicky is Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Tigers manager Jim Leyland trusts his players—to his detriment at times—and plays hunches, but his mistakes aren’t due to a freakout.

The looming hero.

Justin Verlander threw 120 pitches 3 days ago, but could he come in and provide a few innings if needed? If he shunned throwing on the side after his start, it’s possible that he saved his bullets in case he’s needed tonight.

Would Tigers manager Leyland do that? Would he risk Verlander to use him in relief?

Pedro Martinez left game 1 of the 1999 ALDS against the Indians after 4 innings with back problems; he was questionable for the rest of the series. In game 5, with the score 8-8 after 3 innings, Martinez told manager Jimy Williams he’d go for as long as he could when he ambled in from the bullpen.

He went as long as he could alright…by pitching 6 no-hit innings with 8 strikeouts to lead the Red Sox to the ALCS.

Verlander will be willing.

He’ll be able.

But will he be allowed?

And would it be the difference between winning and losing?

It might.

Leyland, in general, tells his players to take a hike when he’s made a decision; but occasionally as he did in the 1997 NLCS with Kevin Brown, he will listen when they stand in front of him and demand to be left in the game.

Verlander’s that type of competitor.

Would Leyland listen if Verlander told him he was ready to pitch in relief?

The initial response would be no, but…it’s game 5; this is Verlander’s year similar to that of Orel Hershiser in 1988.

What better way to prove it than to emerge from the bullpen and save the whole team?

It’s unlikely, but possible.

Because it’s game 5.

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The Marlins Plan A Spending Spree

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In the winter of 1996-97, then Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga gave GM Dave Dombrowski permission to spend money and sign/trade for veteran players to augment a solid core of talent Edgar Renteria, Robb Nen, Charles Johnson, Devon White, Jeff Conine, Al Leiter and Kevin Brown.

Back then it was an annual undertaking for the club to try and gain public financing for a new ballpark; in this case, winning was seen as the cure. They hired Jim Leyland to manage; signed Bobby Bonilla, Alex Fernandez, Dennis Cook and Moises Alou.

The 1997 Marlins won the Wild Card, upset the Braves in the NLCS and beat the Indians in a 7-game World Series.

Then they dismantled the team when they couldn’t get a new ballpark and were sold.

Now the Marlins have a new ballpark on the way; a talented group of young players; and money to spend.

Apparently they’re intent on spending it.

The circumstances mirror each other.

They’re going to hire a name manager (most likely Ozzie Guillen).

They have a foundation of players upon which to build (Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez).

They need a third baseman and Aramis Ramirez is being mentioned; they need pitching and C.J. Wilson is available; they have a first baseman in Gaby Sanchez, but he’d be trade bait if they made a move on Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder; Jose Reyes would allow them to shift Hanley Ramirez to third base; Jonathan Papelbon would fill the void at closer.

Many players are from warm climates and would prefer that type of venue; or they’re attracted to the absence of a state income tax in Florida.

Players will want to play for the Marlins.

But will that bring in fans?

Will a contending team and a new, retractable roof ballpark attract the notoriously fickle and easily distracted, football-preferring masses to support the Marlins for the entire season rather than when they’re in the World Series?

We’re going to find out.

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Verlander’s MVP Chances, Hurricanes And Hackery

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A confluence of events are bringing back a controversy from 12 years ago as the borderline incoherent ramblings of a writer with a partisan agenda and flimsy excuses should again be brought to light.

Justin Verlander‘s candidacy for Most Valuable Player in the American League is discussed in today’s New York Times by Baseball-Reference‘s Neil Paine.

Naturally the arguments will pop up as to whether a pitcher should be considered for the MVP. This debate is generally based on them having their own award (the Cy Young Award); and that advanced metrics dictate that a pitcher’s contribution—no matter how good—doesn’t have the affect on team fortunes that an everyday player’s does. These awards are subjective and voted on by the baseball writers. There are some who know what they’re talking about; some who don’t; some shills for the home team; some simply looking for attention; and some who do what’s right rather than what would be palatable based on team and employer allegiances. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t imply guilt or innocence in a particular vote and there are no rules to dictate who should win various awards. It’s a judgment call.

I look at the MVP as a multiple-pronged decision.

Was the player (pitcher or not) the best in the league that particular year?

Would his club have been in their current position with or without him?

Who are his competitors?

Paine says that Verlander probably won’t win the award—and he’s right; one thing he fails to mention when talking about pitchers who’ve won and been snubbed is how one or two individuals can make a mockery of the process by injecting factional disputes or self-imposed “rules” into their thought process.

In 1999 George A. King III left Pedro Martinez off his ballot entirely.

Martinez’s numbers that season speak for themselves. Martinez went 23-4; struck out 313 in 213 innings; had a 2.07 ERA to go along with the advanced stats Paine mentions. He finished second in the voting to Ivan Rodriguez of the Rangers and should’ve been the MVP in addition to his CYA; but that’s irrelevant compared to King’s response to the rightful criticisms levied upon him.

In this NY Post retort, King discusses a life and death experience surviving a hurricane while he was on vacation as the controversy was taking place. Whether this is a maudlin attempt at sympathy or to provide “perspective” for life out of baseball’s context is unknown. I have no patience for this in a baseball-related discussion because it’s generally disguised as social commentary and a learning tool when in reality it’s a clumsy and self-serving attempt to sound philosophical. Adding his pet and children into his tale of survival is all the more ridiculous.

The most glaring parts of King’s response—in a baseball sense—are also the most inexplicable and unbelievable.

King’s argument that Martinez’s exclusion from his ballot was that he was convinced—EUREKA!!!—the year before that pitchers should not win the MVP.

However, after listening to respected baseball people at last year’s Winter Meetings grouse about giving $105 million to a pitcher (Kevin Brown) who would work in about 25 percent of the Dodgers’ games, I adopted the philosophy that pitchers — especially starters — could never be included in the MVP race.

Furthermore, pitchers have their own award, the Cy Young, something position players aren’t eligible for. Martinez, the AL Cy Young winner, appeared in 29 games this year for the Red Sox. That’s 18 percent of Boston’s games. For all of Martinez’ brilliance, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was more valuable to the Red Sox. So, too, was manager Jimy Williams, the AL Manager of the Year.

Jimy Williams?

More important than Pedro Martinez?

Then King takes swipes at other writers who ripped him by calling them a “pathetic group of hacks”.

Presumably this group included Hall of Famer Bill Madden, who eloquently discussed the absurdity in this NY Daily News piece; and Buster Olney, then a writer for the NY Times, said it made all writers look dumb.

Leaving Martinez off the ballot is one thing—it was obviously done with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry in mind and that Martinez was public enemy number 1, 2, and 3 for the Yankees in those days; but to compound it by insulting the intelligence of anyone who can see reality with this kind of whiny, “what does it all mean” junk while simultaneously ignoring the initial point by attacking “hacks” who disagreed with him and said so was, at best, contradictory; at worst, it was pathetic. If King came out and said, “you really think I was gonna vote for Pedro Martinez as MVP after all the stuff he’s pulled against the Yankees?”, it would’ve been unprofessional as well, but at least it would’ve been honest.

I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the season; I might even agree if Verlander is bypassed for the award; Adrian Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, and Michael Young all have cases to win; but Verlander deserves to be in the conversation and everyone should adhere to the rule that there is no rule for MVP eligibility and be truthful without self-indulgent qualifiers.

One thing I was unaware of is that King works hard and plays harder. I suppose that’s important as well. But it might alter my decision to call him a Yankees apologist who had a vendetta against Pedro Martinez when he cast his 1999 MVP ballot and left him off intentionally. Was there a rule against voting for then-Red Sox manager Jimy Williams as MVP? I don’t know.

I haven’t decided where I’m going with this as of yet and my excuse could have something due to the rampaging Hurricane Irene heading for New York.

I’ll let you know.

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Fit Or Fat, Pretty Or Productive

Draft, Games, Management, Media, Players

Look at this image of CC Sabathia from yesterday as he’s in mid-delivery.

Sabathia’s innings go up every single year, he racks up the marketable statistics and he’s money in the playoffs. He’s been fantastic this year even though his luck on ground balls in 2011 hasn’t been particularly good with a .254 BAbip (batting average on balls in play). In comparison both James Shieldslink, and Justin Verlander are at .177—link.

In short, he’s one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball and the Yankees don’t have to worry that he’s a pitch away from getting hurt.

Does Sabathia’s durability have something to do with his frame and, um, generous proportions?

It’s not something to ignore or accept as a baseline, but it’s something to consider.

David Wells was another corpulent pitcher who’d prefer to get beaten up by men half his size in a drunken late night foray to a Manhattan diner than come within two inches of a treadmill.

Babe Ruth would’ve used a Cybex machine as a bed.

On the other side there are pitchers whose physiques were something out of Muscle and Fitness but spent their entire lives on the disabled list for extended periods of time. Kevin Brown was shredded but had multiple injuries throughout a stellar career; there was an ad during the Athletics-Marlins game yesterday promoting the return of Rich Harden—he of the estimated 2% bodyfat. He’ll be back long enough to injure another part of his body and go back on the disabled list.

Mechanics and genetics have something to do with it, but could it be that—amid other factors—the extra weight is providing padding and protection that a more picturesque athlete doesn’t have?

This isn’t a suggestion to find players who aren’t considered aesthetically pleasing as an end unto itself, but to reconsider what’s considered “in shape” to walk on the beach and “in shape” to throw a baseball repeatedly and not injure oneself.

In his curmudgeonly way, Whitey Herzog once said (in around 1989) that if players “drank a beer or ate a steak” once in a while, maybe their ribcages would stop tearing off the bone.

Maybe he was right.

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An Early, Forgotten Casualty In The McCourt Ownership

Games, Management, Media, Players

Now that the Frank McCourt ownership of the Dodgers is (maybe) reaching its conclusion, early mistakes are washed away in the litany of gaffes which have occurred.

One forgotten error was the decision to replace inherited GM Dan Evans.

Evans is the unsung hero in the on-field success the Dodgers had under McCourt’s ownership. It was Evans who built the foundation of the team in 2002 as, in subsequent years, he kept Jim Tracy as manager; made Eric Gagne a closer; acquired Guillermo Mota for nothing; managed to get the Yankees to take Kevin Brown‘s contract off the Dodgers hands; and was at the helm when the team drafted James Loney, Jonathan Broxton, James McDonald, Chad Billingsley and Matt Kemp.

Had Evans and Tracy been left alone, the Dodgers could’ve been an annual contender with homegrown and cheaper talent. The club had been built organically and grown up together, with Tracy at the helm and a cohesion on and off the field.

McCourt, whose 13-year-old son was enamored with Paul DePodesta after reading Moneyball, had an influence on the Dodgers new owner—his dad—as Evans interviewed for the job he already had and didn’t get it.

DePodesta took over and Evans left the organization.

Evans landed on his feet first as a scout for the Mariners and then as, get this, CEO and president of West Coast Sports Management. He’s an agent.

With a little luck and presumably much to the chagrin of MLB, the Dodgers could have won a World Series or two during McCourt’s tumultuous (and ongoing) time with the Dodgers. Had that happened, would Evans have received his share of the credit?

He deserved it. Whether he would’ve gotten it is a different matter entirely.

Evans should never have been forced out as Dodgers GM. But like the McCourt ownership, it’s 20/20 hindsight.

In an odd quirk, Evans wasn’t the Dodgers GM for much longer than DePodesta was with a far greater record of success. But it’s DePodesta who’s constantly defended by people who try to alter his 20-months as Dodgers GM as something for which he’s not responsible and Evans is forgotten.

Acknowledged or not, he still warrants recognition for being a smart baseball man and for the part he played in the successful Dodgers teams of recent years.

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Humanity And The Hall Of Fame

Hall Of Fame

Before anything else, I went into Bert Blyleven‘s Hall of Fame candidacy in painstaking detail almost a year ago to this day—Prince of NY Baseball Blog, 1.9.2010.

Having nothing to do with his politicking and pressuring the voters to induct him; nor his iffy win totals, Blyleven was up there with the great pitchers of his day in everything but winning percentage; he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

It’s interesting to note that Blyleven’s support was almost non-existent until the new metrics and proliferation of stat friendly writers and bloggers began pushing him so aggressively. As more stat people were allowed to vote and present their case to those that in prior years weren’t receptive to Blyleven, many slowly had their minds changed to vote yes.

With Felix Hernandez going 13-12 and (deservedly) winning the Cy Young Award a year after Tim Lincecum won the award with a less-flashy winning percentage and ERA than Chris Carpenter and a lower win total than Adam Wainwright, the numbers are having a profound affect on the post-season awards and the Hall of Fame.

Will this continue as Curt Schilling—a loud proponent of the candidacy of…Curt Schilling—gets ready for his career to be put to the ultimate test in two years?

Blyleven’s consistent harping on his own worthiness clearly had a positive influence on some of the voters; but Blyleven was well-liked in his day as a team clown; Schilling was respected on the field, but loved hearing the sound of his own voice and playing up his team-oriented nature and “gutsy” performances exemplified by the bloody sock in the 2004 ALCS.

Are Schilling’s credentials better than those of Kevin Brown? Brown was loathed by the media because he made their lives difficult— seemingly on purpose—but was gutty in his own right; his intensity to win and discomfort with the media caused many of his problems. Should he be seen in a less flattering light than Schilling because of that?

Brown was better than Schilling in the regular season—people don’t realize how good Brown really was because of his injuries and bad press; Schilling was lights out in the post-season. Along with Bob Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Dave Stewart to name three, there aren’t many pitchers you’d rather have on the mound in a make-or-break post-season game than Curt Schilling.

You didn’t see Brown schmoozing and cajoling to get his due in the HOF balloting.

Schilling?

Put it this way: people like Blyleven personally and got tired of hearing him whine; Schilling is the epitome of polarizing; he was a great pitcher who put up big post-season numbers; he’s done some incredibly nice things with his time and money in terms of charity; and he’s a relentless self-promoter who casts himself as a representative of conservative causes with his hand over his heart and waving of the American flag as if that’s the definition of right in the world regardless of context.

I truly don’t know what’s going to happen with Schilling, but I doubt he’ll get in on the first ballot and the longer he waits, the less likely he is to keep his mouth shut. Unlike Blyleven, he’s a guy who’s going to lose support the more he talks.

Regarding the other candidates, I think Barry Larkin and Tim Raines should wait a while (maybe a long while) before meriting serious consideration; that Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer; that Fred McGriff is a Hall of Famer; Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell deserve more support; and if Blyleven’s in, then Tommy John should be in. In fact, John has a better case than Blyleven in my eyes for the combination of success on the field and that he revolutionized the game by undergoing the surgery that’s saved scores of careers, is so commonplace that it’s no longer a pitcher’s death sentence and now bears his name—a name that many mentioning it don’t realize belongs to a pitcher who won 288 games.

Roberto Alomar also deserves his election to the Hall for his on-field accomplishments. He was a great fielder; an excellent, all-around hitter; a terrific baserunner; and a clutch player. He also fell off the planet in his numbers at a young age and his career was sullied by the incident while playing for the Orioles in which he spat in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck during an argument.

Then there were the PED cases Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro; the “lumped in with the offenders” types like Jeff Bagwell; and the “ballpark question from playing in Coors Field” of Larry Walker.

McGwire and Palmeiro aren’t getting in. Ever.

I don’t know about Bagwell and Walker; fairly or not, I’d say on January 6th, 2011, that I doubt either will be enshrined.

Here’s the point: are McGwire and Palmeiro being punished because of the judgments of people without a clear cut series of rules that govern how they vote? And where does this judgment begin and end?

Since the PED issues with McGwire and Palmeiro are going to prevent them from ever receiving any kind of support, does that equate with the off-field allegations about Roberto Alomar?

People have been reluctant to discuss this, but what of the continued accusations from Alomar’s former girlfriends and his ex-wife of having unprotected sex with them while knowing he’s HIV-positive?

As much as people try to claim a separation of on-and-off field behaviors in casting ballots, which is worse? A player doing what a large percentage of his contemporaries were doing during the so-called “steroid era” and putting up massive numbers? Or going beyond the scope of humanity with a repulsive selfishness as Alomar is accused of doing in his romantic life?

You can claim there to be no connection to the Hall of Fame with the allegations against Alomar and I’ll agree with you; but to equate someone using steroids to the devaluation of one’s humanity in taking another person’s long term health as nothing to be concerned about—as Alomar is repeatedly alleged to have done—is a greater level of moral repugnance than any drug use could ever be whether it’s recreational or performance enhancing.

Alomar and his representatives “kinda-sorta” deny he has HIV, but if you read between the lines, it’s not a denial. It’s parsing.

Only he knows if he’s been behaving this way and possibly infecting lovers with a dreaded disease, but if it became publicly known to be true, would that seep into the voters’ minds?

As much as it’s suggested that players’ personalities and off-field tendencies have nothing to do with their careers, how long did Jim Rice have to wait for induction based more on his prickly relationship with the media than the proffered reasons for keeping him out?

The people who dealt with a borderline candidate like Brown aren’t going to be as supportive as the prototypical “blogger in the basement” who had no reason to dislike him and is simply looking at the numbers.

On the same token, Dale Murphy was considered one of the nicest, most decent men to ever put on a baseball uniform; he has a somewhat legitimate candidacy for HOF consideration, but has never come close; nor will he.

The spitting incident with Hirschbeck was said to be a major reason Alomar didn’t get in on the first ballot; but what if it was revealed that yes, he’s been putting people with whom he had intimate relations at risk due to his own denials and insistence to not practice safe sex? Would that cause anyone to hesitate?

As long as there are no clear cut criteria and people like Blyleven get results from a propaganda tour and outside support that grows exponentially, it’s not something to dismiss.

It’s a hard question to answer and I’d have to think very seriously before casting my vote for or against someone if that were the case.