Thursday, January 25, 2018

Trouble Brewing we asked...the hot stove season has been, in the words of former New Orleans resident chef Emeril Lagasse, kicked up another notch.

To be honest, both of these deals were essentially going to happen soon. Lorenzo Cain was going to sign somewhere big, and Christian Yelich was gonna get traded for a team with enough prospects to hand over. I just didn't especially think that it'd happen to the same team.

So let's analyze this. Because as burgeoning as the Brewers were last season, they're even more powerful after these two additions.

Christian Yelich gives them a steady bat, a strong outfielder, a vibrant club presence, and someone who can be relied upon to carry a franchise. Where have we heard that before?...oh, right, Ryan Braun. So now that Braun has had another season of...not especially having a great deal to do with the season's outcome, you would think that the Brewers are beginning to phase him out. Plus, Christian Yelich is younger, faster, a better hitter, and, as an added bonus, DIDN'T take steroids. So they don't especially need Braun anymore. Which is nice.

Yelich in Milwaukee will probably be a smashing success, and will give the team its first solidified star going into the 2018 season.

However...Lorenzo Cain means that the Brewers don't have to use Keon Broxton, the guy that was costing them a ton of strikeouts and roster space. Broxton was growing more and more ineffective as the year went on; meanwhile, Lorenzo Cain's 2017 season was another impressive, well-rounded offensive season, proving that he'll be more than willing to jump into the fold and do Broxton's job better than he could.

At this rate, we may be looking at a Yelich/Cain/Domingo Santana outfield, assuming the Brewers will figure out something else to do with Hernan Perez.

The one thing the Brewers are risking with these moves is spontaneity. The Brewers gained so much last year just on the strength of their farm system and small wallet. They nearly got to the playoffs with a cheap, inoffensive, yet strangely effective, squad. With two contracts, not to mention the additions of Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo to the rotation (and one more that might pop in), the team is losing its surprise factor. It's no longer a feel-good, underdog type team- this is a team that will let people down if they fall now. The stakes have been raised, and the Brewers now NEED to win games in order to prove that these moves are worth it. I think they will, and I think they're gonna chase St. Louis and Chicago for the division, but...something could happen. You never know.

Either way...this was a big day for Milwaukee. Perhaps now some other teams will follow suit and actually make some moves.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

2018 Hall of Fame Results: Four Easy Pieces

What's great about this era of HOF inductees is that, with the exception of Trevor Hoffman, they all exist in the era of custom cards, so I can post blog-archived material for 3/4ths of the inductees. 

What's also great is that I would have voted these four in, like, in a heartbeat, so I'm insanely happy that they all get to be Hall of Famers now.

Chipper was a foregone conclusion. Of everybody on the ballot, I knew he'd be a definite. The way he played the game, and the consistency in the field and at bat over 20 don't find that everyday. The easiest comparisons would be somebody like Brooks Robinson, but it's barely a comparison when Chipper paved the way to become his own type of athlete, and a poster child for Braves fans everywhere. Happy he made it in.

 Happier still that this guy made it. When I got into collecting, Vladdie was one of the most likable players in the fold, and he was insanely easy to root for, no matter what team he played for. Even when he was with the Rangers, I rooted for him. His style of play was based in power, and he was insanely powerful whenever he was on the base paths. He's also one of those guys that could have played for another 3 or 4 years. If only the Jays hadn't have effectively ended his career.

Happy for Vlad, and happy for Trevor Hoffman, who deserved the nod by just being an intimidating and fearsome closer for 18 odd years. But...I wanna reserve a bit for the last guy that got in...

Jim Thome, for a few years, was my favorite player in baseball.

He came to Philadelphia, made a name for himself within a span of 60 seconds, and made coming to Citizens Bank Park a must for me. The first time I went, it was incredible- Thome hit a home run, and the whole plays erupted in the kind of love he'd be responsible for whenever he'd show up in Philly for the rest of his career. The way he played the game owed itself to instant admiration. In the period before I got back into card collecting and hyper focused on who everyone was, I rooted for Jim Thome. I had every right to.

And now Thome's a Hall of Famer, because why the hell wouldn't he be? He deserved it, and I'm so happy I'll get to point him out to my eventual offspring in Cooperstown one day.

So...yeah, I'll say that Hall of Fame voters did well enough this year. I'd have made room for Edgar Martinez, but I'm thinking this means he'll be in next year.

Now...I wait a year for the 2013 inductions...which means I'll be waiting a year to talk about Hall of Fame cases for two of my OTHER favorite players...a guy named Mo...and a guy named Doc.

My Unofficial Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (2018)

I still don't understand why the Hall of Fame people have pushed the announcement of results, an event that used to be a staple of the first week of January, late into the month. It's almost as sinful for me as making the All-Star Ballot announcements a 90 minute ESPN event. But that's a rant I can save for another 6 months.

And the fact is, I've had my ballot solidified for what feels like a month know. I've KNOWN who I'd be voting for if I did, in fact, actually have a BBWAA membership and ability to cast a ballot, since December. The month leading up to the announcement has not changed my opinion any. In the past, there'd be a month of sportswriters saying 'WHY WE SHOULDN'T VOTE THIS PERSON' or 'WHY THIS IS FLAWED', but now that's been stretched out over a month and it's not helping any.

Hell, I'm writing this post a week in advance for it to be programmed this morning. I've been waiting to write this post for too damned long, and I'd like to get it over with.

This is a particularly stacked year of balloting, as I get the opportunity to vote for a few of my favorite players growing up, as well as rectifying some wrongs the last few ballots have been working towards. As I am allowed ten names, I will give you nine. As a reminder, you won't find anyone who's used steroids on this list.

Vladimir Guerrero:
It puzzles me a bit why one of the most fearsome and satisfying hitters of my childhood just missed enshrinement on his first go. For a few years, Vlad Guerrero was one of the faces of the MLB, not even in a fluke way, but in a way that he was bigger and stronger than everyone and he was incredible at the game. The guy helped bring the Angels back after the loss of the bulk of the 2002 squad, he won an MVP in 2004, he went on to help the Rangers make the World Series, and he even excelled in his final season in Baltimore, making a case that the Blue Jays really should have played him in 2012 rather than banking on his kids. He's a legend, he's a five-star hitter, and if it's not this year, he'll likely be a Hall of Famer incredibly soon
Team of Induction: Montreal Expos
Odds of 2018 Induction: 5 to 4
Odds of Eventual Induction: Even

Trevor Hoffman:
The era of stat-twisting and number-shaming may be at an end for the Trevor Hoffman camp. As one of the most prominent closers in history, and as someone whose rivalry with Mariano Rivera over accolades could become legendary when the latter is inducted next year (oh, it's happening. Get ready), Trevor Hoffman has not deserved the critical backlash he's been getting from sportswriters the last few years. The guy gave you consistent relief numbers for 17 years. What more could you want?? And he did so in only a few uniforms, with the entire crowd behind him, and with some legitimate power and skill. He had a very simple job, but he did it just as well as some of the guys that are in there right now. The fact that by the time he started at it, the closer position had gone from actually SAVING a game halfway through to coming into the ninth and pitching a lights-out inning may be confusing people. But I think he's a legend, and it's looking like 2018 might be his year.
Team of Induction: San Diego Padres
Odds of 2018 Induction: 4 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 2 to 1

Chipper Jones:
Of anyone on the ballot this year, Chipper Jones is the slam dunk. I don't think anyone has a reason not to vote for him, bias notwithstanding. Chipper had the work ethic and numbers of someone playing 70 years before he did. He won people over with high average, a ton of hits, and an intensity in the field. He's a rare sort of five-tool player that never inhabited the steroid-era very often. And the fact that he was there for the Atlanta Braves, a team that made three World Series' during his tenure and won one, and dominated the NL during the 90s, made it even better. You could see Chipper Jones on a national spotlight, and you could see how phenomenal, and versatile, he was. I don't think there'll be any bones about it- Chipper Jones is a Hall of Famer, and it's gonna happen this year.
Team of Induction: Atlanta Braves
Odds of 2018 Induction: Even
Odds of Eventual Induction: Even

Edgar Martinez:
One of the most satisfying developments of this year's ballot is the growing push for Edgar Martinez, and I couldn't be any more for it. It's mostly Seattle fans, because as respected as Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey are...Edgar is a different story. Edgar is the most effective designated hitter of all time, and Edgar was one of the premier clutch hitters of his era, giving the DH more power than just 'aging player who can't play positions'. Edgar was one of the first DHs used strategically, and one of the first of those that was effective for a span of more than 10 years. Edgar has had a significant leap in ballots so far this season, which is a sign that the campaigning is definitely working. I think he might sneak in this year, but if not, I don't know if the traction will carry over to 2019. This may be his make or break year...and I love that I am referring to Edgar Martinez, of all people, in that statement.
Team of Induction: Seattle Mariners
Odds of 2018 Induction: 3 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 6 to 1

Fred McGriff:
If Edgar Martinez can get a cult following to propel him in well into his time on the ballot, then it's likely that one's never gonna come for Fred McGriff, who arguably has some more impressive numbers, but wasn't a multi-dimensional player, and never made a defining impact anywhere he played. And yet I will continue to put him on my blog ballots until I can no longer do so.
Team of Induction: Atlanta Braves
Odds of 2018 Induction: 50 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 20 to 1

Mike Mussina:
One of the guys I toyed with putting on the ballot. Like Martinez, he's gotten a ton of traction this year, with balloters bringing him just shy of the 75% needed so far. However, do I share the same feelings? Well...yeah. I look back at what he did in the 90s with the Orioles, and I see someone so powerful, so intimidating, and so consistently successful on the mound, that it's the kind of performance that would have been right in line with the O's rotations of the 60s and 70s. Jim Palmer may have given him a few pointers in the midst of his early-90s ill-fated comeback. I think it's the mediocrity of his Yankee numbers that has made it so difficult to define Moose, or the fact that he never really had a single standout year. And yet you can say the same thing about Bert Blyleven or Jack Morris, and they're now both Hall of Famers. Plus, you can't say that either of those two, or many pitchers, could have an equally powerful and HOF-worthy performance in his final year in the majors. He won 20 games for the first time in his career when he was 40 years old, in 2008. And then he left. I finally realize how great of a pitcher the guy was, and I do think he deserves a once-over from the voting committee.
Team of Induction: Baltimore Orioles
Odds of 2018 Induction: 6 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 3 to 1

Scott Rolen:
Every time I do one of these, I pick a first-balloter who's probably not gonna spend too much time on the ballot, and give them a nice time. Here, it's Scott Rolen, one of the more impressive infielders of my childhood, playing on two World Series teams, and winning a ring with one of them. This is a guy who overcame some obligatory rookie hype with my Philadelphia Phillies in order to become an incredible third baseman defensively, as well as a great hitter. In all four teams he joined, including the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds, he was a standout player, and an impressive tool to have. Plus, the 'traded for Scott Rolen' club, with members including Placido Polanco, Troy Glaus, and Edwin Encarnacion, is a small but prestigious group. I don't think he'll get in, but he's on the ballot because I enjoyed his style of play, and because he's a hometown hero.
Team of Induction: St. Louis Cardinals
Odds of 2018 Induction: 25 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 23 to 1

Jim Thome:
Well...suffice to say, I've been waiting a while to write this bit. Jim Thome is arguably the person that convinced me to start following baseball. In 2003, my dad got tickets to Citizens Bank Park, and I went to a Phillies game for the first time in my sentient life. I was 7, and I enjoyed taking the entire thing in. And I just remember being in absolute awe every time Jim Thome came to the plate. He was big, strong, and he hit home runs, and he was an incredibly nice guy. And as a big, tall, power-hitter in little league, I couldn't have been any more impressed. I went to a few more games in Thome's tenure in Philly, and I was never not impressed. The guy was a career home run hitter, but he was just an incredibly fun player to watch, and it'd be impossible to root against him. I can also remember two occasions in Citizens Bank Park when I witnessed Thome in a different uniform- once as a White Sock, and once as a Twin. And the latter time, I remember him coming off the bench to hit, and the entire crowd giving him a standing o. Which he deserved. The guy played 22 seasons, he hit over 600 home runs, he made fans and worshippers wherever he played, and he's one of the most genuine baseball personalities out there. How could I not vote for him? How could he not get in?
Team of Induction: Cleveland Indians
Odds of 2018 Induction: Even
Odds of Eventual Induction: Evener

Omar Vizquel:
If I've seen any sportswriters up in arms about anyone over the last month, it's Omar Vizquel. This is one of the single most impressive defensive players of a generation, a guy who played over 20 seasons simply because he was able, a guy who played on THREE different 'super-teams' with himself as a strong center, and a guy who was never not counted on at shortstop. This is Luis Aparicio for the new generation. And the lack of offensive success is giving him a harsh go during his first ballot. The general consensus with Vizquel is that he deserves to get in, but I'm not sure if it'll happen anytime soon. I don't know how many op-eds by disgruntled sportswriters it's going to take in the next ten years. I'd like to see him in, because I think he deserves it, but this era of baseball is so stacked with greatness that someone with slight flaws can be stonewalled. So...I'm putting him on my unofficial ballot because I have a feeling that eventually it will amount to something.
Team of Induction: Cleveland Indians
Odds of 2018 Induction: 10 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 4 to 1

So...those are my nine names. At this point, I'd predict that Thome, Chipper and Guerrero are definite, and I feel like the numbers on Hoffman and Edgar will stay strong enough to let them in as well. I hope some of this goes right, and I hope for a strong 2018 class, and no blank ballots.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Not an Especially Grand Move

My undying devotion to Curtis Granderson has been described as confusing, maddening, and misguided. And yet I keep collecting his cards anyway.

This is a guy who became a home-run smasher in the Bronx for four seasons, giving his all and hitting 40 once or twice, before going off and making two World Series campaigns with the Mets and Dodgers. Despite a disappointing LA turn, there is still some stuff left in Grandy's tank, and I'm still going to collect his cards, even if it's clear that he won't be a Hall of Famer, nor will he make enough votes to stay on the ballot for more than a year.

Now...what happens when one of my favorite players signs with a team I don't particularly like?

I don't think the Blue Jays are gonna compete i 2018. Their core is no longer the Bautista-Edwin-Donaldson monolith that got them so far mid-decade. Bautista probably isn't coming back, barring extreme catastrophe, Edwin's gone, and Donaldson will probably be gone by August. All they really have to rely on is a smattering of aged veterans or haphazard younger stars. They don't have a full team to make a run with anymore. At this point, they're just trying to stay out of last.

I don't think that Grandy is an especially terrific upgrade from Bautista, though, which I'm 90% sure they're trying to do with this deal. He's big, strong, hits home runs, and the fans love him, but also like Bautista, he's past his prime. Joey Bats had a terrible showing in 2017, barely showing up above average and only getting acclaim for occasional home runs, which sounds an awful lot like Grandy's Dodgers run. It may not end up terribly well for them if Grandy picks up from last September.

However...if Curtis Granderson can work back to how he was doing in 2015, and have a good amount of contact throughout the year, not only will he be dangerous in Rogers, but he'll be dangerous in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, two notorious home run hitters' parks.

It's honestly just a case of which Curtis Granderson shows up in Toronto. As a fan of his, I'm hoping he can have a comeback season, but as a Yankee fan, I'm a little scared.

Monday, January 15, 2018

With One Hand on the Cutch

Well, look. You can use today to make a case about the Pirates, or about the Giants, or both.

Let's examine the Pirates first. They just gave away their flagship star for a couple of prospects...for the second time this week. After Cole, they gave away Andrew McCutchen, who had become one of my favorite players. The consensus is that they're making an attempt to strip back down and rebuild, and seeing as this went SO WELL in the 2000s, it's a bit concerning.

I imagine the Pirates will try to hold onto Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, as well as Ivan Nova, as they'll have to base a team around something, but if they do this, they'll at least need to do something about people like David Freese, John Jaso and Francisco Cervelli, who are aging and beginning to crowd the team. least the last two. Freese is somehow still pretty good.

It doesn't look like the Pirates are going to compete in 2018, as the stage is set for the Cubs and Brewers to continue their playoff pushes, the Cardinals to finish their 2017 work, and the Reds to work on their rotation and attempt to sneak in. The Pirates will have to work towards the future, and that may involve losing a few games in 2018.

Now...onto the Giants.

The Giants have accumulated their second straight franchise legend over 30, after Evan Longoria. But, after plugging Longo in the infield, and Cutch in the outfield...and accounting for Hunter Pence, Jeff Samardzija, and Mark Melancon...this is a very old Giants team they're banking on.

I understand they're trying to milk Buster Posey's tenure in San Fran by having as many good years with good players as humanly possible, but that didn't mean getting people with only a few good years each left. This is a pretty nice team that the Giants are building, but it's not an especially sturdy one. Hunter Pence has become injury-prone in his later years, Cutch has morphed into a power-hitter after average-work evaded him, and as good as Evan Longoria is, even he has become a bit haphazard in terms of health. Yes, there will be people like Joe Panik, Brandons Belt and Crawford, and Madison Bumgarner on hand, but...they're now approaching 30, and they might start getting injured.

This is baffling compared to the young and hot Dodgers, who spent the offseason becoming younger and hotter, as well as the youth-structured Rockies and D-Backs. Even the Padres are trying to bank on their youth movement...while also getting a pair of 30+ infielders (okay, bad example). The Giants' effort to compete might be all for naught, especially when you consider that a lot of their young, rookie backup options are kinda untested and may flounder when given the opportunity.

So...not quite sure if either side got a particularly good piece of things. Oh well. The offseason is technically still young.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Cole Train to Houston

Yesterday, the Pirates signed Gerrit Cole to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. As he'd been chased by the Yankees, as well as other teams, for trades, it was a crucial move for the Pirates, as they avoided losing their top pitcher to any other.....wait...I'm being told that he's already been traded.

The Astros were the ones to make the move, trading Joe Musgrove and a bunch of prospects for the mighty Cole, swooping in and preventing the Yankees, or anyone else, from boosting their rotations. Now, the Astros have Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and the McHugh and McCullers duo, which is gonna kill the entire AL West next season. And then if one of those guys gets injured, either Charlie Morton or Brad Peacock will come up from the bullpen and finish the job.

I think that's how it's gonna go.

As cool as this is for the Astros, it marks an end of an era in Pittsburgh, as the Pirates are gonna start giving away the rest of their stars, and probably aren't gonna begin to compete in 2018. It wouldn't shock me if they try and trade Andrew McCutchen in the next few months, unless they wanna keep him around like Joey Votto or something.

Very cool trade. Hopefully this opens up the floodgates for other teams to start trading and signing, because this has been a very, very boring January.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

All Mets Are Off

We interrupt this random top-of-2018 blog hiatus to bring you....a deal I am very confused about.

Of everyone in baseball right now, perhaps the most perplexing identity crisis being taken on by a team has to go to the New York Mets. On one hand, they have a 'new wave' of stars, like Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith. Not all of them are getting playing time, but the Mets seem to be setting things up to have this movement take over eventually.

On the other hand, the Mets are simultaneously resting on the laurels of older veterans a bit too much. David Wright is still technically signed to a contract, and Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes are still expected to play major parts in this season. None of these three did particularly well in 2018, thanks to injuries and, well, age. With the exception of Cespedes, there's not a ton of sense in keeping some of them around, too. They're just gonna drag down the lineup and get injured, and leave the door open for more ineffective choices to carry the team (to fourth place).

So the Mets can do one of two things- they can pool away the injury-plagued stars and start from scratch by building the lineup around Conforto and Cespedes and a bunch of rookies, or they can...keep stocking the team with contracts, making it very difficult to let the farm system factor into the season?

...Why are they doing the last one? Hell, they just re-signed Jay Bruce for the next three years. I was kind of expecting someone who's going to compete to do that.

And yes, the Mets could very well compete, but I don't think they're at the point where all these rookies and young stars are ready for it. 2017 destroyed the rotation, and gave into the fear that all the pitchers are gonna blow out their arms before they can get to the World Series again. The rotation would only be ready to compete if the core 5 stay healthy, and at this point I'm not even sure if Matt Harvey can even DO that. He's not the Dark Knight anymore, he's the nearly-crippled Batman from the first 20 minutes of the Dark Knight Rises.

And I don't even think the rookies are ready for it, either. Dominic Smith couldn't hit for average in his call-up last year. Brandon Nimmo has yet to truly prove himself in the lineup. The only sure thing is Amed Rosario, and with a ton of shifting factors, we're not entirely sure if they're even gonna use him full-time. So plugging Jay Bruce, who will probably play really well, into a lineup of people who aren't especially sure how they're gonna not a great idea.

I see the novelty in the Mets bringing him back,  because he was just there, and the fans love him, but that's honestly the only reason they bring him back. The Mets will only compete if everyone on that team is in sync, and there's a very slim possibility that they will be.

It figures...the one hot stove move that happens in 11 days is the one that doesn't make any sense. This offseason's been maddeningly slow, and hopefully it won't keep thriving on silly moves like this.