A Few Musings on the Today’s Game Era Ballot

Will Clark
Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

On Monday, the ballot was revealed for the Today’s Game Era, featuring a combination of players, managers and an owner who will receive consideration for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame:

Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella, Lee Smith and George Steinbrenner are those receiving consideration for the class of 2019. Baines, Belle, Carter, Clark, Hershiser and Smith are included for their contributions as players, while Johnson, Manuel and Piniella are included for their roles as managers. Steinbrenner, who is the only candidate that is no longer living, is nominated for his role as former Yankees owner.

Voting will be taking place next month, December 9th at the Winter Meetings and it will be interesting to see just how the voting turns out for this.  If anything, there are a few close calls and some absolute no’s littering this list.

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Credit: DUANE BURLESON/AP

Let’s start with the players, as they will be the ones receiving the most scrutiny when the votes are tabulated. The two names that instantly peaked my interest are Will Clark and Orel Hershiser, two stars of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Clark has a pretty good resume: 137 OPS+(97th all-time), slash line of .303/.384/.497 and is 93rd all-time in OPS, 76th in Adjusted Batting Runs and Adjusted Batting Wins.

The biggest argument for Clark is not only the level at which he performed for so long (15 seasons with an OPS+ above 120, including seven consecutive seasons) but how he was able to help his team. Clark ended his career with a WPA of 46 (51st all-time) and a RE24 of 455.42 (59th all-time), numbers that show he consistently helped put his team in a situation to win.

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Credit: Robert Ringer-Getty Images

Hershiser might have an even bigger argument for induction than Clark. While his career ERA+ (112) and ERA (3.48) speak of a ‘good but not great’ pitcher, his place in history tells a different story. Hershiser is 95th all-time in WAR for pitchers and 114th in Win Probability Added while also being one of the top pitchers of his era. If you are someone who believes in a player’s peak being a large part of their place in history, Hershiser was an elite starter for a nice seven year span. In that period, Hershiser finished in the top five in the National League Cy Young voting four times (winning in 1988) and made three All-Star appearances.

From 1985 to 1991, Hershiser posted an ERA+ of 128, an ERA of 2.78, a FIP of 3.03 and a WHIP of 1.163. Throw in that he had a stellar career in the postseason (2.59 ERA, 2.83 WPA over 132 innings) and there is at the least a discussion on whether or not Hershiser is “Hall Worthy”.

Both Clark and Hershiser are members of the Hall of Stats (HallofStats.com), granted just barely. We can’t say the same for the other players on this list: Belle just didn’t play long enough, Baines was regulated to being a DH for most of his career (and wasn’t a dominating hitter like Edgar Martinez or David Ortiz was), and Carter falls well below the standard of a Hall of Famer.

 

It will be interesting to see how Lee Smith manages in this vote, since he was a player who stayed on the Hall of Fame ballot up until 2017, garnering up to 50.6% of the vote back in 2012. Smith had his proponents, those that believed in the longevity and career save total as arguments for his induction.

Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

When it comes to the managers on the list, there doesn’t appear to be a big separation between the three. Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel and Lou Piniella all have fairly comparable winning percentages and playoff appearances and all three have been at the helm of a world championship team: 

Credit: Fangraphs.com

Jay Jaffe of Fangraphs.com took a look at this list and was curious as to why Jim Leyland was left off:


The inclusion of Piniella, as the top returning vote-getter, I can understand, but retaining Johnson and introducing Manuel, who spent far less time than any of the others in the dugout, while excluding Leyland, who won as many pennants as that pair combined, seems off. And it’s not like Leyland, who last managed in 2013, is a threat to return to a dugout, whereas Baker, who’s just a year removed from his last job, might still answer the phone.

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

This leaves us with George Steinbrenner, the former owner of the New York Yankees. It’s easy to see both sides of the argument for George, and it shouldn’t be surprising that even in death he is a polarizing figure. The argument for is simple: he revitalized a Yankee’s organization that had fallen off in the late 1960’s-early 1970’s and turned them into a juggernaut in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s. During his tenure, the Yankees won seven World Series titles and 11 pennants.

The argument against is simple: his issues with former player Dave Winfield eventually led to Steinbrenner being banned from the game, starting in mid-1990 until 1993. Add in the circus he created in New York (ie. Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Ed Whitson, etc.) and it would appear to be enough to leave George on the outside looking in.   

Credit: Getty Images

If I was to take a guess as to how the voting will go, I would say there is a very good chance that no one will from this group will be making the trek to Cooperstown this upcoming summer, unless they are doing so for a vacation. Personally, it doesn’t feel like there is a candidate worthy or overlooked on this list.

That being said, I also wouldn’t be shocked to see any of the managers get the nod or even Lee Smith. Smith received the most support out of this group during his initial cycle on the BBWAA ballot and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him receive the same support moving forward. As much as I loved Will Clark and Orel Hershiser when I was a kid, they still feel like borderline Hall of Famers in my book and will probably fall short yet again.

The good news is that at the very least ‘the Hall’ is doing the right thing by giving some of these guys a second chance. A number of players fell through the crack here and while I wasn’t shocked to not see a Mark McGwire or David Cone on the list, those players feel like stronger candidates than the ones currently receiving support. We will know the fate of the hopeful soon enough, as the Winter Meetings are just a few weeks away.   

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Royals Questions That Need to be Answered

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It sure feels like forever since the Kansas City Royals had their long winning streak and were one of the hottest teams in baseball. Remember when there was all that talk about the Royals making a push for the playoffs? Remember the talk about whether we should order our tickets now or wait until tomorrow? Remember when we started planning the parade? It only takes a few weeks to kill all those hopes, as the Royals seem to be on the downside of the roller coaster we call the 2013 season. Sure, we kind of figured the Royals would lose the series to Detroit a little over a week ago. But none of us saw Kansas City getting swept by Chicago, and just how bad the Royals would look against the Pale Hoes. The offense apparently is on vacation again, and it seems at this point that as it goes, so goes the Royals as a team. So, with just a bit over a month left in the season, there are a few questions to pose.

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1)      Should Dayton Moore and Ned Yost be fired?

The easy answer to this is yes. Dayton has had seven years to put together a winning team in Kansas City, and at this point not even .500 is guaranteed this season. Moore bargained the future to reach the playoffs sometime in the next few years, and with Shields gone after next year, the clock is ticking. That being said, I think Moore will be back, and could possibly gain an extension. I don’t feel like he deserves it, but I’m not the one running the team.

Now, when it comes to Yost it gets even more interesting. With the way the last few weeks have gone, Neddy sounds more and more like a beaten man and someone who isn’t for sure he wants to continue managing. Yost’s contract runs out at the end of the year, and with that in mind I wonder if he won’t get fired. Instead, I can see him going back to his front office job and let the Royals go after their next manager. That way, he doesn’t get fired, he can stay in the organization and not have to deal with the headaches of managing that obviously seem to bother him. If this is the case, I imagine guys like Vance Wilson and Pedro Grifol will be heralded as his replacement, or they could go after a proven manager, such as a Charlie Manuel or a Mike Scioscia(if he is available; yes, he is my dream manager!)Either way, I don’t picture Neddaniel being around next year.

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2) What do the Royals need to go after in the off season?

In a very un-ironic way, they need the same things they needed last off season; starting pitching, a second baseman and a right fielder. The difference between this year and last year is that Dayton didn’t see a need for two of those things, and how did that turn out? More than likely they will have to find someone to replace Ervin Santana’s rotation spot, as I have to believe someone will offer him more money and years. It would actually be wise to maybe stock up on two arms, which can be done even if financially they try to be frugal. Chris Getz has never been the answer at second, which has been extra evident this year and as much as I like watching David Lough play, I’m not 100% sure he is the answer in right field. Same goes for Justin Maxwell. Since the Royals need some power in the lineup, right field would be a good spot to look for some pop. I know the Royals only have so much money to use, but with a number of players coming off the books (Chen, Francoeur, etc.) and the money they will get from the new MLB TV deal, they should be able to fill these holes and do it within budget.

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3) Has the 2013 season been a success?

This is totally open to interpretation and what your expectations were this season. Some Royals fans will be happy with .500. Some like myself see it more as failure on Moore’s part, as the promise was to contend for the playoffs. The whole point of the Shields trade was to get the team over the hump. Shields will be a free agent after next year, which seems to be how long the window is open. So two years of James Shields was worth more than six controlled years of Wil Myers, the slugging bat the Royals really need? Yes, I know the Royals needed starting pitching, but it could have been done without mortgaging the future. Hey, if you are happy with .500 and MAYBE contending next year, while then having to start all over, then you are easier to please than me. For me, we have been told for years that we needed to trust the process, that once the prospects were up that the Royals would start winning. Yet here we sit, wondering if the team can even hold onto their .500 record with a little over a month to go. I know we have seen losing baseball for a long, LONG time in Kansas City, but that doesn’t mean our expectations should be lowered. We deserve better, and after seven years, it appears Dayton Moore might not be the General Manager to make that happen. This season has been a roller coaster season for the Royals, and at times you can see that glimmer of hope, the team that can contend for a playoff spot some day. But we equally see the team that struggles to put it together offensively and relies on their pitching and defense too much. What we deserve is someone who can see this vision and put the proper pieces in place for success. Sorry Dayton, I don’t think that man is you. Too bad for us, as I believe he will be back. Take that however you want, Royals fans…

Sandberg’s Climb to the Top

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The one constant in baseball is change…well, that and the Pirates will continue having losing seasons. Wait, what? The Pirates are in first place? But it’s August! Anyway, back to change. Change is inevitable, especially when it comes to the manager’s job in Major League Baseball. As of last week, no manager had been fired during the 2013 campaign. That was until Friday, as former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel denies he quit or resigned. That leaves the only other option, fired. Taking his spot in Philadelphia is their third base coach, Ryne Sandberg. Yes, former Chicago Cub and baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

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It was long thought that Sandberg would be Manuel’s replacement once he stepped down, so no big shock in that regard. Sandberg has been spending the last six years managing in the minor leagues, building his resume and hoping for a future managerial job in the majors. In fact, Sandberg had honed his chops in the Cubs system, working his way up from A-Ball to AAA before it was all said and done. The Cubs passed Sandberg over for their major league job, despite many fans and experts feeling like he deserved the spot. Sandberg took his talents to the Phillies. Oh, the irony.

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You see, Sandberg was originally drafted by Philadelphia and was eventually traded to the Cubs with Larry Bowa for shortstop Ivan DeJesus. For years, the Phillies kicked themselves for that trade, but would be able to save some face if Sandberg could be a successful manager in the big leagues for them. The big question is whether or not he will be a good major league manager. You see, throughout the history of the game, very few Hall of Famers ever turned out to be great managers after their career was over. In fact, only four Hall of Famers who managed posted a winning percentage over .500. Most fail and fail so badly they never manage again.

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Take Ted Williams. “Teddy Baseball” is one of the greatest baseball players ever, and some like myself consider him the greatest hitter in baseball history. But Williams ran into a huge problem when he went to manage; he expected his players to be as good as he was. Very few can even get close to having the ability Williams had, so of course his unrealistic expectations for his team led to him having a .429 winning percentage from 1969-1971. So Sandberg has a steep mountain to climb, but from all accounts it seems he’ll be fine. He has long been highly regarded as a strong managerial candidate and one of the main positives heard about Ryno was his ability to get veterans and youngsters to work together and try to reach the same goal. Many of the veterans he managed at AAA mentioned how good a job he did working with every player and not letting anyone feel left out. All the glowing praise piled on Sandberg made me want him as the Royals manager whenever they finally decided to let Ned Yost go. I knew it probably wouldn’t happen and was a long shot, but a guy can dream, right?

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Ryno is technically only an interim manager at this point for Philadelphia, but if he does a solid enough job over the next six weeks, it seems the Phillies job is his to hold next year. I’m glad to see Sandberg finally getting his deserved shot at managing a big league ball club and wish him all the success in the world. Still, it would have been nice to see him in Royal blue.

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