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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California Dreamin’

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I guess at some point we all knew this would happen. It was inevitable that the rocky relationship between Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia and former Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto would end up in a standoff. Almost from day one, Scioscia and Dipoto were at odds. The war was won by Scioscia, but there were some casualties and more than anything it doesn’t bode well for the Angels organization as a whole.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia and team general manager Jerry Dipoto stand with Mike Trout as he recieves the 2012 Rookie of the Year honor at Angel Stadium Saturday night. Trout was the second Angel to get the honor since Tim Salmon in 1993. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: hsmaya.0413 - 4/13/13 - ROD VEAL, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - The Angels take on the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium Saturday night.
ROD VEAL, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Now, this latest scuffle between the manager and the general manager wasn’t their first. Go back to 2013 and you see the initial rift between these two, which was smoothed over by Angels owner Arte Moreno. In fact most of the issues these two had started when Dipoto fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, a longtime friend and former teammate of Scioscia’s. Hatcher’s firing did not go over well with Scioscia, despite the positive words Dipoto used to discuss Hatcher:

“Mickey is a terrific guy, well-liked, very energetic and hard-working. This is about providing a different voice for our offensive players,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “It’s a results-oriented business we’re in and we need to find a way to string together something better than what we are right now. It’s a decision to find a different voice.”

It should be no surprise that this “first shot” would be just the beginning of a power struggle that has split this organization. Things looked good throughout most of 2014, as the Angels would roll to the best record in baseball before being swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. So far in 2015 the Angels have been hovering a bit above .500 while looking up to the Houston Astros while Albert Pujols has looked like the Albert of old, the one the Angels thought they were getting when they signed him. But considering they had the best record in the American League last year, there is a feeling this squad should be doing better than they are. That thinking is what started this whole mess.

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This most recent spat began a few weeks ago. The full story is up here but I will pass along the bullet points. A few weeks ago, Dipoto met with Scioscia and his coaching staff about relaying scouting information to the players. Dipoto has been trying to push for the coaches to use more advanced metrics when game planning and Scioscia and his staff are more old school, preferring to plan the way they always have. Apparently after this most recent meeting, one of the coaches responded angrily and Pujols even offered a “pointed rebuttal”. Dipoto would then go to owner Arte Moreno and things did not go Dipoto’s way. From the LA Times:

“Instead of Moreno realizing the tenuousness of the situation and mediating a truce, the owner simply backed Scioscia as he’s always done in making him arguably the most powerful single uniformed figure in all of baseball.”  

It’s easy to see why Dipoto left. It’s easy to see the power that Mike Scioscia holds.

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I am going to go on record here; I am and have been for a long time a big Scioscia fan. I have always supported his managerial skills(except for some of the bunting) and really feel he is National League guy managing in the American League. He has also long been a players manager, a guy who most of the players enjoy and feel he has their back. But there has been a feeling the last few years that Scioscia has been less player-friendly and the age gap seems to be widening by the day. Jeff Passan of Yahoo.com took a look at that this past week and how Mike has gone from a guy heralded in the clubhouse to one who rules with an iron fist. It’s been very well known for years that Scioscia has more control than any GM that is hired by the Angels and that has caused a number of problems over the years. Just look at Dipoto’s interim replacement: Bill Stoneman, a man who was in the Angels GM seat during their glory years in the early 2000’s. Stoneman is a man who worked with Scioscia for years, so to say he will probably let Mike do whatever he wants is probably a fairly true statement. The problem is that Stoneman has been out of the loop for a very long time and in a lot ways the game has drastically changed during his time away. The Angels will have a hard time finding a young executive to slide into the GM slot as long as Scioscia is around, and since his contract is a big part of the issue(he has 3 years and $18 million left on the initial 10 year deal) it’s hard to see things changing anytime soon. As much as Scioscia is a big part of the problem(and I fully acknowledge he is, as much as it pains me), the bigger issue in Anaheim is owner Arte Moreno.

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Moreno is the one who has given Scioscia this power. He is an owner in the same vein of a Peter Angelos or George Steinbrenner; an owner who pokes his wants ahead of the direction the GM feels the team should go. Moreno is the one who pushed for the Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings .From the New York Post:

“In addition, Moreno is seen as the driving force — without his GM’s blessing — in signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract and Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal. The Hamilton decision, in particular, blew up on the Angels. Hamilton had a substance abuse relapse, and Moreno essentially ran Hamilton out of town by eating most of his contract to trade him within the division to Texas.”   

There are a number of faults in doing this. For one, he has superseded his GM, which has been the big part of this power struggle. It also puts Scioscia in a bad situation. Scioscia is a guy who likes to use speed on his team, like stealing bases and utilizing the hit and run. The last few years the team has added lumbering sluggers like Pujols and Hamilton, which make it a lot harder to use that speed. In some ways, the Angels have gone from an exciting offensive team to one that only moves station to station. To me, the Angels play in a big ballpark and need to use that to their advantage. Instead, with Moreno’s need for power(and obviously chicks aren’t the only one’s who dig the long ball), it has taken two of the main weapons out of the Angels arsenal–speed and Scioscia’s National League brand of baseball. At the end of the day you always need an owner who supports your team and is willing to go the extra mile to help your team win. But that support means very little when you aren’t allowing your manager to have the best team on the field to help them achieve victory.

during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 5, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.

So how should the Angels handle this dilemma? What would seem like an easy answer is to decrease Scioscia’s power and allow whomever is in the GM seat to be able to do his job accordingly. But if Moreno didn’t allow that to happen with Dipoto I doubt he would let anyone else. The best thing would be for someone interviewing for the Angels GM job to flat out tell Moreno they won’t take the job unless they are truly in charge. The likelihood of that happening? Nil to none. There is always the chance that Scioscia could leave after this season, as he does have an out clause in his contract. Once again, I just can’t see that happening. In some ways the best thing that could happen is to officially announce Mike Scioscia as the Angels GM, since in a lot of ways he already holds that position, just not in name. Otherwise, it looks like the Angels will continue to be relevant but fall just short of their true goal, a World Series title. A lot of the pieces on the field are already there; unfortunately management is blocking something greater.

Dayton Moore’s ‘State of the Royals’

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Earlier today, Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore held a Pre-Spring Training media conference at Kauffman Stadium and talked about a number of topics with reporters. I thought it would be fun to look at some of the topics covered by Moore and what we can take away from them.

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Ervin Santana

Moore said that Santana was the most asked topic he has encountered this off-season, but that they knew early on that working out a long term deal with Erv was probably not going to happen. He was asked where things stood now and Dayton said that he really isn’t for sure where things stand since he hasn’t spoken to them “in at least a couple of weeks” and there definitely has been no contact since the team re-signed Bruce Chen.

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5th Starter Competition

Moore discussed the fifth starter spot and how content he was with the competitors for that spot(Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar, Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy). One name not mentioned there is former first round pick Kyle Zimmer, who’s chances for that spot have diminished as he recovers from arm problems. Dayton mentioned that Zimmer probably won’t even start throwing again until late March:

“He’s not even going to pitch until probably the end of March. We’re going to go slow with him,” Moore said. “He finished last year on the disabled list; he had a bicep tendinitis issue. When he had his throwing program this year, he still felt a little discomfort. We brought him in and had him checked out medically. It looks really good and our medical people really aren’t that concerned. But his body’s going through adaptive changes, and we’re really going to go slow with him.”

However one other name was thrown into that mix that would be considered kind of a wild card: Chris Dwyer:

“Chris Dwyer is a pitcher that’s a little under the radar for us, but we like him a great deal,” Moore said. “He’s got a great overhand curveball, a pitch that a lot of left-handers don’t have in the game today and therefore it makes it tough on the hitters. He’s got a changeup that is really good, and his velocity picked up a little bit last year and his command really improved, so he’ll got a shot to compete as well.”

Also talked about during the discussion was how there is a good chance Duffy starts out the year in the bullpen and if Ventura doesn’t make the rotation out of camp, there is always a chance he could be slotted into the pen. Personally, I don’t understand that. With a guy like Ventura you keep him as a starter. If he doesn’t make the top five starters out of Spring Training, you send him to Omaha and recall him during the season. Putting him in the pen would seem to stunt his growth. I do like the idea of Duffy in the pen; only problem is Kansas City already has a crowded field in that spot.

Emilio Bonifacio

Emilio Bonifacio

When asked about Boni, Dayton made this comment:

“There were some clubs that were interested,” Moore said. “It just didn’t happen for us.”

That would be because the Royals asking price was too high. My complete thoughts on the team getting rid of Emilio are here.

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Going to Arbitration with Greg Holland

Greg Holland is the lone Royal left unsigned going into this 2014 season and it looks as if an arbitration hearing is in their future. Just as a side note, Dayton has never had an arbitration case go to hearing in his 8 years with the team:

“Getting a deal prior to a hearing is going to be more challenging for us going forward as long as we having players excelling and doing well,” he said. “Holly had a terrific year, he’s one of the best closers in the game and we’ll see what happens.”

I should probably mention here that there have been rumors that Holland and the Royals have been working on an extension. If that is true, that would explain why this has been dragged out.

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Kansas City’s Depth

Dayton talked very glowingly about the team’s depth:

“We do have depth — depth in the outfield, depth in the infield, depth at the backup catching spot, we certainly have depth in the bullpen,” Moore said. “We’re probably not going to move any of our pitching unless it’s really something that overwhelms us.”

I don’t really agree with this. Or to be more exact, I don’t agree with the assessment that they have depth in the infield. Sure, you have Danny Valencia in case Mike Moustakas struggles at third base again. But cutting ties with Bonifacio hurt the team’s depth and having Pedro Ciriaco and Christian Colon as your infield backups don’t exactly make me feel comfortable. You have to take the view that the team has enough depth to weather a major injury in the infield(worst case scenario) and right now I don’t think they do. If Alcides Escobar or Omar Infante go down, the Royals are probably in trouble. Colon plays good defense but hasn’t proved he can really hit. Ciriaco has hit decently in his short time in the big leagues, but his defense is nothing to rave about. Neither seem like a solid replacement if someone goes down. That is where losing Bonifacio is going to hurt.

Moore also said this about the team in general:

“We feel like everybody on our roster is improving. There isn’t one guy we say, ‘they’re on the downside.”

I would also disagree with this. I can’t see a 32 year old Omar Infante being on the upswing, as most players his age start to regress. Not saying he is going to suck, but I don’t think you will really see his numbers improve. Since it is a young team, what Dayton is saying is probably fairly accurate. But there is no way everyone improves. Percentage wise,  it just won’t happen.

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Royals Payroll

Yes, the Royals payroll will be the largest in Kansas City history. But Dayton sure makes that sound bleak:

Alright, I get that the Royals have a payroll limit. I should probably mention here that it is David Glass’ money, not mine. But…to only raise the payroll $9 million from last year(when every MLB team was awarded $25 million as part of their TV deal) is insulting. I’ve always said that if you want to make money in baseball you have to spend money. I was never a big fan of George Steinbrenner, but he understood that. David Glass must not understand how small the Royals window to win is. It also makes him look bad that he tells people he wants to win, yet doesn’t seem to be all in. Look, payroll isn’t everything; just look at the Oakland A’s, year after year. But the Royals probably need one more starting pitcher, and a guy like A.J. Burnett is out there for the taking. You can’t tell me that adding someone like Burnett would not help this team immensely and immediately push them into major contention for a playoff spot this year. Once again, it’s not my money. Obviously they feel even $3.5 million over that limit is too much, which is why Bonifacio was cut when Chen was added to the roster. But if you put a legitimate winning team on the field, more fans will come to The K. More fans at the game mean more money being spent inside the stadium(merchandise, concessions, etc.). That also means more money from parking at the stadium(and we can all agree those prices have been too high for awhile now). Win enough and you can sell out almost every game, which means more money. Win now and it will probably buy you a couple of years of loyalty from an already very loyal fanbase. Make the playoffs and other players will want to come play for your team, solid players. You might spend extra now, but in the long run it will come back twofold. I like that the Royals are spending money now; but it’s not going to be easier from here. If some of these guys take off(Eric Hosmer, Ventura, Moustakas, etc.) they will want to be paid. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler have contracts running out after the 2015 season. They will cost more. Spend the extra now and you will be rewarded, Mr. Glass. Or worry about your bottom line now and suffer in the long run. Once again, it’s not my money.

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So that is some highlights from Dayton today. Look, I think this is a good team and they should be over .500 again, but I’m not 100% sold they are a playoff team. I want them to be a playoff team, but I need more convincing. With that being said, I feel good going into this season. Yes, there is a ray of optimism there. Soon enough we will find out whether Dayton has constructed a team that will pay off or if they stay pat. He did say something that I feel he had to say, especially after years of hearing about the process and patience. Moore said “We want to win now. That’s what we’re here for.”  Good, that is where we should be now. Take it home, GMDM.

 

 

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