Saturday, December 13, 2008


Wait for it... wait for it... within the next couple of days, in the aftermath of the CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett signings, we should be getting the first few articles saying "The Yankees aren't only rich... they're smart too!!" Bob Klapisch, I'm looking in your direction. Every time the Yankees have made any big signing in the past 8-12 years, we're always guaranteed at least one article of that ilk, even though the Yankees stopped being smart and frittering their huge money advantage by signing a bunch of mid-level free agents to huge contracts sometime around 2002ish.

Still, signing Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano to hilarious contracts and making Jason Giambi baseball's second highest paid player for the better part of a decade don't mean that every move they make is inherently stupid. After all, they finally sent Melky Cabrera to Scranton
after he spent 18 months not hitting. See, they can do smart things.

So, are the Sabathia and Burnett signings "smart?" The 10th edition Webster's Dictionary describes "smart" when used as an adjective, as follows:

1 : making one smart : causing a sharp stinging Hmmm. I don't know that Sabathia and Burnett were signed to sting people, but maybe?
2 : marked by often sharp forceful activity or vigorous strength Again, while their two pitchers do display what may be called "vigorous strength," I don't think this is what Klapisch has in mind.
3 : BRISK, Spirited
Sabathia is certainly spirited, but I don't know that brisk is especially
: a: metally alert : BRIGHT b: Knowledgable c: shrewd
Yes, I think this one is more what they were getting at. Is correctly identifying the two best free agent pitchers "knowledgable"? I suppose so, though in Sabathia's case it was pretty obvious. Was giving them $263 million dollars "shrewd"? Not really, no.
5 : a: WITTY, CLEVER b : PERT, SAUCY [don't get ~ with me ]
This doesn't really apply either, though I'm pretty excited that I got to type the word "saucy." So that made my day.
6 : a: NEAT, TRIM b : stylish or elegant in dress or appearance c(1): SOPHISTICATED (2) : characteristic of or patronized by fashinable society
I like this one, because we're talking about a 311 pound man who just got signed to pitch in the Bronx.
7 : a : being a guided missile [ a laser-guided ~ bomb] b: operating by automation [ a ~ machine tool ] c: INTELLIGENT
If Sabathia and Burnett do have laser guided bombs operated by automation, then yes, this is definitely a smart deal.

All joking aside, whenever I read columns describing the Yankees as "smart" when signing people, the thesis seems to be working to prove that they're not stupid. There is a gap between smart and not stupid. Having the most money, and using that money to bid higher on a scarce good that everyone else wants is not inherently "smart." C.C. Sabathia is a fantastic pitcher, and was made the highest paid player of all time. For $161 million dollars, he'll be a Yankee for eight years. I think too many people are worried about how Sabathia will perform in year eight. Yes, his body will probably break down by then. But is paying for, say, eight years of elite performance sensible when you're only likely to get five or six? In this case, yes, because paying for eight and getting six is better than only offering to pay six and getting zero.

Long story short, the Yankees best pitcher from 2008 was retiring, and they needed to fill that void. They have more money to spend than any other team, so they paid the most for the best. Was that necessary? Probably. Was it sensible? All things considered, I'd say so. But was is "smart?" Did Brian Cashman and Co. show any special shrewdness or intelligence in their plan to replace their ace starter? Nah.

In baseball terms though, Sabathia and New York are a good fit. If the new stadium plays like The Stadium, then a big lefty who happens to be tough on lefties is perfect. He won't get much help from the Yankee "defense," but he has a huge left field to turn a few homers into doubles, and maybe a couple into outs, and strikes out enough people that a few singles skipping through that gaping hole up the middle won't matter much.

AJ Burnett though? Nah. A top prospect years ago, his performance has rarely matched his hype. A 32 year old on opening day, Burnett has made 30 or more starts in exactly two seasons. The glass half full guy would point out that one of those seasons was last year, and argue that his injury history is behind him. Others would point to the fact that the Yankees are paying $83 million to sign a non elite pitcher with an injury history, who has never made an all-star team or even gotten a single vote for the Cy Young Award, coming off the most innings he's ever logged, through his age 36 season. Smart? lists "similarity scores," taking stats of players and comparing them to every player in history. Of the 10 most comparable players, only one is active, and as luck would have it, is the same age AND is also a free agent. He's Randy Wolf. Strike One.

Let's look at the nine others, shall we?

#1 is actually a pretty strong comparison. Pete Harnisch was the 27th pick in the 1987 draft by the Baltimore Orioles. A top prospect, he middled with the Orioled for a couple years before the Astros completely fleeced Baltimore in what was probably the most one-sided trade of the 1990's, getting Harnisch, Steve Finley and Curt Schilling for Glenn Davis. Harnisch pitched well for Houston, making the 1991 All-Star team. Later, he was traded to the Mets, and pitched fairly effectively in front of an abysmal team before getting hurt and also fighting a fairly public battle with tobacco withdrawal. Before the 1998 season, he signed with the Reds, and experienced a bit of a "late" career revival, late being in quotation marks because he was only 31 in 1998.

In 1999, at age 32 (the same age Burnett will be on opening day), Harnish had one of the finest seasons of his career, going 16-10 with a 3.68 ERA. So far so good, right Yankee fans? Oh yeah, those other four years. After logging 407 innings in 1998-99, Harnisch made only 22 starts in 2000, going 8-6, with a 4.74 ERA, which equated to an ERA+ of a completed average 100. In 2001, at age 34, Harnisch finished his career by making seven starts, going 1-3 with a 6.37 ERA. He never pitched in the Major Leagues again.

The next comp is Stan Williams, who pitched from the late '50's to the early '70's with the Dodgers, Yankees, Indians and Twins. Yankee fans may remember him best as the guy they traded Moose Skowron to the Dodgers for. Like Harnisch, after a couple middling years, Williams broke through and made the All-Star team as a 23 year old in 1960. Also like Harnisch, Williams pitched well, got hurt, and had a comeback at age 31. At that point though, Williams was a "swingman" starting perhaps three to four games a month when needed (often during a doubleheader, for example) and pitching in relief in between - not a role the Yankees have any interest in using Williams in.

When he reached 32, Williams was no longer effective as a starter, and began to pitch exclusively out of the bullpen. At 33, on the 1970 Twins, Williams, pitched 113 innings in 68 relief outings, going 10-1 with a 1.99 ERA. That would be his last effective season though. He pitched poorly in 1971, and was traded to the Cardinals. After 12 innings with St. Louis, he was released. In 1972, he was signed by the Angels, where he didn't pitch in the majors, was released and picked up by the Red Sox, where he had a 6.23 ERA in three relief outings. After Boston released him, Williams did not pitch in the majors again.

Blue Jay postseason hero Juan Guzman is the next most similar. Like Harnisch and Williams, Guzman pitched in one all-star game, as a 25 year old in 1992. Guzman was similar to Burnett in that he threw quite hard, struck out a lot of people, and had bouts with wildness. After battling injuries and some ineffectiveness in the mid 1990's, Guzman was having a bit of a comeback at age 31, pitching effectively for the Blue Jays, when he was traded to the Orioles in a midseason deal. Guzman continued to be fairly effective that year, finishing 10-16, but with a 4.35 ERA, and perhaps most importantly, he made 33 starts, the first time he made over 30 since 1993.

In 1999, Guzman joined Harnisch on the Reds in a midseason trade that brought the Orioles future closer BJ Ryan. Guzman had been pitching fairly well for the Orioles, with a 4.18 ERA in the tough AL East. Upon the trade to the Reds though, the 32 year old Guzman started pitching his best baseball since his glory days with Toronto. In 77 innings over 12 starts, Guzman went 6-3 with a 3.03 ERA, along with 60 strikeouts and 21 walks, helping the Reds tie the Mets for the National League wild card. Based on that performance, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed Guzman to a two year, $12M contract. One and two thirds innings and eight earned runs into that contract, Guzman, at 33, blew out his arm and never pitched in the major leagues again.

Erik Hanson had pitched from 1988-1993 the Mariners, and often quite effectively, but the Mariners poor offense never gave Hanson the win-loss record he deserved. After one year with the Reds, Hanson joined the Red Sox in 1995, as general manager Dan Duquette was not worried about Hanson's win-loss record, and instead focused on his good strikeout and walk rates. His lone year with the Sox turned out to be one of his best. He went 15-5 on that division winning Sox team and, as a 30 year old, made his only all-star team. A couple bad starts down the stretch raised his ERA to a still-acceptable 4.24, especially when accounting for Fenway and AL East inflation. Hanson turned this success into a three year contact from the Blue Jays. In year one of the contract, Hanson was durable but only occasionally effective, going 13-17, with a 5.41 ERA. More troublingly, his walk rate nearly doubled - after a career of consistently walking fewer than 2.5 men per nine innings, his walk rate ballooned to nearly 4.5 in 1996.

Hanson then lost that durability in 1997, at age 32. In his final two seasons, he pitched only 64 innings, giving up 47 earned runs, a 6.61 ERA.

Need I go on? The rest of the similar players are Kirk McCaskill, Wilson Alvarez, Mike Boddicker, Jose Guzman, and Hideo Nomo. Now, recall that Burnett is signed through his age 36 season, Of the nine retired players on Burnett's top 10 list, only one, Nomo, even HAD an age 36 season. The nine combined to go to zero all-star teams in their age 32-36 seasons. The best of the group was Nomo, who won 16 games both as a 32 and 33 year old, before posting a 7.60 ERA the next two years over 184 innings.


Now certainly, we can't guarentee Burnett will be out of baseball in 2013, the last year of his contract. Sports medicine is always improving, and players are staying healthy longer than ever. And, of course, similarity scores are only numbers. While some of this group, like Harnisch and Nomo, bear strong similarities to Burnett, others, like Randy Wolf, certainly do not. But given the risk against the relative reward - Burnett, again, is a zero time all-star, has once won more than 12 games, and has twice made 30 starts - it seems like an $82 million question mark.

Even beyond that risk, did the Yankees "need" Burnett? Despite all of the talk about their tremendous offense, they had as much trouble scoring runs in 2008 as they did preventing them. In the 14 team American League, the Yankees were 7th in runs allowed, and 7th in runs scored. Replacing Jason Giambi with Nick Swisher isn't going to solve any of the issue with scoring runs, but it should help prevent a few more. After signing Sabathia to replace the retired Mussina, the "smart" move would've been to use all of that extra money to make a run at Mark Teixeira, an elite player who is likely to be a Hall of Famer. Instead, they signed a second-tier starting pitcher who, despite the hype, has never been all that close to elite. Sabathia brings the Yankees closer to the Rays and Red Sox in the AL East. Burnett will help them continue to be baseball's most overhyped (and overpaid) underachievers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

2008 World Series Preview

The Rays seem to be the consensus pick to win the Series this year. If you're looking for someone to go against the conventional wisdom, keep looking. Top to bottom, the Rays are simply the better team. Better starting pitching, bullpen, defense, lineup, speed, coaching, cowbell - you name it, the Rays do it better than the Phillies.

The official prediction here is that the Rays win in 5. The Phils take Game One in a pitchers duel, with Hamels outpitching Kazmir. It is with some trepidation I pick that, because the Phillies do struggle mightily with lefthanded pitching. Still, Hamels has been excellent all season and into the postseason, and he will get the Phillies off on the right foot. Unfortunately for them, it will be downhill from there.

The Rays will take Game Two, behind "Big Game" James Shields. Though I have to ask, what exactly has Shields done to get the nickname "Big Game"? He's pitched pretty well in the playoffs, but this isn't exactly Orel Hershiser in 1988 or Randy Johnson in 2001 we're talking about.

In Games Thee and Four, we go back to Philadelphia, and the Rays will spend those two nights teeing off on Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton in that tiny little ballpark. My prediction is double-digit runs in both of those games. It will be controversial when, down two games to one, Charlie Manual decides to stick with Blanton, rather than going back to his ace Hamels. Evan Longoria has a three homer game in this one, to put himself in the lead for the MVP award.

In Game 5, the Philly fans have turned on their own team, booing them out of the gate, leading to such a lackluster performance that not even Cole Hamels can deliver a win. The Rays win this one 3-0 in a game that never actually feels as close as it is. David Price strikes out the side in the bottom of the ninth to seal the victory.

After the game, disgusted by the constant booing and taunts of the Philly fans, Jimmy Rollins demands a trade, Pat Burrell leaves as a free agent, and the Phanatic isn't seen in late October for another 15 years.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

AL All-Star Picks

Allright, folks, we're getting down to the wire in the All-Star voting. Let's take a look at who is making the team, who should make the team, and who is going to get snubbed. We'll start with the American League...

AL Catcher:
Who will start? Joe Mauer or Jason Varitek
Who should start? Mauer
Backup: Dioner Navarro

In terms of deserving to start, the gap between Mauer and the next guy is probably the biggest in baseball. He's been the best hitting catcher by far in the American League, and is likely the best defensive catcher as well. His VORP is 10 points higher than any other AL catcher. Varitek, meanwhile, has a VORP of .7, which puts him .2 behind Rays backup Shawn Riggans. As for the backup, Dioner Navarro's huge step forward this year has been a very underrated part of the Ray's resurgence. He's second in VORP at the position, and actually has a higher slugging percentage than Mauer. Past Navarro, we're getting into people like Pierzynski and Rod Barajas.

AL First Base:
Who will start? Kevin Youkilis
Who should start? Youkilis
Backup: Justin Morneau

At first glance, this looked a bit like the Red Sox fans dominating the voting, but Youkilis would be here on merit. He has the highest VORP of any AL first baseman, he's sixth in the league in SLG, 9th in batting average, and 12th in OBP. Morneau has the big RBI totals, but his .306/.367/.484 line doesn't measure up to Youkilis's .314/.381/.549, especially when considering that Youkilis is the superior defensive player. With the game being at Yankee Stadium, there will be sentiment to get Jason Giambi on the team, but his low batting average and terrible defense put him on the bubble.

AL Second Base:
Who will start? Dustin Pedroia
Who should start? Ian Kinsler
Backup: Brian Roberts

With his recent hot-streak, Pedroia is no longer the terrible choice he was two weeks ago, but Kinsler has still been the dominant player at the position. Kinsler is the league leader in hits, and currently has a line of .318/.372/.525, along with being 20 for 21 in stolen base attempts. Pedroia's .302/.347/.434 line is solid, but nowhere near measuring up to Kinsler or Brian Roberts, who matches Kinslers .372 OBP and also leads Major League Baseball in doubles.

AL Shortstop:
Who will start? Derek Jeter
Who should start? Jeter
Backup: Michael Young

Yes, Michael Young has been the best shortstop in the league at the plate this season, as well as having a significant defensive advantage. That's all well and good, but let's take a step back for a moment. In an All-Star game played at Yankee Stadium, in the final season of Yankee Stadium, the most popular Yankee of the past 20 years should probably be starting. It helps that Young hasn't really been outstanding, and that American League shortstop is currently the weakest position in baseball. Either way, as long as he has a pulse, Jeter should be starting this game.

AL Third Baseman:
Who will start: Alex Rodriguez
Who should start: Rodriguez
Backup: Carlos Guillen

Since coming off of the disabled list, Rodriguez has almost single-handedly ignited the Yankees recent surge. Expectations for him are so high that his rank as 3rd in the AL in VORP seems very ho-hum, even when considering the time he missed while on the disabled list. Carlos Guillen continues to be among the most underrated players in baseball, seamlessly moving over to third when the Tigers decided Miguel Cabrera wasn't up to the task. It's likely that Guillen will be the Tigers' lone representative in New York. Evan Longoria is also an option here as a backup, especially if he continues to hit a home run every day.

AL Designated Hitter:
Who will "start"? David Ortiz
Who should start? Whoever the best hitter in the league not starting at another position is. Likely Milton Bradley.

Ortiz will win the voting here, but will not be healthy in time for the game. Hideki Matsui would have been a solid vote, but he has gone on the DL as well, with conflicting reports on whether or not he will need surgery. The sensible decision here would be to start Milton Bradley. He's been the best hitter in the American League, leading in batting average, OBP and SLG, the latter two by a fairly significant margin, and he's not going to win the voting.

Al Outfield:
Who will start? Manny Ramirez, Josh Hamilton and Ichiro Suzuki
Who should start? Hamilton, JD Drew and Carlos Quentin
Other Backups: Grady Sizemore, BJ Upton, Jermaine Dye

Hamilton has been baseball's best story in 2008, becoming the player people envisioned when he was drafted first overall in 1999, an absolute five-tool stud, excelling at every aspect hitting for power, hitting for average, and displaying good defense and a canon arm. If healthy, this will be the first of many all-star games.

It's a bit ironic that, with the way the Red Sox tend to dominate the voting, a deserving Red Sox player is going to need to make the team as a reserve. Drew was having a solid year until early June, when he suddenly turned into Mickey Mantle. His June so far: .357/.481/.881. Since David Ortiz's injury, the Red Sox have hardly missed a beat, and Drew is the reason why. Opposite Drew in the Boston outfield, Ramirez is having another solid Manny style season. He's hardly the worst choice ever to start, as he is 13th in the AL in VORP. If he weren't voted as a starter, he'd have a good chance to make the team as a reserve. He just hasn't been as good this year as Drew or Quentin.

The Diamondbacks traded Quentin this offseason to reduce their glut in the outfield. It's hard to fault anybody for choosing Justin Upton, who despite a recent slump is still having a fantastic year for any 20 year old in the major leagues. Quentin, though, has been a serious MVP candidate. He's getting some advantage from US Cellular Field, though the 30 point increases in both his OBP and SLG he has at home aren't too far out of line with a normal home/road split.

Ichiro, on the other hand, will make the team based on his popularity and past success, rather than from any 2008 success. His .286/.347/.364 line is nowhere near his career .330/.377/.432, just one of the reasons for the Mariners' dreadful season. Ichiro's election will not only keep a more deserving outfielder home, it will also make it tough for teammate King Felix Hernandez to make the team.

BJ Upton seems to have turned into the forgotten Upton brother in 2008, but he's been the better one, posting a .399 OBP and matching his 2007 total 22 steals. His home run total is lagging behind his 2007, which is the difference between his merely being an All-Star, rather than an MVP candidate.

The Indians have been one of baseball's biggest disappointments in the first half, but don't blame Grady Sizemore. 2nd in the American League in homers and 10th in VORP. While he does a good job of getting on base, the Indians would do well to bat him second or third in their lineup, in the interests of having more people on base when he is at the plate. Factoring in his Gold Glove level defense, and Sizemore seems a slam dunk

For the final outfield spot, Jermaine Dye likely has the leg up, due to his recent hot streak putting him in a tie with Sizemore and teamate Quentin for 2nd in the league in homers, and in 5th place in slugging. Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui (if healthy) will get looks here as well, helped out by the fact that the game is at their home park. Before his injury, Magglio Ordonez would have been an option here as well.


Cliff Lee, Cleveland: He has to be the likely starter. he's the league leader in wins, second in ERA, has a strikeout to walk ration of 90 to 16, and has the highest VORP of any AL Starter.

Justin Duchscherer, Oakland: The AL ERA leader, he's been the ace of the A's staff through Harden's injuries and Blanton's inconsistency. He'll likely be Oakland's only representative.

Roy Halladay, Toronto: He has a 100 to 19 strikeout to walk ratio, the 7th best ERA in, and he gives the announcers the opportunity to talk about how the complete game is a "lost art."

Shaun Marcum, Toronto: The terrible Torotnto offense has left him with only a 5-4 record, which may keep him off of the team. That would be a shame, because Marcum has been outstanding, joining Halladay as the best 1/2 combination in the AL in the first half.

John Danks, Chicago: Poor Texas. They can't get anyone out. Meanwhile, pitchers they've traded in the past two offseasons are going to make All-Star teams. I doubt they are going to cry much over the Hamilton-for-Volquez swap, but giving up Danks for Brandon McCarthy seems like a colossal blunder.

Zack Greinke, Kansas City: Peter Gammons' favorite player has taken a big step forward this year, taking over as the true ace people envisioned in 2004. He gets extra points as the most likely pitcher to try an Eephus Pitch or Quickpitch in the All-Star game.

Joe Saunders, LAAOA: Tied for the league lead in wins, and 6th in ERA.

Mariano Rivera, New York: Expect to see him in the 9th if the American League has the lead.

Jonathan Papelbon, Boston: With a 2.00 ERA, he's been slightly less dominant than in past years, which is just as incredible as it sounds.

Francisco Rodriguez, LAAOA: 31 saves already. The Angels excellent pitching and defense, combined with their mediocre offense, leads to a lot of low-scoring games. With that in mind, Rodriguez will have a real shot at Thigpen's record of 57.

Joe Nathan, Minnesota: Nathan is in the midst of his third straight sub-2.00 ERA season, and his fourth in five years.

Scott Linebrink, Chicago: After years as one of the best setup men in baseball with the Padres, Linebrink deserves to make his first All-Star team. Recent history shows that one middle reliever will make the team. Either Linebrink or Tampa's Dan Wheeler would appear to be the best choices.

Toughest omissions:
John Lackey, Scott Kazmir and Rich Harden have both been outstanding, but have missed too much time with injury to merit consideration over the seven starters listed. King Felix is 5th in the AL in ERA, but it will be hard to bring two Mariners. Joakim Soria has been outstanding, as has Bobby Jenks. George Sherrill is second in the AL in saves, but the rest of his numbers aren't as dominant as the other relievers - plus, he wears his cap stupidly. C.C. Sabathia got off to a terrible start, but leads the AL in strikeouts, and has made his way back into the top 20 in ERA.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Oakland A's/Hall of Fame

Other than the usual steroid crud, it's been a fairly quiet few weeks. The big exceptions have been Billy Beane's decision to blow up the Oakland A's, trading his best hitter and best position player within about three weeks, and revamping his farm system in the process, along with the upcoming Hall of Fame vote. I'll go over both.

As for the A's trades, it's an aggressive maneuver by Beane. He identified that the core of his team was not strong enough to compete with the Angels in the West, or whoever comes out of Sox/Yankees/Tigers/Indians as the wild card, and wasn't going to be for some time. Some poor personnel decisions, and some poor drafting had left the A's with a mediocre, injury-prone big league club, and very little in their own system to fix the problem.

The first mistake, though one just about anyone would have made, was identifying Eric Chavez as man to build the organization around. It made sense a few years ago - at 24, he was already the best defensive player in baseball, and was coming off back to back 30 home run seasons. He looked like a guy who was going to spend most of the decade as an MVP candidate. Instead, he's spent time on the disabled list in three of the past four seasons and, despite setting a career high with 68 extra base hits in 2005, never made that leap to the elite superstar that a lot of people thought he would. In the past two years, his batting average has dropped into the .240's as all sorts of health issues have come up. It's strange to think that he's still only 30, and even stranger that he's never been an all-star. There's probably some level of comeback left in him, but it's not as the franchise cornerstone.

The Chavez deal wasn't really the killer, though. Ever since Moneyball, Beane has done some very un-Moneyballish things, like signing Mark Kotsay and Scott Hatteberg to extensions, and of course, the killer Jason Kendall deal. Even worse, his ability as a brilliant manager of the amateur draft has eluded him. Ever since the famed Moneyball draft produced Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton in the first round, he's had some tough luck. Their 2004 draft, so highly rated at the time, did not pan out. Landon Powell, Danny Putnam and Richard Robnett are all first rounders who have not made an impact, and 2005 #1 Cliff Pennington seems to be able to draw walks, but do little else. Huston Street and Travis Buck seem like quality picks, but in all, the A's had zero prospects rated by baseball America as A or A-, and only one, Daric Barton, as a B+ (though I'd have Barton higher than that).

They were able to pick up three B+ prospects for Danny Haren in Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson and Chris Carter (along with a B-), and two B+ guys for Swisher in Gio Gonzalez and Faustino de los Santos (along with a C+). As of today, five of the A's top six prospects, and seven of the top twelve, have come to the organization in the past two weeks. Not content to putter around mediocrity, the A's have completely revitalized their system by trading two non-elite players. They probably won't win more than 65 games this year. Most of the guys they traded for need some seasoning in the minors. Now, though, instead of having very little in the way of guys able to step in over the next two to four years, They have a solid half dozen.

As far as the Hall of Fame...
I'd be a bit shocked if Goose Gossage doesn't make it in. My guess is that Jim Rice will also make it. As a Bostonian, I suppose I'm expected to join the crowd and tout Jim Rice as "one of the most feared hitters of his generation." However, it simply wasn't true, and he's really nowhere near a Hall of Famer. I don't want to hear any of the "pre-steroid era" bullplop, 382 homers just isn't enough for a guy who is making his run to the Hall as a power hitter. Darrell Evans, Dwight Evans, Andres Galaragga and others are nowhere near the Hall, despite the fact they hit more homers than Rice AND contributed on "the defensive side of the ball," to steal a catchline from football.

If Rice was so feared, why was he 33rd in baseball during his 10 year prime in intentional walks? He had only four seasons of 30 or more home runs, one of 40 or more. The dominance of his 1978 season is overstated - it certainly wasn't rare to hit 46 homers in the "pre-steroid era." George Foster hit 52 in 1977. Dave Kingman hit 48 in 1979. The simple matter is that if Rice had only five years that were near great, which is fine if you are a very good player for several years more, Rice had maybe three good years beyond that. Rice only finished in the top ten in his league in OPS+ only five times, and his home/road splits are incredibly skewed, showing he gained more of an advantage from Fenway than even most of his teammates. I included Rice among my "yes" votes last year, and I really have trouble figuring out why. I think I watched Baseball Tonight too much that week.

The issue here with Rice (and the support for Don Mattingly) is that, because he played in the big market, he's getting all kinds of press support. If Rice and Mattingly had played for Seattle and Houston, respectively, both would've been lucky to make it past the 5% marker.

Take Tim Raines, for example. It's Raines first year on the ballot, and how many people know that he was on base more times, for his career, than Tony freaking Gwynn? If Raines had been a New York Yankee in the 1980's, rather than a Montreal Expo, forget the Hall of Fame plaque, he'd have a Manhattan skyscraper named after him. He'll be lucky to get 30% of the vote.

Bert Blyleven was 3rd alltime in strikeouts when he retired, he's 5th now, and voters who leave him off their ballot are essentially morons. Their argument that "he didn't make enough all-start teams" is vomit-inducing. Great, you subjectively underrated him when he was still playing, so that makes it ok to do the same now?

Voting for Jack Morris and against Bert Blyleven should result in losing your voting privelages. Joe Sheehan makes the argument about Morris better than I can right here. He pretty much did an ungodly amount of reasearch to put to rest the "Morris had a high career ERA because he pitched to the score" myth. Read it.

I loved Andre Dawson, growing up, and I have his starting lineup figure on my desk, but outfielders with .323 career OBPs really aren't Hall of Famers. He does have over 400 career homers and 300 career steals though, and was a great defensive player early on, making him a much better choice than Rice.

I'm close on Alan Trammell, but still leaning towards no. The career totals just aren't there, and I'm not sure that he was better than Davey Concepcion, who is on the same ballot.

Don Mattingly wasn't as good for his career as Mark Grace or Keith Hernandez. Yes, he was amazing before the back problems, but if we're going to start putting in guys who would've been Hall of Famers without getting hurt in, let me know when Mark Prior is eligible. The similarities between his supporters and Rice's are uncanny, right down to that one excellent season (Rice in '78, Mattingly in '86).

I'm still in the yes category on Dale Murphy. 398 career homers, legit top notch defense, and a peak that was just as good at the plate as the aforementioned Mattingly and Rice.

I'd vote for McGwire, but he's not going to get in, because he's only a great player because of steroids. You know, like Chris Donnels and Manny Alexanders steroid-aided borderline Hall of Fame legacies.

So there you have it. Yes votes for Gossage, Blyleven, McGwire, Murphy, Raines.

Go Redskins.