January 8, 2009
Baseball musings of this week...
Some of the Baseball Hall of Fame votes have been made public.
Only one HoF voter so far didn't select Rickey Henderson, the greatest leadoff man in baseball history--and it's some retired writer named Simpson.
Simpson picked eight players on his ballot (out of a maximum number of 10), but chose to leave out Henderson.
Simpson contradicted himself when he selected Tim Raines for the following reason:
- Tim Raines, a seven-time All-Star outfielder, 1986 National League batting champion, and four-time (NL) base-stealing champ.
Henderson won the 1990 AL batting title, was an All-Star more times (making the squad 10 times), and of course, is the all-time base-stealing champ (including a 12-time AL steals champion).
Don't forget, the junior circuit has traditionally been a long-ball league (thanks to the advent of the DH in the 1970s) while the senior circuit is more of a small-ball--get on base and bunt and steal bases--league, making Henderson's base-stealing achievements in the AL even more remarkable.
So how could Simpson pick Raines and not Henderson? In fact, he listed Henderson as an honorable mention who could be a potential Hall of Famer some day with candidates such as Dan Plesac (uh, no way), Ron Gant (uh-uh), Jay Bell (are you kidding??), and Greg Vaughn (?!?).
And to top it off, he voted for Matt Williams, Don Mattingly, and Alan Trammell over Henderson.
People like Simpson should have his voting previledges revoked....
Teams that are making the right moves: the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.
Trevor Hoffman and John Smoltz will not be back in San Diego and Atlanta, respectively. Instead, Hoffman will sign with the Milwaukee Brewers, and Smoltz with the Boston Red Sox.
Sure, it will be a bad PR move for the Padres and Braves not to bring back Hoffman and Smoltz, as these two players are generally seen as solid citizens and had been with the same teams for what seemed like forever. (Hoffman became a Padre in 1993, while Smoltz a Brave in 1987.)
However, the facts are these two pitchers are clearly past their prime, and in Smoltz's case, may not be able to last a full season.
Hoffman may be baseball's all-time saves leader, but he is 41, and had a high ERA (3.77, which is bad for a closer) last season. Of course, he will also be remembered for blowing the Padres' 2007 season (with his meltdowns in Milwaukee in the penultimate game of the year and in Colorado in the one-game playoff). Not to mention, Hoffman gave up a big home run to Scott Brosius in the 1998 World Series to cough up the game and put San Diego in an 0-3 hole.
He's piled up a lot of saves over the years, but that's mainly due to his longevity. At his age, can he be counted upon as an effective closer? Yes, his ERA was under 1.60 after the All-Star break, but games are as important in the first half as they are in the second half--unless you're Roger Clemens. Hoffman also was plagued by the long ball last season, giving up one home run every 5.7 innings pitched. Not a good ratio at all.
Besides, Hoffman was seeking more than the reported $4 million the Padres had offered after the season, before the club withdrew its offer in November.
San Diego did the right thing by moving forward.
Meanwhile, Smoltz made only a half-dozen appearances last season (including five starts) before undergoing season-ending surgery in June. Smoltz, who like Hoffman is 41, thinks he is healthy enough to pitch one more year.
But how many 40-plus-year-olds can come back from major shoulder surgery and pitch well? Well, pitch, period?
It would have been a good story if Smoltz retired and ended his playing career with the Braves, but apparently the 1996 NL Cy Young winner still wants to pitch. The Braves, however, wisely chose not to make this risky investment.
After all, sports is a business, and if the Braves don't feel Smoltz can stay healthy enough to make an impact, it's a good move for them to cut ties with him.
Speaking of Henderson (2002) and Smoltz (2009), what's with the Red Sox and their obsession with picking up players on their last legs?
And of course, this doesn't even count Brad Penny, who is coming off an injury-plagued 2008 season himself. Penny, as recently as 2007, was an All-Star and began the year 13-1. Last season? An ugly 6.27 ERA and a 6-9 record, and right shoulder problems. Yikes.
Boston is known to go after washed-up players, guys who were no longer good enough to make any impact on the BoSox. Remember Ramon Martinez and Kent Mercker? Former NLCS star Steve Avery, who Jimy Williams coverted to the highest-paid pinch-runner in baseball? Dennis Eckersley (in his second stint in 1998)? Rod Beck? Tony Perez if we go back a bit further?
And it's not a guarantee that having a high payroll means you get into the playoffs. The Yankees proved that last season, so it's not like the 2009 Red Sox can just think they'll be there in October.
We'll see if Smoltz and Penny make any impact.
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