Friday, January 24, 2014

Boston Red Sox 2014 Team Breakdown

BOSTON RED SOX:  97-65 (First in the Division, AL Champ, World Series Champ)

Projected Lineup/Batting Order:

RF        Shane Victorino
LF        Daniel Nava
2B       Dustin Pedroia
DH       David Ortiz
1B       Mike Napoli
C          A.J. Pierzynski
3B       Will Middlebrooks
SS        Xander Bogaerts
CF        Jackie Bradley Jr.

Projected Starting Rotation/Key Bullpen Arms

SP        Jon Lester
SP        John Lackey
SP        Clay Buccholz
SP        Jake Peavy
SP        Felix Doubront
SP        Ryan Dempster
RP       Koji Uehara
RP       Edward Mujica
RP       Craig Breslow

The Red Sox did what 29 other teams couldn’t do last year….win the World Series.  So they are riding high coming into this season.  John Farrell is back, their pitchers have returned to their All Star forms and the good teammate clubhouse approach worked beautifully.  So with that being done, they just needed to path holes created by free agency and see if they could add some bullpen depth.  They did all of those things.

Offensively this team lost both Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  There is no way they could replace Ellsbury, and they didn’t try.  They like young Jackie Bradley Jr. and he will have a chance to take over in center field.  More recently they signed Grady Sizemore to a make good major league deal.  He’s guaranteed to see time in the major leagues, but the Red Sox are only on the hook for $750,000 if he’s still not back to full health.  There are incentives, which could raise it to over $6 million.  I’d love to see Sizemore come back as he was a great player and a good guy done in by injuries.  He’s an insurance policy if Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t ready and may garner more playing time even if he works out.  They then upgraded at catcher with A.J. Pierzynski, and hope that will be enough to offset their losses.  Even if it’s not, this team should still be pretty solid.  We can assume that Shane Victorino is the most likely leadoff hitter replacement option.  However Daniel Nava’s name has also been tossed around, and they want Bradley there in the long term.  I listed Victorino as the leadoff hitter for now as he has the most experience.  But it’s important to note, that he’s traditionally struggled in that role.   In 216 games hitting leadoff, he’s hit 249 with a 317 OBP.  He’s never been a big walk taker either.  But after hitting 294 in the 2 hole last year with 21 SB, he’s the first option.  The other thing I did in this lineup, was assume that Bradley will win the starting job.  He may or may not.  But if he is platooned or on the bench to start the season, then Victorino will take over center, Nava will move to right and Johnny Gomes will play left.  Gomes will stick around as the top bat off the bench and a man to spell the outfielders if he isn’t starting in left.  And now there’s also Grady Sizemore to consider in the outfield rotation as well.  If healthy and playing well, he probably jumps Gomes as the top defensive replacement, with Gomes the top bat.  I put Nava in the 2 hole after a breakout season where he hit over 300 with 12 HR.  This left Pedroia (301/9/84/91/17) hitting third and Big Papi David Ortiz as the cleanup man, with his team leading 309/30/103 line (led the team in all 3 categories).  However Pedroia profiles more as a 2 man, so it wouldn’t shock me to see him move up a spot leaving Ortiz 3rd, Napoli cleanup and maybe Nava 6th behind Pierzynski.  Either way Ortiz, Pedroia and Mike Napoli (23 HR, 92 RBI) are the heart of this order.  And the addition of Pierzynski makes them even deeper with his 272 AVG, 17 HR and 70 RBI.  He’s also a vast upgrade defensively behind the plate.  Beyond the heart of the lineup, glove-first rookie Bogaerts can find his way with Jackie Bradley Jr. at the bottom of the lineup, while both play great defense up the middle.  The last piece of this offense is Will Middlebrooks who struggled in 94 games before going out with an injury.  He hit 17 HR but his AVG dropped to 227.  They want him to come back to his rookie form, but if he can’t he’ll stay in the bottom third of the batting order.

Defensively this team is a middle of the road club.  Victorino has won a Gold Glove as has Pedroia and Pierzynski.  But those guys are in right, at second and behind the plate.  Good, but not at the key spots.  Bradley and Bogaerts are great defensively, but unproven still.  However I suspect both will be fine in the field, and give the Sox great up the middle players.  Everyone else is fine, with Napoli being brutal at first.  But the defense shouldn’t be a problem overall.

On the mound, this team won’t disappoint.  John Lester was the ace leading the team with 15 Wins and 117 Ks to go with his 3.75 ERA.  John Lackey was a comeback player of the year nominee with his team best 3.52 ERA.  They sit atop the rotation.  Behind them, Clay Buccholz was lights out going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA striking out 96 in 108 IP.  But injury limited him to 16 games.  He’s got the stuff and potential to take over as their ace, and he may finally live up to it all this year, after starting down the road last season.  And after those 3, the Sox have 3 guys left for 2 spots.  That’s good, because only 1 starter (Lester) made 30 starts for the champs last year.   Ryan Dempster came close to that with 29 starts, but wasn’t at his best going 8-9 with a 4.57 ERA.  He’s definitely on the back end of his career but still has the strikeout pitch going with 157 in only 171 IP.  He’s an innings eater at this point, and they hope to get a few good starts from him if necessary.  They really will rely on Felix Doubront and Jake Peavy to fill those last 2 slots.  Peavy is not the pitcher he was with San Diego and Doubront isn’t an ace.  But both are more than capable of eating some innings and turning in ERAs around 4, which is what they want from their 4 and 5 men.  And if either struggles, Ryan Dempster is around to eat up the slack.  In the bullpen they have plenty of quality arms, led by the AL Rolaids Reliever of the Year winner Koji Uehara who stepped into the closer’s role nicely at the end of the year with 21 Saves to go with his 1.09 ERA.  He will be the closer again for a full year this time.  If he struggles (because he actually has very little experience as a closer) Edward Mujica is an insurance play, saving 27 games in St. Louis last year, before falling apart at the end of the year to lose the job.  Both are natural set up men with closing experience, and between them the Red Sox should get good back end of the game performances. 


It’s hard not to like the defending champs.  Not only now, but for the foreseeable future.  They’ve got youth in Bogaerts, Bradley, Buccholz and the bullpen.  They’ve got stars in Lester, Pedroia and Ortiz.  And they’ve got plenty of quality veterans and strong clubhouse presences in Gomes, David Ross, Dempster, Napoli and Peavy.  There is no glaring hole and they have lots of options both in the rotation and batting order.  Their youngsters are buried at the bottom of the lineup to allow them to focus on defense and develop their offensive skills later.  And their biggest question mark is a young third baseman that hit 17 HR last year.

They really don’t have any major holes.  If Bradley can’t hack it, then Gomes or Sizemore step in and the defense shifts for optimal alignment.  Bogaerts is their only real option at short, so they’ll suffer his offensive missteps longer, if he has any.  They have the best backup catcher in the game in David Ross and 6 starters.  Any team can use more bats on the bench or arms in the bullpen, but by and large this team is set.  They addressed a backup plan to their closer and got a primary setup man with one signing.  And they upgraded the catching position immeasurably.  This team was good last year and only got better.

I think the Red Sox are a great team.  I think they played a little above themselves last year, but can definitely win this division.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t, but only because of the talent they are up against, not because of any lack of faith I have in the boys from Beantown.  But since I’m making picks, I’m taking the Red Sox to win the division, even if their win total drops closer to 90.    

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Baltimore Orioles 2014 Team Breakdown

BALTIMORE ORIOLES:  85-77 (Tied for third in the division)

Projected Lineup/Batting Order:

RF       Nick Markakis
3B       Manny Machado
CF       Adam Jones
1B       Chris Davis
C         Matt Wieters
LF       Nolan Reimold
SS       J.J. Hardy
DH      Steve Pearce
2B       Jemile Weeks

Projected Starting Rotation/Key Bullpen Arms

SP        Bud Norris
SP        Wei Yen Chen
SP        Chris Tillman
SP        Miguel Gonzalez
SP        Kevin Gausman
RP       Brian Matusz
RP       Liam Hendricks
RP       Darren O’Day

Things are going to look a lot different in Baltimore this year.  For the first time in a long time, Brian Roberts won’t be in uniform.  The one thing that stays the same…..Brian Roberts won’t be on the field.  He hasn’t played a full season in about a decade, so there’s no real change for the Orioles there, it’s just in the clubhouse where their longest tenured player and one of their leaders is now gone.  That role now goes to Nick Markakis or, perhaps, Adam Jones.  Both are quality players on the field and in the clubhouse and will fill that void nicely.  The Orioles will have a different batting order as well.  The biggest question there is who will leadoff.  Jemile Weeks has the skillset, but can’t seem to get his average up where it needs to be.  Manny Machado could be a good idea, but they like his power and want to keep it lower in the lineup.  They probably feel the same about Nick Markakis.  However, after seeing the success of Jason Heyward leading off for Atlanta, maybe the Orioles will realize Markakis is a great option and take the chance.   He’s got more experience than Machado, and can get on base pretty solidly.  Adam Jones might be the best option, but they want his power lower in the lineup.  I’d expect him to hit third, though there’s an outside chance the move him up to the top as well.   No matter what is happening in front of him, I expect Davis to be the cleanup man.  They hope whoever does lead off will be able to get on base and come around and score when Davis knocks the ball over the fence.  The rest of the lineup is solid with Matt Wieters as a top 5 catcher in the league, J.J Hardy limited offensively but still wielding a fair amount of power, and Reimold and Pearce solid players filling out the bottom of the lineup.  Watch out for battle at second base as Jonathan Schoop looks to beat out Jemile Weeks, not to mention Alexi Casilla who has gotten a minor league deal and spring training invitation.  And stay tuned to see if the Orioles try to upgrade at DH.  They did just sign Delmon Young to a minor league deal.

Defensively this team looks stout with Gold Glovers on the left in Hardy (2 wins for him) and Manny Machado (he got his first last year).  Both are natural shortstops, so I don’t expect a lot of balls to get through over there.  Also, Adam Jones pulled down his third Gold Glove in center, so the Orioles are in good shape up the middle.  Markakis won a Gold Glove in right in 2011 and Matt Wieters took one home in 2012.  I think this team will be one of the best with the leather, even if Chris Davis starts all 162 games at first (though he’s improved as well).

If there’s one area where the Orioles could really look to improve it’s on the mound.  Chris Tillman was the team leader with 16 Wins, a 3.79 ERA and 179 Ks.  After Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez (11-8, 3.78) was pretty good but the other starters struggled.  They added Bud Norris at the trade deadline, but he was not as good in the AL East with a 4.97 ERA.  After a solid rookie year, Wei Yen Chen digressed slightly, though put up similar numbers in fewer starts.  Injury limited him to 23 starts, in which he went 7-7.  His 4.07 ERA was close to his 4.02 ERA his rookie year, but his BAA jumped about 22 points.  After 2 years, we feel comfortable calling him a solid middle of the rotation starter, which is what Baltimore sees him as.  Kevin Gausman had a great debut, but struggled greatly after that (3-5, 5.56).  Those are the guys currently penciled in to start in Baltimore.  It’s not great, but maybe serviceable with this offense.  They need depth, however and could use another power arm, perhaps to knock Gausman to the bullpen or back to the minors for more seasoning.  Zach Britton is still around to challenge Gausman, but he’s been a disappointment with a career high 321 BAA last season.  Perhaps the Orioles re-sign last year’s opening day starter Jason Hammel, who continues to wait, unsigned in the free agent pool.  It makes sense for both parties, and is a nice consolation prize for the Orioles who likely won’t find the quality arm they lack (for a price they can afford) and for Hammel, who won’t get the money he seeks from anyone.  If this happens, Britton and Gausman can move to a bullpen that lacks some confidence and a closer after Jim Johnson was traded to Oakland for Jemile Weeks.  The O’s had a deal in place with Grant Balfour, but changed their minds after seeing the MRI from his physical.  Balfour blasted GM Dan Duquette claiming the MRI is the same as it was 3 years ago and saying he’s the same All Star pitcher he was last year.  Either way, there is a hole at the back end of the Orioles bullpen, and we can assume Balfour won’t be filling it.  They likely won’t want to spend the money on Fernando Rodney, who is the highest ranked closer available.  That means they may take a shot on an imperfect candidate.  Francisco Rodriguez had a better season last year than he has in years, and he’s only 32.  That’s the sort of low risk option that’s available on the free agent market.  Not great.  Perhaps they can explore a trade of some sort, but they need to do something because a mix of Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter won’t get it done. 


The Orioles are in pretty good shape.  The offense is very good and the defense is fantastic.  The pitching is weaker, but not terrible with a lot of solid arms, though perhaps no ace.  It won’t be the best rotation by any stretch of the imagination, but it will be solid, and could get better with an addition of another arm, perhaps Jason Hammel who was an Oriole last year.

The team’s budget is in good shape.  They have money to spend, though not a ton, and only a few holes to fill.  Chris Davis and Matt Wieters are going to get raises in arbitration, but they can afford it.  They’ve shopped both, though they likely want to trade neither.  If the Orioles struggle, look for them to flip Matt Wieters a year before he hits free agency.  There’s been talk of shopping J.J. Hardy as well since Manny Machado is a natural shortstop.  But they can afford to keep both, and in so doing will have the best left side of the infield defensively of any team.  Plus moving Hardy to another team and Machado to short opens a hole at third.  If anyone gets traded, it will be a bench player or prospects for bullpen help or another starter.  But we aren’t talking huge names.

The biggest hole is at closer.  They want a strong presence back there, but won’t spend the money.  I expect them to fill it with a trade or with a low cost option, though Fernando Rodney in that spot immediately makes them a vastly better team.  The Orioles will be better, but still play in the AL East with the defending champion Red Sox and the talented Rays. 

They were 85-77 last year, 12 games back of the division.  I expect a similar year with another 3rd place finish for the O’s.  If they go to the playoffs, it will again be as a wildcard, likely the second one.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 Hall of Fame Ballot

Each year, the BBA (Baseball Bloggers Alliance) votes on the Hall of Fame ballot.  Last season was my first time to vote in the election, and I took the time to hash out some of my thoughts about the HoF, the voting and the process I use to vote players in.  It was one of my biggest posts, and you can find part 1 here and part 2 here. 

For those who want to just skip to the end of those links, or don’t feel like clicking on them, I can tell you that I voted for Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Dale Murphy and Jack Morris.

So for this season, I considered the 36 candidates on the ballot with the same ideas that I used last time.  I looked for the magic numbers (500 HR, 300 Wins, 3,000 Hits).  I looked for players who came close to those numbers and won a ton of awards in their time.  I considered players who played in the steroid era who had good numbers, but not magic ones, and never were implicated in PED usage.  I considered players with great stats in 1 or two categories, but not much else.  I considered compilers.  I looked for a lot of things.  If I had any question about a player, they did not get my vote, as they would have another chance the next year (most of them).  Another year of consideration for individual players is preferable to a hasty pick being made, that can’t be undone.

In addition to considering my ballot, I also considered the voting process and how the hall works.  I tried to think about things I would change or patterns.  I’ve come to a few conclusions, which I will also detail in this post. 

So let’s get right into it, starting with the voting process.

Last year, people were outraged that no one made the Hall of Fame.  That led to a look at who was voting and the overall voting process.  The people allowed to vote for Hall of Famers are members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who have been in the BBWAA for at least 10 years.  They have to have been active members of the BBWAA for 10 years prior to the date of their first vote.  That means no players, coaches, executives or other Hall of Famers are eligible to vote for the new batch of Hall of Famers.  The argument against players voting is that they would be too open to teammates and people who played in their eras, as opposed to others who didn’t.  The argument against coaches and executives is that they would give too much consideration to their former players.  All are valid considerations, though perhaps somewhat unfair.  However no concern is expressed about writers who have covered a certain team for 10 years being perhaps more lenient to guys on the team they spent their careers covering.  I’m not saying that I think former players, coaches and executives SHOULD be able to vote, but the reason against them voting doesn’t seem to hold up when you consider any partiality from the writers.  And that’s not just a guy who covers the Astros being more likely to vote for Bagwell and Biggio, but also a guy who covers the Yankees not voting for as many Red Sox, or Cardinals writers who didn’t think much of Andre Dawson.  However as I don’t have a good answer for this one, I think I’ll table it for now.

What I don’t like is the fact that the Hall vote is anonymous.  By allowing guys to hide behind their votes, they can safely exercise biases without fear of public reproach.  I don’t think there is any reason that the vote has to be anonymous.  Right now, each voter can vote for whomever they wish, without having to explain it.  And, in a situation like last year, each and every voter can express shock and outrage that no one made it into the hall, but no person can be held responsible since we don’t know who voted for whom. 

One lady who covered the Dodgers for 10 years was famous for acknowledging that she voted for Shawn Green, but not Mike Piazza.  There was an individual out there that voted for Aaron Sele.  However players like Craig Biggio and Jack Morris fell short of the votes needed to get in.  My issue isn’t with players not getting into the Hall, because last year’s class wasn’t great.  My issue is that someone voted for Aaron Sele and we don’t know whom.  And they will get to vote again this year.   I like that you don’t have to vote for anyone.  The rules state that you can vote for as few as 0 or as many as 10.  I don’t like the cap on the max you can vote for either, but voting in too many people has never been an issue.  So if I could make one change to the Hall vote, it would be taking the anonymity out of the process, making it public and making people defend their votes.  That way people would perhaps put more thought into their votes, and anyone who votes for Aaron Sele wouldn’t be allowed to vote again.

After a player’s first season on the ballot they need to get 5% of the votes to make it back to the ballot a second year.  19 of the 37 players on last year’s ballot didn’t return this season after they failed to garner 5% of votes.  Add to that Dale Murphy, who in his 15th and final season on the ballot garnered 106 votes, good enough for 18.6% and a 4.1% increase over the previous years.  You only get 15 tries, so he’s out as well (despite my vote….which doesn’t count for the actual Hall of Fame btw, just the Baseball Bloggers Alliance) making 20 of 37 candidates fall off the ballot.  This year we will see most of the guys on the ballot fall short of getting the 5% necessary plus Jack Morris will be gone after this season as he will either make the Hall or lose his eligibility.  So the system works well for the most part.  The only change I would make today, is to take the anonymity out of the voting process.

Now to this year’s ballot.

The easiest part is eliminating about 80% of the players listed.  The ones I eliminated off the bat were:

Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Hideo Nomo, Kenny Rogers, Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow and Mike Timlin.

There were some fine players in there, but none that really even considered any HoF merit.

Then there were the noteworthy players who were easily NOs in my book, but still had very good careers.  They were as follows:

Moises Alou:  303/332 HR, 1,287 RBI/1,109 R/106 SB….he had 2 Silver Sluggers and 2 Top 5 MVP finishes not to mention finishing second in the Rookie of the Year Voting in 1992; won a world series and had a long career; lost 2 seasons due to injury but always hit above 300….great player, but not a Hall of Famer in my book

Luis Gonzalez:  283/354 HR/1,439 RBI/1,412 R/128 SB…won a Silver Slugger and had 1 Top 5 MVP finish….won a World Series and led the league in hits one year…great player but not a Hall of Famer

Jeff Kent:  290/377 HR/ 1,518 RBI/1,320 R/94 SB….won an MVP and finished in the Top 10 4 times, won 2 Silver Sluggers….one of the best offensive second basemen of all time, but still not a Hall of Famer

Edgar Martinez:  312/309 HR/1,261 RBI/1,219 R….won 5 Silver Sluggers and had 2 Top 10 MVP finishes (1 Top 5)….won 2 batting titles, led the league in RBI and R once (not the same year), led the league in doubles twice and on base percentage 3 times….the best overall offensive player on this list so far, but being a DH hurt him not only in this vote, but also in awards, where he didn’t win many....I don’t think I could vote for a DH…at least not right now

Don Mattingly:  307/222 HR/ 1,099 RBI/1,007 R…won an MVP and had 2 more Top 5 finishes…3 Silver Sluggers and 9 Gold Gloves….a great player for a bad team….but not quite Hall of Fame worthy in my book

Tim Raines:  294/170 HR/980 RBI/1,571 R/808 SB…came closer to voting for Raines than anyone else…3 top 10 MVP finishes (1 Top 5), 1 Silver Slugger, career average was impressive as were the 2600+ hits, but he played 23 years and seems like a complier…..his SB numbers are what merit his consideration, but almost all of those came early in his career….was truly one of the best base stealers of all time with an 85% career mark (84.6 to be exact)….won a batting title and led the league in steals 3 times, including stealing 90 bases in 1983 and had 6 seasons with over 70 steals….but despite being one of the best base stealers of all time, he had no power, was a corner outfielder and wasn’t great in the field…great base stealer with a good career AVG, but a bit of a compiler

Lee Smith:  478 Saves/3.03 ERA….had an average WHIP (1.26) and subpar career BAA (288)….led the league in Saves 4 times, but never really excelled anywhere else…got surpassed by other far superior closers after holding the all times Saves record for a while

Alan Trammell:  285/185 HR/1,003 RBI/1,231 R/236 SB…great player, one of the best offensive shortstops of all time….like Jeff Kent, compared to others in his position he is great….4 Gold Gloves and 3 Silver Sluggers…3 Top 10 MVP finishes (1 Top 5)…never led league in anything or reached any magic numbers…very good player, especially for a shortstop….not a Hall of Famer

Larry Walker:  313/383 HR/1,311 RBI/1,355 R/230 SB….won an MVP and had 2 other Top 5 finishes (4 Top 10)….3 Silver Sluggers and 7 Gold Gloves….played the majority of his career in Colorado, which inflates all hitters numbers….won 3 batting titles and led the league in HR once….great 5 tool player but not a Hall of Famer as he never hit the magic numbers, even in the greatest hitter’s park of all time

There were players who were PED users that I dismissed right away.  It’s easy to take a hard stance and say that no PED users should ever get in.  I’m not sure that I feel that way, but I have no issues with someone who does.  However I think it is naïve to think that will happen, as inevitably someone will be enshrined and, after the fact, we will find out that they took PEDs.  So while I’m still on the fence about PED users (more about that below) until I figure something out I won’t vote for any that I know of.  However, I definitely would never NOT vote for someone who played in the era if there is no proof of him taking PEDs, or at least no serious discussion about it.  I think that’s incredibly unfair as well, and if I vote for someone who later turns out to be a PED user, then I’m okay with it.  The PED users on the ballot for me that I immediately dismissed were as follows:

Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

There is another group of PED users that I don’t think enough people consider.  And that’s the individual who was going to be a Hall of Famer BEFORE they took PEDs.  It’s easy to say that taking them undid all the good of the beginning of their career, but that’s also kind of naïve as well, in my opinion.  Those individuals are as follows:

Barry Bonds:  Holds the all time records for HR (762) BBs (2,558) and IBBs (intentional walks 688).  He’s also a career 298 hitter with 1,996  RBI and 2,227 R.  He’s the only member of the 500/500 club off the strength of his his HR and 514 SB.  That being said, we know he took steroids.  He’ll argue he never knowingly took them, but he took them all the same.  But he didn’t start taking them until 1999.  Before that he had already won 3 of his 7 MVPs (with 4 more top 5 finishes) all 8 of his Gold Gloves and 7 of his 12 Silver Sluggers.  He scored over 100 R in a season 7 times (leading the league one year), led the league in HR once (with 46 in 1993) and RBI once (123 also in 1993).  He stole 52 bases one year and over 40 two other years.  He was a 6 time 20/20 player and a 2 time 30/30 player.  And he led the league in walks 5 times before 1999.  Assuming his career ended in 1999, we may already be looking at a Hall of Famer.  Barry Bonds was the best offensive player in baseball, but the long ball was what got all the attention.  That’s what he wanted and that’s what he went after.  He would have been a Hall of Famer, but he chased the title of best offensive player in the game.  And he came close, but at a cost.

Roger Clemens:  Clemens is another of the greatest players of our era.  And that was before he started taking PEDs.  It is widely believed that started taking them in 1998.  Prior to that, he had five 20 win seasons, 5 Cy Youngs, 6 ERA titles, 1 MVP and he led the league in Ks 5 times.  Prior to that 1998 season,, he already had over 200 Wins.  He had a record that favorably compared with the career numbers of two fringe Hall of Famers (Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling), but his ERA and K numbers were far superior as were his award totals.  He was much more dominating and was an easy Hall of Famer before he took PEDs. 

They are both still NOs in my book, but I think deserve some separation from others who only came close to HoF level performances because of the PEDs they took.  I’m not sure about what to do with PED users because a hard stance leaves off some of the greatest players of our generation.  And while people have been okay with that in the past (Pete Rose), I’m not sure I like that idea.  But, again, until I figure it out, I’m not voting for those people.

That leads us to the last two groups.  The YES group and the MAYBE group.  And that’s what I’ll break down first, starting with the MAYBES.

Fred McGriff:  McGriff, the Crime Dog, had an impressive career.  He was a 284 hitter with 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, 1,349 R and a 509 slugging percentage.  Those are fantastic numbers.  He was 7 HR shy of the 500 HR threshold, one of the magic numbers.  However that number has lost meaning with PED users breaking it with impunity.  So this is a classic situation of a player who had a good career and didn’t take PEDs seeing his numbers’ luster pale in comparison to guys who took drugs to rack up homers.  I like McGriff.  He was huge in the Braves winning the World Series in 1995.  And his career 284 AVG shows he was more than just a slugger.  However, he also played for a long 19 years, which enabled him to compile some impressive stats.  He did lead the league in HR twice (89 and 92) but never hit more than 36 HR in those years.  His career high in a single season was 37 HR. He won 3 Silver Sluggers and was a 5 Time All Star.  But his defense was not great.  And while he had 6 Top 10 MVP finishes, only 1 was inside the top 5 (4th in 1993).  He was a good player who played for a while, but never was the best guy.  In fact, at a stacked position like first base, he was rarely in the top 5 players at his position as he played with guys like Frank Thomas, Mo Vaughn, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.  So for me, the question is did McGriff compile stats in a long career or was he a great player that was overshadowed by those who took PEDs and played with him.  

Mike Mussina:  Mussina’s numbers are incredibly impressive.  He went 270-153 in 536 starts.  In 3,562 IP, he struck out 2,813 hitters and gave up 3,640 hits and 814 BBs (29 intentional).  He averaged 7 Ks and 1 walk per 9, but also 10 hits per 9.  His WHIP was 1.19 but his BAA was 255.  He didn’t win any Cy Youngs, but finished in the top 5 of Cy Young voting 6 times (9 Top 10 finishes).  He also won 7 Gold Gloves (including one in his final season) and was a 5 time All Star.  This is another instance of a great player with great stats, but also one who played a long time (18 years).  He, like McGriff, didn’t win a lot of awards and was never really considered the best pitcher in his era.  He came closer to a Cy Young than McGriff did to an MVP finishing second in 1999 (Pedro Martinez won that year).  He was never clearly the best pitcher in any category.  He led the league in wins and shutouts in 1995 with 19 and 4 respectively.  He led the league in IP once and games started twice.  He was clearly a good player who had good stats.  So, like McGriff I have to decide if he was a complier and a lack of awards shows that he was good but never truly great, or a player who was always great, but played with PED users that made his numbers look lesser in comparison. 

That was the maybe group.  The last group was small.  It’s the first ballot guys who got definite YES votes from me.:

Greg Maddux:  Easiest vote for me.  Could challenge Tom Seaver for highest ballot percentage to get into the Hall.  354 Wins.  3.16 ERA.  3,371 Ks in 5,008 IP.  He won 4 Cy Youngs and finsished in the top five of Cy Young voting 5 more times.  He won 18 Gold Gloves and was a 8 time All Star.  He finished in the Top 5 of the MVP voting twice.  He was one of the best pitchers of all time, and he did it with finesse, not power.  May have had the best command in history.

Tom Glavine:  Another easy vote. 305 wins, 3.54 ERA, 2,607 Ks in 4,413 IP.  He won 2 Cy Youngs and finished in the top 54 more times.  He was a 10 time All Star with 4 Silver Sluggers.  Like Maddux, was a finesse pitcher with great command.  Was a star pitcher in a great era for hitters.

Frank Thomas:  The Big Hurt was a fixture at first a long time before he became a DH.  He hit 301 with 521 HR, 1,704 RBI and 1,494 R.  He won 2 MVPs with 4 other top 5 finishes (3 more top 10).  He was a 5 time All Star and won 4 Silver Sluggers.  He was a great hitter in an era of some of the best hitters.

Taking those guys from this years ballot, and the three guys that I voted for last year (Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Jack Morris) I have a total of 6, not counting the maybes.  That’s not bad.

I’m still on the fence about Curt Schilling and Mike Piazza.  They were maybes for me last year, and will be maybes again this year.  They have time, and when I’m sure, I’ll put them in.  But once they are in, they are in.  So I want to be sure.  Keeping that in mind, I’ll reserve my vote for Mussina and McGriff until I’m sure also.  No rush to get them in there.  My only concern would be seeing a player like them fall off the list after not getting 5% of the vote.  But if a player falls off the ballot, then I guess it’s clear that they weren’t worthy. 

So, my final ballot included votes for the following players this year:

Jeff Bagwell

Craig Biggio

Tom Glavine

Greg Maddux

Jack Morris

Frank Thomas

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