Author Archive

On PEDs and the Hall of Fame

Given that at least some of those writers charged with electing players to the Hall of Fame see themselves as guardians of propriety, the PED fixation shouldn’t surprise anyone. As more and more players of the contemporary era hit the ballot, the steroids issue is only going to become more of a consideration. The puzzling lack of support for Jeff Bagwell (and the pathetic speculations surrounding his candidacy), says to me that it’s already too much with us.

Not that I have anyone’s ear, but for those voters who will take PED use (admitted or formally alleged or concocted from vague suspicions) into heavy account in the coming years, I’d make a few points …

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Those NFL-MLB Comparisons

It happens every year around this time: someone will point to the NFL’s mounting chaos in the standings and argue that Major League Baseball needs to do a better job of aping the structure of professional football. Never mind that MLB has caught up to the NFL in terms of fan loyalty, MLB Network will soon be in more homes than the NFL Network, and MLB’s digital-media presence outstrips the NFL’s to the point of embarrassment. Most of all, never mind that you simply can’t compare the two leagues.

Consider a few points:

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The Meaning of Gerald Laird

So the Cardinals have their long-sought backup catcher: Gerald Laird will caddy for Yadier Molina in 2011. In and of itself, this seems to be a fairly vanilla addition. Laird is a catch-and-throw type, and he’s put up miserable offensive numbers in three of the last four seasons. At age 31, Laird probably has little hope for significant improvement outside of some “lightning in a bottle” randomness.

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Cliff Lee, The Rangers and Seven Years

If one of Jon Heyman’s recent Tweets is to be believed, the Yankees are willing to go seven years with Cliff Lee.

Anyhow, none of this is especially surprising, given the Yankees’ resources, preference for “asymmetrical warfare,” and previous willingness to go seven years with a pitcher (CC Sabathia). On the last point, though, the most obvious distinction is that Sabathia was 28 when he signed his seven-year pact, whereas Lee would be be 32. Suffice it to say, that’s a substantial — and concerning — divide. In fact, if Lee signs within the next week or so then the difference in age plus start date of the contracts will come to more than 1,400 days, or much more than half of the seven-year deal. In other words, you can’t really compare the two in terms of risk and likely decline.

The Yankees, though, are no stranger to these kinds of “Faustian” contracts, but the colossus in the Bronx has the resources to absorb the back ends. The Yanks’ main competition for Lee’s services, the Rangers, perhaps do not (new revenue streams notwithstanding).

If the rumored parameters come to pass, then they outstrip expectations by quite a bit. But that’s not why the Rangers should take a pass. Laying aside the wisdom of locking up a pitcher from age 32 until age 39, there’s the possibility that Cliff Lee won’t quite be CLIFF LEE if he spends half of the rest of his career in Arlington, even on an adjusted basis. Lee’s time with Texas provides a very limited sample, but his ERA, HR rate and HR/FB rate all spiked significantly, despite the fact that his BABIP remained in line with career norms. That’s not surprising when you jump from Safeco to the Ballpark, but given that Lee’s fly-ball rates have been tracking back upward in recent seasons perhaps those numbers should give Nolan Ryan pause.

Mostly, though, it’s the issue of whether a franchise not blessed with the Yankees’ coffers should dole out such a contract. The Rangers should pat themselves on the back for driving up the price, consider installing Neftali Feliz in the rotation and then spend some filthy lucre elsewhere. It’s already rumored that they’re shopping Michael Young. Young could fetch something meaningful in return, and there’s a nifty third-base upgrade still on the market who’s going to command less than Lee …

Regardless of whether the Rangers opt to spend big on the market; dole out extensions to the like of Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson and Nelson Cruz; or save up for next winter, Lee at seven years should not be a serious consideration.

Ron Santo’s Legacy

An old Irish toast to the departed: “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

This seems written for a man like Ron Santo, who died last week at the age of 70. Cub fans cherished him, in part, because he was the consummate fan. Alongside Pat Hughes in the radio booth, Santo seemed to take each Cubs failure–of which there are multitudes — as a personal wound and each good moment as a personal uplift. When it came to his team, Ron Santo couldn’t hide much.

If you weren’t a Cubs partisan, then you admired Santo for his personal courage in the face of a lacerating and relentless disease and for his commitment to the vanquishing that disease. For so many reasons, he is missed, remembered and loved by many.

The other, lesser part of the story is how the gatekeepers of the Hall of Fame have terminally neglected Santo.

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Should Kevin Brown Be in the Hall of Fame?

Is there a more overlooked candidate on the current Hall-of-Fame ballot than Kevin Brown?

Poke around, and you’ll find the usual shopworn debates and entrenched positions, but Brown, it would seem, is being given short shrift. It’s not even that his case is being assailed; rather, it’s being altogether ignored, at least if the phased release of voter opinions is any guide. So the safe assumption is that Brown is going to garner little support, and his falling below the 5% threshold seems more likely than his election. That’s too bad.

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Josh Hamilton and the (Slow) Demise of the “Stretch Drive”?

We’re also really pleased to announce that Dayn Perry has come on board, and will now be contributing to FanGraphs and NotGraphs. His initial post over there gives some background on why you should be excited about him joining our team.

At first blush, it seems there’s nothing particularly notable about Josh Hamilton’s winning the American League MVP last week. He’s a popular ballplayer with a compelling personal narrative, and he had a fine season for a winning team. That’s a prototype that appeals to your garden-variety BBWAA voter. Insofar as the numbers are concerned, there wasn’t much to separate one serious AL MVP candidate from another, but Hamilton is a perfectly defensible choice and perhaps, depending upon your criteria, the best choice. None of this, however, is what struck me about his selection.

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