Jan 03

My Hall Of Fame Ballot

The New York Times recently published a story claiming baseball writers softened their stance against voting for players connected with PEDs. Well, they didn’t contact me about my ballot that does not include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa or Ivan Rodriguez, all of whom have been connected to steroids.

MUSSINA: Got my vote.(Getty)

MUSSINA: Got my vote.(Getty)

I always considered it a privilege to be a Hall of Fame voter; one I take very seriously. I always believed taking steroids was cheating.

The fundamental misconception of steroids is it enables a hitter to crush a ball 500 feet or adding a couple of feet to a fastball. That’s not it. Steroids enable a player continuing to work out when exhausted. The issue isn’t added strength but increased bat speed that generates to power. For pitchers, it heightens stamina allowing him to work longer into games.

And, for all users, there’s an increase in the confidence of better production.

There have been some reporters whose litmus test to detect cheaters was the back-acne test. Every voter has their own criteria, and I have three: 1) the player had to have failed a drug test and subsequently failed in the appeal process; 2) he had to have been mentioned in the Mitchell Report or any other MLB sanctioned investigation or report; and 3) he had to have been outed, on the record, by a player, coach or baseball official.

If the Hall of Fame changes its protocols and puts on the plaque a player used PEDs – after an admission by the athlete – then I will reconsider and vote for a user.

The following were on my ballot:

Mike Mussina:  Won 20 games for the only time in his 18-year career in his final season. Of course, he could have hung on to win 300. Won at least 15 games in 11 seasons. Won 270 games, falling 30 short of what traditionally has been automatic entry. His .638 winning percentage is sixth best among those who won 250 games. Received Cy Young Award votes nine times.

Jeff Bagwell: There have been rumors, but nothing substantiated. He garnered 71.6 percent of the vote last year – missing out by 15 votes – and every player who received at least 65 percent of the vote got in. Bagwell hit over 30 homers in nine of his 15-year career with Houston. He averaged over 100 runs scored and 100 RBI per season during his career.

Tim Raines: Is on the ballot for the final time before going to the veteran’s committee. He’s arguably one of history’s greatest leadoff hitters, joining Pete Rose, Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson. He was a lifetime .294 hitter with a .385 on-base percentage and stole 808 bases in 954 attempts (the best percentage in history at 84.7 percent).

Trevor Hoffman: A seven-time All-Star finished with 601 saves in his 18-year career. His career hits-per-innings ratio of 6.9 leads all relievers. Recorded at least 30 saves in 14 of 15 seasons and had over 40 nine times.

Lee Smith:  What is wrong with being a compiler? You have to pretty good to hang around for 18 seasons and have 13 straight years of 20-plus saves, 10 of 30-plus saves and three of 40 or more. He ranks 12th all-time in games pitched with 1,022. He ranks third all-time with 478 saves.

Edgar Martinez: Designated hitter is an official position, so why should he be penalized for playing the majority of his games there? MLB named its award for best DH in his honor. Martinez hit at least .300 in ten seasons and is one of nine players to hit 300 homers, 500 doubles, a career average over .300, a career on-base percentage over .400 and a slugging percentage over .500.

Fred McGriff: This one I call a testament for hitting clean. It used to be 500 homers was automatic entry into the Hall of Fame; McGriff hit 493 in 19 seasons. He hit over 30 homers ten times and drove in at least 100 runs eight times. No whispers about him doing it the right way.

Dec 27

Familia Awaits Suspension Verdict

Since his assault charge was dropped, Jeurys Familia has been working out and throwing live batting practice in the Dominican Republic.

FAMILIA: Waiting on suspension verdict. (AP)

FAMILIA: Waiting on suspension verdict. (AP)

However, Familia awaits word from MLB on a possible suspension. I can’t help but think if Familia were not facing a suspension, he wouldn’t be playing in a winter league and instead be easing his way into spring training.

Being realistic, Familia can’t help thinking he’ll skate on this, even though his fiancé opted not to press charges. The scratches and bruises on her body just didn’t get there.

Based on previous cases – Aroldis Chapman sat for 30 games and shots were fired then and Jose Reyes sat for 52 games and his wife also declined to press charges, so that’s a moot point – MLB will certainly impose some sanctions.

Clearly, spousal complaints matter little in these cases.

The Mets and Familia can’t be thinking he’ll get less than 30 games. So, Familia is doing the smart thing and getting work in now before the hammer comes down. But, what are the Mets doing?

They’ve already said set-up reliever Addison Reed will step in as the closer and the Mets signed several non-descript middle relievers.

Considering what Chapman and Andrew Miller did in the World Series – when they were required to work multiple innings, unless they sign or trade for an established (read: expensive) middle reliever, their best bet will be to go with Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman in the set-up role.

It’s the path of least resistance – and least investment – so figure that’s how the Mets will proceed.

 

Dec 04

Heading To DC For Winter Meetings

There’s no football for me today, as I’m heading down to Washington for the Winter Meetings, which don’t figure to be active for the Mets.

After signing Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $110-million deal, the Mets accomplished their primary goal, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have issues:

TRADE CHIPS: GM Sandy Alderson’s two biggest trade chips are outfielder’s Curtis Granderson ($15 million) and Jay Bruce ($13 million), both of whom will be free agents after this year. Reportedly, Toronto is a trade partner for either, as it is poised to lose Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

The way the market often works this time of year has most teams looking free agents first before looking to trade.

Working in the Mets’ favor is they have manageable contracts (money and years) which make them easier to deal. Working against them is teams might wait until the trade deadline.

CLOSER: Alderson said he has to consider the possibility of losing closer Jeurys Familia, even though his wife doesn’t plan action and charges could be dropped at his Dec. 15 hearing.

That action won’t preclude MLB of a handing down a suspension, and based on recent history, 30 games appears the starting point.

The Mets won’t get into the bidding for Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jenson or Mark Melancon.

The logical move would be to promote Addison Reed, but then there is the question of finding a set-up reliever. They need to bring back Jerry Blevins. But, after Reed and Blevins, there’s little reliability in the bullpen.

CATCHER: Rene Rivera was brought back and again the Mets figure to go with a Rivera-Travis d’Arnaud platoon, with Kevin Plawecki to open the season in the minors.

There’s nothing eye-popping in the free-agent market and the Mets aren’t poised to make a deal.

Nov 10

Familia Pleads Not Guilty; MLB Treading Water On Punishment

Mets closer Jeurys Familia pleaded not guilty this morning on the charge of simple assault in Fort Lee, New Jersey, this morning, but by no means is this case over and the team would be foolish if it proceeded with that belief.

FAMILIA: Pleads not guilty. (AP)

FAMILIA: Pleads not guilty. (AP)

The judge agreed to the couple’s request to have a “no contact” ruling, which means they’ll stay together and the odds of the victim cooperating with police will be small. Although the case can proceed without cooperation from the victim, it makes it all the more difficult to prove.

The next hearing is Dec. 15, which is after the Winter Meetings in Washington, DC.

By that time the Mets could and should have, contacted other relievers in the market.

One of them is their own Fernando Salas and another is Washington’s Mark Melancon, formerly of the Pirates. High-profile Aroldis Chapman (Cubs) and Kenley Jansen (Dodgers) are also on the market, but expected to be out of the Mets’ price range.

There is also the option of making set-up reliever Addison Reed the closer.

The Winter Meetings are a month away, so there’s a sense of urgency for the Mets to develop a plan in the expectations Familia is suspended. However, MLB isn’t expected to make a ruling until the justice system has its say.

“I think it is usually difficult for us to complete our investigation before the criminal process has run its course,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “We have the luxury of not being on the field right now, and we’re going to take advantage of that.”

Even so, the Mets must proceed in anticipation of the worst, meaning a lengthy suspension. That means planning without Familia.

Please follow me on Twitter

Nov 09

Nationals Have Interest In Cespedes

The posturing has begun in the pursuit of Yoenis Cespedes, and in what should come as no surprise, it involves the Washington Nationals, otherwise known as the Mets’ arch-enemy.

The 95-win Nationals in 2016 made a run at Cespedes prior to last season, but he backed out because he didn’t like the deferred money. (This should tell you something about Cespedes. He’s not looking to set himself up for the future, which a deferred contract provide, but wants the big nut right away.)

CESPEDES: Favors big payment. (AP)

CESPEDES: Favors big payment. (AP)

It suggests there’s little wiggle room between Cespedes and the Mets. If Cespedes retired right now he should be able to live more than comfortably on the $27.5 million the Mets gave him last year. Did he squander it on all those cars he drove to spring training last season? I might be wrong, but this does suggest Cespedes could be careless with his money.

Even so, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo could make another run at Cespedes, who would play left, with Jayson Werth moving to right and Bryce Harper playing center field.

The Nationals are currently in the midst of negotiating their local television deal with MASN. Rizzo said talks with the network are sluggish, but added if he really wants a player ownership isn’t likely to block him, say, the way the Wilpons would put the brakes on GM Sandy Alderson.

“We’ve always been given the resources here by ownership to field the best team we can put on the field,” Rizzo told The Washington Post. “We’re looking to improve the club any way we can. If it makes sense for use, he improves any team he plays on.”

Not only that, but signing Cespedes also weakens the Mets.

A middle part of the order featuring Werth, Harper, Cespedes and Daniel Murphy would be frightening, arguably putting Washington’s offense on a par with the Cubs.

The Nationals could make room for Cespedes financially (their 2016 payroll was $145 million) if they don’t bring back catcher Wilson Ramos and closer Mark Melancon, both of whom could fill two holes for the Mets.

The keys for Cespedes landing in Washington would be a quick resolution to the MASN negotiations and for the 31-year-old outfielder to bend a little when it comes to a deferred contract. It worked out for Bobby Bonilla, whose deferred deal with the Mets pays him $1.19 million annually until 2035 when he will be 72 years old.

That’s a damn good IRA, and this is even before Bonilla touches his MLB pension or starts drawing Social Security.

It’s a wonder more players don’t opt to do this. For the Mets, this is something they might entice David Wright to do if they ever want to buy him out.

However, Cespedes’ refusal to take deferred money could raise red flags for the Mets. GM Sandy Alderson can interpret that as a negotiating tool he no longer has and force him to offer more than he’d like for the life of the contract. That weakens the Mets’ bargaining position.

It’s too soon to project where Cespedes lands, but Washington isn’t a bad place to start.

Please follow me on Twitter