Friday, January 30, 2015

Top Ten Red Sox Prospects

Keith Law released his top 100 prospects in baseball yesterday and today released his top 10 prospect for each team. The future looks bright for the Red Sox. Law has them ranked as the 5th best minor league system in baseball. That is easily the best in the AL East where the Rays rank 23rd, Orioles 22nd, Yankees 20th and Blue Jays 19th.

The Red Sox have five prospects in the Top 100 in baseball. Blake Swihart is ranked 10th, Henry Owens 20th, Eduardo Rodriguez 29th, Rafael Devers 55th, Manuel Margot 70th,

The Red Sox top ten prospects look like this:

1. Blake Swihart, C
2. Henry Owens, LHP
3. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
4. Rafael Devers, 3B
5. Manuel Margot, CF
6. Garin Cecchini, 3B
7. Matt Barnes, RHP
8. Brian Johnson, LHP
9. Deven Marrero, SS
10. Michael Chavis, 3B

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Commissioner Holds Key into Cooperstown for Pete Rose

Rob Manfred officially became the Commissioner of Baseball this week and with that has given several interviews. I have been very impressed with many of the things he has had to say along with the way he has gone about saying them. He seems to be the perfect guy to bring baseball into the next phase.

I am not a fan of all his ideas but I like the fact that he is thinking about ways to improve the game. He seems to understand the importance of the history of the game while also realizing the game does need to adapt as we move forward.

This brings us to the Pete Rose issue. Manfred was asked on the Michael Kay Show if he has any plans to change the process by which the Hall of Fame elects it's members. Manfred explained that the Commissioner of Baseball will now give him a seat at the Board of Directors table of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He said he would use this seat to be very involved and actively engaged into possible changes. Manfred was born and raised in Rome, NY, not far from Cooperstown, and expressed the importance of the Hall of Fame to him.

Manfred was then asked his stance on the reinstatement of Pete Rose so he can be eligible to be on the Hall of Fame ballot. Manfred explained that the Pete Rose issue is one of the few issues he has not been involved with during his time working for MLB. Manfred said he is positive he will get a request from Rose but did not want to comment now until he does more research on the matter.

Given Manfred's progressive way of thinking, I think there is a real shot for Pete Rose to get on the ballot and to eventually get elected. All it takes is a compromise. While I am a huge supporter of Pete Rose, I agree with his lifetime ban from baseball. What I don't agree with is the Baseball Hall of Fame rule that states banned players can not appear on the ballot. It was a rule that was officially put on the books a short time before Rose would become eligible for the Hall of Fame. The timing of the rule makes it seem awful personal.

The Hall of Fame later stated that it was always an implied rule and they just wanted to make it official. That goes contrary to the 1936 Hall of Fame ballot where the banned Shoeless Joe Jackson appeared.

The solution is easy. Manfred can use his new pull on the Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame to allow banned players to appear on the ballot. Rose would then enter the ballot with the same rules and procedures as all first time ballot players. He will have to get 5% to stay on the ballot for ten years or get elected with the 75% vote. It is a way to keep the anti-gambling rule tough by upholding the lifetime ban from the game but separating it from the Hall of Fame vote. It makes no sense to me that  known steroid users are able to be on the ballot but Pete Rose is denied that right.

If I were advising Pete Rose, I would tell him to request this compromise when he meets with Manfred. Pete made mistakes, the biggest was lying for 15 years. He needs to give up on the second chance mantra that he repeats so often. That ship has sailed. It was a rule that he knew about and he broke it. However, the Hall of Fame ballot rules are different. Pete has a right to be on the ballot. Make it happen Pete and make it happen Commissioner.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Hypocrisy of Dabo

By all accounts, Dabo Swinney is a really good guy. However, he is not immune to hypocrisy and it is on full display right now. First, let's look back to June of 2008 when DeAndre McDaniel was arrested on charges of aggravated assault against his girlfriend.  According to police, McDaniel covered his girfriend’s face with a comforter, choked her, punched her in the head and chest and then shoved her down a flight of stairs, causing “serious bodily injury.”

McDaniel was permitted to participate in a pre-trial intervention program – and his arrest record was wiped clean. He was reinstated to the Clemson football program by Tommy Bowden while Dabo was on staff. Dabo would take over four months later and was the head coach for the 2009 and 2010 seasons which included DeAndre McDaniel on the roster. This is something that the Dabo haters like to point out when Dabo came out against domestic violence this past fall when the Ray Rice situation took over the headlines.

Dabo stated he had a zero tolerance policy when it comes to domestic abuse. He even brought up examples from his own childhood and dealing with an alcoholic and abusive father. Dabo was praised for his stance, others pointed to McDaniel as an example of his hypocrisy.

In Dabo's defense, it was Bowden's decision to bring him back and it is a little much to ask Dabo to then kick McDaniel off the team once he became the head coach over something that happened in the past and was settled. I have always defended Dabo on that issue. However, there is no defense for the latest news. 

News broke yesterday that DeAndre McDaniel will be joining the Clemson coaching staff as a graduate assistant. This is just four and a half months after Dabo came out with his zero tolerance policy in the press. How can this be defended?

I have already heard from a few Clemson fans who want to argue about the innocence of McDaniel in the assault case. They reason that his record was wiped out, that the girl changed her story multiple times and is not believable. Here is what McDaniel said while preparing for the NFL Draft in 2011:

“I did put my hands on her,” said McDaniel, insisting the media made it a bigger deal than it was. “Some of that stuff is false. … That’s the only mistake I made in my whole life.”

The police report details are awful. Maybe it is not entirely true but McDaniel does admit to putting his hands on her, admits it was mistake and went ahead and entered PTI instead of fighting the charge. Does this sound like a zero tolerance policy to you?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Curt Flood: 45 Years Later

45 years ago today, Curt Flood filed the lawsuit that eventually led to free agency as we know it today. He sacrificed the rest of his career by refusing to accept a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies. He felt that a player was more than just a piece of property. He fought for the rights of free agency, even though he would never benefit from it. I wonder just how many players in today's game know about Curt Flood. Sadly, I don't think many do. If you don't know about Curt Flood and the sacrifice he made. Here are a couple of clips from Ken Burns and his baseball documentary.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Transition Time for Gamecock Football

It was a tough season with an embarrassing loss to Clemson as the final blow. We now wait for a bowl game that seems beneath us. I have heard comments that we should somehow skip the bowl game because "we don't deserve it". Just stop. The actual game is irrelevant at this point, I get that. What is not irrelevant is the month plus of practice time that we will get for being a bowl team. That is important, especially with what we saw this year on defense. Not playing in a bowl game, just puts us further behind for next season. We can't afford that! I understand the frustration, but let's keep things in perspective.

Where do we go from here? The answer seems to be Will Muschamp. I am on board with that pursuit but I am also very careful to not throw Lorenzo Ward under the proverbial bus. Coach Ward didn't suddenly become awful in one season. He was real good at his job previous to this season. What changed? The talent. I am not saying that Ward shouldn't be held accountable. I would have liked to see more improvement in the defense as the year went along. It wasn't there. However, the amount of talent we lost on defense has more to do with our struggles than anything Lorenzo Ward did or didn't do. Once again, let's keep it in perspective.

I am on board with hiring Muschamp for transition purposes. The big elephant in the room is when Steve Spurrier will retire. He just announced today that he would be back for next season. At some point though, the uncertainty of his future is going to hurt recruiting. Muschamp will be in demand to take over the defenses of Auburn, Texas A&M and maybe even Florida State. He has options. What do we have to offer that nobody else does? A head coaching job in the very near future. 

I believe that Steve Spurrier will do everything in his power to leave the program in the best possible situation when it is time for him to retire. Lou Holtz did that by personally reaching out to Spurrier to take the Gamecock job as he was retiring. It is time for Spurrier and Ray Tanner to do the same. Offer Will Muschamp a contract as the defensive coordinator/Associate Head Coach. Put it in his contract that he will be the Head Coach when Spurrier retires and I am sure the HBC can be candid with Muschamp about that precise timeline.

I make this move because I truly believe that Will Muschamp will be successful as a head coach. I know he struggled at Florida. He made some mistakes and had a lot of bad luck. He never could get the offense going and made a terrible hire of Charlie Weiss as his first offensive coordinator. That bad hire led to a domino effect of misery with the Gator offense. It never got on track. Lesson learned. We can be the beneficiary of a talented young coach who is ready to put the lessons he has learned to use.

Lorenzo Ward becomes a casualty in this plan. I would feel bad for him because I do think he has done a really good job. However, the looming retirement of Spurrier and the availability of Muschamp makes it a critical time for the program. I doubt Ward would stay on in a lesser role, it would be the best of both worlds if he did. The Gamecocks need to be thinking about the transition sooner rather than later. Will Muschamp is the answer for now and more importantly the future.

Go Gamecocks!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Celebrating Pedro and the Tragedy of Nomar

Pedro Martinez was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday getting almost 92% of the votes. He becomes the first pitcher to be inducted into the Hall of Fame who spent the majority of his career with the Red Sox.

I wish I would have appreciated him more. I was a Roger Clemens fan from an early age and Dan Duquette was public enemy number one for me when he let Clemens walk after the 1996 season. Pedro showed up in 1998 as the new ace and I was reluctant to accept him. Clemens was my boyhood hero and as great as Pedro was, I would never give him his due.

I criticized his lack of endurance and how he threw Grady Little under the bus after the 2003 ALCS. Criticisms that were and are valid, but are far outweighed by his dominance.  His dominance can be summed up by looking at two stats, his won/loss record while with the Red Sox and his career ERA+. His record with the Red Sox was 117-37. That is just ridiculous! His career ERA + is the best in MLB history. It stands at 154 which means that his ERA was 54% lower than the league average while he pitched.

Then there is Nomar Garciaparra, my favorite all time player for the Red Sox. He passed Jim Rice and he passed Roger Clemens for me not too long after he broke in with the Red Sox in 1996. He was on pace to be a Hall of Famer and then it all changed. Nomar received 5.5% of the vote which means he will remain on the ballot. It is tough to admit that he is not HOF worthy. He just didn't do it long enough. His peak seasons were a different story.

Nomar has the highest career OPS among all shortstops who have had at least 5,000 at bats. The problem is Nomar barely had over 5,000 at bats while a guy like Derek Jeter had over 11,000.

Nomar is just one of six shortstops to have 6 seasons with 6+ WAR. The problem is that Nomar only had those 6 amazing seasons and not much after. Nomar appearing for the first time on the ballot brings all of this back and it makes it all very bittersweet.

Pedro and Nomar will always be linked. They were the stars of the Red Sox in the 90s. It is fitting that they both appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot together. It would have been much more fitting if they were being inducted together.

They shared many great days and nights. None were more special than October 11, 1999. It was the deciding game of the ALDS against the Indians. Pedro was hurt but was said to be available if the Sox needed him, maybe for a couple of innings. Nomar was battling a sore wrist and had to miss a game earlier in the series. Nomar was a monster in 1999, in that series and especially that night. He homered in his first at bat, was walked intentionally his next at bat and Troy O'Leary hit the next pitch for a grand slam.

Nomar was intentionally walked again in the 7th inning and O'Leary once again responded with a homer. In Nomar's last at bat they pitched to him, he drove in a run with a screaming double off the left field wall. I will never forget the look on the face of Mike Hargrove after the double. It was a look of pure defeat.

As for Pedro, he entered the game in the 4th inning of an 8-8 game that was out of control. Charles Nagy had been lit up for the Indians while Bret Saberhagen and Derek Lowe had been lit up for the Sox. The sore shouldered Martinez went the rest of the way. He faced 21 batters, struck out 8, walked 3 and did not allow a hit, The Red Sox would win the game 12-8 and the series 3-2. They would go on to face the Yankees in the ALCS. Nomar and Pedro were the two greatest players on the planet that night. They were sure-fire Hall of Famers that night, unfortunately the fire was extinguished prematurely for Nomar.

Here is the box score of that incredible game. On a side note, Kenny Lofton was injured in the game and his replacement was a guy named Dave Roberts. I wonder what he would be doing five years later...

If you have a couple of hours to kill, the entire game is available to watch. Here you go. You're welcome!

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Hall of Fame Ballot

It is time for my 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot. As I mentioned last year, my process begins with the Bill James Hall of Fame Career Standards Number (BJHCS) and the Jay Jaffe War Score System(JAWS). The BJHCS numbers needs to be over 50 and the JAWS number needs to be greater than the JAWS number of the average Hall of Famer. The following players qualify under the BJHCS:

Barry Bonds76
Roger Clemens73
Randy Johnson65
Mike Piazza62
Gary Sheffield61
Pedro Martinez60
Jeff Bagwell59
Larry Walker58
Craig Biggio57
Pete Rose55
Mike Mussina54
Sammy Sosa52
Jeff Kent51
Edgar Martinez50

Pete Rose? One of my big pet peeves is that Pete Rose is not on the ballot. I have no issue with him being banned for life. He broke baseball's cardinal rule. However, the rule that banned players can't appear on the ballot was made AFTER Rose was banned. Joe Jackson who was banned in 1920, appeared on the first Hall of Fame Ballot in 1936. MLB says the rule was always implied and they wanted to make it official. It is not fair.

Last year, I left off the known steroid users because of this. I am not going to do that this year, instead I am going to pretend that Pete Rose is on the ballot and I will judge him like I judge all the others.

The following players qualify under the JAWS system. They are listed in order of total JAWS number and the value given is the number of points they are ahead of the average Hall of Famer at their position.

PlayerJAWS Differential
Barry Bonds65
Roger Clemens41
Randy Johnson20
Pedro Martinez9
Pete Rose9
Curt Schilling3
Jeff Bagwell10
Mike Mussina2
Larry Walker1
Alan Trammell3
Edgar Martinez1
Tim Raines3
Mike Piazza8

There is one glaring omission, at least in my mind, from both lists and that is John Smoltz. Smoltz has a BJHCS number of just 44 and his JAWS differential is -8. I researched further to see if his stint as a reliever hurt him since he is being judged against other starting pitchers. That wasn't the case. JAWS also calculates a 7 year peak for each player. Smoltz had a 7 year peak of 38.8 and the average Hall of Fame starting pitcher had a & year peak of 50.2. Smoltz falls into that Curt Schilling mold, does the postseason make up for numbers that don't quite measure up over all their regular seasons?

Ten players made both lists and while it is far from perfect, here is my ballot for the 2015 Hall of Fame

Pete Rose

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