December 27, 2009
On the Beat
It is always one of the most interesting and nerve-wracking moments of the year. No, I'm not talking about sitting down to Christmas dinner with the in-laws then having my great nephew, likely the loudest 10-year-old in captivity, belt out carols. No, few things are more difficult than filling out a Hall of Fame ballot. I just finished my 12th this past week, a true honor and privilege for those with at least 10 consecutive seasons as a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
This year's ballot contains 26 names, and every one of those players was distinguished as a major leaguer. Voters are allowed to vote for up to 10 players, and candidates must be chosen on at least 75 percent of the ballots to gain induction. As I have the past two years in this space, I will reveal my ballot. Please note that I have the right to change my mind, and I have done so on a few players over the years.
Let's start by working backwards and eliminating those who, in my mind, have no reason to be considered. That list includes Kevin Appier, Ellis Burks, Andres Galarraga, Pat Hentgen, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, Shane Reynolds, David Segui, and Todd Zeile.
Next is the list of players who I thought about voting for but eventually didn't make it past the second round of cuts. On it are Harold Baines, Fred McGriff, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, and Robin Ventura. All were great players, just not great enough in my mind to be Hall of Famers.
That leaves eight players on my ballot. They are, in alphabetical order:
The Dodgers have been awfully quiet this winter for a team coming off back-to-back appearances in the National League Championship Series, and playing in the one of the nation's largest markets. In fact, the only bit of news coming from the Dodgers concerning the on-field product has been that manager Joe Torre plans to put off his retirement by at least one season to sign a one-year contract extension for 2011.
Thus, it seems the high-profile and ugly divorce that owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie are going through has had an impact on what general manager Ned Colletti is able to do. Club president Dennis Mannion, though, denied that is the case in an interview with the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin. "Neither Ned nor I have been asked by anyone to limit long-term liabilities," Mannion said. "Ned has demonstrated a fantastic ability to read the talent market. We made back-to-back NLCS appearances for the first time in three decades as a result of Ned's ability to make the right acquisitions at the right time. We want the same thing our fans want, a team that can compete for a world championship year in and year out, and we've been in that position for the last two seasons. We expect that to continue."
Yet the Dodgers have deferred more than $45 million in player salaries over the past two seasons, declined to get in the bidding for most top free agents, did not offer salary arbitration to any of their five free agents this winter, have all but abandoned the international free-agent market, spent the least amount of money on amateur draft bonuses in the last two years of any of the 30 major-league organizations, and laid off more than a dozen employees in the last year.
"I think it's imperative that, when you look at all those types of things added up, you can bunch a group of them as capital markets-based projects," Mannion said. "You can bunch a group as staffing. You can bunch yet another group in a very, very chaotic salary period for all four major sports. I think you have to look at the totality. You have to look at that in buckets, and then you have to look at the totality of what this economic disruption has done to the entire country. It's a factor for every team. Gold Glovers who lead off? They go. Career leaders in home runs for a franchise? They go. Star pitchers for a franchise? They go, and then they go get somebody. Or, a first baseman they let go and he goes and wins the World Series for the Yankees? You have to do what you have to do if you're a well-run operation. Teams that are well-oiled, well-run operations make very hard decisions, and sometimes it requires you to have restraint in how and when and where you spend your dollars."
The Dodgers aren't the only team with Los Angeles in its name that is having a lackluster offseason. The Angels have watched two of their key free agents, right-hander John Lackey and third baseman Chone Figgins, sign with American League powers following three straight AL West titles. Lackey got a five-year, $82.5 million contract from the Red Sox, and Figgins signed with the Mariners for four years and $36 million. The Angels refused to go past four years on Lackey, or three on Figgins.
"We're trying to conduct business in an objective manner," Angels GM Tony Reagins told the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna. "We looked at the value we placed on any particular player, and when other clubs exceeded that value, we looked at alternatives."
The Angels are trying to keep their payroll close to last season's $113 million. They have agreed to a two-year, $11 milllion contract with free-agent reliever Fernando Rodney, and signed free-agent designated hitter Hideki Matsui to a one-year, $6 million contract. Reagins says his winter's work is not done, even if it means that it is becoming doubtful he will add any big-ticket free agents despite pleas from the fans. "We value our fans' opinions, but we feel very strongly that we will put a contending team on the field again, a team that will be in a position to go to the World Series," Reagins said.
MLB Rumors and Rumblings: The Phillies are in hot pursuit of free-agent relievers Danys Baez and Mike MacDougal. … The Pirates also have interest in Baez and MacDougal, along with fellow free-agent relievers Octavio Dotel and Kevin Gregg. … Free-agent outfielder Jason Bay appears to have no chance of topping the four-year, $65 million offer he received from the Mets, but is still hoping to sign the Mariners; returning to the Red Sox is his fallback option. … The Mets are considering pursuing free-agent left fielder Matt Holliday if Bay does not accept their offer soon.