Rounding the Bases – MVPs, signings and the Hall of Fame

MlbHlSqThe Thanksgiving holiday in the States has helped to make this a slow news week in MLB; however there’s no such thing as a quiet week over the offseason.  The last two 2009 season awards were awarded to very deserving candidates, several minor free agent signings were confirmed and the Hall of Fame ballot for 2010 was announced.

Most Valuable Players

The MVP awards were announced at the start of the week.  There wasn’t a great deal of suspense around them simply because each league had an outstanding candidate.  St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols won his third MVP in the National League, being named as the number one pick on all 32 ballots, while Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer won his first MVP award in the American League gaining 27 of the 28 first-placed votes.

Pujols and Mauer were expected to win, so the main news item coming out of the process was the lone voter who didn’t stick with the crowd and awarded their first-placed vote to someone else.  Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter both had strong seasons so it was always possible that a New York-based writer might have given a nudge to one of their own, but no, it was Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera who snapped the Mauer monopoly. 

Cabrera had a very good, rather than an exceptional season, and his drunken escapades over the final weekend of the regular season, as his team threw away a postseason place, made his ‘Most Valuable’ case even harder to justify.  The only likely explanation was that a Detroit-based writer had cast a ‘homer’ pick, cunningly denying a rival AL Central player the honour of a unanimous selection in the process.

However, it turned out that Detroit were blameless (and frankly they would have been more likely not to vote for Cabrera after what he did at the end of the year).  Instead, it was a guy called Keizo Konishi of Kyodo News and the Seattle chapter of the BBWAA who decided that Cabrera deserved the award ahead of Mauer (who he put down as his second choice).  Maybe he thought the month Mauer missed at the start of the season made the difference, but then I’m not sure why he would have selected Cabrera over either of the two Yankees if that was the case.

It has all led to much ranting on the Internet.  Thankfully, the excellent Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated summed up the situation with his usual grace and thoughtfulness. 

Blue Jays and White Sox make some moves

Transactions are thin on the ground so far this offseason, with each team seemingly waiting for another to make the first move.  The rumours are continuing unabated though.  Miguel Cabrera is reportedly being shopped by the Tigers after offers for Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson have failed to tempt GM Dave Dombrowski as yet.  Meanwhile the Yankees and Red Sox continue to circle Toronto like vultures, ready to take Roy Halladay away from their AL East rivals.  I’ve still got a hunch that the Angels might end up signing Doc, which wouldn’t be great news for my A’s.

Toronto’s new GM Alex Anthopoulos has had other things on his mind this week apart from the damned if you do, damned if you don’t Halladay situation.  The Blue Jays completed two signings to help their infield, bringing back John McDonald on a two year/$3m deal and adding free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez on a one year/$1.75m contract with a $2.5m club option for 2011.  Gonzalez had his 2010 option with the Red Sox declined earlier this month, but it was expected that Boston might still bring him back.  They will now need to find a new shortstop, with former Blue Jay Marco Scutaro being tipped to complete an interesting swap-around between the two teams.

The other two main signings of the week were made by the Chicago White Sox.  Veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel was signed as a free agent on a one year/$1.375m deal in which he will likely have a part-time playing role while helping the likes of Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham with their defense, just as he did in Texas this year with Elvis Andrus.  White Sox GM Kenny Williams also took a flyer on another former Ranger when he signed Andruw Jones on a one year/$500k deal (a further $1m could be earned in incentives).  Jones played in 82 games for Texas in 2009, hitting .231/.332/.538 with 14 homers prior to the All-Star Break and then just .185/.310/.333 with 3 homers the rest of the way, so this is far from the Jones of his Braves pomp, but he adds another option with little financial risk.

2010 Hall of Fame ballot

The 2010 Hall of Fame ballot was released on Friday.  There are plenty of names to ponder, both those who have been on the ballot before (such as Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven) and first-timers (including Robin Ventura, Barry Larkin, Todd Zeile, Kevin Appier, Erik Karros, the ‘Crime Dog’ Fred McGriff and the ‘Big Cat’ Andres Galarraga).

The two that stand out the most to me are Roberto Alomar and Edgar Martinez. 

Alomar had an excellent career, picking up ten out of eleven Gold Gloves at second base between 1991 and 2001, finishing with a .300 career batting average and playing a key role on the Toronto Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series-winning teams of 1992 and 1993.  However, his career wasn’t without controversy as he was part of an ugly incident in 1996.  Alomar lost his cool and spat in home plate umpire John Hirschbeck’s face, a disgusting thing to do and one that some people will never forgive him for.  Still, I don’t think one moment of madness should detract from his great career and he should be the first person admitted in to Cooperstown wearing a Blue Jays’ cap.

The other interesting candidate is Martinez.   Playing for the Mariners over eighteen seasons, his numbers are outstanding and the following quote from his Wikipedia entry puts Martinez’s achievements into perspective:

“Martinez, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Manny Ramirez, and Todd Helton are the only players in history with 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a career batting average higher than .300, a career on-base percentage higher than .400 and a career slugging percentage higher than .500”.

We don’t know how Ramirez and Helton’s career stats will end up as they are still active players, but there’s no doubt that having his name alongside Williams, Ruth, Musial, Hornsby and Gehrig puts Martinez in with the elite of all-time hitters.  The doubt over his Hall-of-Fame candidacy comes from the fact that Martinez put up those numbers predominantly as a designated hitter and he is going to be a test case for how batting exploits by essentially non-fielders are considered by the Hall of Fame voters.  Being a one-dimensional player and not having to go through the stresses and strains of fielding every day should count against a player’s case, but the question then is at what stage does a designated hitter’s batting ability overcome those negative points? 

Edgar Martinez was no ordinary designated hitter; however I have a feeling that he will have to wait a few years before making it to Cooperstown.

4 Responses to Rounding the Bases – MVPs, signings and the Hall of Fame

  1. Jason November 29, 2009 at 8:01 am #

    As a lifelong Mariners fan, I’m infatuated with the prospect of Edgar breaking into the hall. “Gar” runs about as deep in Seattle as a hometown athlete can. The street outside Safeco field was renamed “Edgar Martinez Drive”. We named our dog Edgar in his honour. I would name my first child Edgar, too, if we hadn’t named the dog first!

    This is all because he was a great man as well as a great hitter. In 15 years of watching Edgar play I only saw him raise his temper once (charging Halo reliever Lou Pote after getting beaned in the head, late in the 116-win 2001 season). Despite putting up some shockingly good numbers against the world’s best pitchers, Edgar was pretty much universally admired… loved by teammates, feared by opponents, respected by officials and appreciated by fans everywhere.

    • Matt Smith November 29, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

      Hi Jason. I think Edgar has a lot in his favour, but it just seems as though there are some traditionalists who simply don’t value DH’s, in the same way that’s it’s taken years for any closers to get Hall of Fame recognition. As stated, I think he’ll get in eventually but there will be enough anti-DH voters to keep him out this time around.

  2. Joe Cooter November 29, 2009 at 6:13 pm #

    The Jays are not done making moves. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, Doc Holliday would accept a trade to the Yankees/

  3. Matt Smith November 29, 2009 at 7:42 pm #

    Joe – I read that story about Doc being keen on the Yankees. The key then is whether the Yankees would trade for him now? Halladay has a no-trade clause and you would think he’s going to demand a multi-year contract extension before letting a trade take place. If he became a free agent at the end of 2010 then the Yankees could surely sign him if they wanted to, so do they give up players (Joba? Phil Hughes? and others etc) just to get him a year early? I guess it depends on how much they want him and how strong the risk is of him going elsewhere.

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