Thursday, January 15, 2015

Yankee Prudence

"Hal Steinbrenner" by Paul J. Bereswill
Living in New York for most of the past decade, it's easy to pick up the rhythms of the metropolis's professional sports teams. It's well known the Yankees have changed since the heyday of George Steinbrenner's wild spending on free agents. His sons have run the team with what seems like a bit more financial restraint, although their spending spree last winter completely contradicted the mantra from the prior two offseasons ago, to get under the luxury tax number. Instead, they signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, and Hiroki Kuroda.

Word out of New York is that they are done spending big dollars this winter and will not pursue Max Scherzer. As Ken Davidoff writes: "Steinbrenner didn’t speak like an owner expecting to add another big piece to his club". I'd challenge anyone to find that sentence in a newspaper last century. I'd love to see it, in fact.

Let's take a quick look at front office game theory. Should the Yankees just say they're in on Scherzer so the price tag goes up? Or, is it worth it to them - in an effort to keep salaries lower across baseball - to say they are out of it and hope Scherzer doesn't set any records? If Scherzer gets close to $200 million from somebody, will it wind up costing the Yankees more for a different free agent in the future?

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Hall of Fame "Suspense"

There's a lot of talk about the suspense surrounding tomorrow's announcement as to who will get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this Summer. Unfortunately, I'm not really on the edge of my seat on the matter. Due the the great work of Ryan Thibbs and Darren Viola, we have an excellent idea of how the votes will shake out. In fact, this year, I feel that there's more suspense with who will fall off the HOF ballot than who gets inducted.

Pedro is an Inner Circle HOF'er
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz will get in. Craig Biggio is a "probably", and Mike Piazza is a "probably not". That's it. No-one else is getting in through the BBWAA ballot this year. With the overstuffed ballot and an archaically arbitrary limit of 10 votes per ballot, many players who deserve to stay on the ballot will receive less than 5% of the vote, and not make it into the consideration set next year.

The cases for Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlos Delgado weigh particularly heavily on my mind. I'm not saying these players are or aren't Hall of Famers, but they were definitely good enough to deserve a few years on the ballot to have their cases considered. Heck, in my hypothetical ballot this year, I would vote for Larry Walker, and he is also in danger of getting eliminated. These great players stand too good a chance of being abandoned and forsaken. My hopes for who will or won't get in don't actually have much to do with the individual players. If Biggio or Piazza don't get in this year, they will in another year or two. However, if they get in this year, it lessens the bottleneck of great players and would allow more voters to fit deserving players like Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell on their ballots next Winter. Still, the greater suspense right now seems to sit with the marvelous players who are getting almost ignored. If a great player gets knocked off this ballot, he'll likely have to wait decades to be considered by a veterans committee. Those committees, often made of living Hall of Famers, have traditionally been too busy keeping their private club as exclusive as possible, granting little hope for the living.