The BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for 2015 was recently released, and, an illegal defense rule is being bandied about… Illegal Defense??? In baseball??? See what the word is on that as the Round Table is in session, and, the 7Poundbag baseball mavens talk it over, as well as who they think deserves a Hall Call, and, some other timely topics…
1) Defensive alignments, such as over shifts that employ three or more players stacked on one side of the field, or, the other (usually the first base side) have become the norm in MLB. Now, there are some people (mostly batting coaches) saying this is radically changing the game and for the bad, and, they are calling for rules that limit what a team can do when employing these shifts.
In fact, SI.com’s Tom Verducci recently wrote, “Support of an ‘illegal defense’ rule… is gaining some traction in baseball. Such a rule might stipulate, for instance, that you cannot have three infielders on one side of second base. A shortstop would be able to shift as far as directly behind second base on a left-handed hitter, but no farther.”
What are your thoughts about any rule that would limit what a team could do defensively on the field?
Archie: Although I have never been a big fan of the shift, I say let managers put the whole damn team on whichever side they want. HERE is where I have a problem with this. TEACH the batters to take advantage of the HUGE gaping hole left when the other team does this. Hell, bunt for Pete’s Sake, if nothing else. But, it goes back to players and egos who would rather swing for the fences than to get on base. And, in critical points in the game, just getting on base could be big.
Joe: Forget about it… what’s next? Umpires throwing penalty flags? Baseball is fine just the way it is, and, besides, why make rules against the way a team could position its defenses anyway? It’s just punishing a team for doing a good job scouting how a team’s hitters hit and then doing the best they can to prevent them from doing exactly that… hitting.
And, besides, say a hitter is an extreme pull hitter who sees a lot of over shifts, then, he should either hit the other way, or, bunt to the side where there are no fielders… do it often enough and those over shifts will probably stop real fast.
Steve: I personally do not like the shift, but, it is a strategic part of the game that is at the managers disposal. Therefore, I do not think that they should take it away, or, make a rule banning an illegal defense.
2) The Free Agent Market began on Sunday, November 9… it’s only been about a scant three weeks later, and, some very big timber has already fallen.
Anyone surprised at how quickly some of the big names went off the board?
Joe: Actually, yeah. I’m pretty surprised that out of the arguable top ten position players available that 6 have already been signed… Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval (Red Sox); Russell Martin (Blue Jays); Victor Martinez (re-signed with Tigers); Aramis Ramirez (Brewers, exercised 2015 option), and, Michael Cuddyer (Mets). Just seemed, as far as the position players went, some teams sorta knew what they were after, and, just put offers on the board that the players felt were as good as they were gonna get, and, they just jumped, and, signed on the dotted line.
Curiously, out of the top ten pitchers available… including the big three of Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and, James Shields… there hasn’t even been one rumor of a serious offer being made by any team. Which, seems more typical of what I would expect… some feeling out by both the players, and, the teams, before, getting down to the nitty gritty of negotiations.
3) Are the Seattle Mariners ready for primetime and, a possible run to the World Series? If, not, then, what do they need to get there?
Archie: To get there? Move out of Seattle. For some reason the Mariners cannot keep talent there. A Rod, Jr., Ichiro, and Randy Johnson all left. Only Edgar Martinez comes to mind as someone with talent that stayed there. Really, they just don’t have the big guns to hang with the Angels or Athletics in that division. I think they should start at catcher and DH. I mean any DH that bats .203 with 6 HRs needs to be put on the shelf, permanently.
Joe: Not yet… I think they are either a middle rotation pitcher, or better, or, a big bat away from being a real contender, if, not needing both. Although, I think the big bat is more important than the pitcher. I look to see them go after any of the following free agents… Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, Ervin Santana, Justin Masterson, Jason Hammel or Edison Volquez. Or, work out a trade for either Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Matt Kemp or Yoenis Cespedes.
Steve: I think the Mariners have a great team, but they still have a ways to go to be considered a World Series team. They need another pitcher to back up King Felix, and, another strong bat to be considered a contender. But, they are the kind of team that could surprise you.
4) Vegas betting house Bovada lists the New York Mets at 20-1 to win the 2015 World Series. That places them in a tie with the Kansas City Royals as the 12th ranked team in Bovada’s early World Series lines. It, also, puts them ahead of the 13th ranked Yankees and Blue Jays (22-1); Oakland Athletics; Texas Rangers; Atlanta Braves; Pittsburgh Pirates; Cleveland Indians & Cincinnati Reds among others.
Are the Mets, as presently constituted, better than any, or all, of these teams?
Archie: Hell no, they are still the Mets. While, I bow to the notion they will be better than my beloved Braves, they STILL will not make it to the playoffs. Pitching does not hold up. Granderson is not yet to form. DWright is another year older. And, quite frankly, they don’t have the bullpen, IMO. They were tied for 19th in holds last year and 15th in saves. I have not seen any trades/movement, yet, from them to help on the back end.
Joe: No, no and no. The Mets were a sub .500 team by seasons end, and, have since added Michael Cuddyer. That does not make them better than any of those teams except Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Texas, which, were teams they either had an equal record (Atlanta) to, or, a better record than. Outside of those three teams, all the other teams had season ending records that were over .500, and, signing Cuddyer does not automatically propel them enough games over.500 to surpass any of those teams.
Steve: What have the Mets done to be considered “better” than the aforementioned teams? The Braves have A LOT of work to do, so, as much as it pains me, to say it, they may be better than them. The Yankees may be rebuilding, so, there is a slim chance they could be better than them.
I do not see them better than the Jays, A’s, Pirates, Indians, or Reds. I do not see the Mets right now as close to being a playoff team. While the other teams have the talent to make the playoffs.
5) The Baseball Writers’ Association of America 2015 Hall of Fame ballot, released Nov. 24, features 34 names, including 17 holdovers from previous elections and 17 newcomers.
The new candidates on the ballot include Cy Young Award winners like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, sluggers Carlos Delgado and Gary Sheffield, and, two-time batting champion Nomar Garciaparra. The rest of the new candidates are… Troy Percival, Rich Aurilia, Aaron Boone, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Darin Erstad, Cliff Floyd, Brian Giles, Tom Gordon, Eddie Guardado and Jason Schmidt.
The 17 candidates returning to the BBWAA ballot (with their 2014 election percentages) are: Craig Biggio (74.8%), Mike Piazza (62.2%), Jeff Bagwell (54.3%), Tim Raines (46.1%), Roger Clemens (35.4%), Barry Bonds (34.7%), Lee Smith (29.9%), Curt Schilling (29.2%), Edgar Martinez (25.2%), Alan Trammell (20.8%), Mike Mussina (20.3%), Jeff Kent (15.2%), Fred McGriff (11.7%), Mark McGwire (11.0%), Larry Walker (10.2%), Don Mattingly (8.2%) and Sammy Sosa (7.2%).
Who gets your vote?
The only 2 rules, or guidelines, are: You can vote for no more than ten (10) eligible candidates deemed worthy of election; write-in votes are not permitted, and, voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
Archie: In order, Barry Bonds, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens ,John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Gary Sheffield, Mike Piazza, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. I am one of the guys that does not worry about the steroid controversy.
Joe: Without going into any detail, or rationalization, of the merits of any of the candidates, my ballot, in no particular order of importance, would be… Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Jeff Kent, Don Mattingly, and, Jeff Bagwell.
Steve: Here is my ballot: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds. That is where I stop. I have to give a spot to Bonds and Clemens despite the scrutiny they are under. Their on field contributions far supercede the steroid scandal.
You have to elect Randy Johnson; Pedro Martinez, as they were the best in baseball for so many years. Then John Smoltz gets my vote because of what he was able to do as a starter, and, a reliever, plus his post season record is outstanding.
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