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    Sunday, November 26, 2017

    Thoughts on Manager of the Year: Is There a Better Way to Vote?

    This is sort of a follow-up to my piece on Dusty Baker from a few weeks ago. I’m still not sure that I have too many hard-and-fast, sweeping conclusions to draw on, but it’s been bouncing around in my head all the same.

    Paul Molitor won the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2017, and that’s not really a bad choice or anything. But I think it does highlight some of the weirdness of the award. The Twins weren’t expected to compete for the postseason after finishing 2016 with the worst record in the majors, but wound up claiming the second Wild Card spot. Traditionally, that type of turnaround has guaranteed a Manager of the Year winner, so it makes sense that Molitor won based on the precedent at the very least.

    But then again, the Twins are only viewed as having overperformed in 2017 because they underperformed in 2016. They entered that year coming off of an 83-win 2015 but dropped 24 games in the standings…all under the stewardship of Molitor. Granted, 2015 was in turn a surprise, seeing as it followed four straight years of 70 wins or fewer, and that was Molitor’s first season. On the whole, I’d say that he’s probably a good manager; he just makes for an interesting case-study this year. How much of that turnaround was players returning to form versus Molitor being better? Of course, maybe the players improved because of Molitor’s guidance? Separating all of these factors can be difficult, which makes voters’ decision to use surprising teams look somewhat reasonable.

    Friday, November 17, 2017

    2017 World Series Wrap-Up & Trivia: Best Active Players Without a World Series, 2017 Edition

    It took a little while to finish, but another yearly tradition is done: once again, Can You Name the Best Active Players Without a World Series? This is fully updated through 2017, including a few players who hung it up for next year. Click over to Sporcle to try this out, then come back and click “read more” for some spoiler-filled extra thoughts.

    First, the Houston Astros’ title win clearly shook up a lot. First of all, it ended a couple of pretty major droughts. Houston had one of the longest active championship droughts across Big 4 sports, with the Astros serving as the team’s first champions since the 1994-5 Rockets finished off their repeat, although measuring degrees of “worst” involved for city-droughts can be messy.*

    *How do you compare, say, two-team city that hasn’t won in 30 years versus a three-team city that hasn’t won in 20? How do you account for teams moving, or cases like Milwaukee, which technically hasn’t won a title since 1971 but who semi-shares a market with much more recent champions the Green Bay Packers? In any case, the only cities with as many teams and less recent titles than Houston were the Twin Cities (1991 Twins), Washington (1992 Redskins), and Toronto (1993 Blue Jays).
    It also, of course, ended one of the longest remaining droughts in Major League Baseball. With no titles in 55 years, the Astros had taken over third place in the active drought list, behind just Cleveland (now 69 years) and Texas (57). That 55 year mark will stand tied for the ninth longest in baseball history, with the Giants’ recently ended drought.

    Speaking of, looking back at the last 13 years, it’s a little crazy to think about how many historically-cursed teams have turned things around. Going into the 2004 postseason, the “Longest World Series Droughts” leaderboard looked like this:

    Saturday, November 11, 2017

    Breaking Down the 2018 Veterans Committee Hall of Fame Ballot

    Monday marked the beginning of Baseball’s annual Hall of Fame season. You may have missed it, but the current iteration of the Hall’s Veterans Committee announced its ten-player ballot for the 2018 Induction, focusing on players from 1970 to 1987.

    It’s actually one of the deeper ballots that I can remember, at least as far as players go. Usually, there are a lot of managers and executives, which can clog things up given the low vote ceiling on individual ballots (voters can choose up to 4 of the 10 names). When you have all-time greats on that side of the game going up against guys overlooked by the BBWAA ballot, the players are usually the ones who come up short.

    This year, though, with nine of ten slots going to players, we have a good chance to see a player inducted for just the third time since the VC switched to this format back in 2011 (and given that one of the two previous players was Deacon White, who last played in 1890, the process has felt even more helpless lately). Obviously, I think the process still needs overhauled significantly, but this year at least has me feeling optimistic for the time being.

    Moving on to the ten players they submitted…I have to say, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. As someone who writes frequently on deserving Hall of Fame snubs, I know just how many there are to pick from. And yet, I would still probably advocate for election less than half of the players on the ballot. The full list:

    Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant, Alan Trammell

    That said, I wouldn’t necessarily mind if anyone from this said gets in; I can at least see a case for each of them, and it’s been such a dry spell that I’d be happy just to see someone inducted. But at the same time, missing highly qualified guys like Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich, Graig Nettles, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Evans, etc. so that we can debate Steve Garvey for the nineteenth time (as best as I can tell) does feel like a little bit of a let-down.

    In fact, most of these guys got fifteen turns on the ballot; all except the one-and-done Ted Simmons aged off rather than dropping below the 5% threshold that keeps you around for another year. That hardly feels as overlooked as some of those guys I named who fell off the ballot early, and since the Veterans Committee exists specifically to help players overlooked on the Baseball Writers’ ballot, it feels like a bit of a failure. But the, you also have extremely deserving people in that group like Alan Trammell, so maybe it’s not all bad. Maybe it’s just the 10-name ballot squeeze that needs to be re-examined going forward, to get a wider variety of names reconsidered.

    With all of that out of the way, let’s go name by name down the list to see each one’s case for induction: