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Tuesday Triple Play: M. Young, Rice, HOF '10

1. Michael Young wants to be traded. Michael Young's contract is virtually untradeable. This is a problem for the Rangers.

If you trade him, fans will expect a commensurate return, but there is almost no way to get that when you're talking about a 32-year-old shortstop with declining range who is owed around $59 million over the next five years, when there is every expectation he will show a serious decline in production during those years. (The extension Young signed with the Rangers was for $80 million, but because of signing bonuses and deferred money, his actual salaries from 2009-2013 total $59 million.)

Realistically, what you're left with, if you're the Rangers, is a search for a swap of bad contracts. Perhaps you can get the Tigers to take Young, if you're willing to take back Dontrelle Willis (who is owed $22 million over the next two years) and another player. Maybe the Cubs would swap Alfonso Soriano (six years, $106 million remaining -- plus a full no-trade clause) for Young. But both of those hypothetical deals would stick you with a bigger problem than Young.

The best guess here is the Rangers make a swift, serious effort to patch things up with Young.

2. I wouldn't normally commend, or recommend, a column that appears to ridicule baseball writers of my generation, but if you're curious as to how Jim Rice's Hall of Fame voting percentages could have gone from 29.8 percent in 1995 (when his playing days were freshest in voters' minds) to 76.4 percent yesterday, this is the best explanation I've seen yet.

3. A brief look at first-time additions to the HOF ballot in 2010, ranked (by me) in order of certitude for election:

*Robbie Alomar: Best second baseman of his generation. Should be a slam dunk.
*Barry Larkin: Twelve-time all-star. Eighth-highest OPS (.815) all-time among shortstops. I'm leaning towards a yes vote.
*Edgar Martinez: An interesting case for me. By my own stated litmus test (was he the dominant player at his position in his era?) he should get in. But other voters will have a harder time electing a pretty much full-time DH.
*Fred McGriff: Averaged 33 homers a year from 1988-96, when 30 homers still meant something. But was he a transcendent type of player?
*Andres Galarraga: His 399 homers will be devalued because of playing his prime years in Colorado and his later years during the era of exploding offense.

Where do you stand, at first impression, on the prospective Cooperstown Class of 2010?

By Dave Sheinin  |  January 13, 2009; 8:55 AM ET
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Edgar Martinez strikes me as the best player in that bunch. The best DH ever, he was one of the best, most disciplined hitters I've ever seen. He could hit for power and average and certianly instilled fear in opposing pitchers. By your litmus test, he absolutely gets in.

Like it or not, DH is a posiiton in the game now and should not be discounted when it comes to the HOF!

Posted by: TheRoss-Man | January 13, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I honestly don't know the answer to this, but Rice's career OPS+ is 128 per baseball reference. That number, in turn, was poisoned by his awful last season. That is a stat that is normalized for ballpark effects, to take care of the Fenway effect. How does that compare to his contemporaries?

To some extent, he was a terrific ballplayer for the park he played in, but to say, "ignore his Fenway stats" is going too far the other way. Players are drafted and developed for where they play. Home games are part of a career, too. I'm a bit perplexed to see the bright people immediately skip by his home numbers.

Also, while these numbers are not park adjusted, baseball reference list his top comparables as, in order, Orlando Cepeda, Galarraga, and Duke Snider. From age 24 to 33, his year by year comparables are Duke 4 times through age 31, Willie Mays (25, 1978), Dick Allen 3 times (28 -20), Billy Williams (32), and Cepeda (33). All but Allen are HOF, and Allen was a lethal hitter at that age.

Rice is what he is - a marginal case, either way.

I agree on Robbie, Larkin, and Edgar. DH is a real position, and he is one of the 2 - 3 best.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 13, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I meant how does the OPS+ of 128 compare to HOF corner outfielders. To his contemporaries, I guess it would be about 28% better.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 13, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Hey jca-CrystalCity... Love your posts. Good points re: Rice. Using the years 1975-86, which was Rice's prime, he posted an OPS+ of 133, which ranks tied for 15th in that span (among players with at least 3,000 PA) -- not such a great showing for a guy who supposedly was the most-feared RH bat in the AL in his prime.

Among those who ranked better were some obvious guys (1. Schmidt, 154; 3. Brett, 147; 5. Murray, 143), but also some surprises, such as:

2. Pedro Guerrero, 149
6. Reggie Smith, 143
7. Gene Tenace, 139
8. Oscar Gamble, 138
10. (tie) Jack Clark, 135
10. (tie) Rod Carew, 135
10. (tie) Ken Singleton, 135

In fact, Rice ranked in the top three in the AL in OPS+ only once, when he led the league at 157 in 1978.

Posted by: DaveSheinin | January 13, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Applying my 'immortals' test, the only one of these I even think twice about is Robbie Alomar, and I'd pass on the first year. So I'm voting for 'none of the above.' Sorry.

Posted by: OutsideTheLaw | January 13, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Dave - thanks. But Pedro Guerrero was really feared, and Oscar Gamble ...

I did check the link, and it raises a legit point about ballot creep. If a guy does not get the votes of the writers who covered him, how does he get the votes later? Answer - kids who grew up watching him get to vote, and they liked baseball b/c of him. Now let's get Blyleven in the HOF where he belongs.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 13, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

"I did check the link, and it raises a legit point about ballot creep. If a guy does not get the votes of the writers who covered him, how does he get the votes later? Answer - kids who grew up watching him get to vote, and they liked baseball b/c of him"

jca-CrystalCity - this is a great point. So, can we expect Mark McGwire get into the Hall based on this fact? I sure hope so. I think McGwire almost single-handedly revived baseball in the summer of 1998 following the strike of 1994. A lot of baseball fans were forever turned off by the strike and McGwire (along with Sosa) made the game fun to watch again. The guy has never been proven of anything illegal, and as we all know, "andro" was legal in those days and the guy was a masher when he broke into the league out of USC. I think in another 10 years or so, a new crop of writers my age (late 20's) may get Big Mac over the edge and into the hall where he belongs.

Of the list above, Alomar and Larkin are first-ballot guys in my book. Martinez is borderline but not a first ballot guy. McGriff and Galarraga are marginal. However I still get nightmares recalling the tater McGriff hit in the NLCS in 1993 in old Veterans Stadium against Philly. I don't think that ball has landed to this day.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | January 13, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

MLB network last week had a show on the 1995 season. Around here, we mostly talk about Cal 2131 saving the game, but there also was the incredible playoff series between the Mariners and Yankees. Junior of course had some of the sweetest swings you ever saw, and of course Johnson was huge (in performance, not just height), but also Edgar had a terrific series.

Years from now, if Martinez doesn't make it, I can see the arguments about various players, "he wasn't even the best hitter in his division - Edgar Martinez was - and he's not in the HOF." Martinez had back problems, but if he'd been in the NL and been a mediocre 3d baseman or 1st baseman, he''d be a shoe in. So we penalize him because his team had a better glove at 1st (Tino in 1995, Olerud I think later) and the rules allowed him just to hit?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 13, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

If we're going to have more full-time DHers in the HoF, then why not have more kickers (only 1 currently) and punters (none currently) in the NFL HoF?

Also, we're entering a period in which many players' offensive numbers are skewed higher than many historical players. The key to remember is whether or not this player was one of the top 1, 2 or 3 players at his position for the bulk of his career. Do any of these players fit that criteria? I would argue that Larkin does and Martinez. However, I'm not sure about Alomar. Maybe he was.

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | January 14, 2009 7:44 AM | Report abuse

I have heard many people state that Ripken's Iron Man achievement played a huge role in bringing back the game following the strike. But I feel as though if you weren't in the DC or MD area at that time, it wasn't nearly as big as the summer of 1998. It was a great achievement for Cal and baseball but it really didn't make the long-term ratings impact as Big Mac's chase for 61 did. Ratings and attendance were still way down across the country heading into the '98 season. People love the home run ball, especially younger fans.
The 95 post season was great, for those who were watching at that time. Many weren't, unfortunately.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | January 14, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Jim Rice is similar to the Redskin wide reciever that got into the football HOF...Monk, I think his name was.

Both had borderline numbers but were well-loved by their local fans.

To me, it is the boderline players who do NOT get in that defines just how great the HOF players are.

Posted by: T_J_Murphy | January 16, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

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