Fixing the MLB Hall of Fame

January 2, 2012 1 comment

The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is broken.

Everyone has their own system when it comes to selecting players to be inducted.  Some believe in a larger Hall, allowing players who were among the better players of their era to be inducted.  For others, a small Hall of Fame, where only a very few elite players are allowed induction, makes sense.

Each person must decide on their own what they want the Hall of Fame to be.

It used to be that certain benchmark numbers meant automatic admission.  If a player had 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, a career batting average of .300, 300 wins, or 3,000 strikeouts, they were in, no questions asked.

But recently, many of those statistics have been marginalized, and for good reason.  Getting 3,000 hits requires as much luck as it does skill.  Batting average is also a statistic that requires a lot of luck.  A pitcher’s win total is more of a team statistic than an individual one.  And RBIs and runs scored also require a generous contribution from teammates more than the individual player.

That’s not to say there isn’t value in those statistics, because there is.  But it’s no longer a slam dunk that a player who reaches those milestones automatically gets in.  It’s very likely, but not a certainty.

Statistics like on-base percentage, slugging percentage, WAR (in all its various forms), xFIP, and other sabermetric stats, are starting to work their way into the voting process, although at a snail’s pace for many Bill James disciples.

Currently, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWA) is responsible for electing players to the Hall of Fame.  Many (if not most) of these writers have been covering the game for decades, yet possess a stunning lack of understanding and recognition of who the truly deserving players are.

Just because a player accumulates 254 wins (Jack Morris, I’m looking in your direction), doesn’t mean he should get in.  Longevity should definitely be a factor, but simply piling up numbers doesn’t tell all of the story.

If I were to have a vote, the first thing I would do is look at the numbers.  Not necessarily the totality of the numbers, but the yearly averages.  How good was this particular player every year?  Was he a perennial All-Star?  How many times did he finish in the Top 5 or 10 of the MVP or Cy Young Award voting?  Was he a good all-around player, or did he only excel at one particular thing?  If so, how valuable was that thing he was great at?  Was he great enough at it to warrant consideration?

Perhaps the most important question I would ask is… was this player one of the best two or three players at his position for a period of 8-10 years?  If the answer is yes, and his numbers are comparable or better to players already elected at his position, as well as the numbers of his contemporaries, he gets in.

That may not be the way you look at it.  Everyone has a different standard, and it’s virtually impossible to make that standard uniform across the board.  We used to have those benchmark statistics to do that job for us, but no longer.  Baseball writers used to have the crutch of asking, “Did Player A get 3,000 hits?  Did Player B get 300 wins?”

Many, but not all, writers are still stuck in their lazy ways of judging.  They fail to do the real research and come up with their own ideas of who really merits consideration.

And now, writers are about to be confronted with the most challenging era to evaluate.  Players who played during the steroid era are becoming available for Hall entrance.

For instance, Jeff Bagwell is up for election this year.  More than likely, Bagwell will not get in again this year (he only got 41.7% of the vote in his first year of eligibility last year).  Even though he was easily one of the best two or three offensive first basemen during his career, and even though his numbers warrant admission (449 career HRs, 1529 RBIs, career .408 OB% and .540 SLG%, 6 Top 10 MVP finishes, including an MVP Award in 1994), and his defense was among the best in the game, many suspect Bagwell of PED use, and will refuse to admit him for that reason.

Now, Bagwell has never even been so much as implicated in steroid use, let alone tested positive or admitted using performance enhancers.  He is as squeaky clean as it gets.  Yet, many writers will refuse to vote him into the Hall because they suspect he was using.

Friends, that is completely idiotic.

Yet many players, like Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and, of course, Barry Bonds, will likely be on the outside looking in for a long time.

Which is why the baseball world needs to decide what the Hall of Fame truly is.  Is it a museum, or a holy place of admission where only the most pristine and virtuous of players shall reside?

I think the Hall of Fame should chronicle and admit the very best players of their era.  Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame.  It’s a travesty that the Hit King isn’t in, and yes, I know he broke baseball’s cardinal rule.  He bet on baseball, there’s no denying that.  But there’s no proof he ever bet on his team to lose, and there is certainly no proof that he rigged games so that he would win the bets he placed.

In much the same way, steroid use was rampant from the early 1990s to the late 2000s.  It’s likely there were hundreds of players using steroids and PEDs that weren’t caught, including many pitchers.  How do we decide who was virtuous and who wasn’t?

If the Hall of Fame is a museum, every deserving player should be admitted, and their misdeeds should be plastered all over their induction plaque.  Perhaps a special wing can be created for inductees who cheated the game, or for the known steroid users.  It seems impossible that the Hall of Fame would not have the game’s all-time leading hits leader, the game’s all-time leading home run hitter, and the game’s only seven-time Cy Young Award winner as inductees in their museum.

Is this rewarding bad behavior?  Perhaps.  But I would think stipulations could be put in place to punish these inductees that would make it a deterrent for other players to follow in their footsteps.  Perhaps they could be refused the opportunity to speak at their induction ceremony.  Perhaps they could even be banned from attending.  But a plaque with their names and their statistics should be a part of the Hall.

However, if the Hall of Fame is a shrine, then ultra-strict rules should apply.  No one ever found to have cheated or gambled on the game should ever get in, no matter what their careers looked like before they were found to have cheated.

For instance, no matter what Ryan Bruan does from here on out, provided his appeal is turned down, he can never be eligible for the Hall of Fame.  Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Fame players before they started using steroids, but that shouldn’t matter.  Everyone, from A-Rod to Andy Pettitte and all the other steroid users should be banned for life.

Were that to happen, virtually all of the game’s record holders would be nowhere to be found in Cooperstown.

To me, that just doesn’t make sense.  But, that’s my standard.  Everyone has a different standard.  And that’s the point.  The BBWA, with Major League Baseball’s input, should clarify just what the Hall of Fame is supposed to be.

The voting structure needs to be changed.  The BBWA has been getting it wrong as much as they’ve been getting it right, lately.  Other voices need to be heard.  Taking the vote away entirely from the BBWA is too harsh, however.  And, turning the vote over to the fans has its drawbacks too.

If fans were given the sole vote, every decent Yankee who ever played would be in the Hall.  And the chances for a Milwaukee Brewer or Tampa Bay Ray would be to make the Hall would be much less likely, mainly because of the size of the fan-base.

My idea is a shared vote.  Let the BBWA account for 40% of the vote.  Allow the fans an online vote that would account for 40%.  And give the final 20% to MLB executives, players and coaches.

This would give many different voices, some more and some less informed than the BBWA, an opportunity to make the induction process a more democratic process.

The MLB Hall of Fame can be saved.  It just needs to be defined, and the voting process needs to be changed.  It’s all fixable.  And if we can fix it, we can make the Hall of Fame relevant once again.

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Chase Utley and the Hall of Fame

December 27, 2011 1 comment

For a while there, it sure looked like Chase Utley was a runaway locomotive steaming full-bore towards Cooperstown.  From 2003 to 2009, Utley had a career OPS of .902, averaged 23 HRs and 84 RBIs a year, all while establishing a reputation as the best defensive second baseman in baseball.  He had an OPS+ of 129, a career OBP of .379 and slugged .523, all ridiculous numbers for a second baseman.

His postseason credentials were also well established, with huge home runs during the 2008 playoffs and five dingers in the 2009 World Series alone, tying Reggie Jackson’s all-time mark.

Simply put, for a five-year stretch, Chase Utley was the best second baseman in Major League Baseball, and it wasn’t even close.

But we all know what happened next.  First, Chase tore his labrum during the 2008 season, causing him to miss the first part of  2009.  He still managed to hit 31 homers and slug .508 in 2009, so the future still seemed bright.

Then, in 2010, the numbers fell off a cliff.  Injuries were surely to blame.  The torn labrum, an injured thumb and knee problems all contributed to a steady decline in performance.

That year, Utley played in only 115 games and saw his slugging percentage drop more than 65 points.  While his batting average and on-base percentage stayed close to his 2009 numbers (.282/.397 to .275/.387), his OPS dropped from .905 to .832.  And in 2011, it got even worse.  Utley played in only 103 games and hit just .259 with an OB% of .344 and a SLG% of .425.  He hit only 11 HRs, a paltry total given his career norms.

His power disappeared.  Utley used to hit line drives everywhere, but in the last two seasons, those line drives morphed into fly outs to left field and warning track power to right.  And his ability to hit doubles disappeared.  From 2005 to 2008, Utley averaged 42 doubles a year.  From 2009 to 2011, the number was just 23.

I say none of this to bash Chase Utley.  I think he could be in line for a huge bounce-back season in 2012, if he can stay healthy.  It will be interesting to see if Utley was able to do much strength training for his knees this off-season, given their delicacy.  If Chase was able to both strengthen his legs while keeping them healthy, we could see a very nice uptick in his numbers.

However, the halcyon days are over.  The question is, what more does Utley need to do to warrant Hall of Fame consideration?  And, is it possible he can reach some of the milestone numbers required to get in?

There are currently 17 second basemen in the Hall of Fame.  They are Rod Carew, Eddie Collins, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Evers, Nellie Fox, Frankie Frisch, Charlie Gehringer, Billy Herman, Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie, Tony Lazzeri, Bill Mazeroski, Bid McPhee, Joe Morgan, Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Red Schoendienst.

The closest comp to Utley is probably Ryne Sandberg and Joe Morgan.  Sandberg and Morgan were both power-hitting second basemen and good defenders, playing in relatively similar eras.  So, let’s look at their numbers and compare them to Utley’s.

Utley has the highest OPS of the three.  His career OPS of .882 beats Morgan’s .822 and Sandberg’s .796.  That’s due largely to his amazing .505 SLG% (compared to .452 for Sandberg and .427 for Morgan).  And as far as OB% goes, Utley’s right there.  Morgan’s .395 is the best of the trio, followed by Utley’s .377 and Sandberg’s .344.

However, Utley simply has not played long enough and doesn’t have the career numbers that Morgan and Sandberg do.  Morgan played 22 seasons, amassed 9277 at-bats and accrued 2517 hits, 268 HRs and 1650 runs scored.  Sandberg played 16 seasons, had 8385 at-bats and had 2164 hits, 282 HRs and 1318 runs scored.

Utley, meanwhile, has only played nine seasons, and has just 4133 at-bats (less than half of Morgan and Sandberg), 1198 hits, 188 HRs and 731 runs scored.  Clearly, more work still needs to be done.

Using the Sandberg-Morgan numbers as comps… let’s project numbers that would put Utley somewhere between Morgan and Sandberg.  Assuming his on-base percentage and OPS numbers stay relatively stable, acknowledging there will be some drop-off in both areas in the years to come, let’s say Utley needs 2200 career hits, 270 HRs and 1300 runs scored in order to get himself in the range of Sandberg and Morgan.

To reach 2200 hits, Utley needs another 1002.  Assuming he plays another six seasons, Utley would need to average 167 hits a year until he turns 38 years old.  To reach 270 HRs, he would need to average 18 HRs a year for the next six years.  And to score 1300 runs,  Chase would need to average almost 95 runs scored over the next six years.

Can Utley average 167 hits, 18 HRs and 95 runs scored a year for the next six years?

The answer is, probably not.

Does Utley absolutely have to hit the numbers I’ve suggested?  No, he doesn’t.  Postseason performance definitely adds to a player’s resume, and Chase certainly has had a postseason career that would rival any second baseman’s in history (certainly more accomplished than Sandberg’s).  That could help him should his regular season numbers come up short.

The bottom line is, Utley’s Hall of Fame candidacy is probably a long shot at this point.  No one knows if he can hold up physically for another two to three years, let alone five or six.  His candidacy is also hurt by the fact he didn’t become a full-time Major League regular until he was 26 (thanks a lot David Bell).

If Utley comes close to most of those numbers but falls just short in the hits and runs scored category, an argument can be made that he should get in.  The question I always ask is when considering a Hall of Fame candidate (after looking at the numbers), is whether this guy was one of the two or three best players at his position over a ten-year period.

Right now, the answer on Utley is no.  He hasn’t sustained excellence long enough.

But if Chase can somehow get it back together and have a career resurgence in his mid-to-late thirties, the answer could end up being, yes.

Just don’t go putting any money down on it.

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Jimmy Rollins Signs With the Phillies

December 17, 2011 Leave a comment

The wait is over.

Jimmy Rollins is back with the Phillies after signing a three-year $33 million contract, with a vesting option for a fourth year at $11 million that insiders say is very reachable.  In essence, it’s a four-year deal for the man that is the face of the franchise.

See what happens when you let the market establish itself sometimes, Ruben?

Hey, given that Rollins really had no suitors left, and that all the viable back-up options for the Phillies had been exhausted, this deal seems like a no-brainer for both sides.  Amaro didn’t have to go to five years for J-Roll (even Rollins said that his desire for a five-year deal was pie in the sky) and instead got Jimmy at a fair price.

Both guys did well here.

And with Rollins’ signing, the Phils are likely done tinkering with this team.  The 2012 roster is probably set.

The big question is, are the Phillies any better today than they were when the 2011 season ended?

It’s important to remember that this is a team that won 102 games.  So much of the playoffs is about luck.  Anyone who watched the Cardinals’ path to the championship can clearly see they were a team destined to win it all by the baseball angels.  The same thing happened in 2010 to the San Francisco Giants.  Sometimes, in a short series, the better team doesn’t win.

So there wasn’t a whole lot the Phillies could do to get better this offseason.  They were already pretty darn good.  The injury to Ryan Howard certainly hurts their offensive production early in the year.  And I stipulate that even when he comes back, I don’t think Howard is going to have the same kind of power he had last year, and even last year his power was way down.  Who knows what to expect from Chase Utley anymore?  I think he’s a prime candidate for a huge bounce-back year, but his creaky body is a wild card.  A full season of Hunter Pence will be welcome, as will a full season without Raul Ibanez.  The bench looks stronger, and if Dontrelle Willis and Jonathan Papelbon pan out, the bullpen could be scary good, especially with all the strong young arms the Phils can turn to if things get rough on the big league club.  The Phillies will have lost Roy Oswalt, but really, Oswalt’s name was a whole lot better than his production last year.  With the exception of the first month and a half of the season, before he threw his back out, Oswalt pitched like a #4 pitcher, not one of the Phour Aces.

So, even if the Phils lose six to seven more games than they did last year, they’ll still have 95 wins, which is almost guarantees a playoff spot.

I will admit, I was intrigued with the idea of moving on from the Rollins era.  I thought adding a decent one or two-year stopgap player, like Rafael Furcal or Alex Gonzalez, would have made some sense, and signing Aramis Ramirez or Michael Cuddyer would have given the lineup a different look.  The lineup certainly appeared stale at times last year, and a lot of the time it was because the leadoff hitter and the number two hitter (Polanco) weren’t getting on base.  Far too many times last year, the Phillies offense made things way too easy on the opposition.  The NLDS series against the Cardinals was a prime example of that.

But at this point in the offseason, with all the back-up options off the table, re-signing Rollins was the best move to make.  Amaro did a great job waiting Rollins out (even if many of us were starting to get impatient) and getting his star shortstop to sign a deal that was both team-friendly, and player-friendly.

Jimmy has his flaws.  He makes a lot of outs, has a low on-base percentage for a lead-off hitter, and his defensive range is slipping a bit.  He sometimes takes undisciplined at bats and, last year’s NLDS aside and his clutch game-winning double against the Dodgers in 2009 has never been a terrific postseason hitter.

But for now, signing Rollins for what is essentially a four-year deal worth $11 million a year is a good move by the Phillies.  They’ll be out from under Rollins’ contract before he gets too old, and aren’t killing themselves financially either.  Does this leave enough money for the Phils to sign Cole Hamels to a long-term deal?  We should know that soon, as that is most likely up next on Mr. Amaro’s agenda.

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Can the Phillies Keep Cole Hamels?

December 16, 2011 4 comments

Most people assume that in the unlikely event Jimmy Rollins does not re-sign with the Phillies, the Phils will use that money to sign someone else.

Unfortunately, over the last few weeks, many of the offensive back-up options have been eliminated, and it appears two other possibilities, Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Beltran, are close to signing with other teams as well.

The Phils had some early interest in Cuddyer, but were scared off by his demands of a three-year, $30 million deal.  And though the Phils were linked to Beltran around the trade deadline last year, he has not been mentioned as a possibility for the Phillies in any rumors this offseason.

However, there is one thing to consider.  The assumption that the Phillies would use money allocated for Rollins to sign another offensive player fails to take into account what Cole Hamels may want in his contract negotiation talks.

It’s highly possible that if the Phillies re-sign Jimmy Rollins, they may not have enough money left over for Hamels.

I (@FelskeFiles) had an interesting Twitter exchange with Randy Miller yesterday (@RandyJMiller), who is the Flyers beat writer for the South Jersey Courier-Post and author of “Harry the K: The Remarkable Life of Harry Kalas” (a great holiday gift for any Phillies fan by the way).  Miller was also the Phillies beat writer from 1996-2011 and apparently still has conversations with folks inside the organization.

Miller tweeted this to me yesterday concerning Hamels’ extension, saying “Talked to someone with Phils last night and was told ‘Hamels LOVES money.’ Look for Dodgers to make a run when the new owners are in place.”

He also tweeted this, saying “I hear Hamels will be very, very tough to sign.  I would not be surprised AT ALL if he’s elsewhere in ’12.”

Now, just about all Major League players love money.  And while I don’t know who Miller talked to in the Phils’ organization about Hamels, my guess is that his information is pretty accurate.  The question is, how much money would the Phillies have to throw at Hamels to keep him here?

If Hamels wants to stay in Philadelphia, something along the lines of a Jered Weaver contract would make sense.  Weaver signed with the Angels last year for 5 years and $85 million ($17 million/year)  at 29 years old.  For his career, Weaver is 82-47 with a 3.31 ERA, and an ERA+ of 128.  Last year, he went 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA, had an ERA+ of 158, averaged 3.54Ks/BB and 6.6Ks/9IP.

Hamels’ numbers are almost identical to Weaver’s in every way except one… he’s two years younger than Weaver.  In his career, Hamels is 74-54 with a 3.39 ERA and an ERA+ of 126.  Last year, he went 14-9 with a career-best 2.79 ERA, had an ERA+ of 138, averaged 4.41 Ks/BB and 8.1 Ks/9IP.

At the time, Weaver’s contract looked like a good comp for what Hamels might want.  However, based on the quote from a Phillies official concerning Hamels’ LOVE of money, it’s entirely possible he may be aiming higher than that.

And he may be right to reach for stratospheric cash.

Could he be looking for Cliff Lee money?  Lee was 32 when he signed his six-year, $120 million ($20 million/year) deal with the Phillies.  His career numbers are not as good as Hamels’, however, he pitched in the American League up to that point and has a Cy Young to his credit.  Both pitchers have sterling postseason reputations as well, and Hamels is six years younger than Lee.

Could he be looking for C.C. Sabbathia money?  Sabbathia was 28 when he signed his seven-year, $161 million ($23 million/year) pact with the Yankees before the 2009 season.  Up to that point, Sabbathia had also won a Cy Young Award, and his numbers were slightly worse than Hamels’ although, again, he pitched most of his career in the American League up to that point.

The point is, Hamels’ camp can argue, with good reason, that he should be paid the same as Lee and Sabbathia.  He’s younger, coming off his best season, was NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008, and with the exception of 2009, has had a superlative regular season and postseason career.

He’s entering the prime of his career and knows he could be in line for a huge payday.  If Hamels is all about the money, and if he’s like most other athletes he probably is, you can bet he’ll be looking for a deal closer to Sabbathia’s rather than Weaver’s.

So, let’s assume Hamels is looking for a contract of around seven years and $160 million.  That would average to about $23 million a year.  Can the Phillies realistically afford that?  The Phils already have three players making over $20 million per season (Lee, Halladay and Howard).  They have over $126 million already committed to the 2012 roster, and they still need to come up with money for Hunter Pence, a shortstop and the list of players to whom they’ve offered arbitration.  Can they afford to pay a fourth player more than $20 million a year?

Figure a nice raise for Pence after his best offensive season last year.  In 2011, he made just shy of $7 million.  A $13-14 million salary for 2012 doesn’t seem unreasonable.  That brings the Phillies to about $140 million.  Suppose the Phillies sign Rollins to a four-year deal worth about $13 million a season.  Now the payroll is up around $153 million.

If Hamels is demanding a salary of more than $20 million a year, the Phillies would be faced with a payroll of around $173 million, and that’s without any of the arbitration-eligible players having been signed.  Last year’s opening day payroll was $166 million.

It becomes a little easier to do that if Jimmy Rollins walks and you don’t replace his offense.  The Phillies seem committed to a LF combination of John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton.  It appears Placido Polanco will remain the full-time starter at 3B.  If the Phillies sign someone like Omar Vizquel to give them solid defense at SS and ease Freddy Galvis into the lineup toward the end of the year, perhaps the Phils can afford to pay through the nose to keep Hamels.

Losing Rollins also would give the Phillies financial flexibility at the trade deadline should Amaro decide the team needs an upgrade.  Perhaps Polanco continues to be an offensive black hole at 3B and the Mets are ready to deal David Wright.  Not signing Rollins gives the Phillies the flexibility to consider a trade like that from a financial standpoint.

The Phillies have always avoided signing starting pitchers to contracts longer than three years.  They made an exception last year for Cliff Lee and it would make sense to do it again for their own home-grown star, who has largely avoided injury issues and appears to be getting better with each passing year.

A seven-year contract for Cole Hamels, if signed this offseason, would take him through his 34th birthday.  Lee enters this season at 33, pitching better than he ever has.  Halladay turns 34 this year, and he’s still regarded as the best starting pitcher in baseball.  Is it a risk worth taking for Cole?

And if the Phillies decide that they’re dead-set against giving Cole anything larger than a Jered Weaver-type deal and there is no way they’ll be able to re-sign him, does it make sense to explore the trade market in July?  Granted, the haul they would receive back wouldn’t be as much because he’d be an impending free agent, but it’s something Amaro would have to consider, especially if the offense is in the midst of one of their month-long slumps.

The point is, Jimmy Rollins’ signing could have an impact on whether Cole Hamels signs an extension with the Phillies.  Perhaps the front office will decide that Hamels with worth the price, no matter what.  And perhaps a contract with Hamels can be structured in such a way that the money escalates more towards the end of the deal.  By that time, Halladay could be off the books, as well as Victorino, Utley and Polanco.

If Rollins does sign elsewhere, and Amaro does not sign a free agent this offseason to replace his offense, he will get skewered by the fine callers of WIP and The Fanatic.  Memories are short and the Phillies have disappointed in the postseason the last two years.  Most observers blame the offense.  Right or wrong (and they would be wrong), Ruben would hear about it from a fan-base that has become fat on success.

But that fanbase would be wise to remember that, for every player Amaro signs now, that’s one player, and perhaps a better player, he won’t be able to sign later.

The futures of Hamels and Rollins are intertwined, and there may be no way to keep both on the roster after this season.  As if the stakes for 2012 weren’t high enough already.

Marco Scutaro… A Closer Look

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

The Boston Red Sox traded away their starting shortstop today, sending Jed Lowrie to Houston for relief pitcher Mark Melancon.  Not only does the trade give Boston an up-and-coming reliever who could potentially close in 2013, it opens up SS for the Sox to make a potential run at Jimmy Rollins.

Is it possible Boston is the second mystery team that John Lozano informed the Phillies about?

Lozano has to be feeling the heat from Rollins.  Jimmy was ignored by him while he worked on the Albert Pujols deal, and now the market appears to have dried up for J-Roll.  Or at least it appeared so until Lozano’s announcement on Tuesday.  At first, it seemed Lozano was just trying to provoke a response from Amaro, but with Boston’s trade of Lowrie, the Red Sox suddenly have an open spot for him, IF they trade Marco Scutaro.

And that may be the Phillies’ Plan B.  If Rollins is still sticking to his five-year deal stance, it might behoove Amaro to seriously consider trading for Scutaro.  Scutaro played in only 113 games last year, eventually losing his starting job to Lowrie, although you wouldn’t know it by his offensive numbers.  The 36-year-old had a line of .299/.358/.423 for an OPS of .781.  He showed good power to the gaps, knocking out 26 doubles in only 395 ABs, although playing in Fenway Park will help with that particular stat.

On the negative side, he did commit 12 errors last year, mostly because of an erratic throwing arm, but seemed to get the problem under control in September.

Financially, adding Scutaro would make sense.  He only has one year left on his deal, worth $6 million.  He would function as a one-year stop-gap, allowing the Phils to give Galvis a full year in AAA to see if last year’s offensive progression was for real.  The Phils could also then be able to add a Cuddyer or Beltran, if they wanted to add some more offense.

The preference here would still be for Amaro to end his Mexican stand-off with Rollins and offer him a four-year deal.  But if Rollins does sign with Boston, don’t be surprised to see Scutaro heading to Philadelphia shortly thereafter.  He likely wouldn’t require much in a deal, and would provide offensive stability at SS, while giving away some defensive ability in return.

Categories: Uncategorized

What If The Phillies Lose Rollins?

December 13, 2011 4 comments

When the offseason began, it seemed like a good time for a fresh start.  Saying goodbye to Jimmy Rollins made some sense, because Jimmy has been with the Phillies for a long time, the offense had grown stagnant, and there were viable back-up plans that could have left the Phils in a position to improve their offensive production.

Those times have passed.

With many of those back-up options suddenly no longer possible, keeping Jimmy Rollins seems like more of an imperative than before.

Signing Aramis Ramirez to play 3B or Michael Cuddyer to play 3B, 1B and OF, as well as Rafael Furcal or Alex Gonzalez to play SS for a year or two until Freddy Galvis was ready to start, seemed like a smart move.  With Aramis, a new power bat would be introduced to the lineup.  With Cuddyer, a versatile bat with solid power and decent on-base skills who can play multiple positions would have proven valuable.  And with Furcal or Gonzalez, the Phils would have gotten a competent, if not spectacular SS to cover the loss of Jimmy until Galvis had proven he was Major League ready.

But a funny thing happened.  As Rollins’ suitors were whittled down with Furcal and Gonzalez signing elsewhere, the Phillies’ alternatives to a Rollins-less lineup in 2012 also dwindled.

With rumors abounding that Rollns’ agent is speaking with a second team (who many think may be the Detroit Tigers, although they say they’re not interested) the big question suddenly becomes a bit more relevant and pressing.

What will the Phillies do if Rollins shocks everyone and signs somewhere else?

Yuniesky Betancourt’s OBP in 2011 was .271

Seriously, who plays SS in 2012?  Galvis isn’t ready, and the options remaining in the free agent pool are sucktastic to say the least.  Yuniesky Betancourt? Cesar Izturis? Edgar Renteria? None of those players can be counted on to start at SS for a World Series contender.

The trade market presents its own sets of problems.  Who would the Phillies have to give up in order to get a decent SS?  Would the Red Sox trade Marco Scutaro?  If so, would they require Vance Worley?  Would the Marlins consider trading Hanley Ramirez within the division?  It’s highly unlikely, and even if they did, would the Phillies be willing to give up Domonic Brown or any of their other high-ceiling hurlers like Jesse Biddle and Trevor May?  Would the Phils even be interested in a malcontent like Ramirez, who has been known for taking plays, and heck, even whole games off?

The Phils could make up some of that offensive production by signing Cuddyer to start at 3B and trading Placido Polanco to some sucker looking to take ‘ol double hernia off their hands.  Or, they could decide to put John Mayberry Jr. on the bench and sign another old head like Carlos Beltran to play LF.  Neither of those moves would necessarily be bad, but they would also contain a lot of drawbacks, and they wouldn’t solve the problem at SS either.

Simply put, there is no palatable Plan B anymore.  During the Winter Meetings, signing Ramirez/Cuddyer and Furcal/Gonzalez made sense.  The Phillies would still have a Major League-caliber SS and would add a dynamic hitter to the middle of the lineup.  But that’s not an option anymore.  Not signing Rollins would necessitate a trade that would gut the farm system, or force Amaro to sign a Juan Bell-wannabe and pray that Galvis’ minor league offensive campaign of 2011 wasn’t a fluke.

It’s entirely possible that Jimmy’s agent, John Lozano, is fabricating the supposed interest of a second team merely to poke Amaro to act.  And Amaro, for once, seems to be willing to play the waiting game.

But Amaro shouldn’t wait too much longer.  More than likely, Rollins is coming back to Philadelphia.  It’s hard to see another team wanting Jimmy as much as the Phillies do, and it’s especially hard to see any team willing to give him five years.  Certainly, the Phils wouldn’t let Rollins walk away to a team offering a four-year deal, right?  A compromise of four years seems the most logical course of action at this point.

Yet it still hasn’t happened.

Last week, it seemed as though the Phillies had a lot of options, when the free agency game of musical chairs seemed to leave Rollins standing all alone.  Today, it appears that dynamic may have shifted.

Amaro would be wise to just go ahead and wrap this thing up with a four-year deal for the future Hall-of-Famer.  It’s in the interests of both parties.  Time to get it done, because Plan B looks a whole lot worse now than Plan A.

Categories: Uncategorized

Time To Come Home Now Jimmy

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

All kids love to play with their friends after school as late into the early evening as possible.  But unfortunately, there comes a time when your mother or father yell out the window and announce that it’s time to come home.  Eventually, it’s the only alternative, unless you’ve decided to be a hobo and live in a cardboard box underneath the creek bridge.

Jimmy, it’s time to come home now. 

Jayson Stark reported today that Rollins’ agent, John Lozano, has told the Phillies he is negotiating with a second team concerning Jimmy.  Speculation is the Tigers are that second party, although to what extent no one is quite sure. 

Ever since Milwaukee signed Alex Gonzalez and St. Louis re-signed Rafael Furcal over the last two weeks, Rollins’ potential list of landing spots has dwindled to almost nothing.  Atlanta and San Francisco still need a shorstop, although both are more unlikely to offer a long-term deal than the Phillies. 

The assumption has been that Jimmy is coming back, which is perhaps why he hasn’t garnered a lot of interest around the league.  The Brewers came away from their meeting with Lozano at the Winter Meetings convinced that Rollins really didn’t want to play there. 

But it’s not just Rollin’s options that have vanished.  So have the Phillies’.  My original hope was that the Phils would sign Furcal or Gonzalez to a one or two-year deal, sign Aramis Ramirez or Michael Cudduyer, and move on from the Rollins era.  But that ship has sailed.

If they fail to sign J-Roll, they’ll be forced to either throw Freddie Galvis to the wolves, or sign someone like Omar Vizquel or Yuniesky Betancourt to play shortstop.  None of those options  are pretty. 

Not only that, an upgrade at 3B seems shot now too, with Milwaukee’s signing of Aramis Ramirez this week.  Could Ruben decide to upgrade at LF and go after Carlos Beltran if Rollins doesn’t come back?  Possibly, but interest in Beltran has been cold as far as the Phillies are concerned. 

And why would Detroit want to bring Rollins aboard for 4-5 years?  Their shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, is coming off a terrific offensive season, in which he had an .824 OPS with 21 HRs and 86 RBIs.  Unless they’re planning to move Peralta to 3B, where he has played 211 games in his career.  Brandon Inge could certainly be jettisoned in favor of moving Peralta to third and signing Rollins to play shortstop.

At the end of the day though, this seems like a clear attempt by Lozano to jump-start Amaro into action.  Certainly Jimmy would feel more comfortable staying in Philadelphia than moving to Detroit and playing in a completely different league.  And if the Phillies are smart, they will consider ending this Mexican stand-off in the near future or else they risk losing Rollins altogether and entering 2012 without a real shortstop and an offense with even more holes than last year’s. 

A four-year deal likely gets it done.  It’s time for Jimmy to come home already.  It’s the best solution for both parties at this point.  Get it done, because the back-up plans for both sides aren’t nearly as palatable as each sides’ first choice.

Categories: Uncategorized