Discover more from Here's the Pitch: the IBWAA Newsletter
Is Methodical Chaim Bloom Hurting BoSox?
ALSO: M-BOYS OVER BAD BOYS FOR ERAS COMMITTEE ANNOUNCEMENT DEC. 4
IBWAA members love to write about baseball. So much so, we've decided to create our own newsletter about it! Subscribe to Here's the Pitch to expand your love of baseball, discover new voices, and support independent writing. Original content six days a week, straight to your inbox and straight from the hearts of baseball fans.
Did you know…
Jacob deGrom’s surprise Texas contract gives him the second-best annual average behind former Mets teammate Max Scherzer and further weakens a New York pitching staff decimated by free agency . . .
After hitting his 61st homer on the last day of the 1961 season, Roger Maris — who had not been eating — splurged on a shrimp cocktail, a huge steak, a mixed green salad, a baked potato, two glasses of wine, and a slice of cheesecake . . .
A research firm called Market Decipher estimates the value of the sports memorabilia market will swell from its current $26 billion to an astronomical $227 billion within the next decade . . .
After injuring his pitching elbow on a champagne bottle, Houston starter Lance McCullers, Jr. became the first pitcher to give up five home runs in a World Series game . . .
Even without an at-bat from injured-then-suspended superstar Fernando Tatis, Jr., the San Diego Padres reached their first playoff berth in a 162-game season since 2006 . . .
Former pitcher and free agent Trevor Williams tweeted a unique Black Friday sales item: himself.
Boston’s Off-Season is Off to a Terrible Start
By Tyler Maher
The MLB off-season is still fairly young, but Boston Red Sox fans are already growing antsy.
Xander Bogaerts? Still unsigned. Rafael Devers? No extension yet. The rest of the roster? Hardly improved.
Boston’s front office has made a shocking lack of progress in addressing the team’s numerous needs over the last two months. All they have to show for it are a couple of minor moves for utilityman Hoy Park and lefty reliever Joely Rodriguez, neither of whom are going to move the needle for a last-place (or any-place) team.
The Bogaerts situation continues to hang over the team like a dark cloud and only seems to be deteriorating by the day. Several teams have announced their interest in the four-time All-Star, so his price tag is surely going up. There was even a rumor floating around last week that Bogaerts had cut ties with the Red Sox. While that has since proven to be untrue, it’s a concerning development nevertheless for his former employers, who clearly aren’t close to reaching a deal with their franchise shortstop anytime soon.
The Devers extension talks have also stalled. The Red Sox seemed to be making good progress there when they visited Devers in the DR for his birthday shortly after the season ended. Things have gone mostly quiet since then, however, as the two sides are still nearly $100 million apart.
The Red Sox’s inability and unwillingness to sign their own players remains incredibly frustrating and has been an organizational blind spot for years. Their failure to retain Jon Lester, Mookie Betts and others still haunts the franchise to this day.
The team’s lack of progress with the left side of their infield would be less discouraging if they were making big moves elsewhere to shore up the roster, but they’re not. They whiffed on their top external target, Jose Abreu, watching him sign with the Houston Astros instead. They’ve now pivoted to Mitch Haniger, who’s going to be 32 next season, is coming off a down year and has missed extensive time with injuries throughout his career. Aaron Judge he is not.
As for the pitching staff, the Red Sox have made it clear that they’re not going to pursue any of the high-end starters or relievers on the market this winter. While that’s a defensible position – most of them are old and expensive, after all – they do desperately need pitching help if they want to contend next year and have to acquire it somehow.
And that’s what’s made this off-season so frustrating for Boston fans so far. The team has roughly $100 million to spend, but they haven’t spent any of it. They have prospects to trade after years of restocking the farm system, but they haven’t traded any of them. Instead, they just continue to do…nothing.
This has been a major criticism of Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, who is now in his fourth off-season at the helm. He’s deliberate and methodical to a fault, keen on exploring all options but rarely settling on one. It’s a major departure from his predecessor, Dave Dombrowski, who aggressively went after players he liked and acquired them at any cost. When there were holes to be plugged, he fixed them, typically with the best option available. It was an expensive strategy, to be sure, both in terms of payroll and prospects, but it was also highly effective.
Bloom seems to lack that same killer instinct. He’s been more reactive than proactive throughout his Red Sox tenure, often making moves only when they fell into his lap. The Kyle Schwarber trade, Trevor Story signing and Eric Hosmer trade are all notable examples. He’s been more comfortable tinkering around the edges of the roster and playing in the shallow end of the free-agent pool rather than wading into the deep end, stocking his team with reclamation projects and bargain-bin finds rather than All-Stars. No wonder they’ve finished last twice in three seasons under him.
This is a massive off-season for the Red Sox, not just for Bloom but for the franchise as a whole. For the first time since he got here, Bloom has the freedom to construct the roster as he sees fit now that most of the Dombrowski-era holdovers are gone. If he fails, it could take years for the team to recover, and by the time they do he’ll be long gone.
Tyler Maher is a Content Editor for The Duel who really hopes Chaim Bloom knows what he’s doing.
When Vets Vote: Yes to the Three M’s But No To The Five Bad Guys
By Dan Schlossberg
The first vote of the Contemporary Baseball Players Era Committee will be revealed tomorrow night — just in time for live coverage on the MLB Network.
With Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones on the 16-man panel of electors, Dale Murphy and Fred McGriff figure to have a pair of strong, vocal, and well-respected advocates.
Also on the panel are Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, and Frank Thomas, also incumbent Hall of Famers; executives Paul Beeston, Theo Epstein, Arte Moreno, Kim Ng, Dave St. Peter, and Ken Williams; and writer/historians Steve Hirdt, LaVelle Neal, and Susan Slusser. Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark is the non-voting committee chair.
If the panel chooses character over controversy, Murphy, McGriff, and Don Mattingly will have a one-way ticket to the Class of 2023 inductions in Cooperstown next July.
All had clean records to accompany their myriad of achievements on the diamond.
The election is expected to be close, since voters can choose a maximum of three men and candidates need a minimum of 12 votes to reach the 75 per cent required for enshrinement.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro were all suspected of inflating their records with performance-enhancing substances, while Albert Belle often left a trail of destruction with temperamental outbursts that impacted his career negatively.
The same can be said for Curt Schilling, who posted inflammatory rhetoric on social media and eventually told writers not to vote for him.
Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling headlined the writers’ ballot as recently as last January but failed to win election in their 10th and final try. Historically, incumbent Hall of Famers serving on veterans’ committees are not inclined to support them.
That being said, the ballot seems a match of Good Guys vs. Bad Guys.
Murphy, the National League’s answer to Cal Ripken, Jr., did not drink, smoke, or curse. He never failed to accommodate an autograph seeker. Plus he won back-to-back MVP awards, five Gold Gloves, and seven trips to the All-Star Game after moving from catcher to center field. A two-time home run champ who spent most of his career in Atlanta while the team was the Bad-News Braves, he also had a 30/30 year.
If he wasn’t baseball’s best player during the ‘80s, he was thisclose.
Unlike Murphy, McGriff was a vagabond who spread his 493 home runs among six teams. The lanky first baseman was MVP of the 1994 All-Star Game, a two-time home run king, and one of the anchors of the 1995 Braves team that won Atlanta’s first world championship.
Mattingly, also a first baseman, played 14 years, all with the Yankees, and finished with a .307 average, a batting crown, nine Gold Gloves, and an American League MVP trophy. He later managed for 12 years, winning a Manager of the Year award in Miami two years ago.
As for the other five guys on the ballot, Bonds holds records for home runs in a season (73) and career (672) and most MVP awards (7). Clemens won 354 games, one behind Maddux among living pitchers, en route to a record seven Cy Youngs. He also won two World Series rings.
Schilling won World Series MVP trophy and posted an 11-2 mark and 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason appearances. The six-time All-Star won 216 games but the Hall of Fame has plenty of pitchers who won less [see Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax].
With 500 homers and 3,000 hits, Palmeiro should have punched his ticket to the Hall via the voting writers. But they remember his finger-wagging denials to a Congressional committee investigating steroids in sports.
Neither Palmeiro nor Belle won an MVP award, though the latter was a three-time RBI king who finished second or third in the voting from 1994-96. Like Bonds, he was often preceded by his surly reputation.
After the seven-member Class of 2022, next year’s induction group will certainly be smaller. Even if the Contemporary Committee picks the M-boys, the writers may not elect anyone to join them.
Scott Rolen gained the most points last year, followed by Andruw Jones and Todd Helton. The only first-timer on the BBWAA ballot is scandal-tainted Carlos Beltran, whose alleged involvement in the 2017 Houston Astros’ electronic cheating scheme cost him his job as manager of the New York Mets.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is a baseball historian who has been covering the game since 1969. He writes for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and Memories & Dreams. E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“MLB, by all appearances, is doing a good job of flushing steroids out of the game. Some skeptics will disagree but no one’s head looks like a beach ball today and only one player is setting records.”
— Jon Heyman in The New York Post
Teams that top the luxury tax threshold in 2003 will have to pay roughly $16.5 million more to cover insurance and other player benefits . . .
Invisible man: Jimmy Herget was designated for assignment four times before becoming the closer for the Los Angeles Angels . . .
Bountiful harvest: the Los Angeles Dodgers have had 18 Rookies of the Year, twice as many as any other team . . .
Cleveland’s 73-year championship drought is the longest active one in baseball (they were the Indians when they won their last World Series in 1948) . . .
When Fernando Tatis, Sr. became the only man to hit two-slams in an inning, he hit the second one on a two-out, 3-2 pitch . . .
He can run too: Aaron Judge went 16-for-19 in steal attempts during the ‘22 season . . .
The 2022 Houston Astros finished a whopping 32 games ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Angels . . .
Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Gordon was a nine-time All-Star with three World Series rings and an MVP award but did not have his number retired by the Yankees, for whom he played from 1938-46, or the Indians (1947-50) . . .
Current Cleveland infielder Andres Giminez had a 7.2 WAR, trailing only Aaron Judge but topping teammate Jose Ramirez (6.0) and ex-Indian Francisco Lindor (5.4).
Know Your Editors
HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.