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Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen are officially Hall of Famers, and the trade deadline vibes are in shambles. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!
Your heart was open wide, and you loved things just because
It is nostalgic by nature, the annual Hall of Fame ceremony — after all, you aren’t eligible until you’ve been retired for five years. But this year’s trip down memory lane required a few more steps to reach its destination. For Scott Rolen, it was his sixth year on the ballot.
As Jayson Stark notes in his in-depth look at this year’s festivities, Rolen’s “yes” votes accounted for just 10.2 percent of the ballots that first year, climbing each winter until he crossed the magic number of 75 percent.
For McGriff, the wait was even longer. In 10 years on the ballot (the maximum number allowed — even nostalgia has its limits), he never passed the threshold for induction or made it past 40 percent. As Stark notes, that had more to do with the era in which he played than anything else. He was inducted by the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee (the same committee, incidentally, that did not include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Rafael Palmeiro).
Next year’s ballot should be a fun one — we’ll start to see an influx of players whose peaks came after the PED era.
Ken’s Notebook: Teams to watch as deadline approaches
It’s going down to the end. I mean, it almost always goes down to the end, but this is one of the stranger buildups to the trade deadline I can remember.
A number of high-priced teams have flopped. A number of surprise teams have emerged. Few impact players are known to be available because the sellers mostly stink.
The sport is essentially upside down.
While team executives report trade conversations are increasing, the market lacks definition. Some clubs likely will wait until the weekend to determine their course, with the deadline looming a week from Tuesday.
Coming out of the All-Star break, I wrote about six teams on the bubble. As I’ve mentioned, the buy/sell decision is not always either/or, and several teams likely will do both at once. Still, the Mets probably are more sell than buy at this point, the Red Sox and Padres more buy than sell.
Three other teams bear watching:
• The Angels. Well, of course. The entire sport is waiting to see if owner Arte Moreno will trade Shohei Ohtani, which is yet another reason the market is on hold. But the chances of an Ohtani trade appear increasingly slim, not that it was ever likely in the first place.
The Angels are 6-3 since the All-Star break. They’re two games above .500 and just four out in the AL wild-card race, with their next two series in Detroit and Toronto. Oh, and Ohtani is on pace to hit 58 homers. Even if the Angels collapse, I seriously doubt Moreno will want to deprive his fans of seeing a potential 60-homer season — and deprive himself of the additional revenue such a chase would generate.
The Athletic’s Sam Blum poses an intriguing question: Might the Angels actually buy?
• The Cubs. Just when you think the Cubbies are gloriously kaput, they win five of six. They now go on the road to face two certain sellers, the White Sox for two games and the Cardinals for four, having just won three of four against St. Louis at Wrigley.
The Cubs, mind you, are still three games under .500, 6 1/2 back in the mediocre NL Central, 5 1/2 back in the wild-card race. Do they look like legitimate World Series contenders? No. But can they shame their front office into keeping Marcus Stroman, Cody Bellinger and Co.? Absolutely.
The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney asks, “The Cubs won’t trade Bellinger if they keep winning, right?”
• The Mariners. I wrote about them in Friday’s edition of The Windup, and little has changed. The Mariners took a 2-0 lead into the fourth inning against the Blue Jays on Sunday, with the chance to sweep the series. Continuing the one-step-forward, one-step-back theme of their season, they lost 4-3.
A difficult road trip, three games in Minnesota, then three in Arizona, could seal the Mariners’ fate. At this point, club officials probably would prefer the team to win all six or lose all six, just so they could make a decision. At 50-49, the Mariners are a half-game back of the Angels, 4 1/2 back in the wild-card race.
For the entire sport, a fateful week awaits.
Make me something somebody can use
You always know what you’re going to get from an Eno Sarris story: a unique way of looking at a question, and lots and lots of hard data.
[places finger to ear as I am handed a quote from his latest article about pitching mounds]
“The mound could serve as a microcosm of how each human constructs their own reality. Do the mounds feel good because the people on them feel good? Or do the people feel good on the mounds because the mounds are good? … Without the benefit of precise measurements, it’s impossible to nail it down. On the other hand, it does feel like folly to ignore something that so many are completely sure is a real thing.”
Oh, so we are branching out into existentialism. I love this.
It really is an interesting article; the (subtle) difference between pitching mounds is something most fans never think about. But the reason the mounds feel so different is sometimes not even about the exact dimensions. After all, some mounds “feel” closer to home plate, despite those measurements being very precise.
As writers, we always set out to answer the questions we pose, but sometimes my favorite reads settle on a conclusion of, “I’m still not sure, but it’s a fascinating question.”
When I ask, I receive
While we’re on the topic of “feel” rather than hard data, I loved the quote from former Rangers and Cubs hitting coach (and current Tigers Double-A manager) Anthony Iapoce when discussing the effect that the ABS (automated balls and strikes system) is having on young hitters:
“I think the part that we don’t talk about is guys come back to the dugout and there’s less complaining on these nights,” Iapoce said. “There’s less stress on the players. There’s no yelling at the umpire. They move on quicker, which is what you want them to do. The best players don’t always have the best swing or the most athletic bodies. They’re able to flush stuff and move on faster. The ABS, I think, helps the hitters do that.”
As the article explains, it appears there is a benefit (beyond just getting the call right) to the ABS: young hitters getting to MLB with a keener understanding of the strike zone.
Rob Manfred has indicated that the ABS will hit the big leagues eventually, though it does not appear that it will come in 2024.
Handshakes and High Fives
Shohei Ohtani Trade Rumors Tracker:
• Ohtani isn’t going to be traded if the Angels are within a reasonable distance of a playoff spot, and they’ve gone 6-4 in their last 10 games, climbing to within four games of the third wild card spot. They’d have to leapfrog three teams — Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays — but it’s been a good run the last week or so.
• So in lieu of rumors, how about this: Tim Britton did a brilliant job of comparing Ohtani’s trade value to past “rental” trades. Yes, Ohtani is a unicorn, but Britton found a way around that.
• If you’re looking for all our other trade rumors and deadline analysis, check out our deadline tracker — open it in a browser tab & come back; we’re adding to it multiple times a day.
Ohtani isn’t the only deadline paradox. The Red Sox could probably fetch a decent return for James Paxton. But the more he wins, the closer he keeps them to a playoff spot.
Look at this Bryce Harper catch:
Of note: that was the second pitch of the game in his first game at the position. Zack Meisel has more here.
Anthony Rizzo has been mired in a horrible slump. Yesterday, he changed up his walk-up music to “…Ready for It?” by Taylor Swift and went 4-for-4 with a home run.
If you thought the A’s protests were a one-time thing, think again: They’re taking the show on the road.
Stephen Nesbitt and I talk about the Rangers’ wonderful horrible homestand, each pick a series of the week, and dive back into the homer chase.
(Top photo of Shohei Ohtani: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)