The 2013 Hall of Fame Class: [null]

No use for the podium this year. (Photo via WLWT Cincinnati)

The greatest hitter and the greatest pitcher many of us will ever see were on the ballot, but that didn’t matter. The BBWAA elected a total of zero players to Hall of Fame this year, the first time that’s happened since 1996. Craig Biggio led the voting with 68.2%, but players must receive 75% for enshrinement. Tim Raines (52.2%), Roger Clemens (37.6%), Don Mattingly (13.2%), Bernie Williams (3.3%), Kenny Lofton (3.2%), David Wells (0.9%), Mike Stanton (0%), and Rondell White (0%) represent the crop of former Yankees on the ballot. Players receiving less than 5% of the vote drop off the ballot next year. Full voting results are available at the BBWAA’s official site.

Given the overwhelmingly deep ballot, it’s pretty ridiculous no players will be inducted this year. Beyond Barry Bonds and Clemens you have absolute no-brainers like Mike Piazza (greatest hitting catcher of all-time!), Craig Biggio, and Jeff Bagwell. I count no fewer than 15 players on the ballot who, at the very least, deserve serious consideration for the Hall. My personal and mythical ballot, seen on Twitter and included in this YES Network feature, was ten players deep. It would have been a dozen had the ballots not been capped at ten. Never really got that rule.

More than anything, this year’s lack of inductees confirms the voting has become more about the writers than the players. The Hall of Fame is a museum and an archive of the game first and foremost. We can’t exclude the parts people don’t like just because. There’s zero evidence (zero!) guys like Bonds, Clemens, and Piazza used PEDs. No failed drug tests, nothing. Suspicion does not equal guilt, yet the ballot this year shows the BBWAA is treating these players as guilty until proven innocent. How someone would go about proving they didn’t use something, a PED or otherwise, is beyond me. Nevermind that the burden of proof falls on those making the accusations.

Anyway, the already overcrowded ballot will get even more crowded next winter when players like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and former Yankee Mike Mussina will be Hall of Fame eligible for the first time. If they don’t change the rule and allow writers to vote for more than ten players in a given year, the voting process is going to be a cluttered nightmare in the coming years. For now, we get an empty 2013 class and a nine-month reprieve until the next ballot is announced and the same inane arguments begin again.

Point/Counterpoint with Rafael Soriano



I’m not trying to pick on Gammons here, more like trying to poke a hole in Scott Boras’ logic. The Yankees reportedly have some interest in bringing Rafael Soriano back on a two-year deal to help their bullpen, but his camp doesn’t need to use Mariano Rivera‘s age to prove their point. We all know Rivera, who is coming off major knee surgery, will open next year at age 43 and is more of a liability now than every before. The Yankees know this as well as anyone, which is why they’re likely looking into other free agent relievers in case Soriano gets his money elsewhere.

And, for the record, Mo was 24 days away from his 40th birthday on the day the Yankees won the 2009 World Series.

Yankees have some interest in Oliver Perez, dark sense of humor

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees have some interest in Oliver Perez and have internally discussed bringing him aboard as a cheap sign. It can’t get any cheaper; whatever team signs Perez would only have to pay him the pro-rated portion of the league minimum. Little brother in Flushing is on the hook for basically all of his $12M salary this year.

I always say there’s no harm in a minor league contract/league minimum big league contract, but I understand if it’s tough to see any upside here. Perez, even though he’s still just 29, is done, like done done. He’s been throwing 85 mph nothingballs in camp the last few weeks, and the last time his FIP even approached the league average was 2007. There’s very little to like here; at least Bartolo Colon is showing something this spring. Heyman says that Brian Cashman isn’t terribly enthused by Ollie, and let’s hope his superiors feel the same way.

Yankees discussing left-handed starters, mostly mediocre ones

Via Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have “kicked around” the idea of pursuing a left-handed starter in the wake of Andy Pettitte‘s retirement. On the supposed list of targets: Scott Kazmir, Joe Saunders, Wake LeBlanc, Clayton Richard, and Gio Gonzalez. My quick analysis is no, no, no, okay, and meh. Joe already looked at Kazmir, but a few of the other guys will be covered over the weekend.

You know who’s a half-decent left-handed starter? Jeff Francis. Too bad he signed with the Royals for half of what the Yankees are playing Pedro Feliciano in 2011. In fairness, Francis did say he chose Kansas City because of the opportunity they provide, but the back of New York’s rotation isn’t exactly tough to crack these days.

Vernon Wells headed to LAnaheim

Update (9:37pm): The Angels aren’t getting any cash in the deal, they’re talking on the full $86M. Unreal.

Update (7:16pm): Ken Rosenthal says it’s Wells for Napoli and former Yankee Juan Rivera. Toronto is paying part of Vernon’s salary, but it’s unclear how much.

Via MLBTR, the Blue Jays have traded Vernon Wells to the Angels for Mike Napoli. This is not a joke. The Angels really took Wells and the four years and $86M left on his deal for Napoli, who’s still in his arbitration years and has out wOBA’d Wells .361 to .342 over the last three years. I don’t know what the hell the HaLOLos are doing, but it’s tough not to love the job Alex Anthopoulos has done so far in Toronto.

Given the Angels current state of apparent dismay, I think an Alex Rodriguez for Jered Weaver and Dan Haren offer is in order.

Darek Braunecker has left the building

Via Jerry Crasnick, Cliff Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker has left the winter meetings, meaning there will be no deal made here. It’s unclear if the Yankees were even able to make their reported six-year offer today. I have to say, this Braunecker character is really starting to get on my nerves, and I’m not even doing business with him. What’s so hard about soliciting offers worth hundreds of millions of dollars on your client’s behalf and not playing hard to get? He’s going to end up costing Lee money with his crap.

Update (3:35 p.m.): Braunecker’s hold-up is also going to leave the Yanks in flux for now. Ken Davidoff says that the Yanks are “unlikely to commit more payroll” to other roster areas until the Lee situation is resolved, and he notes that Andy Pettitte will “probably stay undecided” about pitching in 2011 until Lee signs. The waiting is the hardest part.

Update (4:45 p.m.): Joel Sherman confirms that the Yankees did not make an official offer while Braunecker was here. Jack Curry says that Lee’s agent is aware of what the Yanks are willing to spend.

The Obligatory Hideki Okajima Post

This post seemed inevitable, and sure enough the emails started trickling in not long after we learned that the Red Sox will decline to tender Hideki Okajima a contract before tonight’s deadline, making Daisuke Matsuzaka’s buddy* a free agent. With the Yankees in the market for a second lefty, wondering if Okajima was worth targeting was only natural. I’m here to tell you that hell no, the Yanks should avoid the guy.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Okajima burst onto the scene in 2007 by allowing a solo homerun to the first batter he ever faced in the big leagues (John Buck) and then not allowing another run until late-May, 19 pitching appearances later. Okajima was an All Star that season and finished the year with a 2.22 ERA (3.33 FIP) and a rather studly 1.5 fWAR  in 69 innings of setup work, and of course a World Series ring. Even more impressive is that he was effective against both lefties (.302 wOBA against) and righties (.222) thanks to a split-change and funky don’t-look-at-the-target delivery.

Although he wasn’t as dominant the next year, Okajima did pitch to a 2.61 ERA (3.62 FIP) and 1.1 fWAR in 62 innings even though right-handers started to figure him out (.356 wOBA against compared to .259 vs. LHB). Things started to fall apart in 2009 (3.39 ERA, 4.20 FIP, .371 wOBA vs. RHB, .225 wOBA vs. LHB) and then the wheels came completely off in 2010 (4.50 ERA, 4.64 FIP, .381 wOBA vs. RHB, .314 wOBA vs. LHB). The league, it appears, has finally caught up to him after four seasons in the States.

Oh hai baseball. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

There’s a lot not to like about Okajima, starting with his stuff. His fastball, never great to begin with, averaged a career low 86.3 mph last season and he’s using it more often than ever, basically two out of every three pitches. As funky as his delivery is, Okajima’s not particularly good at hiding the ball since he comes right over the top (right). If batters can see a mid-80’s fastball out of a pitcher’s hand, they’ll probably hit it not matter which way the guy’s head is going, and unsurprisingly Okajima’s heater was worth 2.8 runs below average in 2010, easily the worst mark of his career. His split finger has lost three inches of vertical break over the last two years, and it’s gone from two runs above average to 4.4 below. The curveball’s more than fine (1.52 runs above average in 2010), but that’s all he’s working with these days.

Another issue with Okajima is health after he missed close to two months with a back stiffness last summer, and then there’s the homeruns (one for every 7.2 IP over the last two years). And sheesh, he’s not even that great against lefties anymore. Like I said earlier, they got him for a .314 wOBA in 2010, below (in a bad way) the .304 left-on-left league average. Okajima’s not outrageously expensive but $2.75M for a LOOGY (his 2010 salary) is less than ideal, and I assume he’ll want a similar salary next year. Also, just think about what’s going on here, a team in the process of overhauling a weak bullpen is cutting him loose because he was part of the problem, not the solution. Boston can surely afford him, this is all about performance.

I suspect that if Okajima had performed exactly the same way over the last four years for a team like the Padres or Royals instead of the Red Sox, no one would think twice about him. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with exploring possibilities, but let’s just keep moving along, nothing to see here.

* Kay’d