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2014 Hall of Fame Ballot

The Hall of Fame ballot came out earlier this week, and thanks to a whole week off from school I've had lots of time to dig into it. This ballot stands out as a particularly important and invigorating one thanks to a confluence of factors. There are several first-time names on the ballot that are very sexy (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas come to mind). There are holdovers like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire that continue to make voters think about the legacy of PEDs in the 1990s. Then there are also a few long-time ballot members that seem to be on the fence of induction. Chief among this final group is Jack Morris, who is on the ballot for the 15th and guaranteed final time. He earned over 67% of the vote last year, and needs to be named on 75% of ballots for enshrinement.

In other words, pick your favorite debate on this ballot. There are lots of fun ones, which is why this ballot might mean more than most. People are even debating the voting process itself. In fact, Deadspin has even purchased a ballot this year, presumably from a disgruntled voter. Literally any and all debates are on the table this year.

At some point I will offer my own Hall of Fame ballot on this blog, but this post isn't about who should be in the Hall of Fame. I decided it would be more interesting to ask who will make the Hall of Fame. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that the voters and the voting process are more predictable than many believe - or at least I believed.

McClendon Sets Coaching Staff

I thought about rolling discussion of the coaching staff into the Chuck Armstrong post, but decided Check deserved a post of his own. The Mariners announced their 2014 coaching staff mere hours before they announced that Chuck Armstrong would retire. Both of these news items continue the Mariners crusade to make news without doing anything to the roster.

Here's the coaching staff:

Bench coach - Trent Jewett (already announced a few weeks ago)
Hitting coach - Howard Johnson
Pitching coach - Rick Waits
First base coach - Andy Van Slyke
Third base coach - John Stearns
Bullpen coach - Mike Rojas
Infield coach - Chris Woodward

The staff is surprising, mostly because McClendon blew up the staff (as expected) but not in the way most new managers do. He ended up promoting lots of coaches already in the organization. Both Johnson and Stearns were in AAA Tacoma, while both Woodward and Waits were roving minor league instructors. Rojas was the Tigers bullpen coach while McClendon was there, and Van Slyke has been out of coaching for a few years but is another McClendon connection from Detroit. Jewett and McClendon know each other from their time together over a decade ago in Pittsburgh.

If nothing else, McClendon clearly went into the staffing process with an open mind. The Mariners fired Carl Willis, seemingly to give McClendon the last bit of freedom he needed to hire whomever he wanted. Maybe the staff is a sign that McClendon has few connections across baseball, or that he couldn't lure anyone else to join him in Seattle. I hope neither is the case but they are possibilities.

Regardless, I kind of like the mix, in particular since so many coaches got promoted. The minor league coaches know the Mariners on the roster better than anyone else, given that most of the current Mariners are so young and inexperienced. They've simply spent more of their pro careers in the minors at this point. Perhaps this coaching staff has the right balance of familiar faces and new ones to develop guys like Dustin Ackley, Brad Miller, and Nick Franklin in ways that previous coaching staffs have not.

The Mariners, I think, have run out of moves they can make without acquiring different players. At the very least they have surprised me by finding a manager outside the organization willing to take the job, and surprised me again by promoting so many minor league coaches to the majors. Here's hoping for some more surprises over the winter.

Happy Trails, Chuck Armstrong

Chuck Armstrong will leave the Mariners at the end of January. He has worked with the Mariners for 28 of the past 30 years. If you read some of the comments across the internet, you would think the baseball gods have sent the angels of justice down with harps, singing pristine melodies and making the universe right again. Armstrong doesn't leave under duress from other leadership in the Mariners organization, but he has been a target of the team's woes, along with Howard Lincoln, for some time.

But nothing is ever all that black-and-white, particularly when someone hangs around in a high leadership position for three decades, which so happens to be about three-quarters of M's entire existence. Yes, everything you hate about the Mariners has something to do with Chuck Armstrong. This might be a newsflash though: everything you like about the Mariners has something to do with Chuck Armstrong too.

Restricted Free Agency

Major League Baseball features a bizarre system for determining player salaries. A player goes through three phases in their MLB career:
  1. Glorified indentured servitude - For three years a player must take whatever the team gives them. Most teams offer the league minimum, unsurprisingly.
  2. Arbitration - For three years a player can go to arbitration to increase their pay. The stated intention of arbitration in the collective bargaining agreement is to gradually increase a player's salary up to their anticipated open market value in free agency. The general rule of thumb is that a player earns 40% of what they are worth the first year, 60% the next year, and 80% in their final year.
  3. Free agency - This is where players finally go on a completely open market.
No other sport has a salary system like this. MLB's became this way largely thanks to a history filled with rampant, overt collusion that got challenged by an aggressive players union back in the late 1960s though the 1970s. It used to be that players had to take whatever the team handed them forever (in other words, phase 1 was the only phase for a player in their career). That changed when the reserve clause got challenged in court, and reinterpreted as binding a player to their team for only one year, instead of forever.

The reinterpretation forced the MLB and MLBPA to the bargaining table, as neither side really wanted all MLB players hitting the open market. Interestingly, MLBPA leader Marvin Miller was the one that suggested the modern system. He realized that limiting the free agent pool would create a more competitive open market, and figured MLB owners' desire for top free agents would trump their seemingly innate habit to collude and keep prices down. Miller turned out to be right, and I think even he would be surprised at the massive contracts doled out these days.

The current system, as odd as it is, more or less served its purpose for a long time. However, over the past decade, there are obvious signs that its time has come and gone. It's time to update the system again.

2013 BBA Award Results

The totals are in and counting for this year's BBA Awards. I've summarized the AL picks below, with my selections in parentheses:

Connie Mack
John Farrell, Red Sox (Terry Francona, Indians)

Willie Mays
Wil Myers, Rays (Wil Myers, Rays)

Goose Gossage
Koji Uehara, Red Sox (Koji Uehara, Red Sox)

Walter Johnson
Max Scherzer, Tigers (Max Scherzer, Tigers)

Stan Musial
Mike Trout, Angels (Mike Trout, Angels)

We shall see who the BBWAA chooses for their awards. The BBA vote wasn't close for the Musial, but I expect the BBWAA to have a tougher time choosing between Trout and Cabrera.

15 Wins (The 2014 Offseason Plan)

The Mariners were 71-91 last year. If they win 15 more games they go 86-76. That's simple math. I picked 15 games because it is a rather round number, and 86 wins likely gets them within 5 games of a playoff berth. 86 wins doesn't sound like a particularly interesting win total, but staying within five games of a playoff spot means staying in the playoff hunt into September. How refreshing would that be?

So here's my crack at gaining 15 wins, listed out for easy reference:

Lloyd McClendon, Mariners Manager

I'll be honest, I'm only posting about this topic for two reasons:

1) I'm a Mariners blog, and when the Mariners hire a manager, it seems like the kind of news a Mariners blog is obligated to talk about at some point on some level.

2) Lloyd McClendon, if nothing else, was the only managerial candidate the M's interviewed who has stolen first base*.

* He steals first around the 1:00 mark. I argue this is the greatest MLB manager meltdown to date in the 21st century.

For real reporting on McClendon, I'd recommend Larry Stone's piece. McClendon was liked and respected by Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers leadership, for what it is worth. For my spin and quasi-rant on the whole situation, keep reading.