Former Phillies Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling deserve Hall of Fame enshrinement

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Rolen was the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year with the Phillies

Just a little more than three weeks from now, on January 22, 2019, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the names of those voted in to the Class of 2019.

Based on publicly revealed ballots making up 1/3 of the total eligible voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, it appears certain that Mariano RiveraEdgar Martinez, and former Blue Jays and Phillies ace Roy Halladay will certainly make the cut.
It will be a close call for former Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees stud pitcher Mike Mussina. And a pair of players still be punished for their involvement with PEDs, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, are also receiving strong support but are likely to fall just short this time around.
Two players who will not get in this year, but who each deserve to be enshrined, are former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling and third baseman Scott Rolen.
Schilling was running at around 72.9% of the votes received and made publicly available by early on Saturday afternoon, January 29, 2018 as tabulated by Ryan Thibodaux. Rolen was at just 19.4% of those publicly announced votes. It takes a minimum of 75% support for a player to be elected for enshrinement.
Under the current voting rules, players must have completed participation in ten seasons in order to become eligible for consideration. The player must then have been formally retired from Major League Baseball for five full seasons. Players who pass away within that five-year period are eligible six months after their death.
If a player does not receive the 75% of the votes needed in order for election, they can remain on the Hall of Fame ballot for nine more years. However, if a player received less than 5% support in any voting year they are dropped from the ballot and will received no further consideration until a special committee process can evaluate them.
For Schilling, this marks his seventh year on the ballot. A year ago, he finished with 51.2% of the vote. That was up from 45% in 2017, and just 39.2% in 2015. This is just Rolen’s second year on the ballot after receiving 10.2% of the vote a year ago.

THE CASE FOR CURT

Schilling enjoyed a storied 20-year career in Major League Baseball. He began as a reliever with the Baltimore Orioles (1988-90) and Houston Astros (1991) before receiving his big break.
Just as the 1992 season was set to open, the Philadelphia Phillies obtained Schilling in trade from Houston in a straight-up deal for Jason Grimsley. Phillies skipper Jim Fregosi would insert him into the starting rotation in mid-May, and there he would stay.
Over nine seasons with the Phillies from 1992-2000, Schilling would go 101-78 with a 3.35 ERA and 1.120 WHIP. He allowed just 1,444 hits over 1,659.1 innings with 1,554 strikeouts across 242 appearances, 226 of those as a starter.
Schilling was an NL All-Star for three consecutive seasons from 1997-99 while with the Phillies. The big right-hander also finished fourth in the 1997 NL Cy Young Award voting after a season in which he won 17 games and led baseball with 319 strikeouts for a team that won just 68 games.
It was with the 1993 Phillies magical NL pennant-winning team that Schilling took the first steps in what became one of baseball’s all-time greatest careers as a postseason performer.
He was stellar in starting Games 1 and 5 of the Phillies upset of the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. He surrendered just three earned runs and 11 hits over 16 innings as the Phillies won both games. For those performances, Schilling was named the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS.
Then after a lackluster outing in Game 1 of the World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Schilling kept the Phillies alive with a sparkling five-hit, complete game shutout in Game 5 of that Fall Classic.
Schilling would be dealt to Arizona at the 2000 non-waiver trade deadline. There he would be named the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 World Series in helping to lead the Diamondbacks to their lone world championship. He would also add two more NL All-Star teams and a pair of Cy Young runner-up finishes to his resumé while pitching in the desert.
Just prior to the Winter Meetings in November 2003, Schilling was traded again, this time to the Boston Red Sox. There he would finish as runner-up for the Cy Young Award for a third time.
He would help end the 86-year ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ as the Bosox won the 2004 World Series. Included in that run was the legendary ‘Bloody Sock’ performance in Game 6 of the ALCS comeback victory over the arch-rival New York Yankees. Then in his career finale, Schilling would again help Boston to another world championship in 2007.
Over his full career, Schilling put together a 216-146 record with a 3.46 ERA and 1.137 WHIP. He allowed 2,998 hits over 3,261 innings while striking out 3,116 batters across 569 appearances.
Schilling was a three-time World Series champion, six-time All-Star, three-time runner-up for the Cy Young Award, and received MVP votes in four seasons. He also won the 1995 Lou Gehrig Award.
For his fabulous 2001 performance he won not only that World Series MVP Award, but also was honored with the NL Babe Ruth Award, the Branch Rickey Award, and the Roberto Clemente Award. In both 2001 and 2002 he was named as The Sporting News NL Pitcher of the Year.
He led all of baseball in Innings Pitched on two occasions and won 20+ games three times. In 19197-98 with the Phillies he registered back-to-back seasons of 300+ strikeouts.
Take a look at those qualifications again. This is a no-doubt Hall of Famer who should be enshrined by now. Schilling, a political and social conservative, is likely being held back by controversial political and social commentary made public over the last handful of year.

SCOTT’S SHOT AT THE HALL

Rolen was the Phillies second round choice in the 1993 MLB Amateur Draft and made his big-league debut with the team in a 1996 season that was cut short by injury. On his full-season return in 1997, Rolen was named as the National League Rookie of the Year.
The following season, Rolen received National League Most Valuable Player votes for the first of what would be four times in his career. He also was honored with his first of eight career NL Gold Glove Awards at third base. For me, Rolen is third behind only Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt as a defender at the hot corner.
Over parts of seven seasons with the Phillies, Rolen slashed .282/.373/.504, slamming 150 homers and 207 doubles. He was traded away at the 2002 MLB non-waiver trade deadline to the Saint Louis Cardinals as part of a five-player deal in which the Phillies received Placido Polanco in return. Rolen won a 2002 NL Silver Slugger following that season.
With the Cardinals, Rolen made four consecutive NL All-Star appearances from 2003-06, won Gold Gloves in three of those four seasons, and helped lead Saint Louis to the World Series championship in 2006. He finished fourth in the 2004 NL MVP voting after a season in which he slammed 34 home runs and produced 124 RBI while hitting .314 with a .409 on-base percentage.
After a season-and-a-half with the Toronto Blue Jays, Rolen wrapped his career by playing four seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. He added on two more NL All-Star appearances and a final Gold Glove with the Reds, though most of those final four years were marred by injuries that robbed him of much of his power.
Over 17 seasons, Rolen finished with 2,077 hits and 316 home runs. He drove in 1,287 runs and scored 1,211 times. His career 70.2 WAR places him 67th all-time in Major League Baseball among position players. While WAR is not the be-all and end-all of baseball statistics, it has become accepted as an extremely reliable barometer of a player’s performance and value when compared to others.
That 70.2 mark puts him ahead of many Hall of Famers, including the likes of Gary CarterTim RainesTony GwynnEddie MurrayIvan RodriguezCarlton FiskRyne SandbergErnie BanksRoberto AlomarWillie McCoveyDave WinfieldAndre DawsonWillie StargellVladimir GuerreroJim RiceLou Brock, and many more.

WHEN MIGHT WE SEE THEM MAKE IT

The voting at this time a year from now should be extremely interesting. The only newcomer to the ballot for the Class of 2020 who is going to be elected is Derek Jeter. That’s a slam dunk.
Schilling will join Bonds and Clemens, possibly Mussina if he falls short again this time, and Larry Walker in his final year on the ballot as the other favorites for election. The following year, for the Class of 2021, all but Walker will again be under consideration with no newcomers to the ballot likely to make the cut.
Rolen is likely to take some time. He is the type of player whose career is going to come more into focus and be appreciated as each year of consideration rolls on. An extremely hopeful sign that the BBWAA will get it right eventually? Today’s public results show that 42.9% of first-time voters cast a ballot for him.
Schilling and Rolen were teammates for parts of five seasons from 1996-2000 with the Phillies. Those were losing seasons for the team, during which ownership was unwilling to lay out money to improve the product on the field as they lobbied for new ballpark to replace Veteran’s Stadium.
Both Schilling and Rolen were legitimate stars who went public with their dissatisfaction in playing for a team that was going nowhere. Those public proclamations didn’t always go over well with the Phillies fan base and were the primary reasons behind each of their departures.
Fact is, the two players were right. Phillies ownership was refusing to put money into the team. This doomed the two stars to years of losing baseball with little support. The Phillies went just 352-458 during those 1996-2000 seasons. It would all turn begin to turn around for the franchise over the next couple of years, but by then the two were gone.
Schilling was eventually honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He was given that ultimate franchise honor during the summer of 2013. Rolen will hopefully join him on that wall during some future summer.
This year, I voted for both Schilling and Rolen in my IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. I will certainly continue to vote for both players any year that they appear on that ballot.
I  firmly believe that sometime in the coming years both of these former Phillies and overall baseball greats will receive their day in the summer sun with a Baseball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony at Cooperstown, New York.

Searching for a lefty rotation option, Dallas Keuchel could be perfect fit for Phillies

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Keuchel, a lefty, would bring Cy Young and world champion experience to the rotation

The last couple days are about to tick off the 2018 calendar and many fans of the Philadelphia Phillies remain underwhelmed by the team’s off-season moves thus far.

This Hot Stove season opened with the promise of a new impact bat for the middle of the order in either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Those players remain available, and one could still land in Philadelphia.
For now the Phillies additions are Andrew McCutchen in left field and Jean Segura at shortstop. Also, the trade of Carlos Santana has freed up Rhys Hoskins to return to first base.
The lineup now feels more solid. Given health, there is reason to have confidence in both a more consistent offense as well as a more competent defense.
But without major improvement by incumbent players the lineup and bench are still probably not strong enough to overcome the defending National League East Division champion Atlanta Braves, or either the Washington Nationals or New York Mets.
Should they lose out on both Harper and Machado, many of those same underwhelmed fans would likely throw up their hands in surrender. However, the Phillies still have a reasonable chance to compete if they can improve their starting rotation.
In recent days the Phillies have been mentioned as being among the teams involved in trade discussions for Cleveland Indians right-handed ace Corey Kluber. But the team is believed to really want a strong left-handed option to add to the current all-righty mix.

MLB insider Jon Paul Morosi of MLB Network and Fox Sports stated today via his Twitter account that the Phillies are involved in negotiations for free agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel. The major holdup appears to be the club’s unwillingness to meet the player’s desire for a five-year contract.
Sources: pursuing Dallas Keuchel but thus far have been unwilling to meet Keuchel’s request of a 5-year contract. @MLB @MLBNetwork

388 people are talking about this

Keuchel will turn 31-years-old on New Year’s Day. While I am not usually a fan of handing out five-year deals to pitchers on the wrong side of age 30, he might actually be worth the stretch.
Neck woes cost Keuchel most of June and July 2017, but he has been otherwise physically reliable with no arm troubles. Keuchel won the 2015 AL Cy Young Award, has won the AL Gold Glove for pitchers in four of the last five seasons, and is a two-time American League all-star.
Keuchel has been at or above the 200-innings pitched mark three times over his five full seasons as a starting pitcher. He consistently delivers Quality Start efforts, something that is becoming increasingly valuable.
One knock on Keuchel is that he is a “soft-tosser”, generally pitching to contact as opposed to overpowering hitters. That could prove dangerous in a place such as Citizens Bank Park.
He succeeds as many similar “crafty” left-handers have in the past: solid control and smart pitching. Keuchel works off a four-seam fastball that rarely hits 90mph. But he mixes in a cutter, slider, sinker, and changeup. His excellent slider and sinker allow him to induce ground balls at a high rate.
Represented by super-agent Scott Boras, it was believed at the start of the off-season that it would take a five- or six-year deal at roughly $20 million average per season to land Keuchel’s services.
Such a deal would put him at right around the deals currently earned by pitchers such as Wei-Yin Chen and Jeff Samardzija. It would also put him right about where Cole Hamels, who is already 35-years-old, is currently earning.

Keuchel appears to be the kind of lefty pitcher who would age well, and who could have sustained success over the length of a five-year deal that would take him through his age 35 season. Remember, it was just a decade ago that the Phillies traded for a 43-year old Jamie Moyer. He delivered four solid seasons and was key starting pitcher on a world championship team.
Other teams believed to be looking closely at Keuchel are the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, and Texas Rangers. Again, while I am not generally inclined to support such a deal, I think that Keuchel could be the exception that proves the rule. The kind of smart pitcher who ages well.
He may never win another Cy Young. But Keuchel could well eat 850 or more innings over the next five years at 32-33 starts per season. That would be worth the contract. It is something the Phillies should seriously consider.

Phillies reportedly still involved in Corey Kluber trade discussions

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Kluber is one of baseball’s few genuine ace-caliber starting pitchers

Phillies Nation was rocked by a report on Boxing Day that the two high-profile free agents who the club has publicly pursued with big contract offers this off-season, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, may hold a negative opinion of the city, the Phillies organization, or both.

MLB insider Joel Sherman made the statement, writing the following in the New York Post: “Word is neither player particularly likes Philadelphia…
That statement must be taken with a bit of a grain of salt for a number of reasons. The biggest, of course, is financial. The odds are that if either superstar turns down the Phillies, they would almost certainly be leaving tens of millions of dollars and multiple years of security on the table.
Then you have the source itself. Sherman is a New York guy. Of course, he would prefer to have Machado or Harper playing in his town, where he could enjoy watching them play and reporting on their exploits.
Finally, you have the statement itself. “Word is?” Where does this “word” come from exactly? And neither guy “particularly likes Philadelphia?” What does that even mean? Do they both hate Philly? Do they hold such a negative opinion that they would never play here? Do they even have a negative opinion at all, or are they simply ambivalent about our town?
Set aside the extremely questionable nature of the report, and let’s assume that it is completely accurate on its face. Neither Harper or Machado wants to play in Philly. Both go to a place they really do want, neither deciding to take the “stupid money” that John Middleton is offering. What next for the Phillies?
As Sherman’s report came out on the day after Christmas, at the same time another report was being released by Jon Paul Morosi at MLB.com that again linked starting pitcher Corey Kluber to the Phillies. The Cleveland Indians have been dangling their ace, hoping to land a package of younger players and prospects in return.
While Morosi’s sources have the San Diego Padres as the current front-runners and the Dodgers perhaps a close second in a possible Kluber deal, the Phillies are indeed again lurking and involved.
Tribe GM Mike Chernoff is reportedly looking for a package led by a young, MLB-ready player with upside potential and a couple of solid prospects. Nick Cafardo at The Boston Globe stated the following on the Kluber situation last week:

“…from what we’re hearing, the Indians won’t deal him unless they get value-plus. There would have to be an overpayment of prospects and young players to get a deal done.”

While Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery would certainly be off the table, a Phillies package could lead with any or a combination from among Maikel FrancoNick WilliamsOdubel Herrera, and Roman Quinn.
Any starting pitcher not named Aaron Nola or Jake Arrieta could go. From the prospect ranks, anyone below top prospect Sixto Sanchez should be in play.

All this highlights is the continuing fact that Middleton has made an open checkbook available to general manager Matt Klentak in order to help improve the team. It is now up to Klentak and president Andy MacPhail to entice impact players, difference-makers on the field who will also draw fans, to accept that money.
My take is that, despite New York media wishes, the Phillies are still very much in on Machado and Harper. But the team is also talking other deals, with a potential trade for Kluber just part of that overall strategy to improve the roster for 2019 as best they can.
There are plenty of options still available beyond those mentioned. At third base there is Mike Moustakas. Or you could wait a year and go after Nolan Arenado. At shortstop you could likely roll the dice on a one-year deal with an option on Troy Tulowitzki.
In the outfield, perhaps a short-term deal with A.J. Pollock or Carlos Gonzalez, one that bridges you the two years until Mike Trout becomes a free agent and we are all thrown into an apoplectic frenzy that will make all of this Harper-Machado nonsense look like child’s play.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Corey Kluber reportedly still in play for Phillies

My 2019 IBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

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Former Phillies star Jim Thome was among those voted into the HOF last year

As a lifetime member of the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association), I have the honor of being involved in the organization’s annual Hall of Fame voting process. This is my fifth year with a ballot, and my selections were turned in about two weeks ago.

The IBWAA voting process does not earn a player a plaque at Cooperstown. It does, however, allow a group of well-informed voters to express their opinion as to which players are deserving of the ultimate honor for their baseball career. You can consider it a formal endorsement from baseball writers and bloggers who represent dozens of internet sites.
I had decided over the last couple of years to break my ballot down into three segments. “Hall of Fame” players are those who, for me, are obvious, or whom I evaluated from previous years and decided were worthy.

“Future Consideration” names are not so obvious to me, but are strong enough candidates that I will continue to evaluate them moving forward. Finally, “Not Hall of Famer” guys are those who just don’t make the cut for me and will not in the future.

In 2017, eight players received my IBWAA vote: Barry BondsRoger ClemensTrevor HoffmanMike MussinaManny RamirezIvan RodriguezCurt Schilling, and Larry Walker. Both Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero, who I had on my “Future Consideration” list that year, were voted in by the full IBWAA membership.
Last year just five returning players received my vote as a “Hall of Fame” player: Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling once again, as well as two newcomers to the ballot: Jim Thome and Chipper Jones.
On my “Future Consideration” list from the 2018 ballot were Hoffman, Mussina, Walker, Ramirez, Scott RolenGary SheffieldBilly WagnerLee SmithJohnny DamonSammy SosaJeff KentFred McGriffOmar VizquelJamie MoyerAndruw Jones, and Johan Santana.
The IBWAA membership honored six players in the final vote a year ago. Bonds and Clemens each finally got in, joined by Thome, CJones, Mussina, and Hoffman.
While the BBWAA only allow their eligible Hall of Fame voters to cast ballots for up to 10 players, the IBWAA has a 15-player limit. I decided after looking over the names to cast a wide ballot this year. Bottom line, I simply felt generous.

MY 2019 IBWAA BALLOT

My list for the 2019 IBWAA ballot was led by Schilling, the only player who has been a definite, no-doubt “Hall of Fame” player for me in both of the last two years but hasn’t made it as yet.
Two newcomers on this year’s ballot were considered by me to be no-doubt “Hall of Fame” players. Both Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay thus received my vote as well.
I had decided early-on to bump up two players from last year’s “Future Consideration” list who were back on the 2019 IBWAA ballot, Walker and Rolen, to receive my vote.
That was originally going to be all for me. And then I got soft. I read a couple of pieces written by respected sources advocating for more players to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and was influenced to send in a full 15-player ballot.
For that reason alone, 10 additional players received my vote this year. These players would have usually found themselves in my “Future Consideration” list: Ramirez, Sheffield, Wagner, Kent, McGriff, and AJones from last year’s ballot. And then newcomers Todd HeltonLance BerkmanRoy Oswalt, and Andy Pettitte.
Over the last few days, I have come to regret that expansion of my ballot. If I had it to do over again, just Schilling, Rivera, Halladay, Walker, and Rolen would have received my vote. The rest would have been in the “Future Consideration” category, along with holdovers Sosa and Vizquel and newcomer Miguel Tejada.
A year from now you can expect me to return to my three-tiered system of breaking down the nominees. You can expect that any of my five 2019 no-doubt players doesn’t make it this time around, they will get a vote from me again next year.

Originally published at Phillies Nation asMatt Veasey’s 2019 IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

Phillies off-season moves will mean goodbyes for some current position players

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Altherr, Franco, Herrera (L-R) among current Phillies who could be gone in 2019

Most of the talk during this current Major League Baseball off-season where the Philadelphia Phillies has been concerned has revolved around new players coming to the team.

A new shortstop was brought in via trade in Jean Segura. A new corner outfielder signed in Andrew McCutchen. A couple of new bullpen pieces in left-hander James Pazos and right-hander Juan Nicasio.
In the deal with the Seattle Mariners that saw Segura, Pazos, and Nicasio all arrive, two holdover infielders left in Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford. That deal made room for the return of Rhys Hoskins as the everyday first baseman.
But a number of Phillies position players remain on the roster in limbo. Moves still to be made could well determine the immediate future for each of them.
The Phillies are one of the finalists for the services of infielder Manny Machado. If he chooses to play his home games at Citizens Bank Park for most of the next decade, that could have an effect on Maikel FrancoScott Kingery, and Cesar Hernandez.
If Machado comes and agrees to play third base, then Segura is at shortstop. Hernandez, if not traded himself, would then open spring training as the starting second baseman with Kingery as a super-utility player. If Hernandez is dealt, Kingery starts at second base.
In that scenario, Franco is clearly out. The Phillies would be aggressively shopping the 26-year-old prior to or during spring training.
Franco could survive, if Machado insists on shortstop and the Phillies slide Segura over to second base. If that happens, then it would likely be Hernandez who is shipped out before the season. The team could also decide to play Kingery every day at third base. Then we are back to Franco leaving town.
In the outfield the Phillies are one of the finalists for Bryce Harper. The likelihood is that they will see what happens first with Machado. If they land him, then they probably drop out of the Harper bidding. If the miss out on Machado, the Phillies may then become even bolder in trying to land Harper.

Franco and Hernandez could be joining their former Phillies infield mate Galvis in soon wearing a different uniform.
So, let’s say Machado chooses the New York Yankees or Chicago White Sox. And then let’s say the Phillies are able to outbid the Los Angeles Dodgers and other for Harper’s services. Then what happens in the outfield? Two of the three starting spots would be taken by him and McCutchen.
That would leave a glut of holdover outfielders scrambling for a final starting berth, or for the opportunity to become part of a platoon. Those players would be Odubel HerreraAaron AltherrNick Williams, and Roman Quinn.
The Phillies would probably be best served playing Harper in right and McCutchen in left, with Quinn playing center field in between them. However, Quinn’s injury history may always prove a question mark. That might make Herrera the lead option in the short term.
Such a scenario likely puts Williams and Altherr on the trade blocks, though the latter could prove to be a valuable bench player. The 25-year-old Williams has the skills to start in the big-leagues and deserves that opportunity, so he is most likely to be traded.
Of course, the Phillies might not land either Machado or Harper. That still wouldn’t mean they are done in the free agent market. There remain other options that would require spending far less “stupid” money.
They could turn their attention on the infield to a shorter term option such as Troy Tulowitzki at third base. Then we are likely back to the Franco-on-the-block situation. In the outfield, maybe someone like A.J. Pollock, and then the outfield is back to being overcrowded.
If the Phillies are able to add no one else to their starting position player mix for the 2019 season, things could still get interesting. If Hernandez says, he is likely entering his final season in a Phillies uniform, with Kingery taking over at second base by 2020 at the latest.

In the outfield, McCutchen becomes the new left fielder. You are probably then back to a Williams-Altherr platoon of sorts in right field, with Herrera and Quinn battling for center field time. Franco would remain the third baseman, unless the Phillies receive a good offer for him, making Kingery the third base starter.
One thing seems certain: the Phillies are far from done, and their current position player mix is likely to be shaken up on a couple of fronts before spring training ends, possibly before it even arrives.
Franco, Hernandez, Altherr, Williams, Quinn, Herrera. Some combination of those players is likely to be playing in another uniform during the 2019 season.