Athletics

Why Joe Stiglich gave Edgar Martinez a Hall of Fame vote this year

edgarmartinez-2003-ap.jpg
AP

Why Joe Stiglich gave Edgar Martinez a Hall of Fame vote this year

When I began doing the homework for my 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, some of the decisions were easy.

There were five players I voted for last winter — my first time eligible to vote for the Hall — who didn’t receive induction into the 2017 class. Those five, without question, found their way back on my ballot for this year. But while it’s easy to simply carry over players you voted for the previous year, it’s a trickier proposition deciding which players to re-consider if you’ve passed them over previously.

Edgar Martinez’s Hall of Fame case is a complicated one. He didn’t play his first full major league season until he was 27, so he didn’t stockpile some of the gaudy cumulative numbers that often pave the way to Cooperstown. He also spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter, and Frank Thomas is the only player inducted who spent most of his career as a DH.

But the career-long Mariner’s candidacy was worth revisiting in my mind. After passing on him last year, I checked the box next to Martinez’s name this time around. That’s the most newsworthy feature of my 2018 ballot, which includes votes for two first-time eligible candidates. I voted for eight players total on a ballot that allows a max of 10.

Here’s a glance at those I gave the thumbs-up:

Edgar Martinez: He’s on his ninth year of eligibility, meaning he’s got one year left after this to reach the 75 percent of votes needed for induction or else he falls off the ballot. There’s an aggressive P.R. push to get Martinez to Cooperstown, but that’s not my motivation for putting him in. Martinez has the body of work. Consider he’s one of just nine players in Major League history with 300 homers, 500 doubles, a career batting average above .300, an on-base percentage higher than .400 and a career slugging percentage higher than .500. Martinez claimed two batting titles, and though his 309 home runs don’t jump off the page, Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez called him the toughest hitter he ever faced. That’s quite the endorsement.

Chipper Jones: An eight-time All-Star and 1999 NL MVP, Jones hit .303 for his career and his 468 homers are the most by a switch hitter in National League history. And it didn’t matter which side the Atlanta Braves’ third baseman/outfielder was hitting from. Jones batted .303 left-handed and .304 right-handed. Like Edgar Martinez, Jones spent his entire career with one team, and that’s something fewer and fewer Hall of Famers will be able to boast.

Jim Thome: One of just nine players in the 600-homer club, the first baseman/DH played in the heart of the steroid era but was never connected to performance-enhancing drugs. That makes his 612 home runs, eighth most all-time, even more impressive. Thome’s a no-brainer. Like Jones, he should be a first-ballot inductee.

And here’s the five that return from my ballot last year, in alphabetical order:

Barry Bonds: As I detailed in my Hall of Fame story last winter, Bonds was dominating with his all-around skills long before he was linked to PEDs. In the 13-year period from 1986-98, Bonds won three MVP awards and averaged a 30-30 season. There’s no debate for me here.

Roger Clemens: The same PED cloud hovers over Clemens as Bonds, but I take the same stance with him. The dominant numbers were there before he was ever thought to have taken performance-enhancers. From 1984-97, Clemens claimed four Cy Young awards, won 213 games and struck out 2,882. That strikeout total alone would rank 15th among Hall of Fame pitchers.

Vladimir Guerrero: In his first year of eligibility last year, Guerrero earned an impressive 71.7 percent of votes, making it a strong possibility his ticket gets punched this year. It’s easy to see why. The outfielder with the rocket arm hit .318 for his career with 449 homers and was the 2004 AL MVP with the Angels.

Trevor Hoffman: The longtime Padres closer scored even higher than Guerrero last season, grabbing 74 percent of the vote. So his plaque in Cooperstown is inevitable. Hoffman’s 601 saves rank second all-time behind Mariano Rivera’s 652.

Curt Schilling: He’s created the wrong kind of headlines in recent years with his social media rants, but Schilling deserves the nod to me based on his outstanding postseason resume. That includes an 11-2 record, 2.23 ERA and two shutouts in the playoffs. He also won 216 games in the regular season and topped 3,100 strikeouts.

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

marcell-ozuna-marlins-ap.jpg
AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

khris-davis-funnylook-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

The A’s took care of a big piece of business with their top run producer, signing slugger Khris Davis to a one-year contract Wednesday and avoiding arbitration.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the sides settled on a $10.5 million salary. That’s more than double the $5 million Davis made last season in his first trip through the arbitration process, but a huge raise was expected after Davis put up more monster numbers in his second year with Oakland.

His 43 home runs in 2017 ranked second in the American League and he was third in RBI with 110. Consider that Davis is the only major leaguer to crack the 40-homer mark in each of the past two seasons, and only Giancarlo Stanton has more total homers during that span (86 to Davis’ 85).

That obviously makes the 30-year-old Davis a valuable commodity.

“Back to back 40-homer years in this ballpark. You guys don’t talk about it enough,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said in October. “When we acquired him (in a trade from Milwaukee) we knew we got a guy with a lot of power. I think we were thinking a 30-homer guy. The fact he’s gone 40 back-to-back is pretty amazing. He fits in perfectly here. I think having that big bat that Khris brings helps guys like (Matt) Olson and (Matt) Chapman.”

So it’s clear the A’s value Davis, and that’s why he hasn’t been traded thus far, as many around the game speculated he might be this winter. But where do things go moving forward?

He’ll be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before he’s able to test free agency heading into the 2020 season. If you’re an A’s fan, you know where this is going. If July hits and the A’s are floundering in the standings, Davis no doubt will be a trade candidate. He’d have appeal as a proven slugger who would remain under team control for 2019.

But Davis is a rare breed. He loves playing in Oakland and doesn’t hide that fact. The pitcher-friendly Coliseum has done nothing to suppress his power. In fact, he’s thrived. His 26 home runs at the Coliseum in 2017 fell one short of Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for homers by a home player.

It would seem he’d be open to a long-term extension, and the sides reportedly have held past discussions about one. The A’s have designs on signing some of their younger core players to extensions. But you’d have to rank it as a surprise were they to actually complete an extension with Davis, given the money he would command.

More than likely, Beane and his staff will evaluate the team through the first half of the upcoming season, weigh the pros and cons of dealing him, and if he stays, enter through this arbitration process again next winter, knowing that he’ll command even more bucks on another one-year deal.

An ‘X’ factor is how Davis adjusts to his shift from left field to designated hitter. He told NBC Sports California in November that he prefers the outfield but will fill whatever role is best for the team.

The feeling here is that he’ll put up the same numbers that fans have grown accustomed to, and the ball will be in the A’s court as to how long he remains in green and gold.