Giants

Bonds likely to get boost from Hall of Fame voting changes

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Bonds likely to get boost from Hall of Fame voting changes

NEW YORK -- Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and other tainted stars of the Steroids Era appear likely to get a boost in Hall of Fame balloting, but not enough to enter Cooperstown this year.

Ken Griffey Jr. seems assured of election on the first try Wednesday, possibly with a record vote of close to 100 percent. Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines also were strong candidates to gain the 75 percent needed for baseball's highest honor.

Following the elimination of about 100 retired baseball writers from the electorate, Bonds and Clemens were on track for a 5-10 percentage point increase. After drawing about 37 percent of the ballots last year, they were in the 48 percent range this year according to www.bbhoftracker.com, which tabulated public votes adding to more than one-third of the total.

Last July, the Hall's board of directors cut eligible voters from approximately 575 to roughly 475 by purging writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade. Previously, the electorate included people who had been active members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America for 10 consecutive years at any point.

"We have a somewhat different electorate," John Thorn, Major League Baseball's official historian, said Tuesday. "I think possibly the current electorate was not content to keep kicking the PED crowd down into a hole and leaving the Hall of Fame with a crater in its plaque room."

Marc Maturo, a reporter covering New York baseball for Gannett in the 1970s and '80s, was among those who lost voting rights. He said he would have voted for Bonds, Clemens, Griffey and Raines.

"The whole process I think was done too quickly, wasn't given enough thought," he said.

Now a writer for the weekly Rockland County Times, Maturo pointed out players who received one or two votes in recent years, such as Armando Benitez, Aaron Boone, Bret Boone, Darin Erstad, Kenny Rogers, J.T. Snow and B.J. Surhoff.

"They call these courtesy votes or friendship votes," he said, "That should eliminate you. They're not Hall of Famers by anyone's imagination. But people vote for them. To me, that's wrong."

A 13-time All-Star who is sixth with 630 homers, Griffey was a lock to be inducted at Cooperstown on July 24. The former Cincinnati and Seattle star appeared on all 166 ballots counted by bbhoftracker and could challenge the record of 98.84 percent set by Tom Seaver when he was picked by 425 of 430 voters in 1992.

Piazza was at about 87 percent in his fourth appearance after falling short by 28 votes last year, when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio became the first quartet elected by the BBWAA in one year since 1955.

Bagwell was third at 80 percent in his sixth appearance, followed by Raines at 78 percent in his ninth. Last year, the actual percentage was about 5 percent under the pre-announcement figure on the vote-tracker.

Bonds, the only seven-time MVP, and Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner, are both making their fourth appearance and are eligible for up to six more years.

Reliever Trevor Hoffman, on the ballot for the first time, was at 62 percent on the vote-tracker and seemed likely to fall short.

Mark McGwire, one of the first big stars to admit using steroids, was at 13 percent in his final ballot appearance - nearly half his peak of 23.6 percent in 2008. Alan Trammell, also on for the last time, was at 47 percent. Sammy Sosa was at 8 percent in his fourth attempt.

Following the board's decision not to accept the BBWAA's recommendation that voters be allowed to select up to 12 candidates rather than 10, next year's ballot could force more tough decisions. Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and Magglio Ordonez are eligible for the first time.

MLB rumors: Phillies confident they'll sign Bryce Harper in free agency

MLB rumors: Phillies confident they'll sign Bryce Harper in free agency

We have an update in the latest edition of MLB's daily reality show: "Where on earth will Bryce Harper sign?"

Well, it's kind of an update.

The Philadelphia Phillies, who have long been considered a favorite to sign the 26-year-old superstar, "are confident" they will sign the former Nationals outfielder, Matt Breen of Philly.com reported Thursday.

After Manny Machado agreed to a record 10-year, $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres, Breen reports that the Phillies have "ramped up their negotiations" in their efforts to land Harper.

The Giants, of course, have been linked to Harper ever since they met with the prized free agent in early February. At one point the Giants were considered the betting favorites for Harper's services.

However, on Wednesday it was reported that they were "not optimistic" about landing the six-time All-Star.

[RELATED: Where Harper market stands after Machado's record contract]

Although Breen notes in his piece that the Giants appear to be the Phillies' biggest challenger for Harper, it still appears that San Francisco is more likely to be the bridesmaid than the bride in the bid to acquire the 2015 NL MVP.

But, who knows -- in the world of this slow MLB free agency, there will probably be more twists and turns before all is said and done.

What will Farhan Zaidi look for in next Giants manager?

What will Farhan Zaidi look for in next Giants manager?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Whether he’s watching the team from the dugout, standing in the clubhouse hallway, or walking back and forth on the back fields at Scottsdale Stadium, Farhan Zaidi always seems to have his cell phone pressed to his ear. 

That was the case Monday when Bruce Bochy announced that this will be his final season, but Zaidi said he did not get calls from coaches around the game looking to get a head start in the search process. He knows that will change, though. It didn’t take long after Zaidi took the Giants job for colleagues to start asking about a potential GM position, and you can bet that parts of this season will be spent having secret discussions with candidates to replace Bochy.

The man who actually hired Bochy 13 years ago believes that’s a good thing. This won’t be a distraction or an awkward situation, Brian Sabean said. Zaidi was informed during the hiring process that Bochy was likely headed for retirement, and Sabean believes that gave everyone time to get “out front” and “on board.”

“I think it should relax the atmosphere among all parties and give (Bochy) his proper due, give him his proper sendoff, but it also gives Farhan some good lead time to noodle this whole thing or line up how he’s going to attack it,” Sabean said. 

Zaidi has already been through this process once before. He teamed with Andrew Friedman in 2015 to hire Dave Roberts in Los Angeles, and that collaboration proved to be a successful one. Zaidi, a communicator by nature, spent years with the A’s and Dodgers and has given plenty of thought to what or who he would look for if given his own shop.

He wouldn’t give anything away this week, but he has a short list forming in his head already. 

“I think everybody is shaped by their own experience and people that they’ve come into contact with that they value their baseball acumen or their personal values or those kinds of things,” he said. “Everybody just by virtue of their own experience has a list of people that they’ve thought, ‘That guy could be a manager one day,' or, 'If I’m in a position that’s someone I would think about.’”

While Zaidi said this would be a collective process, Larry Baer made it clear that his president of baseball operations will take the lead. Baer said people within the organization — Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus would be two likely internal candidates — will be considered, but most of the candidates Zaidi has experience with would come from the outside. 

One possible candidate, David Bell, came off the board a couple of weeks before Zaidi was hired. When Bell joined the organization as farm director in 2017, he was viewed as a likely successor to Bochy or general manager Bobby Evans. The Reds hired him away in October. 

Bell was a nice blend of old and new, someone who could be a respected voice in the clubhouse but also work seamlessly with an analytics-driven front office. Roberts has been the same in Los Angeles, and that seems the likely mold for this search. 

But Zaidi promised to be open-minded, pointing out that he and Friedman had no idea Roberts would even be a finalist when they began that search. To that point, two executives known as analytics types put together an eclectic group of candidates when the Dodgers were looking for Don Mattingly’s replacement. 

Gabe Kapler, a favorite to win the Dodgers job back then, was certainly a modern choice. But the Dodgers also reportedly interviewed longtime baseball men Tim Wallach and Ron Roenicke, both of whom were in their late fifties at the time. Kirk Gibson was brought in, and he’s certainly not the type to be a puppet for a front office. Former Angel Darin Erstad, current Rockies manager Bud Black and current Nationals manager Dave Martinez also reportedly interviewed.

That’s not a group that has a ton in common.

[RELATED: Odds for next Giants manager to replace Bruce Bochy brings wild names]

Zaidi has a reputation for being the smartest guy in the room, but he loves spending time with scouts and experienced coaches, and has regularly positioned himself behind the cage this spring, chatting up players and Giants coaches. He eventually will find a replacement for Bochy, but right now it’s not something he’s worrying much about. 

“I’m sure there will be conversations and inquiries along the way, but it’s not the focus for us,” he said. “For me, I’m still trying to learn the organization and the players and make sure I get off to the right start.”