Stiglich: Bonds, Clemens get my Hall of Fame vote

Stiglich: Bonds, Clemens get my Hall of Fame vote

After a lot of careful research and consideration, I dropped my first Hall of Fame ballot in the mail earlier this week.

Talk about tricky waters to navigate.

There are so many players who are suspected of performance-enhancing drug use appearing on the ballot every year, and it’s tough to find a uniform criteria to judge everybody by. I do not take a “hard line” stance when it comes to evaluating suspected PED users for the Hall. Surely some benefited more than others by what they put in their bodies, and that’s where the ambiguity comes in and makes this such a challenging process.

I chose to judge each player case by case, based on their own individual credentials. And here’s the eight who got my vote this year, listed in alphabetical order:

Jeff Bagwell: His numbers speak for themselves — 449 homers, a .408 on-base percentage and .948 career OPS. He combined power, batting average, and patience at the plate, and he put up some of his best seasons playing home games inside the Astrodome, which did no hitter any favors. He was a unanimous NL MVP in 1994 and even won a Gold Glove at first base that same year. Not a tough call here …

Barry Bonds: It comes down to this for me when considering Bonds’ candidacy: Even if you take no stats into account past the 1998 season, when the PED suspicions really began to swirl around him, he still produced a Hall of Fame career. From 1986-98, Bonds won three MVP awards, eight Gold Gloves and was an eight-time All-Star. He hit 411 homers and averaged a 30-30 season over this 13-year period. Get him into Cooperstown. Put an asterisk by his name, place him in a separate wing along with other suspected users, whatever. Just get him in the Hall, where he belongs.

Roger Clemens: The same logic applies for me when it comes to Clemens. Taking into account his career from 1984-97, before PED suspicions might cloud his numbers for some, Clemens collected four Cy Young awards and an MVP. He went 213-118 with a 2.97 ERA and 2,882 strikeouts over this time. That strikeout total alone — not even counting the final 10 years of his career — would rank him 15th out of the 77 pitchers currently in the Hall.

Vladimir Guerrero:I wasn’t completely sure about this first-year candidate when I first began to contemplate my picks. But the numbers speak for themselves: a .318 batting average, 449 homers, 1,496 RBI, a .931 OPS. Particularly impressive was a 10-year stretch (1998-2007) during which he hit .327 with 353 homers and a .980 OPS. He notched two 30-30 seasons and in 2002 fell just one homer shy of becoming just the fifth member of the 40-40 club. One of the game’s great all-around talents. Right this way, Vlad.

Trevor Hoffman: He gained 67 percent of the vote last year, his first on the ballot, bringing him close to the 75 percent needed for induction. The longtime Padres closer is getting in sooner rather than later. Hoffman ranks second all-time with 601 saves, and he’s 123 ahead of No. 3 on that list (Lee Smith, who happens to be in his final year on the ballot). I didn’t over-think this one. Punch Hoffman’s ticket …

Tim Raines: His impressive career body of work caught me by surprise a bit, and I think I know why. While Raines was wreaking his havoc with the Expos in the National League, Rickey Henderson was doing the same with the A’s in the American League. In my mind, it always seemed Rickey’s exploits were dwarfing Raines’ (West Coast bias!!!). At any rate, Raines is one of only five players with 800-plus stolen bases. The other four are all in the Hall of Fame. “Rock” gets in …

Ivan Rodriguez:A first-ballot candidate with a PED cloud hanging over him. Jose Canseco claimed to have injected him with steroids while with the Rangers. But Rodriguez never tested positive for anything and was not named in the Mitchell Report. “Pudge”’s case for the Hall is overwhelming. He’s a 14-time All-Star and 13-time Gold Glove winner with one MVP award on his shelf. He hit .296 with 311 career homers, and in nine different seasons he threw out over 50 percent of runners trying to steal against him. A terrific all-around player, and it’s hard for me to believe PED’s were the driving force behind it.

Curt Schilling: Unquestionably, he’s one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time. Schilling went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA, four complete games and two shutouts in the playoffs, getting named the 2001 World Series Co-MVP and 1993 NLCS MVP. He’s also got 216 regular-season victories and 3,116 strikeouts to back his case. Given the views he’s expressed about journalists, I’ve got no reason to want to do this guy any favors. And his social media rants have offended so many different segments of our society. But if you keep him out of the Hall based on the “character” clause in voting guidelines, you also need to go back and evict some of the unsavory characters who already reside in Cooperstown. Schilling’s baseball resume is worthy of induction, despite what anyone might think of him as a human being.

Hank Greenwald, former Giants broadcaster, dies at 83

Hank Greenwald, former Giants broadcaster, dies at 83

Every place with a team has a special link to its broadcasters, because broadcasters are ultimately artists, and sports is nothing if not art.

Thus, the passing of Hank Greenwald, longtime Giants, Warriors and A’s broadcaster and part of the microphone’s golden age in these parts, evokes memories of the artistry not only of athletes but of the people who described their exploits.

Greenwald, 83, was a man of his time, using fewer words than would be considered normal today to trust a scene to describe itself, as was the fashion of the day. His work with Bill King on the Warriors in the ‘60s and ‘70s was exemplary for its knowledge, pacing, literacy and humor, and their ability to play off each other seamlessly. King once described a situation in a Warriors game as one in which “They have to get a basket here, they absolutely have to!” to which Greenwald drily returned, “Well, they don’t have to, but it would be a good idea.”

But he made his reputation in his time with the Giants from 1979 to 1986 and then, after a brief hiatus, with the George Steinbrenner Era Yankees, from 1989 through 1996. His was the voice that described Will Clark’s single that won the 1989 NL Championship Series and sent the Giants to their first World Series in 27 years, and by that time he had been placed atop the plinth of great Bay Area announcers that included King and longtime Giants, 49ers and A’s broadcaster Lon Simmons.

Greenwald, who changed his name from Howard to honor Detroit Tiger Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, was the defining feature of a series of mediocre Giants seasons, making the broadcasts must-listen affairs even when the quality of the play did not match the elegance of the descriptions. Such is often the way, with the best broadcasters making the unpalatable pleasant and the palatable electric.

Greenwald was fiercely objective on air at a time when the business was slowly giving itself over to home-slanted broadcasters, and he jousted with both radio and club management in his time. It was that objectivity that most linked him to his audience, which knew they would not only get a game and some laughs but a square count about the on-field performances of those he was paid to detail. He regarded himself as the public trustee for the trivial pursuit we call sport, and he went out as honestly as he came in from Syracuse, New York, 60 years ago.

Greenwald is survived by his wife Carla, son Doug, himself a broadcaster, and daughter Kellie.

Giants Review: Garcia flashes power, opens eyes in first big league month

Giants Review: Garcia flashes power, opens eyes in first big league month

SAN FRANCISCO — After Aramis Garcia was called up to the big leagues, his family had to wait around for nearly a week before seeing his debut. With the way Garcia would go on to play the rest of the year, they should have plenty of opportunities to watch him at AT&T Park. 

Garcia was the standout of September, backing a strong run at the plate with solid defense behind it and a surprising ability to handle first base. No player upped his stock over the final month more than Garcia, who might have changed the organization’s thinking at a crucial backup spot. We’ll get to that in a second. First, the highs and lows from Garcia’s 2018 season: 

What Went Right

Garcia was called up on August 26 when Buster Posey committed to hip surgery, but he didn’t play until August 31. He made the most of that opportunity, crushing a solo homer for his first MLB hit. Garcia joined Eliezer Alfonzo as the only Giants catchers to pick up their first hit and homer on the same swing. From that day on, he led the Giants in homers (four) and tied for the lead in RBI (nine) despite not playing every day. 

Per Statcast, Garcia had the highest hard-hit rate (40.6) of any Giant who got at least 50 at-bats. He was third on the team in average launch angle (18.6) and slugged .492 in his 63 at-bats (for comparison’s sake, no full-time catcher in the NL finished above .485). 

Defensively, Garcia has a reputation as a good game-caller and solid defender, and that showed in limited time behind the plate. He made 10 appearances at first and surprised the staff with how easily he transitioned and how many difficult plays he made. 

What Went Wrong

Garcia had a .500 BABIP, which is about 200 points higher than you would expect, so the .286 batting average was pretty flukey. He struck out in 47 percent of his at-bats and walked just twice in 65 plate appearances. He certainly hit the ball hard a lot and the homers were impressive, but there are red flags hidden in his numbers. 

You can't ignore what Garcia did in the majority of his season, either. He had a .233/.287/.395 slash line in 80 Double-A games and went .237/.268/.263 in 10 Triple-A games. The Giants will weigh all that against what he did in September. 

Contract Status

Garcia has two minor league options remaining. 

The Future

Garcia was drafted as a bat-first catcher and had some impressive swings in September, so it’s fair to think that he can be much more productive than the player the Giants saw in the minors this season. At the same time, his peripherals say he’s not the slugger they saw in September. Regardless, he opened eyes.

"This was a good chance to see what he was about and this kid has shown a lot,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He's shown toughness and his ability to handle major league pitching, so that'll be a tough decision -- do we keep his development going or is he ready (to be the) backup?"

That decision will depend on what a new head of baseball operations wants to do with Nick Hundley. If the Giants can bring Hundley back on another one-year deal, they likely will, ticketing Garcia for more development at Triple-A. If they don’t bring Hundley back, Garcia looks ready to handle life as a backup catcher. The Giants believe his glove is ready, and he’s shown enough promise at the plate that they should be comfortable that he can clear the standard for backup catchers.

It’s also possible that the Giants carry Hundley and Garcia on their bench at some point. The rookie showed he can adequately back up first base and provide pop off the bench, and with Posey coming off hip surgery, there’s a chance the Giants will carry three catchers early in the season.