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Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio have been elected to the Baseball Hall Of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association Of America. All were inducted in their first year of eligibility except for Biggio, who was on the ballot for the third year.
Perhaps the best left-handed pitcher of all time, Johnson recorded 4875 career strikeouts over his career (second only to Nolan Ryan) and his 10.61 K/9 rate is the highest in baseball history. “The Big Unit” was a fearsome figure on the mound, standing at 6’10” and throwing a 100-mph fastball that helped him win 303 games and five Cy Young Awards over his 22-year career. Johnson played for six teams in his career but is mostly remembered as a Mariner (10 seasons) and as a Diamondback (eight seasons). His time in Arizona was punctuated by a perfect game in 2004 and sharing World Series MVP honors with Curt Schilling when the D’Backs won it all in 2001. Johnson accumulated 111.7 fWAR (fifth all-time amongst pitchers) and 104.3 rWAR (ninth) over his career.
Martinez won three Cy Young Awards over his 18 MLB seasons and is a revered figure in Boston for helping the Red Sox break their World Series jinx in 2004. Martinez collected 219 wins, 3154 strikeouts over his career and he posted the best ERA+ (154) of any starter in history. Martinez’s 1999 and 2000 seasons are arguably the two greatest pitching seasons in baseball history — despite home games in hitter-friendly Fenway Park in the midst of the steroid era, Martinez posted a 1.90 ERA, 12.5 K/9 and 8.65 K/BB rate over 430 1/3 IP over those two seasons, plus an uncanny 215 ERA+. While he threw “only” 2827 1/3 innings over his career, much less than many other all-time greats, Martinez still finished with 87.1 fWAR (16th all-time) and 86 rWAR (17th).
Smoltz spent 20 of his 21 seasons with the Braves, teaming with fellow HOFers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as the cornerstones of the Atlanta rotation throughout the 1990’s. Smoltz’s career resume includes the 1996 NL Cy Young Award, 3084 strikeouts, 213 wins and a World Series ring in 1995. After missing the entire 2000 season due to Tommy John surgery, Smoltz pitched primarily as a reliever from 2001-04 and dominated to the tune of 154 saves in 167 chances. Smoltz amassed 78.7 fWAR (22nd all-time) and 66.5 rWAR (39th).
After falling just two votes shy of induction to the Hall last winter, Biggio is finally on his way to Cooperstown. Biggio spent all 20 of his seasons with the Astros, forming “the Killer B’s” with Jeff Bagwell and other notable B-named teammates like Derek Bell and Lance Berkman in the Houston lineup. Biggio’s 3060 career hits rank him 21st all-time in baseball history and he posted a career slash line of .283/.363/.433 with 291 homers, 1844 runs and 414 steals. He finished with 65.1 WAR for his career according to both Fangraphs (which places him 84th among position players) and Baseball-Reference (92nd).
Stepping into Biggio’s shoes this year was catcher Mike Piazza, who just missed election but could be set up for a successful run next time around. He played in 16 big league seasons, racking up a lifetime .308/.377/.545 slash and 427 home runs while spending the vast majority of his time behind the dish. He tallied 59.4 rWAR and 63.5 fWAR when his defense and baserunning were accounted for, easily placing him within the ten most productive backstops of all time. Piazza certainly has a claim as the best-hitting catcher in MLB history, as his lifetime 140 wRC+ trails only the still-active (and still in-prime) Buster Posey.
Pedro Martinez is returning to the Red Sox as a special assistant to GM Ben Cherington, the club announced today. The future Hall-of-Famer told reporters (including MLB.com's Ian Browne) that he will be helping instruct the organization's pitchers during Spring Training and throughout the season. "I hope to be a friend to most of those kids that probably have some questions or if they have uncertainties about what they're going to be facing," Martinez said. "What kind of things they should be aware of? I think I'm very well prepared and armed to actually help them with it."
Here are some more items from around the AL East…
- In an interview on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show (partial transcript here), Cherington said the Red Sox addressed a number of weaknesses over the winter and he thinks the Red Sox can contend. "Maybe we didn’t make the one headline move or haven’t to this point…but I do think we’ve added strength to a lot of different areas to the roster, a lot of areas we had holes in," Cherington said. He also defended Boston's ownership against recent criticisms from ex-manager Terry Francona.
- The Orioles had interest in Justin Upton but weren't prepared to move top prospects like Manny Machado or Dylan Bundy in return, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.
- Connolly also outlined the talks between the Orioles and Diamondbacks about Jason Kubel, saying that the O's never had more than "lukewarm" interest in Kubel's services. The Orioles felt they were Arizona's "backup plan" to trade an outfielder as the Snakes' preference was to swap Upton.
- Rays owner Stuart Sternberg told Hillsborough County Commission officials that "Major League Baseball at this point no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area," reports Stephen Nohlgren of the Tampa Bay Times. Sternberg reiterated his belief that a new stadium is needed to make his franchise viable and said he is committed to keeping the team in the Tampa area. MLB released a statement today expressing disappointment in the Rays' attendance, saying, "The status quo is simply not sustainable."
- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos discussed the team's winter moves, plans for the upcoming season and more in an online chat with Toronto Sun readers. Included is a nice compliment for MLB Trade Rumors, as Anthopoulos says he reads our website, "All the time, and I'd venture to say that almost every front office person in baseball does the same. Great site and great way to stay connected with what's happening."
- The Yankees are running out of options if they want to add right-handed hitting outfield depth, opines Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog.
The Red Sox now have a 69-86 record, which means they’re at risk of losing 90 games for the first time in 46 years. The last time they reached the 90-loss threshold, back in 1966, Ben Cherington hadn’t been born, Bobby Valentine was in high school, and Carl Yastrzemski and Tony Conigliaro roamed the Fenway Park outfield. Here’s the latest from Boston…
- The roles that the Red Sox envision for Jason Varitek and Pedro Martinez “will not be ceremonial,” Peter Gammons of MLB Network reports (on Twitter). Gammons cites Padres executives Trevor Hoffman and Brad Ausmus as possible parallels for the Red Sox.
- Varitek is "close" to returning to the Red Sox organization. He will likely return as a special assistant to Cherington, Gordon Edes reported yesterday. The switch-hitting 40-year-old retired this spring.
- Jon Lester discussed the team's "nightmare" year with Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, saying he's looking forward to forgetting about baseball for a while once the season ends. "The offseason for a lot of people hopefully is going to do good," Lester said.
The Red Sox are struggling early on in the season, but no one in the American League East seems to be off to a hot start, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. However, as one American League GM said, "I will never comment on any team or even my own based on April. You just don’t get a fair assessment. You may get a snapshot of what you may be short on, or what you may have overevaluated. But even then, you have to be careful about making hasty decisions in April because there’s a long way to go." Here's more from Cafardo..
- White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy is back on some teams’ radars as a midseason acquisition after a strong start to the year. Scouts have been impressed with Peavy’s overall stuff and the fact that he is notching strikeouts and throwing 92-93 m.p.h. Peavy, 30, earns $17MM this season and the White Sox would likely have to take on a portion of what’s remaining if he’s dealt. However, he has a partial no-trade to eight teams and the White Sox may not part with him if they're still relevant in July.
- The Twins had some bites on Francisco Liriano this winter but didn’t pull the trigger. Because Minnesota probably won’t re-sign him, they're hoping to land a prospect or two for him at the trade deadline. He'll have to pitch better for that to happen, however.
- If the Rays pitching is clicking as expected, Wade Davis will be trade bait at some point this season. So far though, in his current role as long man, scouts love what they see.
A longtime National League scout who has been keeping an eye on the Rays this season says that the club could use another bullpen piece.
- There has been some questioning of Blue Jays manager John Farrell’s pitching moves at times, according to a major league source.
- Cafardo asked Pedro Martinez whether he could pitch right now and he responded, "Not right now. I would need about 20 days."
- Cafardo is surprised that Ivan Rodriguez is retiring and one National League GM said that the veteran, "is probably better defensively right now than 75 percent of the catchers in the league."
The 2003 season ended in heartbreak for the Red Sox, whose hopes of capturing their first World Series since 1918 were dashed in Game 7 of the ALCS, when Aaron Boone channeled his inner Bucky Dent and inherited a new nickname: Bleepin'.
You certainly couldn't blame Pedro Martinez for the Red Sox's shortcomings that year, though. Boston's longstanding ace was worth nearly 7.9 wins above replacement across 186 2/3 innings, pitching like a guy who really wanted his $17.5MM contract option picked up for the next season. Thing is, his option had already been exercised — on this day in 2003.
That's right: Boston picked up Pedro's option — the highest single-season salary for a pitcher in MLB history — about seven months prior to what would have otherwise been a November deadline. In addition to the usual risks (injury, decline) of exercising an option before it's necessary, consider that Martinez would turn 32 later that year and had already taxed his slender frame for nearly 1,900 career innings.
While we could debate the process, the result must be considered a success for Boston. The Red Sox rebounded from the disappointment of 2003 to finally capture that elusive World Series title in 2004, sweeping the Cardinals. Martinez did, in fact, begin a steady decline in 2004 (at least relative to his mid-career production), but the beginning of his decline phase was still worth an excellent 5.7 wins above replacement — or $17.7MM, according to fangraphs. Talk about an even exchange.
The Red Sox allowed the legend to walk via free agency after 2004 in a surprisingly unsentimental move for a team that was all too eager to keep one of the most popular players in franchise history only a year and a half earlier. They apparently knew that it's better to burn out than it is to rust, as the Mets absorbed the brunt of Pedro's iron-oxide accumulation in the form of a four-year contract from 2005-08.
That bold decision proved prudent, as did the bold move the Red Sox made on this date in 2003.
Don't expect Pedro to pull a Pettitte. Links are in Spanish…
- Bobby Abreu doesn't put a whole lot of stock in manager Mike Scioscia's prediction that the 38-year-old will get 400 plate appearances this season. "I've learned not to have much confidence in these people, but I hope they live up to what they told me," Abreu told Billy Russo at Lider en Deportes. "How long am I going to have to continue proving to people what I am, and what I'm able to do? At times it's like the work one does doesn't get appreciated, but here I am, and we'll continue the fight." Likewise, he said not knowing how much his time will be split between right field and DH has altered his preparation for the season. "It's clearly affected me, because I'm not used to that, and I don't know why they did it, but whatever; I'll keep on keeping on." Abreu said a month ago that he'd prefer being traded to playing off the bench.
- Pedro Martinez said in December that he would soon make his retirement official, but almost four months later, an announcement hasn't come. Martinez recently appeared on the television program El Despertador in his native Dominican Republic and said an official statement is nevertheless on the way. "We're working, and we're going to send out a press release," he said (as transcribed by Panorama Diario). "We're going to pick a date where we'll make an official announcement, and at the same time, give the Dominican public the opportunity to see it."
- Miguel Tejada still hasn't received any offers this offseason, but he has no plans to explore options in other leagues, the veteran infielder told the Dominican radio show Grandes en los Deportes (Twitter links.) "I play baseball because I like it. I don't have economic problems," Tejada said. "I believe there's still a lot of playing for me to do in the US."
The first few items of this post concern Alfonso Soriano, Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez. Are we sure it's 2012? As we wrap up a busy Friday the 13th, here are a few items to take us into the weekend…
- Alfonso Soriano reiterated that he is willing to waive his no-trade clause, but only if the Cubs deal him to a contender, reports ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine. Soriano is owed $54MM through 2014 and the Cubs are reportedly willing to pay most of that salary in a possible deal.
- Pedro Martinez tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that a few teams contacted him about a possible comeback last season, but the future Hall-of-Famer firmly stated he isn't making a comeback.
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti told a group of reporters (including MLB.com's Jordan Bastian) that the Tribe wasn't interested in bringing back Manny Ramirez, saying Ramirez was "not a positional fit." While it could be argued Ramirez would be a nice right-handed complement to current Cleveland DH Travis Hafner, it's easy to see why a team would want to steer clear of Ramirez's baggage.
- From the same media session, Antonetti said it isn't "imperative" that the Indians acquire a first baseman. "I think we feel good about the foundation of players that we have," Antonetti said. "We're in a good spot, but certainly we'd like to improve upon that." Yesterday, we heard the Tribe was interested in free agent Carlos Pena.
- The Dodgers never spoke to free agent outfielder Coco Crisp, GM Ned Colletti tells Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times. It's hard to imagine the Dodgers matching the two-year, $14MM contract Crisp received from the Athletics, but then again, the A's are one of the few teams under even tighter budget restraints than the Dodgers.
- The Tigers have been so quiet this offseason that MLive.com's Ian Casselberry figures the club may be better off waiting until the season begins to make upgrades.
- Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune discusses the latest Padres news and answers questions from fans in his weekly online chat.
- On a one-year, $8MM contract, Roy Oswalt could be "the biggest bargain of the winter," opines Fangraphs' Dave Cameron.
- Tyler Kepner of the New York Times unveils his "Unsigned All-Star Team" of the offseason's most notable remaining free agents.
Martinez had apparently remained open to a return to the bigs since appearing in nine regular-season and two postseason games with the Phillies in '09, but nothing materialized, and now at age 40 and two full years removed from big league action, it's hard to imagine him catching on anywhere.
A three-time Cy Young Award winner and arguably the best pitcher of the offense-heavy 1990s and early aughts, Martinez has already cemented his legacy as one of the top hurlers in MLB history and projects as a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Martinez will hang 'em up with a record of 219-100 and a 2.93 ERA in 18 seasons with the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies. The advanced metrics are equally flattering as the traditional stats: 154 ERA+, 2.91 FIP, 89.4 WAR. Pedro's 291 ERA+ in 2000 is the highest single-season adjusted ERA in the modern era.
On this day in 2004, the Royals completed a three-team deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Astros. The Athletics were the third party in the transaction and bagged Octavio Dotel from Houston. The Royals, meanwhile, received Mark Teahen, John Buck, Mike Wood, and cash considerations..
- A fun fact courtesy of ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin (via Twitter): Mets manager Terry Collins is tied with Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez for second-most managerial seniority in the NL East with their current team.
- Mark Cuban’s interest in buying the Dodgers should make Padres fans nervous, writes Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Sullivan believes that Cuban has the forward-thinking mindset and deep pockets to shift the balance of power in the NL West.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has a chance to win right now and needs to make a move to bolster the offense, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.
- Pedro Martinez isn't ready to announce his retirement just yet, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (Spanish link). Martinez also says that he envisions himself in a Sandy Koufax-type role with a club.
- The Giants could use an offensive infusion as the deadline approaches, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.
A pair of items on the Red Sox as they take on the Tigers at home..
- Scouts around the league tell Danny Knobler of CBS Sports that the Red Sox need to find another catcher. Could Ivan Rodriguez be the solution in Boston? "That's a good park to hit in," Rodriguez told Knobler. "I've always hit well there." The 39-year-old says he wants to play two or three more seasons.
- The BoSox are still talking with Kevin Millwood, but nothing is happening there yet, a source tells Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (via Twitter). Today we learned that the Cubs are interested in the veteran right-hander.