Lifetime achievements for Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame Rumblings
It's just about clear now that this group, as currently constituted, is never going to elect ANY player who couldn't make it after 15 years on the writers' ballot. So why even bother to have the Veterans consider those kinds of players?
What we would like to see the Veterans Committee do is honor players who have made a contribution to baseball on multiple levels. Think about it.
Joe Torre and Ron Santo were great players who haven't been able to get elected based on their careers alone. But Torre's joint contribution, as a player AND manager, makes him a deserving Hall of Famer. As does Santo's contribution as a player AND broadcaster.
You can make similar cases for Gil Hodges (player-manager), Jim Kaat (player-broadcaster) and Curt Flood (player-pioneer) -- all of whom were on this year's Veterans ballot. And you can make that case for men who weren't on the ballot -- such as Lou Piniella, Dusty Baker and Tim McCarver.
Baseball is a sport with many levels. So why shouldn't the Hall of Fame be flexible enough to expand its definition of who deserves a plaque? And don't even get us started on the absence of a scouts' wing of the Hall. If it weren't for scouts, how did all those players get there, anyway?
For the moment, Houston and Detroit are the only teams shopping in the center-fielder mall. So the Astros would prefer to strike before injuries or lousy springs complicate the market.
But the uncertainty over Cameron's health (not to mention whether he is even still on the market) has delayed any serious discussion of that much-rumbled three-way deal with Pittsburgh and Oakland involving Cameron, Eric Byrnes and Chris Burke. And the other suspects on Houston's list (Byrnes, Endy Chavez, Lew Ford, Marlon Byrd) don't represent quite as perfect a fit.
But of course, the Pirates want to take on virtually no money. So they don't even match up with the Mets on someone like Cliff Floyd.
Still Rumbling And Grumbling
Four and a half months ago, they were 11 outs from heading for the World Series. Now, one scout who has been watching them says: "That's a team in trouble." And an executive of another club says: "They've got big problems. They're really fragile, and they have major issues" everywhere but at the top of their rotation.
The Astros know they need to trade for an outfield bat this spring -- "but that's a bad position to be in," said one GM, "when you HAVE to make a deal in spring training."
Houston also was hoping to deal Tim Redding for bullpen help or a fifth starter. But Redding hasn't looked real tradeable so far (7 hits, 5 runs, 0 strikeouts in his first 4 2/3 spring innings).
"They should have traded him last spring, but they thought they still had something there," the scout said. "Now, his velocity is down 5 mph, and I can't see anyone trading anything significant for him."
"I just want to add another element, so guys can't just look for fast stuff," Lidge said. "There were times last year when guys were speeding up their bats because everything was essentially the same speed. So I felt like, if I had a pitch that was 10 mph slower than my slider, I could slow up those bats."
If Lidge gets any more unhittable -- after a season in which he punched out 157 hitters in only 94 2/3 innings -- there wouldn't even be a point in having hitters take a bat to home plate. But if Lidge can't prove this spring he can throw the change with conviction, the Astros would prefer he put this project in storage -- at least for the time being.
But one scout who watched Pettitte throw a simulated game recently said: "I thought his arm action looked fine. The Yankees used to do the same thing with him -- send him out to those back fields for the first couple of starts. He'd throw 81-82 back there. Then, as soon as they'd get him in the main stadium, he'd be right back where he needed to be."
"I don't see how they can possibly have enough pitching," one scout said. "I don't like the relievers they've brought in. And I don't like their starters a lot better. [Eric] Milton and [Ramon] Ortiz are home-run machines, pitching in a bad park to be a home-run machine. And Paul Wilson is a five-inning guy. With a really deep bullpen, that rotation might work. But I don't see it."
Obviously, being the Devil Rays' best pitcher isn't quite the same thing as being the Yankees' best pitcher. But Piniella says of Zambrano: "He can beat the good teams and he can beat the bad teams. The only thing that can hold him back is him."
Tigers legend Al Kaline told Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler the other day that one thing he remembers about playing at Washington's RFK Stadium, the Nationals' new interim home, was the "rats running all over the place." So Kaline had a creative suggestion, just in case that hadn't changed:
"You know how they have Dog Day promotions at some parks?" Kaline deadpanned. "They ought to have Cat Days there. Turn the cats loose on the rats."
The first thing Matheny did this winter, after signing with the Giants, was ask for tapes of every pitcher on the staff. So by the time he'd arrived in spring training, he had a feel for more than a dozen pitchers he'd never caught.
"Mike Matheny," Colletti said, flatly, "will have a tremendous impact on our club."
But not only is Thome healthy this spring, there's a serenity to him now, in his third season in Philadelphia, that wasn't present before. Part of it is having longtime friend and guru Charlie Manuel around. But part of it stems from a winter spent reflecting a lot on life after the death of his mother.
"One thing I think I've learned is: Don't have regrets," Thome said. "When you're with your wife, when you're with your kids, when you're with your dad, don't have regrets. You don't ever want to be looking back some day, saying: 'I wish I would have ...' "
"With his fastball and his slider, it's a little too early in the spring for hitters to be dialing up on that," Tracy said. "And he handled himself extremely well."
As recently as last spring, after the Dodgers picked him up from the Yankees as an extra arm in the Kevin Brown-Jeff Weaver deal, Brazoban "wasn't even on our radar screen," Tracy said. But once the Dodgers traded away Guillermo Mota at the trading deadline, Brazoban just about saved their season.
"We would have liked to ease him in," Tracy said. "But we didn't have that luxury. So we had to speed the process up, and oh my gracious ... He pretty much became Mota for us by about the middle to latter part of August."
So why weren't they more worried? Because of their amazing track record for keeping pitchers healthy.
From Day One of Camp Leo last month, pitching coach Leo Mazzone has been working with Hudson to make his delivery a little less violent.
"Any type of injury, whether it's to your arm or your side, is caused by overexertion," Mazzone says. "So we're already saying [to Hudson]: 'Watch your effort.' To stay healthy for a full season, a pitcher has to trust what amount of effort he needs to exert to make a pitch do what he wants it to do. So we've been trying to find that balance."
"Yeah, I talked to Mulder," Hudson chuckles. "I told him I was going to turn his stuff around if he comes in there. I told him, 'If we ever face each other, whatever you give me, I'm giving you back. You start breaking out some nasty stuff, I'm going to return the favor. Obviously, if there are men on base, we've got to pitch like we normally do. But if nobody's on? I'm going to be expecting some heaters away. Don't try and bruise my hands up.' ...
"And I told Zito, 'If you throw that weak curve ball in there, I'm gonna whack it. I'll tell you that.' "
Spring Boxscore Lines of the Week
1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
"He did throw 86-91 [mph]," one scout said. "But they were all up. And they were all straight."
2 2/3 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
2 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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