01/05/2005: Hot Stove League: Notes of interest on the baseball front.
While I'm involved with The Birdwatch, that's not going to monopolize what baseball blogging I do. One of my intentions this new year is to do some more-or-less contemporary commentary on what's going on in major league baseball. So what news attracted my eye recently?
1) Probably the most shocking story in MLB this week are reports that the New York Yankees have apparently withdrawn from the bidding contest for the services of free-agent centerfielder Carlos Beltran. Quoth the New York Times's Murray Chass:
LET'S select the five most intriguing stories of the off-season. In this opinion, they would be the Mets' signing of Pedro Martínez, Boston's signing of David Wells, the Yankees' acquisition of Randy Johnson, Oakland's trades of Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, and Washington's attempt to lose the Expos before it had them.Stunning isn't quite the word for it. Simply inconceivable.
But if a weekend signal is accurate, the most intriguing story has yet to happen. If it does happen, it will be a nonmove, as opposed to the Martínez, Wells, Johnson, Hudson and Mulder moves.
The nonmove? The Yankees will not sign Carlos Beltran, the most attractive, and expensive, position player on the free-agent market. But it's not just that the Yankees will not be signing Beltran. The story would be that the Yankees will not even try to sign him.
That was the surprising signal from a baseball official over the weekend. The official, who is in a position to hear such things, heard last week that the Yankees did not plan to pursue Beltran.
"Someone told me the other day, if they get Johnson they wouldn't go after Beltran," the official, who refused to be named, said. "Even the Yankees have to have a limit."
No one has ever accused George Steinbrenner of having a payroll limit. What an awful thing to say about the freest-spending owner in the Western world.
Sure, once in a while Brian Cashman, the Yankees' general manager, mutters something about a budget, and he tries to sound sincere. The Yankees, like all teams, are also required to submit a budget to the commissioner's office, which they have done for this year. But just like records, budgets are meant to be broken.
Beltran's becoming a victim of a Yankees budget wouldn't simply be the most intriguing story of this off-season; it would be the most stunning development in years.
Not only that, but if it ever bubbles into the general consciousness that Steinbrenner actually has spending limits, the whole joke behind the Visa Check Card commercial (the one where Steinbrenner's arm is "overworked" from writing all those checks) will just cease to be funny anymore.
UPDATE, 1/6/05: Scott Boras may be breathing a bit easier; a report in Newsday suggests that George "Rich Uncle Moneybags" Steinbrenner is still interested in Beltran. Let the obscene bidding begin!
2) Of course, yesterday the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced the results of the annual poll of the Baseball Writers Association of America, and when the dust cleared, Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg made the cut (Boggs in his first year of eligibility, Sandberg in his third year if I'm calculating correctly).
But the good news for Cardinal Nation is that all-time fan favorite Willie McGee, in his first year of eligibility for the Hall, received exactly 26% of the BBWAA votes. This is good news because 5% is the magic cut-off which keeps Willie's candidacy alive. Save for Boggs, no other first year candidate racked up enough votes to insure his appearance on next year's ballot.
The interesting, though not entirely unexpected thing? Even though a number of well qualified relief pitchers were on the ballot (Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, Goose Gossage), none of them have been elected. Makes one wonder what a reliever will have to do to get elected to the Hall; there aren't too many of them there.
3) While mucking about doing some "research", I came across this reference to the HBO production, Utilityman: The Quest For Cooperstown, which chronicles the quest of St. Louis comedians (and twin brothers) Randy and Jason Sklar to get the Hall of Fame to enshrine legendary Cardinals utilityman (and current 3rd base coach) Jose Oquendo. Hilarious; if you ever have the chance to see it make the time, it's well worth your while.
Len on 01.05.05 @ 09:08 PM CST