Work in Sports
Putting stock in Bonds' MVP chances
Posted: Thursday June 15, 2000 06:28 PM
Can we get through a mailbag without a Sammy Sosa question? Hmm, let's see. In the meantime, let's start out with a couple of questions about the guy who's really been the best hitter in the National League so far. Hint: it's not Sosa or Rey Ordoñez.
Barry Bonds has three MVP awards, the last one from the 1993 season. His numbers right now put him in contention for a fourth, although there is still much baseball to be played this year. What is the record for most years elapsed between MVP awards for players who have won two or more? Do you think Bonds could do it again at age 36?
Willie Mays won the MVP award in 1954, and then not again until 1965, a record. Bonds wouldn't even have a longer span between awards than Cal Ripken Jr., who won in 1983 and 1991. As great a season as Bonds is having, I have serious doubts about whether he'll be MVP. Why? It's very, very difficult to win the award these days playing for a team that doesn't make the postseason. With four teams getting in and so many players putting up huge numbers every year, there are plenty of candidates whose greatest value is helping their team reach the playoffs, which is all that matters. Last time I checked the Giants were hardly a lock to be playing in October.
What is Bonds doing differently this year to become the leading slugger in the majors in what is turning into a career year? Also, do you expect the Giants public relations staff to start pushing hard to garner Bonds votes for an unprecedented -- and unreal -- fourth MVP award?
See above on the MVP candidacy. I don't know that he's doing anything differently, except maybe hooking the ball a little more to rightfield to take advantage of Pac Bell Park. Otherwise, great hitters tend to increase power as they age, with a decline in batting average. I think Bonds, without losing anything off his average, is experiencing a typical growth in power numbers as he gets bigger, stronger and smarter. (See Mark McGwire.)
It's no secret Juan Gonzalez doesn't like it in Detroit. There are rumors that he may be traded. Do the Rangers have any chance of re-acquiring him, and if so, what players might they trade? Are there any other front-runners in your mind in the bidding for Gonzo?
What are the chances of Juan Gonzalez getting traded this month to a contender?
Last time I talked with Gonzalez he said he didn't want to go back to the Rangers. But I wouldn't hold him to it. It's the perfect-sized market for him, and he likes playing in warmer weather. That said, don't be surprised if he ends up with the Mets, Yankees or Red Sox, depending on who winds up with Sosa. (Clear front-runner for Sosa: the Yankees.) Apologies for bringing up the name of that Chicago rightfielder again.
Why would the Chicago Cubs think of trading a superstar like Sosa, who is undoubtedly one of the best players today, and not get rid of a half-decent manager in Don Baylor? It just doesn't seem right to me.
O.K., I knew we'd have to get one in. Basically the Cubs don't see that Sosa, whose skills on the base paths and in the field aren't getting any better, is not the kind of National League player (meaning, no DH escape hatch) that you want to be paying $18 million to when he's in his middle-and-late 30s. Now it appears his agents are accelerating the timetable for the Cubs to move him.
Why is it that every single move John Rocker makes is publicized? Why wasn't Reggie White, a minister who also made unkind comments regarding race, not held to the same standard? Rocker went over the edge with his comments. However, on the surface it appears political that a reliever with a 3.93 ERA is demoted. When Rocker would blow a save, it seems the media was there salivating over his demise.
Hello? Were you watching Rocker pitch? The guy couldn't get the ball over the plate, walking more than nine batters per nine innings. That is a disaster for a closer, who often pitches in situations where putting even one runner on endangers a game. They didn't bury the guy. They let him work out his control problems in a less-pressurized environment. Smart move. They brought him back very quickly. I'm sick of people blaming the media for ballplayers' performances. Did the media walk all those batters? Did the media force Rocker to throw the ball all over the place? What if Rocker was throwing with pinpoint control and had a 0.00 ERA? Would you credit the media with his outstanding performance? Players are accountable for their own behavior and results.
Will the situation in Baltimore ever improve as long as Peter Angelos runs amok and acts like he understands baseball? It's a sporting tragedy, what he has done and will continue to do to that team because he has either his kids or spineless people in the baseball department. The fans in Baltimore would support the team if they stripped it down and went with a youthful approach while rebuilding their razed farm system. But Angelos continues to recklessly spend money. Can anyone stop him, please?
Your only hope is that he gets thrown out of baseball for some transgression. That's how the Yankees became the team they are today. George Steinbrenner was thrown out of baseball and Gene Michael and Buck Showalter were able to re-build the organization with patience and young players, something Steinbrenner never would have done.
I have been been hearing great things about the White Sox farm system, especially pitching prospects (i.e., Jon Garland, Lorenzo Barcelo, Aaron Myette, and Rocky Biddle). Is it as good as everyone says it is, or is this just Chicago hype? Also, if it is that good what do you think the White Sox will do with all this talent in the minors right now?
The hype is getting a little overboard, but Garland is the real deal and Barcelo was considered the best arm in the trade with the Giants in 1997. If they're wise, the White Sox will hold on to all their talented youngsters. But be careful you don't mark all of them down as future studs. Remember how the Mets went bonkers over Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher?
Should MLB consider another format for selecting players to the All-Star game? Why do I ask this? One word: Griffey. Even though Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the best players in the game, he is NOT having a good season. So why should he be voted to the All-Star game while other players deserve it a lot more?
I know that allowing fans to vote for All-Star starters is "good for the game," but when Craig Biggio (.266, 3 HRs, 20 RBIs) starts over Edgardo Alfonzo (.341, 12, 47) that is a true crime. Next thing you know, Sandy Alomar Jr. will start over Ivan Rodriguez. What do you think could/should be done about this?
Nothing. If the fans want to see Biggio, that's great. It's a showcase event, not a strict meritocracy. Alfonzo will probably be added the roster, so he'll get his due. As for Griffey Jr., I wouldn't vote for him. But baseball fans, even the casual ones, want him there, so who's to argue? You want managers and coaches voting? Forget it. They're the same people who gave DH Rafael Palmeiro a Gold Glove at first base last year. Actually, I think the fans have done a better job than usual this year, perhaps because online voting gives stats of players as a guideline. Jermaine Dye and Jason Giambi, for instance, have garnered surprising, though deserved, support.
What is wrong with Griffey, Jr.? It seems that he is so enamored with the longball that he has slowly and consistently regressed as a hitter over the past two years (he once was a .300-plus hitter with a .400 on-base percentage) to a level of performance that can no longer be termed "just a slump." Even if he is pressing, the guy has too much talent to hit just .215!
Agreed. This guy should hit .300 in his sleep. I know early in the season he really chased a lot of bad pitches, probably because he was pressing to get off to a good start in Cincinnati. Maybe that got him into some bad habits. But remember, this is a guy who hit .255 over the second half of last season and hasn't been a .300 hitter in three years. It seems to me he's become more of a dead-pull power hitter and less of an all-around hitter. There's no reason why teams should be overshifting on such a gifted hitter, but they are because Griffey Jr. rarely takes the ball the other way anymore. Four years ago I'd see him take entire rounds of batting practice where every ball he hit was to leftfield.
If Edgar Martinez wins a third batting crown in 2000, would he be considered a favorable candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame? Has any other player ever won multiple batting championships and not been voted in?
Martinez is far from a lock even if he wins the batting title. Plenty of guys have won multiple titles without getting within sniffing distance of Cooperstown. Bill Madlock won four of them. Willie McGee won two. Tommy Davis and Dave Parker won back-to-back titles. Two things have hurt Martinez: a late start to his major league career, which suppresses his career numbers, and the fact that most of his career has been spent playing half the game as a DH.
I'm perplexed by the lack of production from the top of the Cleveland Indians lineup (Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Roberto Alomar) that performed so well last year. Is Lofton too fragile to return to ''impact-player'' status?
Lofton hasn't looked good this season, that's for sure. There's even some question as to whether Cleveland will pick up the option year on his contract. I wouldn't write him off just yet, however. He is coming back from a dislocated shoulder that most people thought would keep him out half the season. I expect he'll have a big second half.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci will contribute weekly Baseball Mailbags to CNNSI.com all season. To send a question, click here.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer.