A few notes while trying to say something coherent about the 2004 season:
Tino In The Fold
Tino Martinez, after a three year exile to St. Louis and Tampa Bay, has returned to the Bronx on a one-year, $2.75MM deal, with a $3MM option for 2006.
After two sub-par seasons with the Cards, Tino posted a .262./.362/.461 mark for Lou Piniella's Devil Rays in 2004. Still, Constantino's 37 years old, and prior to last year (a bad year for AL first basemen) hadn't been above league average since 1998. Expectations should not be high.
I didn't comment on the Mike Stanton/Felix Heredia swap last month--it was kind of hard to get worked up about. If money's no object (and there's a good bit of debate about that) getting rid of a lefty who was so ineffective that he had to be sent down to the minors, so Billy Connors could hold his hand, is hardly controversial. There are several dozen lefty relievers I'd rather have come out of the Stadium bullpen next summer, and Mike Stanton isn't the worst of them.
But he isn't the best, or the cheapest, either.
Like Tino, you have to feel that the reason for the Stanton acquisition goes beyond on-the-field baseball. Whether it's an attempt to bring that 1998 chemistry back to the Bronx, or to appeal to fans that think the team has lost its "soul," these are not pure baseball moves.
Still, at $3MM for a one-year commitment, Tino's not a horrible insurance policy, given that we don't know what, if anything, Jason Giambi will bring to Legends Field in a few weeks. Tino's a good enough gloveman that he could be a (relatively) low-offense first baseman if Giambi can't play the field, or a 300 AB fill-in if Jason miraculously comes back from the tumors and parasites and potions that have made him persona non grata in the Bronx.
Boggs and Ryno in the Hall, the Goose Abides
Congrats to former Yankee Wade Boggs, and to Ryne Sandberg, the BWAA's picks for the Hall of Fame class of 2005.
Boggs and Ryno are similar players--infielders who dominated their positions in the 80's, but who were also regarded as selfish players during their time.
I've discussed before why I think both players were well worthy of admission, so I'm not going to belabor that point. Really, the story of this election is the guys who are left on the outside, looking in. Goose Gossage gained 79 votes, and broke the all-important 50% barrier. The bad news is he's still mired behind a couple of guys who are--in my humble opinion--less-worthy candidates. Fellow closer Bruce Sutter is well ahead of Goose, at 66% of the electorate, only 43 votes shy of admission. He could get in next year, at Gossage's expense. Jim Rice is 80 votes away from admission.
It all comes down to a showdown on next year's ballot, before the likely Hall of Famers start coming hot-and-heavy again. The remaining likely candidates--Sutter, Rice, Goose, Andre Dawson (52%), Bert Blyleven (41%), Lee Smith (39%), and Jack Morris (33%)--all have their best chance next year.
My personal theory is that Rice's increase was due to increased Boston attention, due to Boggs (look at Bill Simmons' column if you want to see what I mean). Maybe that disappears next year, leaving room for the voters to put both Sutter and/or Gossage in the Hall (most likely both, as a "very special relievers episode" of the HOF induction ceremony). But if he doesn't get in next year, Gossage will probably be at the tender mercies of the Veteran's Committee, in whatever form it might exist when Goose makes that ballot.