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The Hall of Fame Case for Keith Hernandez

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This time in late January tends to create a cavalcade of excitement for those in the baseball community. Specifically for, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Trammell, and Jack Morris.  This group of baseball greats will be entering Cooperstown’s National Baseball Hall of Fame later this summer.

However, widespread debates arise this time of year as to who is not being inducted into Cooperstown.  My argument is for a player who is no longer on the ballot.  A player who made a defensive difference at a position that’s defense is often overlooked and undervalued.

Keith Hernandez spent his 17-year career at first base for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, and Cleveland Indians.  Hernandez was the 1979 National League Co-MVP (Shared with Willie Stargell), five-time NL All-Star, and most remarkably, an 11-time Gold Glover.

The 11 Gold Gloves that Hernandez received are the most ever won by a first baseman.  Don Mattingly is just behind Hernandez with nine Gold Gloves.  Hernandez is the only player to lead his position in Gold Gloves and not be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Hernandez was a gap-to-gap hitter and hit .300 or better on seven occasions.  He finished with a .296 career batting average.  His career WAR is 60.0 which is 20th among first basemen.  Thirteen Hall of Famers are in front of Hernandez on the career first basemen WAR list and two players (Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera) will eventually arrive in Cooperstown.

Hernandez was a leader on the field and in the clubhouse.  His baseball prowess often made the difference in big games.  He won two World Series Championships with the Cardinals in 1982 and the Mets in 1986.

So why is Hernandez being omitted? First base is traditionally a position where power hitters reside.  This notion has often been the main reason to Hernandez’s absence from Cooperstown.  Hernandez finished his career with only 162 home runs, and only drove in more than 100 RBI’s once in 17 seasons.

Ozzie Smith, a teammate of Hernandez was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his unmatched abilities as a defensive player.  Smith won 13 Gold Gloves (Most by a shortstop) throughout his career.  However, Smith was less than a productive offensive player.  The Wizard of Oz finished his career with a .262 lifetime average and 28 career home runs in 19 seasons.

Brooks Robinson is another elite defender in the Hall of Fame.  Robinson, like Hernandez leads his position (third base) in Gold Gloves.  The parallel between Hernandez and Robinson is that they both played traditional power hitting positions, and neither put up big home run totals.  Robinson finished his career 268 home runs and a .267 batting average in 23 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles

I absolutely believe that Smith and Robinson belong in the Hall of Famer.  However, they are both examples of the primitive thinking when it comes to Hall of Fame stereotyping by position.  Defense just means more on the left side of the infield in the eyes of the voters.  The offensive output just falls by the wayside.

The consensus for Hernandez is that since he did not put up gaudy offensive numbers at first base, he is not a Hall of Famer.  Hernandez is being portrayed more so as a luxury than as a necessity.  His defensive skills, leadership qualities, and ability as a line driver hitter warrant the Veterans Committee giving him a second look down the road.  Keith Hernandez’s legacy deserves something other than being dumped by Elaine Benes and frank commentary on SNY.

 

American League

Rays Recall Austin Meadows

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The Tampa Bay Rays have recalled outfielder Austin Meadows to their active roster, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Tompkin.

In addition to Meadows, right handers Austin Pruitt and Chih-Wei Hu, along with lefty Hoby Milner, will be joining the big league roster.

Meadows, 23, posted a  .292/.327/.468 line over 165 plate appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this season, prior to being sent over in exchange for starting pitcher Chris Archer.

 

 

 

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American League

Orioles’ Adam Jones Discusses Vetoed Trade, Free Agency

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Baltimore Orioles veteran outfielder Adam Jones has seen the organization undergo a major rebuild, and have traded away pieces to start from scratch. Jones was expected to be traded but it has been reported that the veteran exercised his 10-and-5 rights to veto a trade that would’ve sent him from Baltimore to the Phillies shortly before the non-waiver trade deadline.

“It just wasn’t right for me” Jones said, during an interview with Sara Perlman of MASNsports.com.

“I was playing center field at the time, and they wanted me to go play right field and platoon. That was the situation there, and it’s understandable. That’s how their roster was constructed, and that’s National League ball — double-switch and all that kind of stuff. … It wasn’t the right move for me, especially going into free agency. I’m not going into free agency looking like I’m [Nolan] Arenado, [Manny] Machado or [Bryce] Harper — obviously not — but I want to continue to create and maintain my stock. Going there to platoon, obviously in a good environment, a winning environment, would’ve hurt me in the long run. If I was 36, 37, a little older and toward the end of it all, of course — that would’ve been a very ideal and smart move, because it’d make sense. … I wish the Phillies the best, because I believe they have a really good team.”

Jones also discussed his pending free agency, adding, “Whoever wants me to run around [in the outfield] for them, whether it’s center, right, left, I could care less. I just want to play.”

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American League

Yankees Activate Aaron Judge

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The New York Yankees have activated slugger Aaron Judge for tonight;s game, manager Aaron Boone said, according to SNY’s Andy Martino.

Judge has not been cleared to hit in a live game, he will be able to play in the field and run the bases while he finished his preparations for his full return. Although Judge isn’t fully back, this step is welcomed for a Yankees team that his been dreadful at the plate for over a month, and has seen their lead for the top Wild Card spot dwindle.

 

 

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