Could Billy Hamilton Change Baseball?
There have been few minor league baseball players to ever get the type of national media attention that Billy Hamilton received in 2012. The Cincinnati Reds minor leaguer had a solid season, but unlike other young newsmakers, no one is calling Hamilton an elite prospect. What grabs the attention is the amazing speed, but is speed enough to change the game at the pro level?
Baseball has seen its fair share of speedsters, from Ty Cobb to Maury Wills to Rickey Henderson. However, baseball has evolved to the point that most teams limit how often they run and try to steal bases. Last season, Mike Trout led the majors in stolen bases with only 49. In the 1980s, a player would need at least 100 to compete for that title.
In 132 minor league games last season, Hamilton stole 155 bases. He was caught 37 times. These numbers pretty much suggest that every time Hamilton is on base and no one is directly ahead of him, he is stealing. While so far it is working and grabbing headlines in the minors, can he really pull this off in the majors?
Scouts agree that they have never seen a player quite like Hamilton. He has elite speed, quickness and timing that makes him nearly impossible to contain. The problem is, he is a career .289/.364/.389 hitter with just seven home runs in four minor league seasons. He also does not have a set position, as he has played infield and outfield at times. While he has the speed, all of his other skills seem to be just below MLB-level.
Cincinnati figures to be in the playoff hunt this season, and possibly for years to come. If he is going to break in with the MLB club, he is going to have to earn it. He has totally baffled and frustrated pitchers in the minors while on the basepaths, but MLB players are supposed to be fine tuned enough to block that all out. If Hamilton is given free reign to run, he could make baseball a running game again. With steroids pretty much eliminated and power numbers down, speed could become an extremely valuable skill again.
It will be interesting to see how much freedom Hamilton receives when he does make it to the majors, but he has the potential to be a game changer and an exciting prospect to have on your fantasy baseball roster. Pitchers are not used to a guy trying to swipe close to 100 bags a season in this era.
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2013 Hall of Fame Voting
The job of the Hall of Fame is to tell the story of the history of baseball, the records, players, fans, or the bad: the cheating, the betting, the racism, and the steroids. The crop of players on the ballot this year include notables, some linked to steroids and some who are not, such as Mark McGwire, Larry Walker, Rafael Palmeiro, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, and Sammy Sosa. To be inducted into the Hall of Fame, one must have his name on 75% of the ballots casted. All indications conclude that there will be no inductees into the Hall of Fame for 2013, the first time since 1996 that there will be no one inducted.
In American law you are innocent until proven guilty; In baseball, you are guilty until proven innocent.
The Hall of Fame is a museum and its job is to preserve the history of baseball. It is our job as fans of baseball to interpret each and every player and tell his story of how and why he deserves to be in the Hall. The steroid hunt is the 21st century witch-hunt and the view of the media and the people is when one man has big arms hitting home runs, he must’ve been doing steroids– If he has a bad year after that he must be off of them. Jose Bautista hit 54 home runs in 2010 and the first thing that came into everyone’s mind was “Well, he must be juicing. He must be cheating.” When in fact he changed his swing ever so slightly. Bet you didn’t think Melky Cabrera was going to be caught during the 2012 season, subsequently after he won the All- Star Game MVP award. There is no justice in baseball and what needs to be done is to take this era of players and vote them in accordingly and after all is said and done, move on and clean baseball and rid it of this awful epidemic that has taken over the purest of all sports.
The question here is why? Why are players such as Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Larry Walker placed into the category of the steroid Hall of Famers? Why does the greatest home run hitter of all time and arguably the greatest pitcher of all time have no future in this Hall of Fame process? The answer is simply this: Baseball is based on the principle of purity, if you can’t play by the rules there is no mercy and sadly for Piazza, Biggio, and Walker, they are stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Would it be good or bad for baseball to ignore steroids all together and take these stats, tainted or not, and enshrine these men into the Hall of Fame? Should there be an “asterisk” next to the name of anybody suspected of steroid use? The words “linked”, “accused”, “suspected”, are all terms we have heard for so long and the time is finally now to settle this argument once and for all. Have these men been positively identified as steroid users, and thusly, did the steroids improve their statistics. Until one of these players has been proven guilty of these offenses, in my book, they are clear to be voted in and have no restrictions in doing so. On the other hand, players such as Alex Rodriguez, who has come out and said that he had taken steroids and Manny Ramirez, who has been punished for his steroid use are not rightfully valuable of the highest honor in the game of baseball.
Take Pete Rose for example. He holds the record for the most hits of all time, 4256, and sadly he will never be in the hall of fame because he was caught cheating. He knowingly broke the rules of baseball and fixed games for the betterment of himself. The argument that I am making here is that he knowingly broke the rules of baseball; he was KNOWINGLY doing something wrong that changed the outcome of the game. Just because everyone was doing steroids doesn’t make it right and just because Major League Baseball wasn’t doing a damn thing about it doesn’t make it right either. They knew, and they didn’t care. Ratings were up and the popularity of baseball had skyrocketed during the “Steroid Era” and now look what it has done. The purest of all games and the purest of all the Hall of Fames is at a crossroad and who is it up to now to fix. What does the Hall of Fame mean if the all-time home run king and a 7-time CY Young award winner do not get elected in? You tell me.
The Los Angeles Angels, confirmed by GM Art Moreno, have signed the top free agent in this offseason’s class, Josh Hamilton. After an inconsistent 2012 season (.285, 43HR, 128RBI) the 2010 MVP signed a deal worth $125 million over the next 5 seasons, a value of $25 million per year. This deal shocks the baseball free agent landscape and for the second year in a row the Angels are in the middle of the frenzy. Last offseason they signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year $240 million contract. The Angels, fourth in payroll on Opening Day last season finished 3rd in the AL west and with an 89-73 record, 3rd in the American League Wild Card as well. With a season that center field phenom Mike Trout had last year (2012: .326, 20HR, 83RBI, 49SB) and earning the rookie of the year award, if he can put up numbers close to what he had the Angels are in for a very good season.This deal, as you can expect, shakes up the AL West division. A division won by the A’s, who won on the last day of the season last year.
Josh Hamilton was also in talks with the Seattle Mariners, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the New York Yankees.
What this does to the Angels lineup is simple, Josh Hamilton will protect Pujols in the 4th spot of the lineup. A lineup that now has to figure out what to do with All Star power hitting star Mark Trumbo. Trumbo coming off of a monster second season in the league struggled mightily at 3B at the beginning of the 2012 season will either be traded or otherise benched if his fielding does not improve. Trumbo, after his mistakes became a common sight at Angels games last season, was moved to the outfield succeeded by Alberto Callaspo. I’m sure Angels manager Mike Scioscia will have no problem sitting Callaspo for Trumbo. The rest of the infield has Erick Aybar at SS, Howie Kendrick at 2B, Albert Pujols at 1st, Kendrys Morales DH and Chris Ianetta doing the catching. The outfield now has two legitimate starters with Trout and Hamilton.The other starting position will be fought between speedy outfielder Peter Borjos and the aging Vernon Wells.
The Angels pitching staff will be led by Jared Weaver who went 20-5 with a 2.81 ERA last season. Weaver, along with CJ Wilson and Garrett Richards, will be joined by the newly signed Tommy Hanson and Joe Blantonin the 5-man rotation in 2013.
Look for an incredible American League West race in the 2013 season.
You may be as puzzled as I was to see the Los Angeles Dodgers deal given to Zack Greinke last week: 6 years, $147 million (with a free agency option at the end of his 3rd season). With this new addition, the Dodgers now have the highest payroll in the league at $207.9 million. The first time since 1998 in which the New York Yankees did not have the highest payroll on Opening Day. But, is this deal really as crazy as one might think? Let us look at his statistics, career and 2012 season:
Career: (9 seasons) 91-78, 3.77 ERA, 1332 K, 1.25 WHIP, 2009 AL Cy Young Award
2012 Season: 15-5*, 3.48 ERA, 200 K, 1.20 WHIP, with the Brewers and Angels
*He went 15-5 last season on two teams, and was 5-0 in his last five starts with the Angels. Let us now compare him to three pitchers:
CC Sabathia– 2007 AL Cy Young
Salary: $23 million per year*
Career: (11 seasons) 191-102, 3.50 ERA, 2214 K, 1.22 WHIP
2012 Season: 15-6, 3.38 ERA, 197 K, 1.14 WHIP
Matt Cain– 3-time All Star
Salary: $15 million per year
Career: (8 seasons) 85-78, 3.27 ERA, 1278 K, 1.17 WHIP
2012 Season: 16-5, 2.79 ERA, 193 K, 1.04 WHIP
Clayton Kershaw– 2011 NL Cy Young
Salary: $7.5 million per year
Career: (5 seasons) 61-37, 2.79 ERA, 974 K, 1.14 WHIP
2012 Season: 14-9, 2.53 ERA, 229 K, 1.02 WHIP
*CC Sabathia signed the largest contract ever for a pitcher, Greinke’s contract is worth $1.5 million more.
When comparing win-loss records, Greinke, Cain, and Sabathia nearly have identical statistics, while Kershaw makes up for it with the lowest ERA of the group, 2.53, and the most K’s, 229.
Is Zack Greinke really worth $24.5 million per year? The answer is simply NO! The Dodgers are taking a new philosophy, one which has failed for them before, “the more you spend the better you will be”. For 5 years, $80 million, they could have signed free agent RHP Annibal Sanchez (2012: 9-13, 3.86 ERA) and for 4 years, $60 million, they could have obtained RHP Kyle Lohse (2012: 16-3, 2.86 ERA). Do the math, $140 million for two pitchers over the next five years, or for one pitcher with an opt- out clause after three.