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MLB — Everything you need to know on Hall of Fame announcement day

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The results of the second stage of the annual Hall of Fame voting process will be announced Tuesday evening with the Baseball Writers’ Association selections, and we can safely say not to expect any stunning news along the lines of what happened in December with the Today’s Game Era committee.

In other words, we’re not going to see a reunion of the 2005 White Sox with the elections of Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia.

The committee’s election of Harold Baines, however, does raise an interesting question: How much does the BBWAA vote even matter if a 16-person committee is simply going to override those results in the future?

Take Fred McGriff. He’s on the BBWAA ballot for the final time. He’s not going to get in. Not to worry; in a few years he seems like a surefire committee choice. He’s like Baines — a one-dimensional slugger, highly respected, played a long time — except even better at that one dimension. McGriff hit .284 with 493 home runs and an OPS+ of 134. Baines hit .289 with 384 home runs and an OPS+ of 121. McGriff’s 52.6 WAR dwarfs Baines’ 38.7. He’s fared much better in BBWAA voting than Baines ever did.

The same can be said of some of the other borderline candidates on the ballot, such as Larry Walker, Scott Rolen and Jeff Kent. Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte are on for the first time. They aren’t strong candidates based on traditional BBWAA standards, but compared to Baines, Lee Smith and Jack Morris — elected the past two years by the special committees — they look pretty good. We can debate their merits, but in the long run they’re probably all getting in. The BBWAA vote only (potentially) expedites the process.

That isn’t to suggest that everyone better than Jack Morris or Harold Baines should get in. Heck, there are 21 players on this ballot with a higher career WAR than those two. What remains to be seen is how the soft selections of Morris, Baines and Smith might start influencing the BBWAA vote.

Anyway, here are some key things to look for with Tuesday’s results. All references to voting totals are courtesy of the great work Ryan Thibodaux does with his Hall of Fame vote tracker.

Will Mariano Rivera become the first player elected unanimously?

Among those who obsess about Hall of Fame balloting, there is a small subset who obsess over this twist of history: No Hall of Famer has received 100 percent of the vote. Somehow, 23 people didn’t vote for Willie Mays. Nine people didn’t vote for Hank Aaron. Imagine having a Hall of Fame ballot and not voting for Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. Twenty didn’t vote for Ted Williams, but, hey, a lot of writers despised the man. In the first election in 1936, 11 writers didn’t vote for Babe Ruth. The rules might not have been entirely clear: Ruth had just retired the previous year. Still, Ruth received just 215 votes out of 226 ballots.

So, as Joe Posnanski related in a recent column, the issue of unanimity became a thing right from the beginning.

Tom Seaver came close. He was named on 425 of 430 ballots in 1992. Three writers sent in a blank ballot, protesting that Pete Rose was not on the ballot. One writer had just gotten out of open-heart surgery and simply missed checking off Seaver’s name. The final non-vote, as Posnanski writes, came from a retired writer named Deane McGowan, who apparently refused to vote for any player on his first ballot. And you think Baseball Twitter is cranky.

Ken Griffey Jr. set the record with 99.3 percent of the vote in 2016. Three writers didn’t vote for him. We don’t know who they were since voters don’t have to reveal their ballots. Maybe somebody sent in a blank ballot. Maybe somebody refused to vote for anybody who played in the steroid era. Maybe somebody decided, “If Babe Ruth wasn’t no unanimous, nobody should be unanimous.”

So it goes. As did Griffey, Rivera has received 100 percent of the publicly revealed ballots. He’s 180-for-180 so far. My guess: He won’t get 100 percent. Somebody will enforce the Ruth rule. Maybe somebody feels no reliever deserves to be enshrined. Maybe somebody, knowing Rivera will get elected, will use his or her 10 spots on the ballot for other candidates. But Rivera has a chance to end the silly 100 percent stigma.

Does Edgar Martinez get in on his final ballot?

It would be a little awkward if Baines is giving a speech in July and Martinez isn’t. After all, the Designated Hitter of the Year award isn’t named after Baines. Fortunately, it looks like Martinez will get elected. He’s received 90.8 percent of the public ballots, compared to 76.3 percent last year, when he finished at 70.4 percent. So even with an expected decline in the percentage he receives from the private ballots, he looks in good shape. Book those hotel rooms now, Mariners fans.

Does Roy Halladay get in on his first ballot?

Halladay is polling at a surprising 94.1 percent — not that he’s undeserving, but he’s not a slam dunk by career WAR (64.3) or wins (203), standards that BBWAA voters have employed in the past. Compare him to Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling:

Halladay: 64.3 WAR, 203-105, 3.38 ERA, 131 ERA+
Mussina: 83.0 WAR, 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+
Schilling: 79.6 WAR, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+

Mussina is on the ballot for the sixth time and received just 20.3 percent of the vote on his first ballot. Schilling is on for the seventh time and received 38.8 percent of the vote his first time. There are reasons to like Halladay over Mussina and Schilling — he won two Cy Young Awards and finished second two other times, and his seven-year peak is highest of the three (50.4 WAR, 48.7 for Schilling, 44.6 for Mussina) — but it seems Halladay is being viewed much differently than those two. Perhaps his unfortunate death in a plane crash is helping his vote total.

Anyway, like Martinez, his total will surely drop in the private ballot, but he needs just 59.5 percent on the remaining ballots to clear 75 percent.

Speaking of Mussina and Schilling, how will they do?

Mussina is inching closer, but it looks like he’ll fall just short. He’s at 82.2 percent of the public vote and would need 69.2 percent of the remaining ballots. He received just 46.7 percent of the private ballots last year, so he will need a significant increase in that area. Still, he’s trending in the right direction and looks primed for 2019. If Halladay gets in, that helps Mussina since it clears a strong candidate off the ballot and there aren’t any strong starting pitchers hitting the ballot in upcoming years. (Tim Hudson and Mark Buehrle are the best.)

Schilling, meanwhile, continues to fall behind Mussina — even though as recently as 2016 he was well ahead (52.3 percent to 43.0 percent). Schilling is polling at 74.1 percent, which is better than the 60 percent he received on public ballots a year ago, so it’s difficult to know how much his various contentious statements on Twitter and elsewhere have hurt his vote total.

Will Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens get any closer?

We know the Hall of Fame’s stance on these two. Joe Morgan’s letter in November 2017 — he’s the Hall’s vice chairman and on the board of directors — made that clear. Issued from a Hall of Fame email address, Morgan implored voters not to vote for known steroid users. “We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here,” he wrote.

Of course, there’s the almost certain likelihood that there are steroid users already in the Hall of Fame, and recent elections have voted in players strongly suspected of steroid use. The Hall doesn’t want Bonds or Clemens in, and it could simply remove the pair from the ballot (not to mention Manny Ramirez, who actually failed tests for performance-enhancing drugs), but hasn’t had the audacity to do that.

Anyway, Bonds and Clemens won’t get in, at least not this year. They’re both polling at 73 percent, which is an increase from last year’s public ballots, when they were at 64 percent. Like Schilling, this is their seventh year on the ballot and time is running out, with just three years remaining after this vote and likely not enough momentum in the private ballots (which tend to be more anti-steroids).

What happens after that if they don’t get elected? Who knows. The Hall of Fame could simply choose not to put Bonds and Clemens on the committee ballot. Or it could put them on with the implicit knowledge they won’t get elected. We certainly know one board member who won’t vote for them.

Will Andy Pettitte stay on the ballot?

A player needs 5 percent of the vote to remain on the ballot the following year. Pettitte is at 6.5 percent. Like Jorge Posada a couple of years ago, he’s in danger of getting the boot after one year. (Even Bernie Williams lasted two years.) Pettitte has a stronger case than those two former teammates, however, and a similar — but much stronger — case than Morris. The strongest part of Pettitte’s case might be his postseason record: He went 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA over 44 starts, including 23 starts in which he allowed two runs or fewer.

Still, he’s not one of the 10 best players on this ballot, and his 3.85 career ERA is a tough hill to climb to get in. He also admitted to a one-time use of PEDs, although I haven’t seen anybody reference that as a reason they didn’t vote for him.

How close will Larry Walker get?

Walker is polling at 67 percent of the public ballots compared to 37.5 percent last year. That’s good! Except this is Walker’s ninth year on the ballot. That’s bad! It feels too late to make a run. Tim Raines, for example, was up to 69.8 percent in his ninth year and Martinez was even closer last year. Even if Walker becomes the guy everyone pushes next year, he’s probably going to have to finish with at least 65 percent of the vote this year, and it seems unlikely his private support will keep him at that level.

Even if he falls short next year, there’s always the Today’s Game Era committee. After all, Baines, who lasted only five years on the ballot, topped out at just 6.1 percent on the BBWAA vote.

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Yanks break out fog machine, strobe after big win

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NEW YORK — Remember “Club Dub” in Chicago? Well meet the bouncing, bass-bumping version in the Bronx.

At times in what has been a difficult, challenge-filled season mostly marred by an ever-growing injured list, the New York Yankees have still found occasions to celebrate.

And when they have, boy, have they partied.

“You guys didn’t know we had a nightclub in here?” outfielder and designated hitter Clint Frazier rhetorically asked reporters, smiling.

It was about 15 minutes after the Yankees’ 5-3 win Wednesday night over their rival Boston Red Sox when media entered a home clubhouse that had a noticeably strange haze looming high in the air.

No, nothing was on fire. There was no actual smoke — just the suggestion of it. It came in the form of a foggy mist, put there by a fog machine that has made an appearance or two this season. To a man, players contend they have no idea who put it there, how it got there or why it’s even there.

“I don’t know that it’s a player,” veteran outfielder Brett Gardner said, raising the suspicion, “but I’m not sure.”

What the 25 men on the Yankees’ current active roster do know is that they like seeing the fog machine … and the strobe lights … and hearing the booming music from right fielder Aaron Judge‘s victory mixtape. The presence of each of means the Yanks just won a hard-fought game.

“The idea was to play [the fog] after big games,” Gardner said.

Wednesday’s game certainly qualified as that, as the Bronx Bombers completed a sweep of the scuffling Sox thanks in large part to Gardner’s seventh-inning grand slam. The homer was the 100th of his career, and was the go-ahead blast the Yankees needed in a game they had spent most of the night trailing.

“I think he was just waiting for the right moment. I think that was it: bases loaded, against Boston,” Judge said about the milestone shot. “That was a special moment, a special swing and there’s nobody else I’d rather have up at the plate in that situation.”

Along with Gardner’s homer, the Yankees got a strong 6⅓-inning outing from starter J.A. Happ, who had not pitched out of the fifth inning in his first three starts of the year. A mid-game adjustment got the lefty past a rough first two innings which saw him give up two home runs. He has allowed homers in all four starts he has made this season.

“We deserved the fog because we won a hard game out there,” Frazier said. “That was a good game. Everybody played a part in some way. It’s huge to beat the Red Sox right now.”

Frazier played his own key role in the win, going 3-for-3 with a pair of singles and an RBI double. Barely a year removed from a serious concussion, Frazier has taken full advantage of his opportunities playing in relief of the injured Giancarlo Stanton. Through 13 games, Frazier is hitting .333 with four homers and 12 RBIs.

At one point in Wednesday’s celebration, the fog was so intense that Frazier said he had trouble identifying individual players until they stumbled far out of the fog.

“It’s been like a nightclub after we win,” Frazier said. “It’s fun, man. It’s a way to get it going after a win.”

Last football season, the Chicago Bears made headlines when their post-win celebrations were posted to the team’s social media channels. Players were regularly singing and dancing as strobe lights bounced erratically off the locker room’s walls.

The venue of those post-win celebrations was affectionately nicknamed “Club Dub.”

Asked if the Yankees could be baseball’s version of the Bears, Frazier quickly retorted: “Yeah. Why not?”

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Sox’s Pedroia has more knee woes, set for tests

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NEW YORK — Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia left Wednesday night’s game against the New York Yankees after his first at-bat with left knee discomfort.

Manager Alex Cora said after the Red Sox’s 5-3 loss that Pedroia had approached him and told him that he felt “something weird” in his surgically repaired knee. Pedroia will stay in New York and be evaluated by a doctor Thursday.

“For him to come up to me and tell me how he felt, obviously, I know a lot of people think he’s going to push and push and push and not be smart about it; well, he understands where he’s at and how he felt,” Cora said. “I gotta do what I have to do to take care of the player. I was surprised he came up to me and told me that.”

Cora said the team likely will need help at second base with Pedroia’s injury, although a roster move was not announced after the game. Infielder Tzu-Wei Lin, who has served as organizational depth the past two seasons, appears to be the logical choice to come up from Triple-A should Pedroia hit the injured list.

Pedroia, who has had issues with the knee since 2017 and missed all but three games during the 2018 season, made his 2019 debut in the team’s home opener last week. The 35-year-old longtime fan favorite is just 2-for-20 so far, starting his first three games at second base and two games at designated hitter. He was playing second Wednesday night and was replaced by Eduardo Nunez.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had said Tuesday that Pedroia was exactly where he expected to be offensively and that his three rehab games for Class A Greenville sufficed.

“He felt he was ready to go,” Dombrowski said. “To stretch this out over a lengthy period, it would take a long time period to get through the whole time.

“He’s not going to be ready to play — which we’ve said all along — every day for a lengthy period. So we’re willing to deal with the situation.”

After spending 2017 playing through left knee discomfort, Pedroia had a cartilage restoration procedure. He told reporters at spring training this year that if he could do it all over again, he would not have had the surgery, which ended up sidelining him for most of 2018.

“I don’t regret doing it, but looking back and [knowing] what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it,” Pedroia said in March.

Pedroia’s health struggles have put the Red Sox in a tight position, including using catcher Christian Vazquez at second. Vazquez, who totaled 4 2/3 innings at the position for Greenville back in 2010 and did not own an infielder’s glove, made an appearance at the position in the 2018 World Series.

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Red Sox’s Pedroia exits loss with knee discomfort

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NEW YORK — Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia left Wednesday night’s game against the New York Yankees after his first at-bat with left knee discomfort.

Pedroia, who has had issues with the knee since 2017 and missed all but three games during the 2018 season, made his 2019 debut in the team’s home opener last week. The 35-year-old longtime fan favorite is just 2-for-20 so far, starting his first three games at second base and two games at designated hitter. He was playing second Wednesday night and was replaced by Eduardo Nunez in the 5-3 loss.

Pedroia will remain in New York and have additional tests on the knee Thursday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after the game.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had said Tuesday that Pedroia was exactly where he expected to be offensively and that his three rehab games for Class A Greenville sufficed.

“He felt he was ready to go,” Dombrowski said. “To stretch this out over a lengthy period, it would take a long time period to get through the whole time.

“He’s not going to be ready to play — which we’ve said all along — every day for a lengthy period. So we’re willing to deal with the situation.”

After spending 2017 playing through left knee discomfort, Pedroia had a cartilage restoration procedure. He told reporters at spring training this year that if he could do it all over again, he would not have had the surgery, which ended up sidelining him for most of 2018.

“I don’t regret doing it, but looking back and [knowing] what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it,” Pedroia said in March.

Pedroia’s health struggles have put the Red Sox in a tight position, including using catcher Christian Vazquez at second. Vazquez, who totaled 4 2/3 innings at the position for Greenville back in 2010 and did not own an infielder’s glove, made an appearance at the position in the 2018 World Series.

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