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SnakePit Round Table: Into February

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Pitchers and catchers report in a couple of weeks. At least, in theory...

Purple crocuses (Crocoideae) are blooming on a meadow... Photo by Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images

What have you been doing this off-season?

Jack: Expanding a business project. I wasn’t originally planning on giving myself this much work at this point in life, but this is a bit of a legacy project. So trying to finish strong.

Wesley: I have been pursuing higher education. Finally, I can knock “go back to school” off my list of long term goals. That’s what I’ve been doing with my life in general lately, knocking out ALL the long term goals I’d set for myself years ago, finally. I’ve a sense of urgency about life that I never really had before. I’m working on a lot of differebt

James: Still doing the English studies thing. Also, we moved - so there is that. I’ll let you all know how I feel about the move after I have given it a fair shake, but I am not hopeful, given how things have been shaking out so far.

Makakilo: My obsession started in September. I strongly needed to understand why the Diamondbacks failed to reach the expanded playoffs (this article reflected some of my thoughts).

And I challenged myself. Not counting my player review articles, how many consecutive weeks could I think about an interesting baseball question and write about it? My article on ‘seam shifted wake’ is scheduled to post Monday. It will be the 18th consecutive week.

Jim: Oh, the usual. Watching a lot of movies. The final tally for 2020 was 403, which surprised even me. Funny how not leaving the house for months on end works! I’ve been occasionally working on a long, ongoing project involving bringing my old reviews into the 21st century. There’s almost three thousand of those, so it’s… in progress! Also, getting the fanzine I edited in the nineties online too. That’s been a real blast of nostalgic embarrassment.

Do you think spring training will be delayed, shortened or abandoned?

Jack: Like many others I’m concerned about new variants/mutations, and their timeline for hitting us. It’s a race now between getting enough people vaccinated quickly enough to stop spread of new variants. There’s also concern about reduced effectiveness of existing vaccines against new strains. But some is better than none. The graph below illustrates in dramatic fashion the race we’re in. I don’t know if the start of spring training will be delayed or not. It’s impossible to predict. But a March surge in cases is being predicted. Let’s hope not.

James: I suspect there will be a combination of approaches. Despite recent insistence in the press that the request from the Cactus League will be set aside, I would not be even remotely shocked if spring training at least gets pushed back a week, possibly two. At the same time, Idon’t see the MLBPA allowing the owners even one calendar day of wiggle room for an argument to shorten the season again. That would mean shortening spring training somewhat if it does not start on time.

Makakilo: If spring training starts on schedule and if it continues until the season starts, the number of COVID infections will be a valuable indicator of the potential for success in a full season.

Wesley: Well the minor league season outside of AAA will for sure be delayed in starting, and I would expect the AAA season to be delayed as well. Given all that, unless some serious changes in the vaccine roll-out process happens, I expect delays to spring training and the major league season. I’m with James in that I expect at least a two week delay to spring training. I’d be surprised if everything happens as planned with the season as of now.

Jim: I can see spring training getting under way on time, but it may well be a different kind of spring training. More like the alternate site version we had last season. I’m not sure if we will see full Cactus League play, but I can see that coming on line in March, if everything goes well. There’ll be very limited fan attendance, if any though.

When will 2021 Opening Day happen?

Jack: See above. If ST delayed, then most likely opening day would be too. MLBPA and MLB can fight all they want, but matters may be taken out of their hands.

Late Edit, just saw this on Twitter

James: Short of Doug Ducey being abducted by aliens and Governor Newsom being installed in his place, the start of spring training (and thus the season), will be left up to MLB and the MLBPA. Given that neither side seems particularly worried about COVID issues, it seems like Opening Day is likely to happen on schedule.

Makakilo: An optimistic view: COVID cases continue to drop as vaccines are administered. Opening day starts on-time with fans in the stands.

But what happens next? A pessimistic view: In July a variant COVID wave hits with a vengeance. Biden issues an executive order for an immediate 6 week halt to public events, including sporting events. The MLBPA and MLB have an extremely ugly public fight about whether to continue the regular season in September or go straight to an expanded playoffs. They continue fighting through September and the beginning of October. Will the playoffs happen in 2021?

Wesley: I am expecting at least the middle of March for spring training to start, but who honestly knows?

Jim:Jack’s Tweet is interesting. A season shortened by three weeks, but only eight fewer games? How will that work? But I think they’ll do everything they can to get it started on time, though again, probably with very limited attendance. I think last season proved it can be done, and done safely. It will be interesting to see if the return of inter-division play makes a difference to that. The wild-card in all this is, as others have said, the new strains of the virus. How effective will the vaccines be against them? That’s going to be the key.

Is the Baseball Hall of Fame too exclusive?

Jack: There are at least a dozen position players and another dozen pitchers that probably deserve to be in the HOF. On a percentage basis of how many players/roster spots there are in the league, the number of players who get elected is roughly half what it was compared say to players that were still active in 1960. (16 teams X 25 players =400, 30 teams x 25 players = 750) So while total the number of elections is roughly the same, there is twice the player pool to pick from. There are too many worthy candidates languishing.

James: While I support a small hall, I do think that the last 15 years have been somewhat on the ballot (or dropping off entirely), mostly because a select few writers have personal axes to grind. Some of the ballots submitted, especially in the last few years, raise serious questions about the voter’s credibility and, more importantly, their integrity. Remove some of those “Hey, look at me!” ballots that were filled out in bad faith likely changes the math enough that some people not currently in, would be.

Makakilo: My answer is no for two reasons:

  • The pace of inductees has not changed over time. From 1936 through 1979, 3.84 players per year were added. From 1980 through 2021, 3.88 players per year were added.
  • If I spent 3 minutes reading about each Hall of Famer, it would take me 16 hours. If significantly more people were added, perhaps some fans would lose interest except for their favorite team’s players. “The Hall of Fame is comprised of 333 elected members. Included are 263 former major league players, as well as 38 executives/pioneers, 22 managers and 10 umpires.” —Baseball Hall of Fame website

Wesley: I think the Hall of Fame is not inclusive enough. Look at the players listed in this recent Fangraphs.com blog post. It’s the hall of fame, not the hall of fame except the most famous/valuable players who did steroids. I would be money that at least 75% of current hall of famers at the very least used stimulants that are now banned. Some of those 19th century ball players were very likely loaded up on patent medicines that were loaded with banned narcotics. Some examples of such patent medicines would be: Tilden’s extract was literally a cannabis extract. Vin Mariani was wine with cocaine in it, which coca-cola was inspired by. There’s even one I found doing quick research that contained both cannabis AND laudanum, called Chlorodyne.. Point is, everyone has always used drugs, and/or whatever advantage that’s been available, even the Babe received injections of an extract of sheep testicles in 1925, and we’re not going to kick him out of the Hall.

Jim: I think it’s about right. There’s no obligation to induct people every year, and the more inclusive it is, the less of an honor it is. I’d have to look at the numbers elected each year to see if the numbers have changed over the decades. To Wes’s point, it’s a reflection of the standards - both sporting and moral - at the time of election. The medicines of the Babe’s time weren’t seen in that era as being any different from today’s nutritional supplements. I think the fact you can’t unelect people is a good reason to err on the side of caution when voting people in.

Ketel Marte: second-baseman or center-fielder?

Jack: Second base. Because if they move him to CF, they are just going to have to move him right back to 2b when Corbin Carroll arrives. Stop jerking Ketel around. Let him stay at 2b and go figure out how to bridge the gap until Carroll arrives.

James: Second base. Marte prefers it at second. A decent argument can be made that he is a better player at second. The team already has a temporary candidate for center in Tim Locastro. I could go on.

Makakilo: Ketel Marte is an All-Star second baseman! That says a lot about what position he should play. Jack had a great point that Corbin Carroll will be ready to play center soon. James had a great point that Tim Locastro could play center until Corbin Carroll arrives. Please note that in 2020 Tim Locastro led the team with wOBA of .370 and OBP of .395.

What could happen to support the idea of moving Ketel Marte to center field? Of the free agents who play second base, and who have not yet signed, two players could possibly be signed by the Diamondbacks for a bargain salary. This season, if the newly acquired player proves himself at second base, they could move Ketel Marte to center field until Corbin Carroll arrives.

The two free agents:

Jonathan Schoop, 29 years old

  • OPS vs. left-handed pitchers: .917 in 2019, .733 in 2020
  • DRS at second base: 0 in 2019, 1 in 2020
  • Projected WAR: Steamer 0.9, ZiPS 1.8
  • Unique feature: honorable mention in top 50 FAs.

Hanser Alberto, 28 years old

  • OPS vs. left-hand-pitchers: .948 in 2019, .917 in 2020
  • DRS at second base: 2 in 2019, minus 2 in 2020
  • Projected WAR: Steamer 0.6, ZiPS 1.3
  • Unique feature: bottom 1% in hard hit percent and walks (perhaps fixable).

Wesley: Ketel is a second baseman, and an all-star at the position. I’m not a fan of shifting a young player around the field to a bunch of different positions, it really screws up player development in my opinion.

Jim: Right now, I think I’d rather see Locastro given a shot in CF than Rojas at 2B, so would prefer Marte to play second. However, we’ll see what happened when the mad rush to free agency happens in February, once schedules and rosters are agreed. Whatever signings gets made by the team will likely play a big part in that decision. As 2019 showed, Marte can be thoroughly productive in center, so if that’s what the team needs, I’m fine with it.

After you die, you have to choose a single spot on Earth where your spirit will be locked in place and forced to observe for the next hundred years. What location do you choose?

Jack: This can’t be the NSFW version I take it…...Anyway, since picking some pretty scenic spot would get boring after a while, no matter how beautiful, I guess on my couch in front of the TV with a telepathic remote.

Wesley: Aokigahara at the base of Mount Fuji, it would be scenic, but also very interesting. You’d see tragedies obviously, but you’d also see all the people who make the right choices in the end.

James: The leisure side of me is torn between somewhere up north, likely in Iceland, where I can watch the Northern Lights and enjoy the tranquility and Wembley Stadium. Although, I highly doubt Wembley Stadium will be the place it is today in 100 years, so I would have to consider that. The more practical side of me is drawn to the idea of spending in on the mall in D.C. That way, I could see some beautiful architecture, do considerable people watching, and also remain abreast of how developing history plays itself out for the next hundred years, as I would be witnessing the changing of the guard every four to eight years (or not). I think it would be interesting to stay abreast of how/where we all end up.

Makakilo: Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary in Hawaii. I would observe visitors/tourists from all over the world. As they talked, they would give me a unique view of the current state of the world.

Between visitors, I would watch the ocean and be thrilled whenever I saw a whale, or I would watch the mongooses play. When different plants in the gardens bloomed, each would reflect a new type of joy. I would monitor the subtle changes in the garden that is a model of the universe.

Jim: It’s difficult to know how things might change in the next hundred years. Maybe the best way to answer that is to ask where would have been the best spot over the last hundred years? I think I would be inclined to go for somewhere urban, as scenery, no matter how gorgeous, is bound to pall after a while. Times Square in New York, Piccadilly Circus in London or the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo would all seem to offer plenty of scope for entertainment!