DALLAS – This morning’s announcement here at the Winter Meetings that Ron Santo was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee got me thinking what an epic Braves-centric event the 2014 HOF induction ceremony could be.
Not only will Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine surely be first-ballot inductees that July day at Cooperstown, but going in alongside the pair of 300-game winners could be their former Braves manager Bobby Cox.
And here’s one that a lot of folks might not have thought about: longtime Braves GM John Schuerholz could also be enshrined that year, which would be quite an aligning of stars for the Braves and their fans, who’s certainly flock to Cooperstown in droves for that happening.
Cox and Schuerholz will be on the Veterans Committee ballot at the 2013 Winter Meetings, when the committee considers candidates from 1973 and later. (Next year the committee will consider candidates from 1946 and earlier. That’s how it’s done, with one of three historical periods considered annually on a rotating basis.)
The only thing I could see preventing that quartet of Braves going in together would be the fact that Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Lou Piniella will also be among those considerd by the veterans committee at the ’13 Winter Meetings, and only four can be elected in one year by the committee.
Barring a return to the game by one of those retired managers, I think Cox, La Russa and Torre are locks to be voted in that year. That would only leave one spot, with Piniella and plenty of others players, managers and team officials up for consideration. The supposedly retiring commissioner Bud Selig himself might be on that veterans committee ballot, along with Marvin Miller, the former union chief.
Just imagine if John Smoltz had stopped pitching a year earlier than he did – we’d have had the possibility of Cox and Schuerholz going into the Hall with the entire Braves Big Three.
Anyway, Braves fans might want to start thinking of vacation plans for July 2014 in central New York, on the edge of the Catskills. Cooperstown is beautiful that time of year, and HOF induction weekend is something every baseball fan should experience at least once. (I was fortunate to take part in the 2007 ceremony – Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were inducted – when I was president of the Baseball Writers Association of America. An experience I shall never forget.)
♣ Meetings underway: The Winter Meetings officially began this morning, though almost every team’s GM and his assistants and other top officials were already here at the Hilton Anatole by Sunday night and the sprawling hotel’s various lobbies, bars and restaurants were packed with chatting basball folks all night.
The Braves brought their large contingent of GM Frank Wren, his top assistants and scouts, plus president Schuerholz and other executives. I chatted with manager Fredi Gonzalez for a while Sunday afternoon, he looking a bit slimmer since the end of the season and accompanied by new Braves minor league strength and conditioning coordinator Rick Slate.
Slate was fired as Mets strength coach after the 2010 season, and he’s got close ties to Wren and Gonzalez going back to the Florida Marlins of the 1990s, when Wren was Marlins assistant GM and Gonzalez was a minor league manager and then major league coach in the Marlin organization.
Slate was strength coach for the 1997 World Series champion Marlins of manager Jim Leyland, more on them in a moment.
♣ Where are the rumors? We’ve made it through Sunday night and halfway through the first official day of the meetings without any juicy rumors involving Braves, other than more of the same – this team or that (Toronto, in this case) is interested in Martin Prado but isn’t a match for the Braves’ needs; some teams are interested in Jair Jurrjens but has enough concerns about his knee to make the Braves’ reported asking price of multiple young players/good prospects too high.
I wouldn’t count on either getting traded, though it also won’t surprise me if one is before we leave here. Prado seems the more likely candidate to be moved, but I still wonder if he’s as valuable to other teams as he is to a Braves team that would have to replace him both in LF and as Chipper’s third-base backup.
As for Jurrjens, even though the Braves know he’ll be hard to keep long-term as a Scott Boras client, his trade value right now can’t possibly be as high as it would be if he were to have a good first half and erase some concerns about the knee that’s caused him to miss parts of the past two seasons.
And frankly, with the news last week that Tim Hudson had back surgery – even though doctors told the Braves he should be ready for spring training – you have to wonder whether the Braves would be taking a risk by trading away Jurrjens and going into the season with Hudson less than a sure thing health-wise early on, and with Tommy Hanson coming off a season of shoulder problems and the rest of the rotation to be filled by very talented but also very young and inexperienced starters (when Mike Minor’s half-season of starts looks like a lot compared to two other rotation candidates, that’s when you know it’s a youthful group).
OK, we’re just getting started at these meetings, folks. Expect rumors to fly before too much longer. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything.
♣ Reason No. 73 why Twitter is worthwhile after all: Where else you gonna get a sparring match between Aussie relief pitcher Peter Moylan of the Braves and the very popular, entirely middle-of-the-road Canadian band Nickelback?
Moylan, just back from his recent wedding in Maui and trip home to Australia, had a little fun after attending a Foo Fighters concert. Moylan, who has 34,000 followers on Twitter, had this tweet: “Note to @nickelback please attend a @foofighters concert. That’s how’s it should be done chad.”
Nickelback, which has more than 112,000 followers on Twitter and a lead singer named Chad Kroeger (by the way, I’m worried that Peter actually knew that), got wind of the zinger from Moylan and actually responded to it with this. “@PeterMoylan Foos are killer for sure. We’re doing just fine too thanks. ? for you Pete, is watching Kimbrel better from the bench or on TV?”
Moylan replied in another tweet: “For the record. Watching Kimbrel deal is fantastic from anywhere.”
The matter continued with Nickelback tweeting — I can’t believe I just wrote the phrase Nickelback tweeting — “There is no beef w/ @PeterMoylan. We both took shots. We didn’t take it seriously. To each their own. No harm meant, all the best to him.”
Our man Jason Isbell, singer/songwriter extraordinaire, leader of his own 400 Unit band, former Drive-By Trucker, and noted Braves fan, jumped into the fray with this tweet: “I hope @PeterMoylan really hates @nickelback, and he’s just covering himself. I like Pete.”
To which Moylan replied via tweet: “@JasonIsbell you know me buddy.”
Isbell saw that message from Moylan shortly after finishing a show in Kansas City this past weekend with legendary singer-songwriter John Prine.
Isbell responded: “Aight, I played with Prine tonight and Moylan tweeted me. I’m a kid again. Thank God for baseball and good songs.”
Anything that provides a platform for such a spicy convergence of music and baseball ain’t bad, right?
♣ Marlins shopping spree Pt. II: After hiring manager Ozzie Guillen, lavishing big dollars on Jose Reyes (six years, $106 million) and closer Heath Bell (three years, $27 million), and reportedly prepping for an all-out pursuit of Albert Pujols (though I still can’t see that happening), this Marlins spending spree is beginning to remind me of another one the team had before the ’97 season. That’s when they purchased free agents Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Alex Fernandez, reliever Dennis Cook and bench guys Jim Eisenreich and John Cangelosi.
They committed $89 million to those six players, which seemed like an awful lot of cash at the time when I was covering the Marlins along with Gordon Edes for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
The Marlins won the ’97 World Series and then-owner Wayne Huizenga decided even before the postseason began that he was going to blow up the team by trading away those expensive players, since South Florida baseball fans had not filled enough seats at the Multi-Purpose Stadium With Many Corporate Sponsorships.
A quarter of a million folks turned out for three games in that World Series, but by then it was too late and Huizenga wouldn’t listen to the pleas of a group of veteran players who met with him and asked that he reconsider and keep the team together.
Flash forward to today. The Marlins, having made a profit in recent years with low payrolls and revenue sharing checks from MLB, will be moving into a new ballpark next season that’s being funded largely by taxpayers, a deal that’s upset a lot of those taxpayers and is now being investigated by the SEC (not the Southeastern Conference).
Oh, well. Never a dull moment with the Fish, who’ve won two World Series (’97 and ’03) as wild cards and now have ambitions on winning their first division title. And who knows? If they add a starting pitcher or two to that team, they might just be in position to push the NL East kings past (Braves) and present (Phillies) to the wire in ’12.
By the way, we’re sitting at a Marlins press conference right now with Bell being introduced. Before the presser began, Milwaukee scribe Tom Haundricourt cracked: “In a symbolic gesture, the Marlins are coming in accompanied by drunken sailors.”
OK, let’s file this before Reyes is introduced at a press conference here in this media-filled ballroom at the Anatole. We’ll talk with you guys later, after we meet with Wren at around 4:30 p.m. Central Time.
We’ll close with a great tune from the spectacularly named band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (yes, two juniors). This is a cover of a great tune by the late, great Gil Scott-Heron, and you can see Dale Jr. Jr. do it live by clicking here.
“WE ALMOST LOST DETROIT” by Gil Scott-Heron
It stands out on the highway
Like a creature from another time
It inspires the babies’ questions (”What’s that?”)
For their mothers as they ride
But no one stopped to think about the babies or
How they will survive
And we almost lost Detroit
How will we ever get over
Losing our minds
Just thirty miles from Detroit
Lies a giant power station
It ticks each night as the city sleeps
Like a creature from another time
But no one stopped to think about the people or
How they will survive
The sheriff of Monroe County’s got
Sure ‘nough, disasters on his mind
But what would Karen Silkwood say to you
If she was still alive
That when it comes to people’s safety
Money wins out every time
Almost lost Detroit
How could we ever get over
Cause odds are
We’re gonna lose somewhere, one time
We’re gonna lose somewhere, sometime
And how would we ever get over
losing our minds
losing our minds
Didn’t they, didn’t they decide
Almost lost Detroit
Damn near totally destroyed
Didn’t all of the world know?
Say didn’t you know?
We almost lost Detroit
By David O’Brien, Braves/MIB blog