Tag:NL Central
Posted on: January 9, 2012 5:55 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 9:13 am
 

Paul Maholm agrees to sign with Cubs



By Matt Snyder


Free agent starting pitcher Paul Maholm has signed with the Cubs. The news was broken by, well, Maholm. On his own Twitter feed, following a tweet where he thanked the city of Pittsburgh, Maholm said: "I hope to get to continue some great things when I visit [Pittsburgh] and start some great things as I start my Cubs career."

He also added that he'll be at the Cubs Convention to meet fans starting Friday.

The contract is one year, worth a reported $4.25 million with a $6.5 million club option for 2013 (ESPN Chicago). Maholm had a $9.75 million option declined by the Pirates.

Maholm, 29, has spent his entire seven season career in the NL Central with the Pirates, so he's certainly familiar with the terrain. The left-hander went 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA and 1.29 WHIP last season, fighting off some pretty bad luck in terms of run support -- in 14 of his 26 starts the Pirates scored two runs or less.

FREE AGENT TRACKER

New Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have maintained throughout the offseason they are looking to build organizational pitching depth. Adding Maholm comes on the heels of signing Andy Sonnanstine while also trading for Travis Wood and Chris Volstad.

Then again, Maholm is a big-league starter -- even if you want to just say he's a fifth starter -- and the Cubs already have five in their prospective rotation: Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Volstad and Wood. And Sonnanstine is there to provide a fill-in should injuries arise. So what does adding Maholm on the cheap accomplish? Well, the Garza trade rumors won't go away, so there's probably something to them. Adding Maholm could possibly be a tell-tale sign Garza is headed elsewhere for prospects.

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Posted on: January 9, 2012 3:19 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 4:34 pm
 

2012 Baseball Hall of Fame voting breakdown



By Matt Snyder


Barry Larkin was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with 86.4 percent of the vote. The results of the BBWAA votes were revealed Monday afternoon, and Larkin was the only player garnering the required 75 percent of the vote for enshrinement.

There were 573 total ballots, but nine were left blank. Players may remain on the ballot for 15 years, unless they fall below the five percent barrier in voting. Those who get less than five percent of the vote will be removed from the ballot prior to next year's vote.

Here's a total breakdown of how the voting went for the other 26 candidates. First, these guys will remain on the ballot moving forward:

Jack Morris - 382 votes (66.7 percent)
Jeff Bagwell - 321 (56)
Lee Smith - 290 (50.6)
Tim Raines - 279 (48.7)
Edgar Martinez - 209 (36.5)
Alan Trammell - 211 (36.8)
Fred McGriff - 137 (23.9)
Larry Walker - 131 (22.9)
Mark McGwire - 112 (19.5)
Don Mattingly - 102 (17.8)
Dale Murphy - 83 (14.5)
Rafael Palmeiro - 72 (12.6)
Bernie Williams - 55 (9.6)

Hall of Fame ballot
Now, the following players will be removed from the ballot, as they didn't get five percent of the vote:

Juan Gonzalez - 23 votes (four percent)
Vinny Castilla - 6 (1)
Tim Salmon - 5 (0.9)
Bill Mueller - 4 (0.5)
Brad Radke - 2 (0.3)
Javy Lopez - 1 (0.2)
Eric Young - 1 (0.2)
Jeromy Burnitz - 0
Brian Jordan - 0
Terry Mulholland - 0
Phil Nevin - 0
Ruben Sierra - 0
Tony Womack - 0

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Posted on: January 9, 2012 2:59 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 12:16 pm
 

Barry Larkin elected into Hall of Fame



By Matt Snyder


Barry Larkin will join Ron Santo in the 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame induction class. The announcement was made by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Monday afternoon.

Larkin was the only man from the 27-player ballot who received the necessary 75 percent of the vote. Larkin got 86.4 percent of the vote (495 of 573). Votes can be cast by writers who have been members of the BBWAA for at least 10 years.

Complete breakdown of the 2012 Hall of Fame voting

Larkin, 47, played his entire 19-season career for the Cincinnati Reds. The 12-time All-Star shortstop hit .295 with an .815 OPS in his career. He added 1,329 runs, 2,340 hits, 441 doubles, 198 home runs and 379 stolen bases. Larkin won the 1995 NL MVP while also adding nine Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and was the starting shortstop for the 1990 World Series champion Reds.

Hall of Fame coverage
Looking at Wins Above Replacement by Baseball-Reference.com, Larkin trails only the following shortstops (counting years as a shorstop only): Honus Wagner, George Davis, Cal Ripken, Arky Vaughan, Bill Dahlen, Derek Jeter and Luke Appling. All but Dahlen and Jeter are in the Hall of Fame and Jeter is headed to Cooperstown five years after his retirement. Also, in Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract, which was updated in 1999, James ranked Larkin as the sixth best shortstop of all-time.

Larkin also netted two off-field accolades, as he won the 1993 Roberto Clemente Award (given to a player that "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team") and the 1994 Lou Gehrig Award (given to a player that exhibits character and integrity both on and off the field).

"I never really thought about it as a player," Larkin told CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman Sunday. "I never thought about it until I saw some support was there. I had thought it was unattainable. My whole approach was, 'How I can better the team?' I remember guys telling me early, 'You're never going to make money hitting behind runners.' They really wanted me to be selfish. I think what they were saying is that I should turn on the ball. It's definitely something I could appreciate later. But the years I had success were the years I had great players around me."

This time around marked Larkin's third chance on the ballot. He received 51.6 percent of the vote in 2010 and 62.1 percent last year, so the trajectory -- in addition to a pretty weak first-year class -- made Larkin's induction this year likely. Still, it wasn't a sure thing by any stretch. The jump all the way to 86 percent was surprisingly large.

"The Cincinnati Reds organization and our entire city are thrilled with Barry's election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame," Reds president Bob Castellini said in a statement. "His extraordinary talent has earned him a permanent place in Cooperstown alongside Reds greats Sparky Anderson, Johnny Bench, Warren Giles, Ernie Lombardi, Bill McKechnie, Bid McPhee, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Eppa Rixey and Edd Roush. Throughout his entire life both on and off the field, Barry has represented himself and our city with the class and professionalism consistent with the ideals of the Reds, Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He continues to be one of our game's greatest ambassadors. We are very proud that his accomplishments have been validated at the highest level by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. We look forward to the induction ceremonies in July."

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Posted on: January 8, 2012 1:10 am
 

Several Hall cases come with asterisks



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The whispers and suspicions of steroid use have already seem to keep one player with no-doubt, sure-fire numbers out of the Hall of Fame. Despite a lack of concrete evidence or failed drug test, Jeff Bagwell and his 449 home run, career OPS+ of 149 and 79.9 WAR is left outside of Cooperstown and will likely still be on the outside after results of this year's balloting are announced on Tuesday.

Hall of Fame coverage

Next year's ballot will have the greater test of what the use of performance enhancing drugs means to the Hall of Fame -- if Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens can't get into the Hall because of their ties to PEDs, it's unlikely anyone will.

But we've seen Bonds and Clemens in federal court. Mark McGwire admitted his use and Rafael Palmeiro tested positive. The only test Bagwell has failed is the eyeball test. And that mark has kept him out of Cooperstown. It's unlikely he'll be the last to fail that test.

As we continue the look at the future of the Hall of Fame and the candidacy of players active today, there's no more interesting category than the asterisk guys -- some who have tested positive for PEDs, some who have been rumored to have used them, some who have been suspected and some who just don't pass the eyeball test.

Ryan Braun -- No matter what happens in Braun's appeal or the rest of his career, he will always wear the scarlet letter of a failed drug test on his chest. Braun isn't the first MVP winner to be linked to steroids, but he is the first to fail a test in the same year he won the MVP.

At 28, Braun's exploits on the field are yet to be Hall-worthy, but like Bagwell he already has a Rookie of the Year trophy, as well as an MVP by the time he turned 27. There's nothing in Braun's Baseball-Reference.com page that suggests he won't someday have a case to be enshrined in Cooperstown. In his first five years in the big leagues, he's averaged more than 30 homers a season, finished in the top 5 in MVP voting twice, bringing home the trophy this year. In each of his first five seasons, he's earned MVP votes and he's seemingly getting better and better every season.  If it weren't for the news of his failed MVP test, he'd certainly be on Saturday's list instead of this one.

Jason Giambi -- A very good player with a good career, Giambi will instead be defined as one of the poster children for the steroid era. Even without the asterisk, Giambi's bid for the Hall would be difficult. Even playing in an offensive era, Giambi was an exception offensive player, putting up a .281/.404/.525 line through the 2011 season, hitting 428 home runs. 

In the minds of many, Giambi's case is shut by his performance with the Yankees, where he failed to meet expectations after signing a seven-year, $120 million deal before the 2002 season. The Yankees didn't win a World Series during his tenure with the team, appearing in just one World Series. And then there's the fact the team won a World Series the year after he left.

And then there's the steroids. Giambi reportedly admitted to using steroids during the offseason from 2001 to 2003 and also using human growth hormone in 2003. Giambi's best seasons -- from 1999 to 2003 -- are suspect in the timing of his use of steroids.

Manny Ramirez -- One of the best pure hitters in the history of the game, Ramirez was a controversial figure before being suspended twice for failing drug tests. While there are reasonable objections to Rafael Palmeiro's case as a mere compiler of stats and milestones, Ramirez was a force of nature on the field and an enigma off of it.

Ramirez, who is attempting to play in 2012, has 555 career homers and a .996 career OPS. With 2,574 hits, 1,831 RBI, 1,544 runs and a .312/.411/.585 line, not to mention a stretch of eight consecutive seasons where he finished in the top 10 of MVP voting and two World Series rings, Ramirez was a transcendent talent. He will be remembered by any fan of baseball, he just won't be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Alex Rodriguez -- Rodriguez's case will be much like Barry Bonds -- there's no question he's one of the elite players in the history of the game, but there are also the steroid questions. Rodriguez admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003 while he was with the Rangers.

Like Bonds, there will be those who say Rodriguez was a Hall of Fame talent before he allegedly used steroids. And like Bonds, he may finish his career as the career leader in home runs. But unlike Bonds, Rodriguez has admitted to his use of steroids. If Bonds gets in, Rodriguez has a chance. If Bonds doesn't, he doesn't.

Ivan Rodriguez -- Jose Canseco claimed to have personally injected Rodriguez with steroids while the two were teammates in Texas, which is more indictment than anything that has been pinned on Bagwell.

What's different, perhaps, about Rodriguez is that the shadow of steroids is often cast on home run hitters, and while Rodriguez was a very good offensive player -- hitting .296/.334/.464 with 311 home runs and 2,844 hits -- during his career, his defense has always been his calling card. Rodriguez is on the short list with Johnny Bench as the best defensive catcher in the history of the game -- and has caught 201 more games than any other player in the history of the game. While steroids may not have helped him throw out 46 percent of baserunners during his career, if he did use them, they would certainly help his day-to-day recovery and dealing with rigors of catching so many games.

Without the spectre of steroids, Rodriguez is a first-ballot, no-doubt Hall of Famer. But that's not the world we live in. There are voters who, right or wrong, refuse to vote for anyone with a hint of steroid abuse on their resume, and Rodriguez has that, along with the rest.

Miguel Tejada -- Even without steroid accusations, Tejada would be a borderline Hall of Fame selection at best. With his name in the Mitchell Report and connected to Palmeiro's fall, there's probably zero chance he gets in.

Tejada will go down as one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball history, hitting .285/.336/.457 with 2,362 hits and 304 home runs in parts of 15 seasons, winning the MVP in 2002 and finishing in the top 20 six other times. Only Cal Ripken Jr. (345) and Rodriguez (344) have hit more than Tejada's 291 homers as a shortstop.

On the other hand, Tejada at his best was a below-average defensive shortstop and his career OPS+ is 108 and his (Baseball-Reference.com) WAR is 42.5, 22nd among active players behind the likes of Bobby Abreu, Mike Cameron and J.D. Drew. Tejada is unlikely to earn a plaque in Cooperstown, and steroids are probably only part of the reason.

Coming Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles 

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Posted on: January 7, 2012 12:10 am
 

Under-30 players building Hall of Fame foundation



By Matt Snyder


T-minus two days until the Hall of Fame vote for the 2012 induction is unveiled, so we'll continue talking about the Hall of Fame in this relatively slow time of the year. This time around, we'll take a look at active players younger than 30 who have laid a foundation that makes a run to Cooperstown possible.

Now, make no mistake about it, none of these players are close to having completed their big-league careers nor are they currently close to being locks to the Hall of Fame. Still, some are well on their way and others have started a journey that may push them into the discussion in a decade or so.

Obviously things could change in just one season -- just take a look below at a certain catcher from Minnesota. Or think about how good it looked for Grady Sizemore three years ago at this time before injuries completely derailed him. And we have to understand that just a few seasons of being an elite player doesn't necessarily mean the longevity will be there -- take the cases of Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden, for example. For various reasons, careers can get off track. Still, it's fun to take a look at which young players have built a possible Hall-of-Fame foundation.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but here are 20 under-30 guys who could be on the right track, in alphabetical order (age in parentheses):

Hall of Fame coverage
Miguel Cabrera (28) - The first name we list might well be the most impressive case on here. In eight full seasons (he appeared in 87 games as a rookie) Cabrera has been an All-Star six times and finished in the top five of MVP voting five times. He's hit .317/.395/.555, which is good for a 149 OPS-plus. Saying Cabrera is just about halfway through his career is probably reasonable and he already has 277 homers and 984 RBI.

Robinson Cano (29) - He wouldn't have appeared on this list until the past two seasons, but Cano has grown into one of the more dangerous hitters in baseball. He'd need to continue this pace for another six to eight years at least before being a Hall candidate, though.

Prince Fielder (27) - Six full seasons -- with 39 games in '05 -- have yielded 230 homers and 656 RBI. Fielder also has an impressive .390 on-base percentage and a whopping .929 OPS (143 OPS-plus). He's already finished in the top four of MVP voting three times. Can his robust body hold up long-term? If it does, he's probably headed to Cooperstown. Baseball-Reference.com's top similar statistical player through age 27 is Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.

Adrian Gonzalez (29) - Did he get started too late? Gonzalez didn't become a full-timer until '06 and wasn't a dominant force until '09. Still, four All-Star Games, three Gold Gloves and two Top 10 finishes in MVP voting. He also has a career .889 OPS (140 OPS-plus) and over 1,100 hits already.

Felix Hernandez (25) - We've seen so many pitchers flame out over the years after huge starts -- I mentioned two in the intro -- but King Felix basically only needs to stay healthy and keep his head on straight. He's already 85-67 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 1,264 strikeouts. He has one Cy Young and also finished second once. And he could conceivably pitch 15 more seasons. Even conservatively -- assuming health -- you have to say he has 12 more in him.

Matt Kemp (27) - After a runner-up finish in MVP voting this past season, Kemp inked a huge contract with the Dodgers. He could be the face of the franchise for a decade. The power-speed combo (128 HR, 144 steals) along with a Gold Glove shows he can do it all.

Clayton Kershaw (23) - He went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA, 248 strikeouts, an All-Star appearance and a Cy Young award last season. At 23. Enough said.

Tim Lincecum (27) - Two Cy Youngs, four All-Star appearances and a World Series ring so far. Not too shabby. Like Hernandez, Kershaw and all other great young pitchers, health and avoiding major off-field trouble are the biggest roadblocks. But there is serious foundation and talent here. I wouldn't bet against Lincecum. 

Evan Longoria (26) - He's going to be the face of the Rays for a long time and his arrival coincided with them shedding the laughingstock label. The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year has three All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. His 136 OPS-plus bodes well. But his average dropped 50 points last season. Harbinger or aberration? I'd guess the latter.

Joe Mauer (28) - Would've seemed a lot more firm here last year at this time. The disaster of a season doesn't erase the amazing good Mauer did through the first six-plus seasons in his career, but it raises health questions moving forward. His bat means a whole lot less if he's playing first base instead of catching.

Andrew McCutchen (25) - He already has 95 doubles, 19 triples, 51 homers and 78 stolen bases. He has an .822 OPS (123 OPS-plus). What if he gets even better and is the driving force behind a complete Pirates turnaround?

Dustin Pedroia (28) - The 2007 Rookie of the Year followed up that act with a 2008 MVP. He's hitting .305/.373/.463 in his six-year career, while he's also won a World Series ring, two Gold Gloves and been to the All-Star Game three times.

Hanley Ramirez (28) - He would've been one of the best bets two years ago, but he's now mired in a two-year decline. Goes to show how quickly things can change. Of course, there's plenty of time to get back to 2007-09 form.

Jose Reyes (28) - In six "full" seasons (we'll say at least 125 games played), Reyes has been among the best players in baseball. There's no questioning that. Can he stay on the diamond enough to make himself a viable Hall candidate? It doesn't look great, but the talent is there.

Troy Tulowitzki (27) - Tulowitzki brings in three straight top-eight finishes in MVP voting and is the premier defensive shortstop in the National League. He really only has four seasons worth counting toward a possible Hall induction so far, though, so he's gonna need about eight to 10 more.

Justin Upton (24) - The potential here is insane. He came in fourth in MVP voting last season and should only get better. Again, there are many ways for younger players to derail, but Upton has all the tools to one day hit Cooperstown. Consider me a believer.

Justin Verlander (28) - Yes, he's only 28. Verlander already has 107 wins, 1,215 strikeouts, four All-Star appearances (that is, he made the team, not pitched in the game), a Cy Young and, yes, an AL MVP. He was already one of the better aces in baseball, but then went into a new stratosphere last season. If that continues, he's a cinch to make the Hall. We'll see.

Joey Votto (28) - In just four full seasons, Votto has made a name for himself as a marquee slugger. He won the 2010 MVP and followed it up with a stellar 2011 campaign as well. His career .955 OPS (151 OPS-plus) is incredible and he added a Gold Glove last season, too.

Jered Weaver (29) - Weaver was quietly really good until last season, and you can now drop the "quietly." He was the All-Star Game starter and could have easily won the Cy Young Award, if Verlander didn't happen to be putting up a historic season in the same league. In six seasons, Weaver is 82-47 with a 3.31 ERA and 977 strikeouts. Considering his age, though, this is a pretty tall order. He'll need another eight years of dominance, I'd guess.

David Wright (29) - I think I would have felt pretty good about him after 2008, but he's fallen off a slight bit since then. Perhaps the change in the ballpark dimensions helps, in addition to some health -- for himself and teammates. Wright does already have five All-Star appearances and a .300/.380/.508 line with 183 homers and 151 steals.



I think my four best bets right now would be, in no particular order: Verlander, Cabrera, Hernandez and Upton. Could be a lot more, could be a lot less. All 20 of these guys have plenty of time to either build a resume or screw it up. History tells us there's no chance all 20 make the cut, and even guessing half of these guys getting to Cooperstown is a big stretch.

Feel free to add more names in the comments, as there definitely isn't a wrong answer in this department.

Coming Sunday: "Asterisk" guys with Hall-type resumes
Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:11 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:54 pm
 

Cubs, Padres exchange Cashner, Rizzo



By Matt Snyder


The Cubs have traded highly-touted pitcher Andrew Cashner along with outfielder Kyung-Min Na to the Padres for highly-touted first baseman Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Zach Cates, the clubs announced Friday.

This deal is very notable for two particular reasons. First of all, it's a continuation of both teams' complete offseason makeovers under new leadership. That is especially interesting in this particular trade, because the Padres have a new general manager specifically because the Cubs do. Once Theo Epstein took over as Cubs team president, he hired Padres GM Jed Hoyer to be the new Cubs GM.

The second interesting part of this trade is that both (main) players are guys who have been ranked as top 100 prospects in baseball and haven't yet had long enough stints in the majors to see what they're capable of in the long term.

Cubs, Padres offseason trades
Rizzo, 22, was the major piece in the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, but new Padres' general manager Josh Byrnes seemed ready to move on from Rizzo after acquiring Yonder Alonso from the Reds in the Mat Latos trade.

“The acquisition of Yonder Alonso provided us the flexibility to make this trade and acquire a quality, young power arm in Andrew Cashner,” said Byrnes in a release. “We are happy to add a pitcher with the pedigree of Cashner and an outfielder with the athleticism of Na.”

Cashner, 25, was the Cubs' first-round pick in 2008. He's a hard-throwing right-hander. He won the Cubs' fifth starter job out of spring training last season, but injured his rotator cuff during his first start of the season and was unable to come back until September. On the season he had a 1.69 ERA and 0.66 WHIP with eight strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. It's worth noting that he's moving to Petco Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the majors.

But questions remain. Can he really be a starter, or just a one-inning reliever? His rotator cuff issue last year worried some. And on a conference call Friday afternoon, Byrnes said Cashner will be a reliever in 2012. Perhaps an eighth-inning setup man for Huston Street, but Byrnes said he's not ready to anoint Cashner with that role just yet.

Rizzo hit .331/.404/.652 with 26 homers and 101 RBI in 93 Triple-A games last season, but struggled mightily in his 153 major-league plate appearances (.141/.281/.242). He certainly benefits from moving out of Petco Park and into Wrigley Field, of course. It's extremely unlikely the Cubs would trade Cashner for Rizzo and still make a run at Prince Fielder, so those rumors need to die now. As for any Bryan LaHair fans, we have good news. Hoyer said on a conference call that Rizzo will open the season in Triple-A and LaHair will be the first baseman on opening day.

As with Cashner, Rizzo has questions as well. Is his swing too long to be a star in the majors? What did Byrnes and other Padres' front-office people see that made them want to pounce on Alonso and deal Rizzo so quickly?

Still, for now at least, this deal seems to make a good deal of sense for two ballclubs trying to completely alter the franchise.

The other two players involved appear to be throw-ins. Cates, 22, was 4-10 with a 4.73 ERA and 1.36 WHIP last season in Class A. Na, 20, hit .268/.358/.312 with 20 stolen bases in 83 games across four levels last season -- with most of his time spent between Rookie Ball and Class A.

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:25 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 1:47 pm
 

Halladay, CC lead over-30 Hall hopefuls



By Matt Snyder


In our series of Hall of Fame-related posts, leading to Monday's announcement about who will join Ron Santo in the 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame class, we continue right here with a grouping of 30-plus year old players who haven't yet rounded out their resumes. None of these guys could retire right now and be a sure bet for the Hall (though the top option would very much have a chance), but all have at least the slimmest of chances.

Hall of Fame coverage
To clarify what we're attempting to do here, this isn't C. Trent Rosecrans and Matt Snyder say who should be in the Hall of Fame (though Trent does have only two more years until he's a voter). This is us going through and trying to guess how the entire voting body -- which is larger than 550 people -- would react to certain players. We could be wrong. It's just a fun, and subjective, discussion leading up to the 2012 voting results.

Saturday, we'll check out the under-30 crowd to see who is building a Hall-like foundation to their careers (Hint: You may see a "Felix" on there ... ).

For now, we're looking at players over 30-years-old who are still in their prime or just barely past it.

Looking Good ...

Roy Halladay - Could Doc retire right now and make the Hall? Maybe. Maybe not. I would say it's not a sure thing yet but he's headed to the Hall of Fame, because he's not retiring any time soon. If we do this again next year, he might very well have already moved to the surefire list. He's that close. The eight-time All-Star has two Cy Youngs, seven top-five Cy Young finishes and two runner-up finishes in the voting. He's already amassed over 2,500 career innings pitched with 66 complete games and 20 shutouts. His 188-92 record, 3.23 ERA and 1.17 WHIP all look nice. He'll surpass 2,000 strikeouts this season and he's already 40th all-time in career Wins Above Replacement among pitchers. He'll likely climb into the top 30 this season while going past 200 victories. Oh, and he threw a no-no in the playoffs. At 34, he probably has three years left in his prime. So, yeah, this case is nearly complete, barring him turning into Mike Morgan for the next five years. There are guys already in the Hall with worse numbers.

CC Sabathia - Carsten Charles isn't nearly as close as Halladay, he's just on the right track. CC is a five-time All-Star with one Cy Young and five top five finishes in Cy voting. He has a World Series ring and a 176-96 career record, to go with a 3.51 ERA (125 ERA-plus) and 1.23 WHIP. The problem for Sabathia is, though he's played 11 seasons, he didn't become dominant until 2007 -- yes, he was 17-5 as a rookie, but with a 4.39 ERA and zero complete games. From 2007-11, CC has been a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher, but that's only five years. He does already have over 2,000 strikeouts, though. Another three seasons like the past three he's had for the Yankees and he's a pretty good bet to make it, I'd guess. Five more and he's a lock. Since he's still only 31, I like his chances.

Work to be done ...

Carlos Beltran - A Rookie of Year, six All-Star games, three Gold Gloves, 302 homers, 293 steals. Good? Definitely. Elite? Not yet. And he's a slightly-broken-down 34. It doesn't look promising.

Adrian Beltre -
Those five seasons of having Safeco Field stifle his offensive numbers could prove very costly. He's still only 32, though.

Lance Berkman
- Does the 35-year-old have about three more seasons coming like the one he just had in St. Louis? If so, he may just have a shot. If not, he's just had a really great career.

Mark Buehrle - He's only 32 and sports a 161-119 record along with two no-hitters (one perfecto). Four All-Star appearances and three Gold Gloves, too. If Buehrle pitches six more years or so with the same durability he may sneak into discussion.

Chris Carpenter - Injuries probably did him in. If you look at 2004-06 and then 2009-11 for Carpenter, and say he could have done that over a 12-year period in a 16-year career, he's a Hall of Famer. Instead, he really has only those six seasons to bank on, as his six-year stint in Toronto was mediocre. He's 36 now and probably doesn't have enough has left in his tank to put up four more big seasons, especially considering he wasn't awesome in 2011 and worked over 270 innings (playoffs included).

Johnny Damon - Do you believe 3,000 hits is an automatic ticket to the Hall? Everyone with at least 3,000 hits is in the Hall except: Pete Rose (banned from baseball), Derek Jeter (still active), Craig Biggio (not Hall-eligible until next year) and Rafael Palmeiro (tested positive for a banned substance). With 2,723 hits, Damon is two seasons away. But he's 38. But pretty much just as productive as he's been for a long time, according to OPS-plus. We'll see ...

Matt Holliday - In eight seasons, Holliday is a five-time All-Star and has received MVP votes in five different seasons. His rate stats -- .315/.388/.541 with a 137 OPS-plus -- look awesome, but Holliday didn't come up until he was 24. So he's a 31-year-old power hitter with just 202 homers and 770 RBI. Can he keep hitting like this for another eight years? Until then, he's not getting in.

Tim Hudson - His numbers are a bit similar to Sabathia, minus the strikeouts and World Series ring, but he's 36. Hudson will be on a Hall of Fame ballot, but just one, before falling off. Really good career, though.

Paul Konerko - It feels like he doesn't have enough time left. He's a 35-year-old power hitter with 396 homers and 1,261 RBI. Basically, you could say the same thing I said above about Berkman (subbing in "Chicago" for "St. Louis," of course).

Phillies' offensive trio - Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley formed the offensive nucleus for a team that won the NL East five straight years (and counting), the NL two straight years and the 2008 World Series. But considering various circumstances (age, injury history, etc.), it appears the Phillies offense had zero Hall of Famers through this stretch.

Roy Oswalt - Young Roy appeared on the way, finishing in the top five of Cy Young voting five of his first six seasons. The numbers for the 34-year-old show he's got a chance with three more really great seasons, but his balky back poses a huge problem.

Mark Teixeira - He'll turn 32 in April, so it would appear he has an uphill battle with 314 homers and 1,017 RBI thus far in his career. The .904 OPS (132 OPS-plus) looks really good, but Teixiera's only hit .252 the past two seasons combined.

Michael Young - He's a seven-time All-Star with a .304 career batting average and many writers seem to love him (he got a first-place AL MVP vote this year, for example). Young also has 2,061 hits and is 35. Does he have 939 hits left in him? He has 957 in the past five seasons. He could probably play five more seasons as a DH.



So what do you think, readers? Any of these guys have a shot? Who has the best shot?

Coming Saturday: Under-30 players who have laid a foundation
Sunday: "Asterisk" guys with Hall-type resumes
Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 6, 2012 10:16 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 11:30 am
 

Report: Starlin Castro accused of sexual assault

By Matt Snyder

Cubs All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman last fall, according to CBS Chicago.

The woman, reportedly in her 20s, said she was drinking with friends late last September when she and a friend left the bar and went to Castro's apartment at 3 a.m. She reportedly blacked out and then was allegedly being sexually assaulted by Castro when she came to. The police report, according to CBS Chicago, says the woman remembers screaming when she woke up at 5:30 a.m., yelled at Castro and left immediately. The alleged victim then filed a police report 12 hours later.

The Cubs have released the following statement:

“We are aware that a police report was filed regarding an incident involving Starlin, but we have received limited information. While this is something we take very seriously, there is not enough information to make any further comment or take action at this time. We are hopeful when the facts are brought to light, Starlin will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Castro's attorneys have released the following statement:

"We are aware of certain allegations that have been made against our client, Starlin Castro. We have thoroughly investigated this matter, and we are confident that these allegations are baseless. Given the sensitive nature of this matter, we cannot comment any further."

Castro, 21, has yet to be interviewed by police because he flew back to his home in the Dominican Republic, as scheduled, the very day the accuser filed her police report -- which was September 29, the day after the Cubs' season ended.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com