Stan “The Fan” Charles breaks down the latest in baseball and football news, from Adam Jones signing in Japan to Art Modell’s Hall of Fame candidacy and more.
Art Modell’s Last Chance
The NFL centennial season may realistically mark the late Art Modell’s last chance for enshrinement into the Pro Footbal Hall of Fame in Canton. To celebrate the NFL’s 100th season, the league is expanding the Hall of Fame class in 2020.
In addition to the normal slate of five modern era inductees, three contributors and two coaches will be enshrined Aug. 8, 2020. Additionally, 10 “seniors” — players who have been retired for more than 25 years — will also be enshrined.
Modell’s grouping in the contributor category has him up against nine other men who also never played or coached in the league. My opinion of Modell and that he isn’t already in the Hall of Fame remain the same as it’s always been. It simply defies belief that because he moved his franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore, he was never enshrined while he was alive.
Al Davis, Lamar Hunt and Charles Bidwill Sr. all moved franchises. Granted, the list of owners in the Hall of Fame is a pretty exclusive one. Only 14 owners are in the Hall of Fame, the most recent being Jerry Jones in 2017. The other Hall of Fame owners are Bert Bell, George Halas, Ralph Wilson, Edward DeBartolo, Tim Mara, Wellington Mara, Dan Reeves, Art Rooney, Dan Rooney and George Preston Marshall.
I am not quite sure all the reasons those deserving men are in and Modell is out, but any person with the faintest understanding of NFL history knows the reasons Modell deserves induction.
Modell is up against a lofty group of nominees this year. The list includes Baltimorean George Young, the longtime general manager the New York Giants; Paul Tagliabue, the commissioner of the league 1986-2006; Steve Sabol, who was part of NFL Films from 1964-2012; Bud Adams, who owned the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans from 1960-2013; Clint Murchison, who founded the Dallas Cowboys and owned the team from 1960-1983; Ralph Hay, who owned the Canton Bulldogs from 1918-1922; Art McNally, a former league official and administrator; Frank “Bucko” Kilroy, a former scout, GM and executive, and Seymour Siwoff, the former owner and president of the Elias Sports Bureau.
While all have incredible standing and none would be a bad selection, it’s hard to swallow that Art Modell is somehow less worthy considering all he meant to “Monday Night Football,” the part he played in the AFL-NFL merger, his longstanding membership of the television committee and how his work put so many dollars into the owners’ coffers.
I am almost always an optimist about people doing the right thing, and maybe the fact that the contributors won’t be ultimately elected by the same writers that have kept him out for so long will make some magic happen this time. Fingers are crossed.
Adam Jones Says Sayonara To MLB
It looks as if ever-popular former Orioles outfielder Adam Jones may have played his last game in major leagues. A year ago, Jones, after waiting deep into the offseason, got a legitimate but small one-year contract for $3 million from the Arizona Diamondbacks. After getting off to a solid start in the desert, Jones faded. He hit .253/.316/.365 in the second half.
With his prospects not looking very strong to land a meaningful guarantee this offseason, he proactively decided to grab a two-year, $8 million deal to play in Japan for the Orix Buffaloes.
Jones’ statement on Instagram was an admission of sorts that he was leaving the stateside game behind: “I will miss all my peers, colleagues, and most importantly the Fans in the MLB but our paths will cross again I’m sure, in some type of capacity.”
Jones played 14 seasons in the big leagues with the Seattle Mariners (2006-2007), Orioles (2008-2018) and the Diamondbacks (2019). If he has played his last game in MLB, he’ll finish with 282 home runs, 945 RBIs and a .277/.317/.454 slash line.
In Baltimore, Jones’ legacy is about much more than his personal numbers; it’s about how he became a leader in the clubhouse and community, too. For that, the Orioles rewarded him with a six-year, $85.5 million pact, at the time with the largest contract in franchise history.
Jones outplayed the contract until his last season in 2018. With the outfielder’s contract expiring, the Orioles tried to deal him to the Philadelphia Phillies ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline. Jones, who had the right to turn down a trade thanks to his 10-and-5 rights, did just that. During the offseason, the Orioles showed no interest in re-signing Jones, even at the deep discount the D-Backs got him for.
Jones let everyone know he had the right to turn down that trade to the Phillies. But at the end of the day, had Jones gone to Philadelphia, one wonders how this would have played out. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen got a three-year, $45 million deal to come to Philadelphia, while Jones ended up settling for $3 million from Arizona and now $8 million from Orix.
When the Phillies signed McCutchen, Jones and McCutchen were viewed as similar players, with McCutchen holding a significant edge in on-base percentage. Had Jones played well in Philadelphia down the stretch in 2018, would the Phillies had signed him instead of McCutchen?
In Baltimore, one thing is certain. When media and fans discuss any all-decade team of the Orioles from 2010-2019, Adam Jones was easily the team’s most important player.
Is Angels’ Rotation Good Enough?
Well before the Orioles traded right-hander Dylan Bundy to the Los Angeles Angels, Joe Maddon made his first hire as the manager of the Halos: former Indians pitching coach and Mets skipper Mickey Callaway.
Callaway got some help when the Angels added a fairly solid innings eater in right-hander Julio Teheran, who inked a one-year, $9 million deal. But without adding one big-name pitcher — like lefties Hyun-jin Ryu, Dallas Keuchel or David Price — Callaway will have his work cut out in coaching up a rotation capable of competing out West against the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics.
Sure, the Angels added a potent free-agent bat in Anthony Rendon to go with Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and an aging Albert Pujols, but Maddon knows it’s all about the pitching.
Let’s look at what Callaway will have to work with. The Angels’ starters include Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning, Jaime Barria, Dylan Bundy, Julio Teheran and Shohei Ohtani, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. While Ohtani looks to be ready to go for spring training, pitchers who have missed a season of pitching due to Tommy John often need a good chunk of time before really being ready to go.
Ohtani did not pitch at all in 2019 as part of the long process of coming back from Tommy John. The other five starters — and each one had a mitigating reason for not having more wins — combined for 30 wins and 47 losses. The lowest ERA among the six was Teheran’s 3.81 and Canning’s 4.58.
Some of Callaway’s finest work was getting the most out of Ubaldo Jimenez in 2013 before Jimenez signed a four-year, $48 million deal with the Orioles ahead of the 2014 season. Callaway may end up being an inspired choice by Maddon, but it sure would be a big boost if the Halos could add someone capable of heading this rotation.
Does Cheating Pay Off? You Bet It Does
MLB is currently investigating a somewhat simple conspiracy to cheat dating back to 2017 with the Houston Astros, who have won 100-plus games each season from 2017-2019. Houston won the World Series in 2017, reached the ALCS in 2018 and made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series in 2019.
In the buildup to the impeachment vote in the House, we have heard of the term “whistleblower.” But in baseball’s investigation, there’s a known actor in the drama: former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, who has detailed how the Astros would steal and relay signs of opposing teams at Minute Maid Park.
By using a dedicated camera in center field, the team was able to steal the signs of the opposing catchers and relay them through the clumsily, thinly veiled method of banging on trash cans to let Astros batters know what pitch was coming next.
That made the Nationals’ World Series victory all the better for those who have ethics and scruples. The Nationals knew about the Astros’ reputation for stealing signs, and they responded by changing their signals throughout the four games at Minute Maid Park. The Nationals — not the Astros — went 4-0 in those games.
This investigation got me thinking. The last team I remember being as dominant as the 2017-2019 Astros were the seemingly fabulous Oakland Athletics managed by Tony La Russa. Behind Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, the A’s went to three consecutive World Series from 1988-1990, winning only the famous earthquake one against the San Francisco Giants in 1989. Canseco and McGwire, nicknamed the “Bash Brothers,” have admitted to using steroids dating back to their days with the A’s.
So, throughout the past 31 years, the two most dominant teams were those A’s and these newly-minted Astros. Both had one thing in common — they cheated to win.
Did You Catch This Story About A Month Ago?
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman paid off about $7,500 of school lunch debt at Cabrillo Middle School in Santa Clara, Calif., and $20,000 of debt in the Tacoma, Wash., public school system.
Apparently, there are an awful lot of cities all over the country where the school systems don’t have the money to feed kids. It’s a problem that is someone staggering to this observer.
What Sherman did was pretty special, and I am certainly not suggesting that players should be obligated to contribute to this one cause. Rather, what I’d like to know is what exactly does the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL do with all the fine money they pull in every year? And what do the teams do with the money they collect in fines?
I remember that was at the center of the Orioles owner Peter Angelos’ anger with his manager, Davey Johnson, back in 1997. Johnson levied a fine on infielder Roberto Alomar, and the fine was to go toward a charity that Johnson’s wife, Susie, was working with. Angelos was agitated that the fine didn’t go to a cause the team worked with.
So, perhaps all the fine money in sports goes to good causes, but I can’t help but think school lunch debt would be an incredible cause regarding fine money.
Help Longtime Nationals Writer Bill Ladson
My co-host on The Bat Around every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon is Craig Heist. Through that show, MLB.com columnist Bill Ladson, Craig’s longtime colleague, has become a friend. Ladson used to cover the Montreal Expos and moved to D.C. to cover the Nationals back in 2005.
Bill, who’s long been a Yankees fan, lives in New York and is able to do a lot of his work from his home. Ladson has a big medical issue, and I want to shed a bit of light on his need for a kidney donor.
Even in the best of circumstances, it’s not easy to get a match, but Bill has the rarest blood type there is: type O negative. He’s on top of a couple of lists for getting a kidney. But, frankly, if there are 500 kidneys that become available, type O negative makes it certain that at least 95 percent of those kidneys won’t be a match for Bill.
So, I am reaching out to both Yankee fans and Yankee haters alike to see if they could be a match with Bill. Bill’s email address is email@example.com. Bill is a wonderful man. I am hoping that by going public, some baseball fan somewhere will step to the plate.
One Last Note On The Power Of Sports And Lamar Jackson
On a recent cab ride from New York City to Brooklyn, my brother Allan, a longtime advertising executive in Charm City with his agency TBC, was talking to the driver. My brother noticed a thick accent from the driver and he asked where he was from. “Morocco,” the driver said, “and you?” My brother said “Baltimore.” The driver, even in the midst of a near biblical rain, turned to my brother and said “Lamar, Lamar. MVP, MVP.”
Despite my brother’s nervousness about the driver taking his eyes off the road, he was taken with the impact Jackson may be having on his and our behalf.
Photo Credits: Sabina Moran and Kenya Allen/PressBox