Sorry about the absence, but used some vacation time, covered the Sugar Bowl, and watched with detached amusement as the Giancarlo Stanton trade rumors swirled about. The Marlins are not shopping Stanton. They are not dangling him like the carrot at the end of a stick. They are not floating his name to other teams.
Simply put, the Marlins "are not moving him," according to a source I spoke with. They haven't even "discussed" it internally. The team's plans calling for Stanton to start the season with the club and occupy the clean-up spot have "not changed at all," according to another source with knowledge of the Marlins' intentions.
And yet the speculation continues. The latest report indicates the Marlins have spoken to the Padres about Stanton. "Completely off base" and "totally ridiculous" was the response I received when I asked about it.
Teams contact the Marlins about Stanton all the time. The Marlins, out of professional courtesy, don't hang up on them. They "listen," as they do with all inquiries involving any of their players. But listening is not the same as "contemplating," and the Marlins -- at least for now -- are not entertaining any thoughts of trading their slugger.
The Marlins are sifting through the batch of unsigned free agent relievers as they focus on a bullpen that was looking rock solid this time a year ago but is now filled with holes. After signing Placido Polanco for $2.75 million, they still have a bit of leftover money from the Yunel Escobar trade with which to obtain an inexpensive relief arm or two. (Remember, after trading Escobar and his $5 million salary to the Rays last month, the Marlins vowed to re-invest that net savings in payroll.)
Based on the early returns, the Hall of Fame announcement on Wednesday could be extremely brief. Not a single candidate is trending above the 75 percent threshold needed to gain entrance to Cooperstown, according to "Hall of Fame Collecting Gizmo."
Some voters (myself included) are citing the Hall's formal character and integrity clause in refusing to vote for the two stick-outs on the ballot, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, based on tangible evidence linking them to PEDs. And the players that remain are all subject to debate.
I ended up voting for five players: Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Larry Walker.
With the lone exception of Schilling, the other four players on my ballot rank among the Top 10 players of all-time at their defensive positions based on the JAWS scoring system, a useful advanced metrics tool that allows one to compare players from different eras. JAWS isn't perfect. It doesn't factor in fielding, for example, postseason performance, milestones or awards -- all stuff I also considered.
But it does account "for the wide variations in offensive levels that have occurred throughout the game's history."
At any rate, have at it. Debate away...