Oversimplifying the Hall of Fame debate

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Terrence Moore on steroids and the Hall of Fame:

Reggie Jackson is right. So is Jim Rice, along with Rick Telander,
a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, who joins me as a baseball Hall
of Fame voter and as a hardliner who agrees with Jackson and Rice:

No steroids guys in Cooperstown.

No Roger Clemens. No Barry Bonds. No Mark McGwire. No Sammy Sosa.
No Rafael Palmeiro. No Alex Rodriguez. Nobody within a syringe of
evidence showing they were artificially enhanced during any portion of
their playing career.

Great, Terrence. And as soon as you tell us how you’re going to figure
out who did and who didn’t do steroids, we’ll implement your plan. The
greater problem with Moore’s column, however, comes after he raises and
then ignores the “how do we know who used” question:

That brings us back to the BBWAA, which allows Hall of Fame voters
to use their own interpretation of rules that are vague but specific.
The rules say each voter should consider a player’s “record, playing
ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the
team(s) on which the player played.”

As a Hall of Fame voter, I’m a strict constructionist. To me, the
key words in those rules are “integrity” and “character.” You don’t
have integrity or character by using steroids. So no Hall of Fame entry
for any of these knuckleheads.

Simple.

Actually, a strict constructionist wouldn’t so easily latch on to
two of the six criteria and ignore the other four. To the contrary,
he’d be required to figure out how the character and integrity aspects
of the test interact with the record, playing ability, sportsmanship,
and contributions to the teams on which the player played, because
those are all part of the test too.

If it were me, I’d weigh the factors against one another, and if it
were a close call, I’d keep the guy out. Such an approach might counsel
that you allow in a Barry Bonds, whose clear ability and performance
over the years — including the years during which even his most
vehement accusers admit he wasn’t using — likely outweighs whatever
boost he received from whatever substances he was taking. On the
contrary, it may counsel that you keep out a Rafael Palmiero, who has a
much closer Hall of Fame case and a much more nebulous drug history
than that of Barry Bonds.

Or maybe you approach it a different way. I don’t know. What I do know
is that taking the mindless approach Moore advocates — even calling it
“simple” — is no way to do it. Because it’s not simple. It’s
complicated. And more importantly, it’s Terrence Moore’s job and the
job of the other BBWAA members to deal with. If they’re simply going to
abdicate their responsibilities in this regard, they should give the
task to someone who wont.

Twins pitcher barfs before almost every appearance

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 18:  Ryan O'Rourke #61 of the Minnesota Twins reacts after loading up the bases in the seventh inning against the New York Yankees on August 18, 2015 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Twins righty Ryan O'Rourke has pitched in 54 big league games. He has barfed before almost every one of them.

No, really:

Through his first 54 big-league outings over the last past two years, O’Rourke estimates he emptied the contents of his stomach close to every time.

“I don’t do it in the public’s eye,” O’Rourke said Tuesday. “I go in the bathroom, or sometimes it’s just on the back of the mound. But, yeah, it happens.”

I wonder if I’ve barfed 54 times in my entire life. I doubt I have. Then again, I’m not doing anything in front of tens of thousands of people with potentially millions of dollars at stake.

Yet he who is without sin hurl the first, um. Well, never mind.

The new intentional walk rule isn’t a big deal but it’s still dumb

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 06:  Anthony Recker #20 of the New York Mets calls for an intentional walk as Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on during the eighth inning at Chase Field on June 6, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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Let us preface this by stipulating that the new rule in which pitchers will no longer have to throw four balls to issue an intentional walk is not a big deal, objectively speaking. Teams don’t issue many IBBs to begin with. A couple a week, maybe? Fewer? Moreover, the times when a pitcher tosses one to the backstop or a batter reaches out and smacks a would-be intentional ball may be a lot of fun, but they’re extraordinarily rare. You can go years without seeing it happen.

So, yes, the intentional walk rule announced yesterday is of negligible consequence. We’ll get used to it quickly and it will have little if any impact on actual baseball. It won’t do what it’s supposed to do — speeding up games — but it won’t harm anything that is important either.

But let us also stipulate that the new rule is dumb.

It’s dumb because it’s a solution in search of a problem. Pace of play is a concern, but to listen to Rob Manfred and his surrogates in the media tell it, it’s The Most Pressing Issue of Our Time. Actually, it’s not. No one is abandoning baseball because of 5-15 minutes here or there and no one who may be interested in it is ceasing their exploration of the game because of it. And even if they were, IBBs are rare and they’re not time-consuming to begin with, so it’s not something that will make a big difference. It’s change for change’s sake and so Rob Manfred can get some good press for looking like a Man of Action.

It’s also dumb because it’s taking something away, however small it is. One of my NBC coworkers explained it well this morning:

I agree. Shamelessness is a pretty big problem these days, so let’s not eliminate shame when it is truly due.

Picture it: it’s a steamy Tuesday evening in late July. The teams are both way below .500 and are probably selling off half of their lineup next week. There are, charitably, 8,000 people in the stands. The game is already dragging because of ineptitude and an understandable lack of urgency on the part of players who did not imagine nights like this when they were working their way to the bigs.

Just then, one of the managers — an inexperienced young man who refuses to deviate from baseball orthodoxy because, gosh, he might get a hard question from a sleepy middle aged reporter after the game — holds up four fingers for the IBB. The night may be dreary, but dammit, he’s going to La Russa the living hell out of this game.

That man should be booed. Boo this man. The drunks and college kids who paid, like, $11 to a season ticket holder on StubHub to get into this godforsaken game have earned the right to take their frustrations out on Hunter McRetiredBackupCatcher for being a wuss and calling for the IBB. It may be the only good thing that happens to them that night, and now Rob Manfred would take that away from them. FOR SHAME.

And don’t forget about us saps at home, watching this garbage fire of a game because it beats reading. We’re now going to have to listen to this exchange, as we have listened to it EVERY SINGLE NIGHT since the 2017 season began:

Play-by-Play Guy: “Ah, here we go. They’re calling for the intentional walk. Now, in case you missed it, this is the way we’re doing it now. The new rule is that the manager — yep, right there, he’s doing it — can hold up four fingers to the home plate umpire and — there it goes — he points to first base and the batter takes his base.”

Color Commentator, Who played from 1975-87, often wearing a mustache: “Don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. There was always a chance the pitcher throws a wild pitch. It happened to us against the Mariners in 1979 [Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice: it didn’t] and it has taken away something special from the game. I suppose some number-cruncher with a spreadsheet decided that this will help speed up the game, but you know what that’s worth.

No matter what good or bad the rule brings, this exchange, which will occur from April through September, will be absolutely brutal. Then, in October, we get to hear Joe Buck describe it as if we never heard it before because Fox likes to pretend that the season begins in October.

Folks, it’s not worth it. And that — as opposed to any actual pro/con of the new rule — is why it is dumb. Now get off my lawn.