Thoughts on Henderson and Rice and the Hall of Fame

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Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were inducted into the Hall of Fame
yesterday. A lot of folks were either hoping or expecting that Rickey
would say something silly or arrogant or what have you, but that was
always going to be a longshot. While never one to suffer from
self-esteem problems, it’s been close to 20 years since Rickey has been
the hot dog in the Oakleys we all remember, and anyone who watched and
listened to him carefully as his career wound down knows that he
(eventually) grew into a rather mature player with a sense of history
and even, dare I say it, humility about him. I mean, how can you not be
humble when you play in the independent leagues in your 40s like
Henderson did?

Anyway, I thought his speech
was very genuine and, at least on the Rickey scale, quite appropriate
to the occasion. Indeed, given the man Henderson seems to have become,
an instance of true “Rickeyspeak” probably would have seemed forced and
wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fun as a lot of commentators are
snarking about today. I especially thought his nod to Billy Martin —
“Mr. Billy Martin always got the most out of me. I miss you very much,
and I wish you were here with me today” — was quite nice.

What can you say about Jim Rice? For a couple of years a lot of folks
have been saying that he wasn’t truly Hall of Fame worthy. Bill James
called him “the most overrated player in the past 20 years” when he
wrote his “Historical Baseball Abstract
in the late 1980s. I tend to agree with that assessment, but it’s
probably not worth getting all worked up about. His worthiness, or lack
thereof, is a function of what any given person thinks the Hall of Fame
is all about. If it’s truly about “fame” he’s a fine choice, as anyone
who is around my age certainly grew up with him being talked about as
one of the best players in the game, rightly or wrongly so. If you’re
more into the whole Hall of Merit thing, well, he probably doesn’t belong there.

That argument is irrelevant now, of course, as he now and forever will be Jim Rice: Hall of Famer. As for his speech:
Pretty much par for the course as these things go. An argument could be
made that he showed less humility than Henderson, but I don’t feel too
strongly about making it. I did not know that his real name is Ed, so I
guess you really do learn something new every day.

Overall, the best speech of the day came not from a player, but from
a player’s daughter, as Judy Gordon, daughter of Veteran’s Committee
inductee Joe Gordon, said her father “insisted against having a
funeral, and as such, we consider Cooperstown and the National Baseball
Hall of Fame as his final resting place.”

That statement struck me just the right way yesterday. It seems so
spot on. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Cooperstown, but when I
was there as a kid, I got the same feeling I get when walking around an
old graveyard. I mean that in the best of ways, mind you — I love old
graveyards. The dead seem to speak there, and if the setting is
pleasing — as Cooperstown certainly is — you can’t help but feel good
about humanity as you tread about and think about those who came and
went before.

Jake Peavy is having a bad go of things right now

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 25: Jake Peavy #22 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at AT&T Park on May 25, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.

As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.

Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.

The AT&T Park mortgage is paid off

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This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.

The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.

Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.

Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.