The Negro Leagues Strat-O-Matic game is fantastic

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Though not an avid player, I really like Strat-O-Matic. Though I’ve never met him in person, I’ve known Scott Simkus, the man behind the Negro Leagues version of Strat-O-Matic for a year or two.  At the Winter Meetings a couple of weeks ago I sat next to the Los Angeles Times’ Kevin Baxter in the media room for four days, and he was a really nice damn guy.  So of course I’m going to link a story by Kevin Baxter about Scott Simkus’ Negro Leagues Strat-O-Matic set when it gets published:

His name is Scott Simkus, and about a dozen years ago he commandeered a
microfilm reader at the offices of a suburban Chicago newspaper
searching for the results of a long-ago game his late grandfather, a
semipro outfielder, played against the Negro Leagues’ Cuban Stars.

Simkus, 39, never found exactly what he was looking for, but in the
archives of the Chicago Tribune and newspapers such as the Baltimore
Afro-American and the Pittsburgh Courier, he found more than 3,000
other box scores, which he parsed and cataloged into what may be the
most detailed collection of Negro League statistics ever compiled.

Those numbers allowed Simkus and Hal Richman, founder of Strat-O-Matic,
to put together a Negro League version of the game — no small, or
unimportant, feat.

The cool part of the article is that Baxter and Simkus traveled to Cedar Rapids Iowa to visit Negro Leaguer Art Pennington, the last surviving player for whom Simkus was able to compile a Strat-O-Matic card.  Pennington, Baxter and Simkus played some Strat and traded war stories.  Baxter told me in Indianapolis that it was a great trip, if for no other reason than Cool Papa Bell led off with a homer off Satchel Paige in one of their games.  Pennington sounds like an awesome dude, if for no other reason than he used the phrase “dipsy doodle,” which I haven’t heard deployed non-ironically since my uncle Harry died 25 years ago.

It’s a slow day. This is a great story.  Feed your minds a bit today ladies and gentlemen.

Hall of Fame voters are making news, not exercising democratic rights

Cooperstown
Associated Press
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Last month the Baseball Writers Association of America voted to make all Hall of Fame ballots public beginning with next year’s vote for the 2018 induction class. In the past 24 hours or so, as this year’s Hall of Fame voting period comes to a close, a lot of folks have been talking about that. Most notably in Jayson Stark’s piece over at ESPN regarding next year’s brave new public world.

Stark is pro-transparency on the ballots, as are the vast majority of BBWAA members who voted on the public ballot measure (it passed 80-9). Not everyone Stark quotes in his article is on board with it, though:

“I’ve already seen a lot of people change their votes from one year to the next,” said one of the strongest dissenters to this decision, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “People have changed their votes based on public opinion.”

Two other sources in the story, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report and a voter who asked to remain anonymous equated their Hall of Fame vote with democracy and invoked the sanctity of the secret ballot. “The No. 1 reason I was against this rule is that in this country, it’s a democracy, and everyone has a vote on different things. And I hate to see a blanket rule that forces everyone to go in one direction,” Miller said. Here’s what the anonymous guy said:

“To me, a secret ballot is a fundamental of democracy. You should be able to vote your conscience without having to explain your vote. But once it’s public, you’re open to public pressure. And that’s not what we want in a democracy. We’re not elected representatives. We’re chosen to be part of a voting group.”

This is ridiculous of course. Voting for the Hall of Fame is not exercising democratic rights. It is making news and making history. Hall of Fame voters are making decisions which will fundamentally alter baseball history and which matter greatly to a large number of baseball fans. They are not advancing their own or society’s interests at the ballot box the way citizens do on election day. Despite the fact that the form of their action here is, technically speaking, a ballot, they are making news in the same way a GM makes a news with a trade, the commissioner makes news with a rule change or a team makes news by winning a World Series.

Would any of these voters — who are credentialed members of the media, by the way, and like to style themselves as truth-seeking members of the Fourth Estate — accept silence from the people who make the news on the beat they cover? Would they be content if the newsmakers whose acts they chronicle demanded anonymity the way they themselves do now? Of course they wouldn’t. And if they got the same silent treatment they’d prefer to give, they’d write one of those petulant little columns they love about players who “duck the press” after a game.

Suck it up, journalists. Act the way you expect the newsmakers you cover to act and own your decisions. Don’t pretend for a moment that you’re not the subject of, and not the reporter of, the story when Hall of Fame season comes around.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.