Andre Dawson inducted to the Hall of Fame: Beyond that? Epic Failure

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Hall of Fame logo.GIFThe votes have been counted and Andre Dawson is the only candidate to get elected to the Hall of Fame. This is an epic fail on the part of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Bert Blyleven received 74.2 percent. Barry Larkin 51.6. Alomar 73.7.  All three of them deserved entrance.  Larkin and Alomar no doubt will soon.  Based on the mental gymnastics so many voters have made to exclude Blyleven, however, he may never make it. This has to be a bitter pill for him to swallow.

As for Andre Dawson, the Hawk may not have been everyone’s definition of a Hall of Famer due to his low on-base percentage — in fact, he now has the lowest OBP and batting average of any Hall of Fame outfielder — but he hit for power, had a cannon arm, and until the Olympic Stadium turf took its toll on his knees, he was an excellent centerfielder.  He won an MVP award in 1987 on the power of a then unfathomable 49 home runs. A quiet, dignified player in his career and since he retired, Andre Dawson’s statistics may not dazzle compared to other Hall of Famers, but he definitely classes the place up.

But I don’t think it takes away from Dawson’s honor to note that, objectively speaking, he was perhaps the least deserving of enshrinement thank Larkin, Alomar and Blyleven.

We’ll have more on this as the day goes on, of course.  For now: shame on you BBWAA. Shame on you.

New tax law could affect MLB trades

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Jim Tankersley of the New York Times notes that a tax law passed by Republicans could affect trades in Major League Baseball. The law added the word “real” to a certain line of tax code that now only allows real estate trades to qualify for tax immunity. Previously, certain assets like trucks and machinery could have been traded tax-free.

A perhaps unintended consequence of that change could mean baseball teams could have to pay capital gains taxes when they trade away and acquire players. MLB’s chief legal officer Dan Halem said, “There is no fair market value of a baseball player. There isn’t. I don’t really know what our clubs are going to do to address the issue. We haven’t fully figured it out yet. This is a change we hope was inadvertent, and we’re going to lobby hard to get it corrected.”

Tankersley wonders how players would be valued for the purposes of this tax law:

Mr. Verlander, for example, was clearly a more immediately valuable asset to the Astros than the three prospects they traded to get him. He gave up only four runs in his five regular-season starts for the team, then won four straight starts to begin the playoffs. In very simple terms, he brought value to the Astros in a trade, and had the new law been in place last year, the team would have owed taxes on that added value.

But what, exactly, was that value? Was it the size of his contract? Mr. Verlander earned $28 million last year, while the players traded for him drew minor-league salaries. Was it the additional wins he brought to the team? Statisticians estimate Mr. Verlander gave the Astros nearly two more wins last season, a value that, depending on the statistician, could reach $20 million. Or was it some calculation of the total future value Mr. Verlander will bring to the team, minus the total future value it gave up in the prospects it traded away — and possibly adjusted for the amount the team will have to pay Mr. Verlander?

Complicating matters further is that teams value players differently, and one player might help a certain team far more than another team. A struggling club with a surplus of starting pitchers might trade one to a playoff contender in desperate need of one, in exchange for position players who could improve a struggling lineup. In that case, both teams could, reasonably, be considered to have gained value in the trade, and thus would owe taxes on it.

Republicans said they weren’t trying to hamstring sports teams, but that’s exactly what they might have done here. It seems likely that the law will eventually be amended to exempt sports teams, given that leagues like the MLB and NBA are enormous and worth so much money. Whether that will be done in a reasonable amount of time is another question entirely.