How come there aren't any youngins in the Hall of Fame?

Leave a comment

The Merc’s Tim Kawakami thinks he sees something:

Once Jeff Bagwell and Roberto Alomar (both born in 1968) get voted into
the Baseball Hall of Fame next January, there will be a strange
generation gap in Cooperstown . . . For multiple reasons, the players born from 1961-1967 will be
markedly unrepresented in Cooperstown for at least another year or two
and maybe more, even though this is historically when my age-peers
should be plowing into the HOF in solid waves. Hmm.

Kawakami notes that the there is only one guy in the Hall — Cal Ripken — who was born after 1960. He goes on to say that PEDs have something to do with this, suggesting that they (a) prolonged many guys’ careers, bumping their eligibility back in time; and (b) squeezed out a generation of guys by making what were once Hall-worthy statistics appear lacking. So no Will Clark, for example.

I suppose I’d consider his argument a hell of a lot more seriously if we couldn’t go way back to the year 2000 and see that back then there were only two guys — Robin Yount and George Brett — who were born after 1950.  In 1990 there were four guys born after 1940: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer and Catfish Hunter (and let’s be honest; Hunter probably didn’t deserve induction). I suppose you could call that a trend, but it’s not much of one.

And if I had to guess the reason for it I’d say that it has way more to do with ballplayer salaries than it does PEDs. There was a time — just before the time that guys who were born in the late 30s and early 40s were retiring — when a famous ballplayer could make more money leaving the game to open a car dealership or to pursue a job in broadcasting than he could by hanging on for an extra year or two playing. Indeed, contrary to the lazy “players don’t need to play as long these days with all of their millions” line of thinking the prospect of making many millions of dollars a year provides an incentive to keep playing. Who’d a thunk it?

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin and — if people don’t let steroid derangement syndrome cloud their judgment — Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds should all be inducted in the next few years. At that point we’ll likely be talking more about the large number of 1961-67 vintage players in the Hall of Fame, not the lack thereof.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
1 Comment

It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.