Ichiro is Hall of Fame eligible (and a digression about Pete Rose)

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Thumbnail image for ichiro_090906.jpgStuff you don’t think about very much: you have to have played in the majors for ten years to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Doesn’t come up too often of course because it’s hard to imagine a nine-year career that would be worthy of discussion. I mean, sure, Lynn Jones may have his supporters, but it was always a stretch that he was going to be inducted. Freakin’ politics.

An exception to this rule? Ichiro, who has seemed like he’s been around forever, but only has nine full seasons under his belt. Monday marked the beginning of his tenth, and by the rules of the Hall of Fame, he is now eligible.  Rules that, were he hit by a bus over the winter, probably would have been changed because as people don’t often realize, one woman and a small handful of people who know the value of good politics can simply change those rules if the mood strikes.* Thankfully that didn’t have to happen, of course.

And yes, Ichiro is a Hall of Famer. Perhaps he’s a bit overrated, but being overrated doesn’t mean that you’re not still pretty spectacular. It simply means that people overstate your contributions on occasion. Ichiro is pretty spectacular. And he’s famous. And though he wasn’t the first Japanese player in Major League Baseball history, as a position player he’s still something of a groundbreaker. Even if you totally discount what he did in NPB — which you should not — he still makes the Hall of Fame in my book and I would hope everyone else’s. Once you include his NPB accomplishments he’s a first ballot guy.

But the point is now he can get hit by a bus if he wants to, because he’s totally good to go.

*This is always what has bugged me about the Pete Rose thing. The reason he’s not in the Hall of Fame is not because he’s banned from baseball. The reason is that the Hall of Fame board has a rule that says if you’re banned from baseball you can’t be in the Hall of Fame. The board could, if it wanted, change the rule, decouple itself from baseball’s ban list and induct Rose and Joe Jackson and whoever the hell it wanted to if it decided it wanted to be a museum of history instead of a political institution.

It won’t because Bud Selig and Bob DuPuy and other baseball officials are on that board, but they could just do some Kabuki-theater abstention thing, let the board let Rose in and still be able to say that they’re keeping the game safe from the gamblers.

And for the record, I’d still keep Rose banned because I don’t think he should be near the competition of baseball games. But I do think that his historical contributions to the game should be reflected in the museum of record for Major League Baseball.

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: