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.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.