I promise: this is my last Hall of Fame post for the day. If there is other big news I’m neglecting, please let me know. In the meantime:
I’ve seen a few references to voters wanting to “wait and see” on Jeff Bagwell’s Hall of Fame case. Or to give it more time. Or to think it over more or what have you. While I’d normally applaud such thorough consideration, Bagwell strikes me as not a particularly close case for election. He should be in on the first try. The same went for Roberto Alomar last year too. We get one like this every once in a while and when we do, I ask myself why people think we need to wait to pull the lever in the guy’s favor when, by almost any objective standard, the guy is far above typical Hall of Fame standards. With any given voter, I’m guessing it usually comes down to one of two explanations (or a combination of them):
- People don’t want to elect the guy on the first ballot because they consider that to be an extra-special honor and they see the guy as a less-than-inner-circle Hall of Famer; or
- There was something about the guy, be it an incident in his career, or this manner with the media or something in his personal life that rubs the voter the wrong way.
In the past voters have explicitly said that they didn’t think someone was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and have deferred their vote for another year. I find this totally unacceptable because the rules that accompany a voter’s ballot explicitly say that there is no distinction between first and later-ballot inductees. I think some people will always withhold “the honor” of a first-ballot election, however, because the voting pool is huge and unwieldy and some of them don’t have a lick of sense.
The second category can be anything. I think Alomar fell into it with some because of the spitting incident. I wonder if Jeff Bagwell falls into that category because people want to wait and see if his name comes up in association with steroids.
No one has accused Bagwell of juicing that I know of. He certainly hasn’t come up as part of any of the official steroids investigations or reports. No Hall of Fame voter has said that they won’t vote for him because they suspect he took PEDs. But at the same time, he was an elite power hitter in the 1990s with big-ass arms. Unless you’re Frank Thomas and you’ve been highly vocal about the matter, at some point someone is going to suspect you of something if you fit that description. I wonder if any Hall voters suspect Bagwell, even if they’re too polite to admit their suspicion.
I take an innocent-until-proven guilty approach to such matters. And as I said before, I don’t think PED associations should disqualify someone from the Hall of Fame even if they are proven guilty. But I’ve been accused of being a steroid apologist in the past, probably with some good reason. Others aren’t as forgiving as I am, however, and I wonder if they aren’t (silently) holding Bagwell’s candidacy in abeyance to see if history catches up to their intuition.
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.