How about this: no one from the past 25 years makes the Hall of Fame

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I don’t advocate that — I think I can tell the difference between elite players of that period and non-elite players — but some are advocating it.  Maybe not in so many words, but by the criteria they’re currently employing, it’s a necessary conclusion.

Example: Jeff Pearlman, who today sides with those who would bar Jeff Bagwell from Cooperstown despite there being no evidence that he used PEDs.  After taking issue with Joe Posnanski’s column from this morning Jeff writes:

But, alas, Joe’s still right—perhaps Jeff Bagwell never used. Perhaps, as dozens upon dozens of his teammates turned to steroids and HGH throughout the 1990s and early 2000s …  Bagwell looked the other way and continued to pop his GNC-supplied Vitamin C tablets. Maybe, just maybe, that happened. But, as the game was being ruined in his very clubhouse, where was Bagwell’s voice of protest? Where was Jeff Bagwell, one of the best players in baseball, when someone inside the game needed to speak out and demand accountability? Answer: Like nearly all of his peers, he was nowhere. He never uttered a word, never lifted a finger (Now, once he retired, he was more than willing to defend himself and speak up for the sport. Once he was retired).

This, to me, is why we are allowed to suspect Jeff Bagwell and, if we so choose, not vote for him.

Good point! But let me ask: where was Derek Jeter? Greg Maddux? Randy Johnson? Cal Ripken? Tony Gwynn? Ichiro? Trevor Hoffman? Mariano Rivera? Albert Pujols? There is just as much evidence against those guys as there is against Bagwell.  None of them spoke up and demanded accountability. Are we allowed to suspect them too and, if we so choose, not vote for them?

I anticipate Pearlman’s response would be that, unlike Bagwell, those guys weren’t big power hitters who became musclebound.  But then again, neither were guys like Randy Velarde, Andy Pettitte, Hal Morris, Tim Laker, Denny Neagle, Ron Villone, Kent Mercker, Mike Stanton, Fernando Vina, Wally Joyner, Paul Byrd and Gary Matthews, Jr. and many others who were named in the Mitchell Report and allied investigations.  They all used, as did scores of others who don’t fit the Bagwell profile. If they did, how do we know that Maddux and Ichiro didn’t?

We don’t. Anyone of that era could have been using. Actually, anyone over the last 50 years could have been using given that Stanozolol was developed in 1962 and was being used in athletics soon thereafter. Physique has very little to do with it. Which makes everyone a suspect. At least, that is, if you suspect people without having any evidence for the charge.  And if you keep everyone who is a suspect under that rationale out of the Hall, the entire era should be kept out of the Hall.

I’m not prepared to do that.  I require a bit of evidence before I accuse someone of wrongdoing and refuse to honor their career in a way it should be honored. Pearlman doesn’t.  A lot of other people seem to agree with him.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.