In the course of Michael S. Schmidt’s recent column on Jeff Bagwell, Ross Newhan, the retired Los Angeles Times writer and still-current Hall of Fame voter, describes what he sees as the role of the electorate:
“Somebody said we are not the morality police, but yet I think we are. If we aren’t, who is? Part of our job is that we are custodians of the game’s history.”
I get why someone can think that. The Hall of Fame ballot invites voters to weigh-in on the character of candidates. But there’s a big difference between passing on a single player’s character and being “the morality police” or “the custodian of the game’s history.”
In the former instance, a voter is merely judging one player. If limited to that, one must necessarily look at Bagwell’s record and note that there is not a single thing on his professional resume that could be viewed as a character deficiency. In the latter instance, however, voters give themselves permission to read all of baseball’s sins of the Steroid Era into Bagwell’s biography. They feel they are protecting some sacred institution, not merely judging one man. In this case it’s easy, then, for a writer to explain away the injustice he might visit upon Jeff Bagwell. After all: he believes he is doing something more important than passing on Bagwell. He’s protecting the Hall of Fame! Even though there is nothing on the ballot or in his marching orders that tasks him with this.
And why would there be? The Hall of Fame is capable of protecting itself. It does so by setting its eligibility standards. It could change them in five minutes if it felt threatened. It hasn’t done so in response to the steroids epidemic. That should tell the writers something. Sadly, it has not.
The Hall of Fame is not heaven, my fellow baseball writers, you are not St. Peter at the gate, and no one — not even Jose Canseco — has written baseball’s book of life. Have a sense of humility about you. Understand that your role is not to be baseball’s moral arbiters, writ-large. You are to look at one player at a time and judge him accordingly. If you have nothing negative to say about him, and if his accomplishments are sufficient, vote him in.
Yesterday it was reported that someone stole Jose Fernandez’s high school jersey, which had been hanging in the Alsonso High School dugout in Tampa for a vigil. That was pretty vile stuff indeed.
Thankfully, however, someone’s conscience got the best of them: the jersey has been returned. School officials say that a family found a large envelope outside of the high school with the words “Jose’s jersey” written on it. They took the envelope into to the school this morning and the jersey was found inside.
Bad form taking it, whoever you are, but in most cases it’s never too late to make a better decision and fix your mistakes.
In late August, when everyone started looking at the schedule in an effort to see who had the easiest road ahead of them to the playoffs, the Tigers stood out as particularly blessed. The end of their season featured several games against the lonely Twins and, if things were tight heading into the final weekend, a three-game series against the lowly Braves.
Problem: the Braves have not been very lowly lately, and that could cause the Tigers all kinds of grief.
Atlanta has won 10 of 11 games. They’ve scored 66 runs in those games and their pitching staff has an ERA of 3.28 over that span. Oh, and remember how, earlier in the season, the Braves were hitting like a deadball era team, being outhomered by multiple individual players? Well, they’ve hit ten during this neat little run. Really, though, the run isn’t that little. They’ve won 19 of 30 and have been a solid team, offensively speaking, since late July. They’re hot as heck now and haven’t been pushovers for some time.
So enter the Tigers, who have been seesawing through August and September and who have to play in Atlanta this weekend without their DH, Victor Martinez. Oh, and who stand a halfway decent chance of having to fly out of Atlanta Sunday evening for a makeup game in Detroit that could then cause them to play a tiebreaker game in Toronto or Baltimore which could then have them travel to the other city for a Wild Card game. And that’s if things break decently.
If they break poorly? It’ll be a long, season-closing flight home from Atlanta. A city that was supposed to provide respite for them when it first appeared on the schedule.