Tom Boswell of the Washington Post was asked about the Hall of Fame cases for baseball’s black sheep in a Q&A today: Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez. His answer says an awful lot about why the Hall of Fame discussion has gotten so rancorous and complicated in recent years:
I haven’t voted for the Hall in about 10 years. A wise Post decision not to allow us to do it. I’d never vote for Bonds, Clemens, McGwire or now Manny.
But I think it’s obvious that the baseball Hall of Fame will never be what it once was — a kind of perfect otherworldy place that you visited with no complex feelings, just childlike pleasure. That’s gone. I thanks the players union for that, with Selig and the owners a fairly close second.
A “perfect otherworldy place that you visited with no complex feelings, just childlike pleasure?” Really? When?
While not a voter himself, my guess is that Boswell is not alone in holding the Hall of Fame and, by extension, candidates who become eligible for induction, to so impossibly high a standard. It’s exactly that impossibly high standard that has caused Hall of Fame voters to tie themselves into knots in recent years.
How about this: the Hall of Fame is an outstanding museum that has a room in which guys who excelled at the game get honored. I won’t say that it’s nothing more than that — there is some emotional/historical weight to it beyond any other part of the museum — but it’s not something upon which your youthful idealism should be pegged.
In no event, however, is it fair to the candidates, nor does it reflect particularly well on the voters, for the voters to lay their childhood baggage on the institution.
The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.
I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.
Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.
Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.
To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.