Will the BBWAA keep Pudge Rodriguez out of the Hall of Fame? Only God knows.

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Any elite player’s retirement brings forth the question: will he make the Hall of Fame?  Pudge Rodriguez’s retirement is no different.  Of course, the answer to that question is more complicated.

On the merits he’s a no-brainer: He has the most games caught of any catcher, totaled nearly 3,000 hits, won an MVP award, a World Series MVP award and was arguably the best defensive catcher of all time. That’s normally a first-ballot ticket to Cooperstown.

But then there’s the PED problem.  As we’ve seen in recent years, players with any PED associations are basically blackballed from Hall of Fame consideration no matter how strong their on-the-field case is.  And that goes for those players who were admitted or documented users like Mark McGwire and for those who merely have whisper campaigns waged against them like Jeff Bagwell.  Basically, if a bunch of moralizing writers think you’re dirty, you’re not getting into the Hall of Fame.

So where does Pudge Rodriguez fall on that scale?  He was not named in the Mitchell Report. He has not been revealed to be on the famous list of 103 ballplayers who tested positive during baseball’s pilot testing program in 2004. He has not admitted to any PED use and hasn’t otherwise been brought into the greater PED scandal via legal action or the like. But:

  • Jose Canseco wrote in his book that he personally injected Pudge with steroids;
  • When asked if he was on the list of 103, Rodriguez responded “Only God knows”;
  • He played for the Texas Rangers in the 1990s; and
  • His physique varied fairly radically over the years, with it being beefier pre-testing and noticeably smaller once testing was implemented.

Did he do PEDs? Hell, I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if he did, but I don’t know for sure.

But I do know that while, in a court of law, all of those bullet points would represent circumstantial evidence at best, inadmissible hearsay at worst, Hall of Fame voting doesn’t operate at that standard. In the world of baseball, those bullet points — as well as any more or less reasonable suspicions that Pudge did, in fact, take PEDs — are more than enough to get writers to withhold votes.

And unless something happens to change the current pattern of Hall of Fame voting in the next five years — like, say, people electing Barry Bonds because, Jesus, it’s dumb to have a Hall of Fame without Barry Bonds — I think Rodriguez will be on the outside looking in for some time.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.