Leitch on the Hall of Fame arguments: “it’s like watching politicians”


Will Leitch of Sports On Earth loves the Hall of Fame, but fears that the nature of the Hall of Fame debate — which, given how intractable everyone is being is less of a debate than a shout-fest — has ruined the whole thing:

This is the Hall of Fame. This is the ultimate sports debate. This is how we’ve always classified guys, how we’ve organized the world of baseball for years … It was supposed to be fun. But not now. The discussions about the Hall of Fame, and the actual ballots, are turning into the fiscal cliff debate, with people operating in bad faith, abusing their power, making decisions for reasons that have nothing to do with how good of a baseball player a certain guy was. It’s like watching politicians. And sports should never, ever be like watching politicians.

He’s got a point. And even though I get a more or less approving mention at the outset of the piece, I realize that I’m part of the problem too.

In my defense, I care far less about any one voter’s choice and I complain far less about this guy or that guy getting in than I used to. Same goes for whether someone uses old school or new school analysis. I don’t think I’ve cited WAR with any bit of seriousness or conviction in my life, for example, and I’ve mentioned several times that I won’t lose much sleep if Jack Morris gets in or Barry Bonds is left out or whatever. I have my opinions on those matters and others have different ones and if all we have when it comes to Hall of Fame talk is a difference of opinions in that regard, fine. Let’s shout about it some and then have beers later.

What does bother me, however, is inconsistent and dishonest reasoning employed by those who are supposed to be the foremost experts and authorities we have. The double standards, the intellectual laziness, the personal vendettas and the grandstanding that passes for baseball analysis and, ultimately, historical judgment.  You want Jack Morris and Dale Murphy in and Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds out? Fine. Say you think the former were better (or at least more worthy) baseball players than the latter, cast your vote and stand by your judgment.  But don’t ignore or invent history to do so and don’t pretend history and evil-doers are forcing you to vote in such a way and that you feel powerless and depressed about it.

That’s the hill I’ll die on. Not the “this guy should be in or that guy should be out and you’re a moron for thinking otherwise” hill. The “think rationally, be honest and take responsibility for your actions, even if they’re unpopular” hill. It’s a concept that is always worth fighting for, be it in baseball arguments or in stuff that actually matters in the real world.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.

Marlins announcer Tommy Hutton was let go because he was “too negative”

marlins logo wide

We heard earlier this week that Marlins television analyst Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons on the job. By all accounts, he’s well-liked and respected, so it smelled a little fishy with a team that has owner Jeffrey Loria calling the shots. Well, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was told by a source close to the Marlins that Hutton was let go because he was “too negative.”

Jackson was also able to get in touch with Hutton, who provided some details about how things went down.

“I know there were times I was negative, but I thought those times were called for,” he said. “Ninety percent of what I said was positive. I tried not to be a homer, but you could tell I wanted the Marlins to do well.”

After being told that his salary wasn’t a factor in the decision, Hutton suspected that his candid, blunt analysis might be the impetus for his ouster.

So after learning his fate on Monday, he asked that question – whether they thought he was too negative — to both a Fox producer (at a meeting at Starbucks) and the Marlins’ vice president/communications (by phone).

He said the question was met with silence by both executives.

“I couldn’t get a yes or a no,” he said.

Hutton said there were three incident in recent years where he was told the Marlins were uncomfortable with something he said. He disclosed one example where he was exasperated at the ballpark’s dimensions after former catcher John Buck flew out to the warning track for the final out of a game. He was told by a Marlins vice president after the game that Loria prefer he not talk about the ballpark’s dimensions. Of course, the team is moving in the fences this winter.

To be clear, Hutton said he was told it was a “mutual decision” between the Marlins and FOX to let him go, but Jackson’s source hears that the concern about his “negativity” came from the team.

Hey, do you know the best way to prevent “negative” talk about your team? Fielding a winning baseball team without a dysfunctional ownership and front office. Crazy idea, I know, but it could be cool?