David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News pens a nice column about the silliness and self-importance of Hall of Fame voters who seek to use their vote as though it were being cast in some referendum about the Steroid Era. His key point:
The reality of the situation is that baseball has already decided what voters should do, and any writer who attempts to argue otherwise is simply attempting to add a level of power to his vote that does not exist (and, frankly, that should not exist for anybody who considers themselves a journalist). The fact that baseball has deemed players like Bonds, Palmeiro, Sosa and Mark McGwire eligible of being on the Hall of Fame ballot means that they have deemed said players eligible for the Hall of Fame. It’s that simple.
And Murphy hits the nail on the head when it comes to the hand-wringers, who he says “have a little bit of drama queen inside of them”:
Writers who view this election as some sort of existential dilemma, many of whom I respect greatly, do so only because they want to experience such a dilemma.
I roll my eyes every time I see a Hall of Fame column in which the author talks about how difficult it is to vote. About how dreadful the task has become. How he or she has had to wrestle with their conscience and how they feel the weight of blahdiblahdiblah, barf, barf, barf. In light of Murphy’s comments about writers-as-drama-queens, I’m less inclined to see these as legitimate complaints than I am to see them as baseball writers’ version of a humblebrag. “Hey, everyone, I have a Hall of Fame ballot. Now watch me grapple with the history I necessarily make!”
Pick the players you think should be in. Do what you want, but note that baseball thinks these folks are just fine, eligibility-wise. If that’s not enough for you and you think the character clause merits their exclusion, fine, exclude them. But don’t pretend that’s too hard for you. If you’re inclined to vote with your morals on this matter, do so with the conviction you would have about any moral stand and stop pretending it’s so damn agonizing.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.