Roger Clemens

My imaginary Hall of Fame ballot

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I don’t have a Hall of Fame vote, obviously, but I’ve written enough about it and criticized enough people who do have a vote that I may as well say what I’d do if I had the franchise.

Here’s my whole ballot. I include everyone on it because, unlike so many of the voters, I really don’t think this is some monumentally impossible task that requires long hours examining the dark recesses of my soul.  I write about baseball, I read about baseball and I love baseball and I’ve had a pretty good handle on what has gone on with it in both my lifetime and historically. And, contrary to popular opinion, this is fun.

Here’s my take on all of these guys. Since I’m going with the ten-slot limit, I’ll tally the whole ballot at the end, as some of these guys are “if I have room” choices:

  • Sandy Alomar Jr.: A tough call for the Hall of Alomars.
  • Jeff Bagwell: Passes my eyeball test even if he fails others’.
  • Craig Biggio: He was good at everything, great at many things and maintained his excellence for a long time. Once upon a time that was an easy Hall of Famer. I’d like to think it still is.
  • Barry Bonds: Duh. Yes.
  • Jeff Cirillo: Once held the record for the most regular season games played without playing in the postseason at 1,617. But, sorry, no.
  • Royce Clayton: Best Royce to ever play the game. But no.
  • Roger Clemens: Duh. Yes again.
  • Jeff Conine: How many guys can call themselves “Mr. [team name]?” Not many. As Mr. Marlin he’s one. But no.
  • Steve Finley: Was drafted by the Braves in 1986 but didn’t sign. So we were stuck with the Dion James/Albert Hall platoon. Sigh. No.
  • Julio Franco: I’m sure he’s in his Lazarus Pit right now preparing for a comeback so we’ll deal with him when he’s eligible once again. But no.
  • Shawn Green: Nice player. No.
  • Roberto Hernandez: Thanks to Fausto Carmona’s stuff, he’s the only guy in the Hall of Fame ballot who is automatically hyperlinked as an active player by the HBT blogging platform. Pretty cool! But no.
  • Ryan Klesko: If I were tipsy I’d go on about how he was better than you remember and how Bobby Cox treated him kinda poorly, but I’m not tipsy so let’s just say no.
  • Kenny Lofton: He’s a popular choice among the statheads and I think he’s way better than the exceedingly low Hall of Fame vote totals he’ll get, but I’d have a hard time pulling the lever. He was always good but didn’t have the sort of peak I like to see in a Hall of Famer. I’d give a no, but it’d be one that I’d think hard about. And even if I wavered more, having so many qualified guys on the ballot would probably push him off mine.
  • Edgar Martinez: Down with anti-DH prejudice! Vote for Edgar! Yes.
  • Don Mattingly: Nope. People say “but for the injuries …” I say “he had a lot of injuries.” The Hall should be about the career a guy had, not the one he would have had if x, y, z didn’t happen.
  • Fred McGriff: Really, really hard choice. I’ve gone back and forth over the years (if you check the archives I think I have posts supporting him and not supporting him in the past). As I sit here today I’m inclined to give him a bigger era adjustment than I used to, realizing that his pre-1993 numbers were really damn good for the time and he, unfortunately, straddled the eras in a way that made his overall stats look less impressive. If I have ten others I like better he falls off, but a provisional yes.
  • Mark McGwire: I think yes. I know he was one dimensional, but it was a hell of a dimension.
  • Jose Mesa: No, obviously. But when everyone goes Hall-crazy about Omar Vizquel in a few years, I may talk Mesa up just to be a contrary S.O.B.
  • Jack Morris: I believe he was a very good pitcher. Call me back when they build a Hall of Very Good.
  • Dale Murphy: Nice peak, but fell off a cliff. He and Don Mattingly are in the same boat for me, even if we don’t know why Murphy lost his footing.
  • Rafael Palmeiro: A close call as his numbers — 500 homers and 3000 hits — look less impressive when you adjust for the parks he played in and the era in which he walked the Earth. I’d lean yes, however, if I have room.
  • Mike Piazza: Best hitting catcher ever. Anyone not voting for him this year is deranged.
  • Tim Raines: One of the best leadoff hitters ever and did everything well. Anyone not voting for him this year is equally deranged.
  • Reggie Sanders: No, but I always liked him, even though he laid a major egg when he played for Atlanta. That above-average journeyman thing is pretty fun. Wish we’d see more of it, both for the players’ sake and the teams’.
  • Curt Schilling: Close call. More deserving than Morris. I’d be inclined to say yes, pending the availability of ten slots.
  • Aaron Sele: Heh, no.
  • Lee Smith: Lots of people like him, but my post-La Russa Era closer standards are probably way higher than most people’s. I’m, like, Eckersley Mariano Rivera and … call me later.
  • Sammy Sosa: He’s like Palmiero for me, but that peak was really something to behold. A maybe, slot-pending kind of guy.
  • Mike Stanton: I loved him as a Brave and he annoyed me as a Yankee, which means he was good, because I’m only annoyed by good players who give my team a hard time. But, of course, no.
  • Alan Trammell: Yes. And I would say this even if he wasn’t my favorite childhood player. See Biggio: he did it all and did it well and was arguably the best player on an always good and often excellent team for, like, a decade.
  • Larry Walker: Hard choice. I lean no, just as I do on Lofton. I could be persuaded to change my mind at some point.
  • Todd Walker: Man, guy will be a one-and-done and he’s not even the best Walker on the ballot. Sad.
  • David Wells: Better than people give him credit for. Maybe because he didn’t hit is groove for a bit and maybe because the personality often took center stage as opposed to the pitching. I’d vote for him before I’d vote for Morris too, but ultimately I wouldn’t vote for him either.
  • Rondell White: Lots of Expos on this year’s ballot, huh? No.
  • Bernie Williams: No. Very good, but never had a Hall of Fame peak. His playoff numbers are nice, but he was obviously a huge beneficiary of the playoff expansion of the mid-90s and of being on the New York Yankees of that era.
  • Woody Williams: Always loved his name. If you had a friend named Woody Williams, you’d know you had a reliable friend. Old Woody would never leave you stranded at the airport and would always be around to help you move a couch. But no.

So, where does that leave us? My ballot:  Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Martinez, McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Trammell and … one least spot for all of my maybes.  Let’s suck it up and say — Fred McGriff.  There. McGriff gets the tenth slot.

Sorry to Palmeiro, Schilling, Sosa and the others. If you’re around next year I’ll consider you again. Or if they do the right thing and expand the ballot.

How hard was that?

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.