Roger Clemens

My imaginary Hall of Fame ballot


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?

Kudos to Fox for not going crazy with the curses

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I turned on last night’s Fox broadcast fully expecting them to spend too much time on history and curses and billy goats and black cats and Steve Bartman and 1908 and 1948 and all of that jive while spending too little time on the game and the players at hand. I will admit now that I was pleasantly surprised that that was not, in fact, the case.

To be clear, the pregame show was a friggin’ train wreck in this department. There the narrative framing was basically wall-to-wall. In the first segment, Fox studio host Kevin Burkhardt used the phrase “reverse the curse” within his first thirty seconds of speaking. Then, before much if any actual game stuff was referred to, Burkhardt mentioned all of the following things in the space of a, maybe, 45 second span:

When the montage ended, Alex Rodriguez said that “every player wants to break that curse.” Then they threw it to the first commercial at 7:38 or so. In the second segment they ran a prerecorded thing about championship droughts, making liberal mention of 108 years for the Cubs and 68 years for the Indians, but then got down to some actual game breakdown.

In the third segment, Burkhardt threw it to the P.A. announcer at Progressive Field for player introductions, once again mentioning 108/68 years as he did so. After that, they ran a montage, set to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “The Waiting,” in which centenarians and other older folks talked about how long they’ve been — wait for it — waiting for an Indians or a Cubs championship. Lots of them mentioned billy goats and curses and stuff.

When that was over Fox finally threw it to Joe Buck and John Smoltz up in the booth. Buck added a punctuative “the waiting is the hardest part,” and soon after they ran a Buck-narrated pre-produced montage about what was going on in 1908 and 1948, saying who was president, noting when Model-Ts were invented and all of that, all set to “Time has come today” by the Chambers Brothers. So, yes, that was a lot to take in in the space of a half hour.

But that’s on me, right? Who in the heck needs to watch a pregame show? No one, really. Alex Rodriguez and Pete Rose are proving to be a nice combination for Fox — getting rid of C.J. Nitkowski has cleared the congestion a bit and both A-Rod and Rose are proving to be naturals after a 2015 in which they were somewhat clunky — but a pregame show is pretty superfluous. The actual baseball breakdown those guys provide can be accomplished in less than ten minutes. The rest of it practically begs for those narrative-servicing montages, and frankly, no one needs ’em.

Most notably, though: the curse and weight of history talk basically ended once the game got going. Indeed, Buck and Smoltz were shockingly and refreshingly narrative-free for most if not all of the contest. They talked about Jon Lester and his issues holding runners. Corey Kluber‘s slider. Andrew Miller being Andrew Miller. Kyle Schwarber being there at all. They did a really nice job of handling all of the Xs and Os the way you want your broadcast booth to handle it.

Smoltz in particular was outstanding, showing that Fox’s decision to make him their number one color guy while reassigning Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci to be a fantastic one. A two-man booth is superior to a three-man booth in almost every instance, but the second man in Fox’s booth now mixes his insight and his regular conversation seamlessly. You never feel like Smoltz is talking down to you or speaking from his obviously superior place of baseball authority. His tone is as if he’s letting you in on stuff he thinks and hopes you’ll really appreciate knowing and he never plays the “I USED TO PLAY BASEBALL” card in the obnoxious ways some ex-player commentators do. And he’s right: we do appreciate what he tells us.

Beating up on Fox’s baseball broadcasts has been its own sport for many of us for several years, but there was nothing to really beat them up about last night. Sure, we could do without in-game interviews, but after the pregame show Fox showed remarkable restraint with respect to pushing history and narrative and curses and all of that baloney that has little if anything to do with the 2016 Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. They kept it focused on the baseball game that was going on before us in ways they haven’t always done in the past. It was refreshing and, dare I say, downright enjoyable.

More of this please.

Republicans accuse Hillary Clinton of being a bandwagon Cubs fan

CHICAGO - APRIL 4:  Hillary Rodham Clinton throws out the first pitch before the Chicago Cubs Opening Day game against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on April 4, 1994 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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This was inevitable: The Republican National Committee published a ridiculously detailed and self-serious opposition-research report accusing Hillary Clinton of being a “bandwagon” Cubs fan.

If you’re of a certain age you’ll recall that Clinton, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, spoke about being a Cubs fan as a kid. You’ll also recall that when she was running for her senate seat in New York, she gave shoutouts to a heretofore unheard of Yankees fandom. A lot of people have had fun with this at various times — we’ve mentioned it here on multiple occasions — but I wasn’t aware that anyone considered it an actually substantive political issue as opposed to an amusing “politicians, man” kind of thing.

The Republicans think it’s serious, though. Indeed, there’s more detail to this oppo-hit than there is any of the party’s candidate’s position papers. And while someone could, theoretically, have a lot of fun with this kind of material, the opposition report is not even remotely tongue-in-cheek. It reads like a poisition paper on nuclear proliferation. If the GOP had been this serious about vetting its own candidate, I suspect they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in today.

As for the substance: eh, who cares? Sports is entertainment and cultural glue. As a kid in Chicago, being a Cubs fan is both fun and makes some sense. As a senator from New York in the early 2000s, you’re gonna get to go to some Yankees games and sit in some good seats and that’s fun too. And, of course, politicians are going to say opportunistic things in order to attempt to connect with their constituents. Think of that what you will, but if you think of that as something which reveals something deep and dark within their soul about what kind of person they are, you probably need to step away from the cable news for a while and get some fresh air. Or you probably need to admit that you already believed the worse about her and that this is just an exercise in confirmation bias.

Heck, at this point I almost hope she finds a third or fourth team to root for. Indeed, I hope she makes a comic heel turn, puts on a Chief Wahoo hat for tonight’s game and claims that, deep, deep down, she had always rooted for the Indians. Then even I could get on her case about it. And we could all talk about how, in her own way, Hillary was really bringing the nation together.