Shutout! The Baseball Writers Association of America fails to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame

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It’s possible that this year’s Hall of Fame ballot was the most stacked in the history of the institution.  It contained the all-time home run leader. It contained a seven-time Cy Young award winner who may have been the best pitcher in baseball history since the deadball era. It contained the best hitting catcher of all time. It contained a middle infielder who got to 3,000 hits while flashing superior defense and power. It sported a 609-home run hitter a 583-home run hitter, the second best leadoff hitter in the history of the game and at least five others who, had they been inducted, would not be close to the worst players to make the Hall of Fame.

And none of them got in. Not a one. For the first time since 1996, all candidates on the ballot failed to receive the requisite 75% required for induction.  The leading vote getter was Craig Biggio, who received 68% of the vote. Jack Morris received 67.7%, Jeff Bagwell received 59.6% of the vote, Mike Piazza 57.8% and Tim Raines at 52.2%. No other player received more than 50% of the vote. Roger Clemens received 37.6% of the vote and Barry Bonds received 36.2%. Each of those last two received totals far below even the most pessimistic predictions. The full results can be seen here.

The biggest takeaway from all of this: the Baseball Writers Association of America has, for the first time, unequivocally decided that the use of performance enhancing drugs is a disqualifier for induction to the Hall of Fame. It was suspected that this was the case given Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro falling short in previous years, but there are some reasonable non-PED arguments against those fellows’ candidacies.  Not so with Bonds and Clemens. They were so good and so accomplished that, to paraphrase Bill James, you could cut them in half and have two hall of famers each. Maybe three, actually. Their exclusion is solely because a large portion of the electorate believes that one cannot take steroids and call Cooperstown home.

Which, while understandable, flies in the face of baseball history. There are almost certainly already steroids users in the Hall of Fame. Indeed, Hall of Fame voter and Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell said on camera, in Ken Burns’ “Tenth Inning” that he witnessed a current Hall of Famer taking steroids during his playing career. Maybe his fellow voters ignored him. Maybe, since that player’s induction, whoever he is, their attitudes have changed. Either way, there is certainly now a historical inconsistency baked into the Hall of Fame.  And in no event can anyone who applauds today’s voting results do so on the basis of the Hall of Fame maintaining its purity, for its purity is pure fantasy.

But just as the BBWAA has now clearly stated that drug users are not wanted in the Hall of Fame, it has apparently likewise erected a near-impossible hurdle for those not associated with PEDs to bound, regardless of their merits.

Craig Biggio had 3,000 hits. Tim Raines was one of the best players of the 1980s. Curt Schilling has three World Series rings, was dominant in the playoffs, and was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball for several years when being a pitcher in baseball was about as hard as it has ever been.  While I disagree that we should keep the PED players out, I at least understand the impulse. What’s the point of keeping out guys like Biggio, Raines and Schilling? What’s the point of the Hall of Fame if no one can get in in a year as talent-rich as this one?

But that’s where we are. Not one of the players on the ballot made it in. The induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York this summer will honor three men — Hank O’Day, Jacob Ruppert, and Deacon White — who were elected by the Veterans Committee last month.  All three of those men have been dead since the 1930s, so I don’t presume it will be a joyful gathering of family and friends reminiscing about their storied pasts. It’ll be more like a memorial service.

Which is somewhat appropriate given that, with their votes, the current electorate is, in this writer’s view, hastening the Hall of Fame to its doom.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.