Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton says Dallas is not a baseball town. And he’s right.

64 Comments

UPDATE: this topic tickled my fancy, so I did a post running down what I think is the alpha-sport in each major league city.

I have not heard the interview yet — and can’t find it — but apparently Josh Hamilton has upset a lot of Rangers fans by saying Dallas is not a baseball town. Or that “North Texas” is not a baseball area. Something to that effect:

Which, sure, I get why that upsets people, but is he wrong? If Dallas/North Texas isn’t football country there is no place on Earth that is football country. Out of the four major sports, the Cowboys have had less overall success over the past 15 years than the Stars, Mavs and Rangers, but they still suck up all of the oxygen. They still have that crazy stadium, fill it up and draw silly TV ratings. It has to be a football town, yes?

This isn’t a slight on the Rangers. I know they draw well and do well in the ratings themselves and that especially in the past few years they’ve really captured the hearts of people in Texas. Rangers fans really support their team. But there’s a difference between supporting one’s team and being a baseball town, isn’t there?

In my mind “baseball town” or “football town” is a zero sum game. You’re one or the other. Maybe the city shows for all of its sports teams, but if the town had to vote all but one of them off the island, which would it keep? In Dallas that has to be the Cowboys. And I think it may be more of a landslide there than anyplace else.

Thing is, there aren’t a ton of baseball towns these days. Off the top of my head I’d say Boston, New York, Cincinnati and St. Louis. Probably San Francisco, though that seems more recent (I’m mostly comparing how nuts the city seemed to go for the Giants in the World Series but not so much for the 49ers in the Super Bowl). Maybe Los Angeles, but my sense is that the Lakers are a bigger deal generally speaking.

Maybe I’m missing some. Occasionally I’ll hear Detroit mentioned, but while Detroit is a very good baseball city, I feel like the Red Wings hold more sway in some intangible way. There are probably people who will say that Boston is more of a Celtics place, but I don’t know.  I’d be curious to hear what people from each town have to say. I’m obviously guessing to a large degree.

But I don’t think I’m guessing with Dallas. That’s Cowboys country. And even if Josh Hamilton saying it is more about him being somewhat dismissive to the city that will now boo him whenever he comes to town, he’s not wrong, is he?

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
Associated Press
22 Comments

The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.