Cooperstown

Today the Hall of Fame celebrates the (imaginary) purity of baseball

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Today the Hall of Fame honors its inductees. Posthumous inductees, that is, as it is only inducting umpire Hank O’Day, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th Century catcher/third baseman Deacon White. One living honoree — Spink Award winner Paul Hagen — will take the stage and speak.

This despite the fact that there is no shortage of worthy living players who deserve induction. Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Alan Trammell all have strong cases on the merits. Obviously the Hall of Fame voters disagree as they tend to do. I think eventually most of those guys will make it. There are two, however, who deserve to be on that stage today but won’t be and may never be: Barry Bonds and Rogers Clemens.

The reason for this is pretty obvious. They cheated. Bonds definitely, as has been widely documented. Clemens most likely, even though the evidence against him isn’t as public and isn’t as thorough. Each of them are out of the Hall of Fame, not because their baseball cases are debatable, but because they are seen wanting in the department of character, morals and ethics.

But on this day when only the dead speak and only the pure of heart and soul shall pass, let us not forget that the Hall of Fame has long welcomed cheaters with open arms.

Gaylord Perry threw a spitball. Don Sutton and Whitey Ford (and probably almost every other pitcher in history) scuffed or cut balls. Scores of batters corked their bats. The 1951 Giants won the pennant after rigging up an elaborate, electric sign-stealing mechanism. John McGraw, both as a player and a manager, invented and carried out more ways to break rules than anyone in history, ranging from umpire distracting and cutting the corners on bases and tripping or obstructing opposing runners. Ty Cobb sharpened his spikes in an effort to maim opposing players who would dare try to tag him out. While we single out the 1919 White Sox as a unique stain on the game, many players — including Hall of Famers — fixed baseball games prior to the Black Sox scandal.

While many have attempted to argue that using PEDs is different in kind than all of those other examples — examples which are often laughed off as quirky or colorful — the fact is that there are PED users in the Hall of Fame already. Only, instead of steroids, they used amphetamines or “greenies” as they were called. Players who have either admitted to or have been credibly accused of taking such things include Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. And this leaves out all of the drug and/or alcohol users who took things which hindered their performance, which also impacted the competitive nature of the game, albeit adversely to their team’s interests. And it also assumes that there are no steroid users already in the Hall of Fame, which I do not believe is a reasonable assumption.

The common thread here: all of these examples of baseball cheating involved players breaking rules in an effort to gain some sort of edge on the competition. Rule breaking that, in turn, put the competition in the unenviable position of having to decide if they too should break the rules to keep up. There is not a black and white difference between a user of PEDs and baseball’s other cheaters.

Oh, and there are tons of racists in there too. Men who actively fought to keep minorities out of the game for decades, which is both objectively evil and which adversely impacted the game’s competitive landscape . There is also a former Spink Award winner in there — Bill Conlin — who has had more credible accusations of sexual molestation leveled at him than many players who are being kept out of the hall for steroids have had steroids accusations leveled at them. Character matters, see. Except in those cases where it doesn’t.

Not that any of this makes Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens better people than they are. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But let us not forget that, until very, very recently, the Hall of Fame has never cared about wrongs in the first place.  Why it should start caring about them now is beyond me.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.