Marvin Miller

Hall of Fame absurdity continues as Marvin Miller excluded, three PED-aided managers inducted

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I think Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox are no-brainer Hall of Famers. Congrats to them and to the Committee for voting them in.

I think that the rest of the Hall of Fame ballot contained mostly borderline selections. I’d vote for Ted Simmons. I’d consider Steinbrenner for historic reasons. But I shed no tears for them not getting in. They clearly aren’t as deserving as those three managers who made it, and realistically you’re never going to see more than three guys get in from such a small group of voters.

But I do have two problems with this vote, one direct and one indirect.

The direct problem is one I’ve mentioned many times before, and that’s the horrendous exclusion of Marvin Miller. He’s been passed over multiple times now, and he’s probably never getting in. I’ve accepted that. I’ll never accept, however, that the Hall of Fame is anything approaching legitimate without Miller’s inclusion. Many owners, executives and commissioners — many feckless at best, some actively harmful to the game — are in the Hall. Very few of them if any have had as big an impact on how baseball operates than Miller.

The only reason people care about these Winter Meetings is free agency and the hot stove league. The only reason we have free agency and the hot stove league is Marvin Miller. Also: there are a lot of players on the Veteran’s Committee who made way more money playing baseball than they would’ve if not for Marvin Miller, if at least that subset of the committee didn’t vote for Marvin Miller, well, shame on them.

The indirect complaint: we now have three managers in the Hall of Fame whose greatest fame and success came during what has come to be known as the Steroid Era. La Russa has at least one less World Series ring and three fewer pennants if it was not for PED poster boys Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Torre has two fewer rings and three fewer pennants without Roger Clemens. There were certainly other PED dudes on the Yankees, Cardinals, A’s and Braves teams managed by Cox, Torre and La Russa. The Veteran’s Committee obviously does not consider their accomplishments to be any less worthy, even if they were aided by performance enhancing drugs. Why, then, does the BBWAA still consider that a disqualification for the Hall of Fame?

I don’t suspect anyone will provide a satisfying answer to that. We’ll all just have to continue to live with that ridiculous contradiction. And ridiculous exclusions. It’s an imperfect process and an imperfect institution. But it’s still worth pointing out the absurdities, because they never cease to be galling.

Claire Smith becomes the first woman to win the BBWAA’s Spink Award

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ESPN
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The Baseball Writers Association of America has elected Claire Smith the winner of the 2017 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. She becomes the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor. She will be honored with the award that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” during Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown on July 30.

Smith, 62, covered the New York Yankees for five years beginning in 1983 for the Hartford Courant before becoming a columnist with the New York Times. She later served as an editor and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1998-2007. She is now ESPN’s news editor of remote productions, responsible for the integration of news and analysis in live game broadcasts and the Baseball Tonight and Sports Center studio programs. She is a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and winner of three New York Times Publishers’ Awards.

Smith was named Sports Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists in 1997, received the Mary Garber Pioneer Award from the Association of Women in Sports Media in 2000 and the Sam Lacy Award at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame in 2010. She has served on the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee and was the chair of the New York chapter of the BBWAA in 1995 and 1996.

There will be Under Armour logos on the front of baseball uniforms

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Under Armour
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Yesterday’s announcement that Under Armour will be taking over the MLB uniform business brought with it an added bit of news: for the first time, beginning in 2020, baseball uniforms will feature the maker’s logo on the front of the jersey. From Paul Lukas of UniWatch:

While the Majestic logo has appeared on MLB sleeves, the Under Armour logo will be appearing on the upper-right chest area.

Lukas has a bunch of Photoshopped images of MLB players wearing uniforms with UA logos on it to give us a sense of how it will likely look.

It’s certainly weird and in some cases even a bit jarring. It would be my preference not to see baseball uniforms go this route as I think they’re aesthetically pleasing parts of the game in and of themselves. But it’s inevitable. If there is a chance for leagues and sponsors to make money and if it doesn’t cause them to lose fans (i.e. lose money) they will take it. You can say you’ll give up baseball if they put corporate logos — including paid advertisements, not just the logos of the companies which make the gear — but you’re lying to yourself about that. You and I will complain and grumble and then we’ll get used to it. At some point, after a couple of years, we’ll start talking about which ads look better and which ones look worse and applaud particularly savvy and pleasing looking logos.

As I wrote back in April when the NBA approved ads on uniforms, there may even be a bright side to all of this.

Sports teams have had it both ways for a long time. They’ve worked to make a buck off of anything that isn’t nailed down all the while pretending to be something greater than any other business. They play on our nostalgia and our loyalty in order to portray themselves as something akin to a public trust or institution, entitling themselves to perks no other businesses get and the avoidance of regulation. By turning players into walking billboards, perhaps the four major North American sports will inadvertently make some folks realize that they are just businesses and that they aren’t deserving of such special treatment.

I’m not holding my breath about that, but anything that takes away even a bit of the faux public trust luster that sports leagues and teams use to manipulate their fans is a good thing. Maybe it’ll make, say, the Yankees or the Dodgers look less venerable and sharp. But maybe it’ll remind people that they’re just business units of a $10 billion industry, not some fourth branch of government or whatever.