Cooperstown

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

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The 2014 induction class of the Baseball Hall of Fame was announced Wednesday afternoon and Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are on their way to Cooperstown.

Players must be named on 75% of the Baseball Writers Association of America’s ballots to get in. Maddux was named on 97.2%, Glavine 91.9% and Thomas 83.7%. The highest total for a non-electee went to Craig Biggio who fell just short at 74.8%. The full results can be seen here.

This summer’s induction will mark the first time since 1999 that three players were selected by the baseball writers. That year saw George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount make the cut. The last time as many as four made it in via the writers’ ballot was 1955, when Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Dazzy Vance and Ted Lyons made it in.  In all, six men will be on the stage in Cooperstown, as Maddux, Glavine and Thomas will be inducted alongside Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, all of whom were unanimously selected by the Veteran’s Committee in December.

MORE: The PED Eight — players who continue to be denied induction

But while this year’s induction class will be big by historical standards, the names of the players who did not gain induction are pretty big themselves. Craig Biggio had over 3,000 hits in his career and did everything one can do on a baseball diamond, yet somehow continues to be on the outside looking in. Baseball’s all-time home run leader, Barry Bonds, is in the cold as well, as is seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens. Mike Piazza, perhaps the greatest hitting catcher in the game’s history will have to face the voters again next winter, as will Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Jeff Kent and several others who, if you go by historical standards, fit in quite well alongside current inductees and dwarf the accomplishments of a great many of them.

Of course, historical standards are no longer operative given that the players currently under consideration plied their trade during the so-called Steroids Era and thus either took performance enhancing drugs (e.g. Bonds at 34.7% and Clemens at 35.4%) or, in the case of some, are merely suspected of doing so, often based on little if any evidence other than the number of home runs they hit or the company they kept (e.g. Jeff Bagwell, at 54.3% and Piazza at 62.2%). In the case of others, such as Tim Raines (46.1%) and Mike Mussina (20.3%), the ballot logjam occasioned by so many strong candidates lingering on the ballot for many years combined with the fact that voters can only select ten players, is squeezing them out. We will be discussing the particular cases of these players and the role of PEDs in the Hall of Fame process later today at HardballTalk.

MORE: Who was BBWWA member who sold vote to Deadspin?

But better to be overlooked or squeezed out than to fall off the ballot entirely. Such is fate for Jack Morris, who received 61.5% of the vote on his fifteenth and final time up for election. Multiple other players fell short of 5% of the vote and, per Hall of Fame rules, will not be eligible for election by the baseball writers again. Of these, only Rafael Palmeiro, who received 4.4%, actually had arguable Hall of Fame credentials. Morris and the rest will now be fodder for the Veteran’s Committee in future years.

But oversights and eliminations notwithstanding, this year’s induction class is strong by any measure. And given that last year’s induction class included absolutely no one who had been alive since 1930, it looks especially strong with reference to recent precedent.

A far-fetched sounding drug test scam

NES TSIONA, ISRAEL - JANUARY 22:  A laboratory technician checks human blood samples before placing the glass tubes on an automated testing line at the Maccabi Health Services HMO central laboratory January 22, 2006 in Nes Tsiona which is located in central Israel. The laboratory, which operates a fully automated system complete with advanced robotics, can test more than 50,000 blood samples a day. The lab is considered one of the most modern of its kind in the western world.  (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)
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Kevin Draper at Deadspin is passing along a story — and that’s not me editorializing; he’s admitting that it’s unconfirmed gossip at the moment — about a major league player paying a teammate $2.5 million to take the fall for him on a drug test. The story came via a tip from someone who, apparently, had a conversation about the drug test scam with a college baseball player who knew the players allegedly involved in the scam.

Here is how the conversation was recounted:

College Baseball Player: [MLB player’s star teammate] paid him to take his blood test. $2.5 million dollars.

Bar Patron: How does that even work?

College Baseball Player: [MLB player] and [MLB player’s star teammate] were getting tested the same day. They traded samples.

Deadspin says that the story is “probably bulls**t” but that some preliminary investigating they’ve done doesn’t disprove it and, to some extent corroborates it. How it’s been supported or not is left unclear and Deadspin couches all of this in a request for more information if anyone has any. Which, OK, fine.

I’ll offer that, on the surface, this seems like a bit more than mere “bulls**t.” It sounds structurally impossible. If it’s a blood test for HGH as the excerpt suggests, the samples are tested back in the lab to make sure they match up with previous samples. Meaning: the lab processing the sample knows if it’s your blood or not. If it’s a urine test, as Deadspin thinks it may have been, I’m not sure how samples could be switched given that urine tests are directly observed by testing officials. Yes, they watch you pee. They’d likely prevent you from peeing right next to your bro teammate, but even if you did, they’d see you exchange little plastic containers of urine with him.

I’m not going to say that this is 100% bull because we can’t really know for sure, but the scenario as described sounds highly unlikely, approaching the impossible. If someone had a story about bribing a sample taker with $2.5 million well, hey, maybe we’re getting somewhere, because that would get you over some procedural hurdles. For now, though, this all sounds like someone passing along a tall tale.

If it is true? Hoo boy, that’d be fun. At least for people like me who write about this stuff.

The deeper implications of the A.J. Ellis trade

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 17:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers heads to the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on May 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The trade of a light-hitting backup catcher is normally about as inconsequential as it gets. The trade of A.J. Ellis by the Dodgers to the Phillies, however, is anything but that. Indeed, it may be the public manifestation of long-simmering, well, maybe “feud” is too strong a word, but a definite butting of heads between the team’s front office and its best player.

While almost all of the clubhouse drama in Los Angeles has surrounded a talented but aggravating corner outfielder currently toiling in the minors, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wrote last night that the Ellis trade could very well be seen as the front office’s shot across Clayton Kershaw‘s bow:

Kershaw’s preference of Ellis was the subject of a longstanding tug-of-war between Kershaw and the front office, which wanted Yasmani Grandal behind the plate as much as possible . . . Some players interpreted the trade as a message from the front office.

This isn’t Kershaw’s team. It’s not Corey Seager’s team or Adrian Gonzalez’s, either.

It’s Friedman’s.

The notion that Kershaw likes to pitch to Ellis is pretty well-known, but the idea that it was so strong a preference that it created a dispute as to whether he has final say over a roster spot is news, at least to people who aren’t around the Dodgers all the time. Hernandez is a good columnist and is particularly well-plugged in to the Dodgers after many years of being their beat writer for the Times. He wouldn’t throw the notion of there being something of a power struggle in this regard out there all willy-nilly in order to stir the pot or something. I don’t doubt for a second that something bigger than most of us have seen is going on here.

As for the trade itself: yeah, it’s pretty debatable as to whether it makes any kind of sense. Carlos Ruiz is likely an upgrade over Ellis, but it’s a pretty marginal upgrade when you consider how few plate appearances the Dodgers backup catcher will make for the rest of the year. It’s especially marginal if you assume, as Hernandez and others assume, likely with reason, that the loss of Ellis is going to harm morale. At least in the short term before they get to know Ruiz well (worth noting, though, that he comes pretty highly recommended from Kershaw-caliber aces for all the same reasons Ellis does). I can see a lot of reasons not to make that deal even for an extra hit or two a week that Ruiz may give you over Ellis.

All of which speaks to what we don’t know. What we don’t know about the mind of Andrew Friedman and whether or not there is something more going on here than is immediately apparent. About the relationship between him and Kershaw and, for that matter, him and the rest of the team that would cause him to make a deal that plays as poorly with his own players as this one does. It could be something about Ellis. It could be something about Friedman’s relationship with Kershaw. It could be something totally unrelated to any of that, such as offseason plans and the roster in 2017 (Ruiz has a team option for next year, Ellis is a pending free agent). Unless or until Friedman speaks or a reporter gets someone to shed more light on this, there will continue to be questions.

In the meantime, I’ll grant that there are certainly different rules which apply to superstars than mere mortals, but veto power over a trade and/or playing time for other players isn’t typically one of them. If, as Hernandez suggests, there was a sense that Kershaw and Friedman didn’t see eye-to-eye on that and it wasn’t otherwise being resolved, it makes Friedman’s move somewhat more understandable.