Two votes short: who killed Craig Biggio’s Hall of Fame candidacy?

133 Comments

There’s a Bob Dylan song called “Who Killed Davey Moore” about a boxer who died in the ring. It’s a true story, and the song seeks to find the person responsible for Moore’s death. The answer, after several verses, is that many contributed to it, even if no one person was culpable in a criminal sense. That blame is best laid at the feet of many who, however innocent themselves, worked in concert with others, however unwittingly, to allow a tragedy to occur.

Craig Biggio not making the Hall of Fame — missing by just two votes — is, by no stretch of the imagination, as serious as a boxer dying in the ring. But the blame dynamic is the same. You want to blame someone or point a finger but, in reality, many people’s mistakes and ignorance and the simple unfortunate arrangements of rules and incentives worked against him. If I were Llewyn Davis or someone I feel like I could write a similar, albeit far, far worse, song about it than Dylan did about Moore.

Who killed Craig Biggio’s chances at a Hall of Fame induction this year? A year in which he fell two votes short? Take your pick:

  • The one voter, according to the BBWAA website, who submitted a blank ballot has some responsibility. Not submitting a ballot at all doesn’t hurt candidates, as the ballot is not added to the denominator when percentages are figured. But a blank ballot does. Someone out there, in the interests of making a point, made the hurdle for Biggio higher.
  • Ken Gurnick and Murray Chass helped. The former’s “Jack Morris and no one else” ballot and Chass’ belief that everyone besides Morris, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine took roids worked as votes against Biggio too. Obviously, it’s possible that these guys would not have voted for Biggio even if they weren’t tilting at their particular windmills. Maybe they do not think Biggio took PEDs (well, Chass does) and maybe they just think 3,000 hits and everything else Biggio did was not good enough. But I’m guessing, absent the protest, they have a hard time explaining leaving Biggio off his ballot.
  • The novelty voters are fun to look at. Here are some players who received votes: Eric Gagne, J.T. Snow, Armando Benetiz and Jacque Jones. Snow and Gagne got two each! I hope against hope those votes didn’t come from guys who otherwise filled their ballots. The idea that crazy votes like that precluded a the two votes Biggio needed for induction is horrifying.
  • Deadspin? I think their buying a vote for pranking/criticism purposes and allowing their readers to vote was kind of inspired, but I do hope that (a) the Deadspin readers picked Biggio; and (b) the person who sold their vote wouldn’t have voted for him if they did not. UPDATE: WHEW! Deadspin revealed their voter: ESPN and the Miami Herald’s Dan LeBatard. The Deadspin voters did vote for Biggio.
  • The ten-vote limit: this is a bigger thing, of course. There are many voters who filled out ballots, 1-10 but would have but Biggio on it if they had, say, 11 or 15 votes to give. There really is no rational reason for a ten-vote limit, and the fact that there is one does nothing to elevate the Hall of Fame and everything to do harm.

But really, this is a Davey Moore situation. No one wants to screw Craig Biggio, I presume. But the rules, the vendettas, the ignorance that is encouraged and in some cases venerated and many other factors lead us to a situation in which a player who stands head and shoulders above many others already in the Hall of Fame must stand on the outside looking in for at least another year.

It’s not tragic like Davey Moore, but it’s still kinda sad.

What in the heck is Derek Jeter doing with the Marlins?

Getty Images
21 Comments

Last night we linked the Miami Herald story about the Marlins firing special assistants Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jack McKeon. Let’s talk about that a little bit.

The firings themselves are eyebrow-raising inasmuch as “special assistants” like that are rarely key front office personnel. Former players, Hall of Famers and former managers like those guys are really ambassadors for the team and, particularly in the case of Jeff Conine, who is known as “Mr. Marlin,” why would new ownership want to kick its ambassadors to the curb? It’s not like you can just hire a bunch of new franchise legends for he role. Who ya gonna call? Dan Uggla?

Sure, I can see an argument for changing their responsibilities. If they actually had say in baseball operations, I can see new ownership wanting to relieve them of those duties. It’s also possible that Jeff Loria paid them too much money for guys who are only team ambassadors. So, sure, if the job is too cushy by the standards of the gig, I could see Jeter cutting their pay or their duties to make it conform to what other clubs do with their former stars. Maybe that makes them want to quit. If so, that’s OK I suppose.

Beyond that, however, it’s hard to see why you would NOT want guys like Conine, Dawson, Perez and McKeon to represent your club in the community and in the service of impressing prospective season ticket holders. The franchise’s first star player, a Hall of Famer who ended his career with the club, another Hall of Famer who is from Cuba (which is kind of a big deal in a place like Miami) and the manager who brought the club its last World Series championship are exactly who you want to represent your team. Especially when nearly everything else about your team has, for so very long, alienated the very public you want supporting it.

But let’s say, for the moment, that there was a good reason to fire those guys. Let’s say they’re all flaming jackwagons who have secretly poisoned the franchise from within. Let’s say that, despite his grandfatherly charm, Jack McKeon is a ruthless Machiavellian. Let’s say that Conine, Dawson and Perez beat up copy boys in the stairwells and microwave leftover fish in the break room every day. Even if that’s the case, how does this happen?

And here’s the twist: Jeter asked Marlins president David Samson to fire those four Marlins luminaries for him, because Jeter didn’t want to do it.

Even more strange, Jeter made the request after telling Samson what he already knew: that Samson would not be returning as team president.

It seems that Samson did carry out the firings. Unless some handsome severance package was being held hostage over it, I’m not sure how Samson doesn’t tell Jeter, “Hey Captain RE2PECT, know what? Up yours, you do it yourself.” Of course, one can only project one’s own sensibility on a guy like David Samson so much, so let’s cut him a bit of slack here. We don’t know how the conversation went. Maybe Samson was happy to tell those guys to hit the bricks.

But really, how doesn’t Jeter man-up and handle this himself? It’s not because he’s not yet officially the owner, because if he has the power to fire Samson, he has the power to fire Conine and his friends. Maybe there is more to this than the Herald story lets on, but as it stands now, it comes off as cowardice on Jeter’s part. It’s a really bad look.

I’ll be curious to see how this plays in the baseball establishment over the next couple of days. Everyone — particularly the press — loves Derek Jeter an credits him with a class, smoothness and media savvy matched by few others. This, though, was either (a) a failure of class and an act of disrespect to baseball luminaries; or (b) a complete bungling of public relations, serving to make what was, in reality, a reasonable move appear classless. It has to be one or the other.

Derek Jeter has been a teflon star for more than two decades, but two of the few things the media loves more than Derek Jeter are (a) old Baseball Men like McKeon, Dawson, Perez and Conine; and (b) “classiness.” It’ll be interesting to see if, for the first time in his professional life, the media gets its knives out for Derek Jeter for seeming content to dispense with both.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

Getty Images
4 Comments

The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.