Never underestimate the sensitivity of a Hall of Fame voter

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Each year around this time some Hall of Fame voter writes a column about how miserable it is to be a Hall of Fame voter. It’s a chore, they say. It’s thankless. It’s the worst part of a baseball writer’s job!

To be sure, there are a lot of actually bad parts of a baseball writer’s job. With a few exceptions, the pay sucks, as does the job security. There is too much travel. The deadlines are pretty bad. If you’re on the daily beat the inability to make any plans between, say, 3pm and 1am for over 160 nights a year has to be a drag. Being a baseball writer beats shoveling coal into a coke oven, but it’s not like there aren’t some things to complain about.

Complaining about the Hall of Fame voting baffles me, though. For one thing, it is itself an honor. You don’t get to do it unless you get a job a lot of people would kill for, get accepted into an organization which bestows great privilege on the writer and then stay in both the job and the organization for a decade. The substance of voting is pretty easy too. To do it, you engage in the sort of historical baseball analysis and argument most devoted fans have done since they were 10-years-old. “Was Shlabotnick as good as McGillicuddy? Could Kinglehoffer, if sent back in time, hit Old Smitty’s screwball?” Hell, people have those arguments all the time for free. When you add in the fact that, while filling out a ballot, the voter is sitting in the warm comfort of one’s own home on a cold December night, it actually seems like it’d be one of the best parts of the gig.

Yet the complaints persist. The latest complainer: New York writer Wallace Matthews, who says today that he hates voting so much that he’s giving up doing so.

There are a lot of reasons why Matthews is giving up voting. He thinks it’s too hard to determine how to vote due to steroids. He calls the task “thankless,” because he now dislikes and disrespects people he voted for in the past, like Curt Schilling, because of his outspoken and controversial statements (note: he is particularly upset with one that was threatening to journalists). He is also apparently upset that some people who have been inducted with his vote are not thankful for it, relaying an anecdote about an unnamed player — clearly Bert Blyleven — who he feels insulted him after the fact. Indeed, a whole heck of a lot of Matthews’ displeasure with voting seems to be based on people not sufficiently appreciating his efforts in particular and the efforts of journalists in general. All of which seems rather narrow and self-centered of him, but it’s his choice, so more power to him.

I used to feel very differently about this, but I can now see abstaining from voting for the Hall of Fame on ethical grounds. Indeed, over the past couple of years I’ve come around to the idea that it’s probably too great a conflict of interest for the media to both make the news — which is what selecting members of the Hall of Fame is — and to report on the same news in their chosen field. A lot of newspapers prevent their employees from voting for that very reason. I’m not and likely never will be a voter, but if ever given the privilege, I’d probably decline it at this point.

But I can’t see not voting simply because the world doesn’t thank you for it. Or, as I wrote about at length last year, simply because people may criticize you for it. As I wrote then, the inability to accept criticism is pervasive among sports writers of a certain age because, for most of their career, they didn’t have to accept any. Now that they have to put up with the same sort of scrutiny to which they subject newsmakers it is intolerable? Please.

Matthews’ refusal, though, seems a few steps beyond other Hall of Fame vote complaint columns we’ve seen in recent years. It’s not just that it’s hard and it’s not just that people complain. It’s because he is not sufficiently thanked and appreciated for voting. Because he, on some level, feels personally betrayed by those he has supported. That’s pretty crazy, isn’t it?

Oh well. I suppose we’ll continue to get these sorts of columns forever. Or until a benevolent dictator takes over MLB and the Hall of Fame does what probably should’ve been done a long time ago: putting together a committee of baseball historians and scholars to handle Hall of Fame inductions. Maybe they’ll find the task less thankless.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”