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The Harper-Strickland fight was stupid. MLB doesn’t  have to be.

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On a visceral level, the Bryce HarperHunter Strickland fight was fun to watch because we don’t get a lot of actual fights in baseball anymore and we’ll take what we can get.

On an intellectual level, of course, it was all stupid. Every single part of it.

Hunter Strickland throwing at Harper because Harper hit a couple of homer off of him three seasons ago is about as weak as it gets. Indeed, the Giants actually won that series and went on to win the World Series that year, so the fact that Strickland was still holding a grudge over Harper’s bombs is not just weak, it’s inner-circle weak.

Harper, of course, is not blameless. He’s the victim of a dumb plunking and Strickland is owed far more condemnation in all of this in my view, but the mound charge/helmet throw was not wise. He’s mounting an MVP season here, and the Nats look like the best team in the National League. At the time he made his charge, the best case scenario was that his team would lose the services of its best player for a time. Worst case scenario is that Harper could’ve gotten hurt or gotten his teammates hurt. Would a busted hand on the MVP favorite have made anyone feel better, no matter how much Strickland deserved it? Luckily that didn’t come to pass.

Now Major League Baseball has a chance to be dumb. It can be dumb by doing what past precedent suggests it will do here in punishing Harper as much if not more than Strickland due to the charge/helmet toss. Pitchers throw at guys a lot. Given that most pitchers don’t throw every day and given that they almost always claim that the ball “just got away from them,” those suspensions often cause them, at worst to get five game suspensions which in reality has them only missing a couple of games. When batters throw things or charge the mound their intentions are clear and they tend to lose a lot more time. The baseline on those are 5-7 games. A few years back Carlos Quentin got eight games for charging Zack Greinke. Throwing the helmet could add time.

My hope in all of this is that Major League Baseball does not do something dumb. My hope is that they, for once, appreciate that intentionally throwing a 90+ mile per hour pitch at a batter and hitting him is worse than a batter wildly flinging a helmet at a pitcher at about, oh, 20 miles per hour and missing. My hope is that they appreciate that a pitcher holding a nearly three-year grudge over a baseball player hitting a home run is more immature and damaging to the game than a batter losing his cool for a moment when the pitcher tries to hurt him.

Strickland should be suspended a lot more than Harper is. If he isn’t, we’re just compounding the dumb.

Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel lead 19 newcomers on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot

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Hall of Fame ballots for the 2018 induction class have been mailed out to the Baseball Writers Association of America voters and the names on the ballot were released to the public this morning. Among the top newcomers: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones, Kerry Wood and Jamie Moyer . There are 19 new candidates in all. There are, of course, several holdovers too.

The newcomers, in alphabetical order:

Chris Carpenter
Johnny Damon
Livan Hernandez
Orlando Hudson
Aubrey Huff
Andruw Jones
Chipper Jones
Jason Isringhausen
Carlos Lee
Brad Lidge
Hideki Matsui
Kevin Millwood
Jamie Moyer
Scott Rolen
Johan Santana
Jim Thome
Omar Vizquel
Kerry Wood
Carlos Zambrano

Chipper Jones, the 1999 MVP, one of the best switch-hitters of all time and the unparalleled offensive star of the great Braves teams of the 1990s and early 2000s seems like a shoe-in. His case is boosted above his fantastic offensive numbers in the eyes of many voters by virtue of playing for the same team for his entire career.

Jim Thome is probably going to get a very large vote total and possibly will be inducted, having hit over 600 homers in his career. A challenge to his first-year induction is presented by the very large backlog of deserving candidates, which we’ll discuss in a moment, and by the fact that Thome’s career corresponded with baseball’s home run boom of the 1990s. Unlike other passed-over candidates of his era, Thome was never implicated in performance enhancing drug use, but it is the case that homers became cheaper for everyone during his career, and some may consider him a one-dimensional candidate. I suspect he’ll be in Cooperstown soon, be it this year or next year.

Omar Vizquel will receive a lot of support but his candidacy will also draw a lot of controversy. His backers will cite his defense and his longevity. His detractors will note that his defense was nowhere near as good as other defense-first inductees in the past such as Ozzie Smith, and that it was in no way good enough to make up for his below average bat. Complicating all of this will be fact that two superior defensive candidates who happened to have outstanding offensive numbers to go with them — Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen — are unlikely to receive anything approaching the level of support Vizquel will get, leading to . . . a lot of arguing.

And now the holdovers from last year’s ballot and ballots past, with last year’s percentage of the vote in parenthesis. Candidates need 75% of the vote in order to be inducted:

Barry Bonds (53.8)
Roger Clemens (54.1)
Vladimir Guerrero (71.1)
Trevor Hoffman (74.0)
Jeff Kent (16.7)
Edgar Martinez (58.6)
Fred McGriff (21.7)
Mike Mussina (51.8)
Manny Ramirez (23.8)
Curt Schilling (45.0)
Gary Sheffield (13.3)
Sammy Sosa (8.6)
Billy Wagner (10.2)
Larry Walker (21.9)

We’ve talked about all of these guys before, of course. Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero seem likely to be elected given how close they came to induction last year. Many quite worthy candidates such as Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling will likely continue to receive less support than they deserve. PED-associated candidates Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a boost in their previously-flagging candidacies last year, getting over 50% of the vote for the first time, but it’s unlikely that they’ll jump 22 and 21 points, respectively. Lesser PED-associated candidates such as Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez will likely forever remain on the outside looking in.

The results of the election will be announced by Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson at 6 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, live on MLB Network.