Gunman opens fire on practice for annual Congressional baseball game

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U.S. Representative and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and several of his aides were shot while at baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia this morning. The practice was in anticipation of tomorrow’s annual Congressional Baseball Game.

Details are still sketchy, but witnesses have told reporters that a gunman opened fire on Scalise and others at around 7:15AM. The shooting lasted for approximately ten minutes. Five people were wounded. Scalise is in stable condition. One of the wounded was said to have been hit in the chest. There are few details about the gunman other than that he is a white, middle aged man who had a rifle. Capitol Police were on the scene as a security detail and reportedly returned fire, hitting the gunman, who is now in custody. Go to NBC News for continued updates on the details of all of this.

UPDATE: Federal law enforcement officials identified the suspected shooter to NBC News as James T. Hodgkinson, a man in his 60s from Belleville, Illinois. Here is a profile on him from the Beleville, Illinois newspaper.

UPDATE: President Trump just announced that Hodgkinson has died from wounds inflicted by police returning fire.

The Congressional Baseball Game, played between Democrats and Republicans, dates back to 1909. There have been 79 games in the series, with the Democrats winning 39 times, the Republicans winning 39 times and the teams tying once. These days it’s a charitable event, with ticket sales and other proceeds supporting the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and the Washington Literacy Center. This year’s game is scheduled for tomorrow at Nationals Park. There is no word if it will still be played or if it will be postponed.

UPDATE:

The Congressional Baseball Game usually features some amusing and often comically bad baseball and the folks who play in it are, without question, some unpopular folks responsible for a lot of acrimony these days. But the existence of the game itself is a good thing for a good cause. It stands as one of the few remaining moments of bipartisanship that can be found in Washington these days. One of the few bits of grace in an otherwise ugly time. It’s a shame that it has been marred by violence.

Our thoughts go out to Representative Scalise and the other victims of this shooting. Here’s hoping everyone comes out OK.

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.