Getty Images

The Hall of Fame president wants players “who play the game the right way” to be inducted

33 Comments

Evan Grant was in Cooperstown for Pudge Rodriguez’s Hall of Fame induction and he got the chance to interview Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson. They talked about a lot of stuff, most of it not in any way controversial. At one point, however, Grant asked Idelson about his views on the famous “character clause” Hall of Fame voters are supposed to consider when assessing candidates.

People have talked about the character clause in a lot of different ways over the years. As many know, it was originally devised to give a boost to players whose on-the-field bonafides may have fallen short but who were exemplary off the field in some way. For decades it was ignored almost completely, at least in public discourse. In recent years, however, it came to be used as something of a cudgel via which otherwise worthy players were barred admittance if they were associated with performance enhancing drugs.

Idelson, however, has a different spin on it. One dealing with a couple of the most loaded and contradictory cliches in all of baseball: playing the game the “right way” and “respecting the game”:

Q: What is your definition of the “character” clause on the Hall of Fame ballot?

A: As I view it, character, integrity and sportsmanship is a guide for the writers to use when determining a players’ overall contribution to the game and it’s a part of the voting rules. I look at it as how [the player] respected the game on the field. It’s meant to be how did they treat the game, how did they respect the game? It’s not supposed to be a judgment on character away from the ballfield, although you hope everybody is a good character. Did they respect the game? Did they treat the game right, did they respect the uniform, did they play the game the right way? That’s what you want, is to make sure you don’t have somebody in here who didn’t respect the game. Did they succeed with a level playing field and achieve the level of elite athlete the right way? I’m often asked why baseball is held to this higher standard? In society, things have to have a set of standards. Why not baseball?”

We’ve talked about “playing the game the right way” and “respecting the game” for years, but no one has ever offered a definition of what those phrases means that is even remotely consistent. Most of the time it means “playing the game the way that does not piss me, the person who is mad at another player, off.” And, of course, there’s all sorts of historic racial baggage in which white players, regardless of how demonstrative they are on the field, are said to play the game the right way and black and Latin players who show exuberance and emotion are said to be “showboats” or allegedly lack respect for the game.

I do not think Idelson is trying to secretly codify a new standard of decorum for Hall of Fame induction here. I think he’s actually just leaning on some empty, shopworn cliches out of laziness. But he should know dang well that Hall of Fame voters have, for years, begged the Hall of Fame for guidance on what the “character clause” is supposed to mean and how it is supposed to be applied. If the comments of the Hall of Fame’s President cause even one voter to believe that, say, bat-flipping, celebrating or running afoul of some dumb unwritten rule is disqualifying for a player’s candidacy, he has committed a disservice to the game and to the Hall.

Report: Orioles interested in Lance Lynn

Getty Images
1 Comment

The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.

Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.

Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.