Craig Calcaterra

Two votes for David Eckstein and other downballot silliness

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One of my favorite parts of Hall of Fame day is looking down at the bottom of the voting results to see which obviously non-Hall of Fame caliber players garnered a couple of votes. They’re usually hat-tip votes. Token niceties to friends or the admired from journalists who wish to signal their goodwill to the player because, I dunno, the player doesn’t text and can’t receive such compliments the way everyone else does.

This year I believe the legitimate vote/tribute vote cutoff comes between Nomar Garciaparra and Mike Sweeney (the list and vote totals is here). Everyone above Garciaparra has, at some point, had someone actually arguing for his Hall of Fame worthiness at one time or another. Everyone below, nope.

Garciaparra got eight votes. I suspect that, among those eight, are some voters who actually think he’s Hall of Fame worthy in the way that, say, Dale Murphy was. A peak that could’ve stood as a Hall of Fame peak had his career not cratered so quickly but, rather, went on like everyone else’s. Most voters don’t make that hypothetical leap because, even if we’re not judging guys like Garciaparra personally or blaming them for their injuries, production matters and he just wasn’t around and productive for a long enough time. But I can see a couple going against that, making a Garciaparra vote a “real” vote.

Then we get to Mike Sweeney. He got three votes. We don’t know who voted for him, as only 29% of Hall of Fame voters allowed their ballots to be published on the BBWAA website (last year 42% of voters did). All who included Sweeney were anonymous. Which, given that Sweeney was a good but not great hitter who spent more time at DH than in the field in his 16-year career, probably makes sense. It’s pretty much impossible to construct a case for Sweeney as a legitimate Hall of Famer. Many, however, have sung his praises as a nice guy. And kind of forgot about that time he threatened to fight his teammates for giving a reporter an interesting story.

Then there’s Captain Grit, David Eckstein with two votes. One of his voters — honorary BBWAA member Chaz Scoggins, late of the Lowell Sun — made his ballot public. Scoggins, on record as a guy who has no problem voting for PED players, likewise voted for Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Griffey, Hoffman, McGwire, Piazza, Raines and Schilling. Given a full ballot, it’s hard to understand how he found room for a shoutout to Eckstein, but I presume he simply believes there were only nine worthy candidates, giving him space for the EckVote.

Jason Kendall got two votes. His voters likewise remain anonymous. Kendall actually has a better Hall of Fame argument than a lot of one-and-two-vote dudes. It’s not a GREAT argument, but overall he was better than you think. He may even have been better than some old-timey catchers the old let-everyone-in Veterans Committee put in back in the day. Still, I don’t think anyone ever considered Kendall a Hall of Famer and can’t recall anyone making a serious argument for him, suggesting to me that these were hat-tip votes.

Last but not least, Garret Anderson, who received a single vote. The voter, Earl Bloom of the OC Register, did not make his ballot public to the BBWAA, but did share it with Ryan Thibodaux back in November. Given the location of his newspaper and the team for which Anderson played, one suspects this was a “thanks for the quotes” vote. He likewise voted for former Angel Jim Edmonds, though as I have argued, Edmonds was a legitimate candidate, one for whom I probably would’ve even voted.

One sad bit of rando-voter news is that, this year, ESPN’s Pedro Gomez did not throw a token vote out there. He is perhaps the most high-profile voter to have made a habit of that, giving votes to Jay Bell and Bill Mueller in past years. Either he got tired of the criticism for that practice — which he called “favored son votes” — or else he had no friends or buddies on the ballot this year.

So that’s it for the also-rans this year. Tune in next year for J.D. Drew’s first year on the ballot. Which reporters will throw a vote in the direction of that well-loved, team-first ray of sunshine?

Roy Halladay rips Roger Clemens, Clemens rips Halladay right back

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Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay were, very, very briefly, teammates. Clemens won the Cy Young with the 1998 Blue Jays as Halladay made his first two starts in the bigs. I would assume that, given Halladay’s fleeting presence on the Jays’ roster that year, they didn’t become good friends or anything. On the off chance they did, however, consider that friendship over.

Early yesterday morning, Roy Halladay took to Twitter and offered his view that Clemens and Barry Bonds should not be in the Hall of Fame:

This got a lot of play throughout the day yesterday, with most people praising Halladay for his unvarnished opinion on the matter of performance-enhancing drugs.

Last night, after the Hall of Fame results came back, Mark Berman, the sports director of Fox26 in Houston passed along Clemens’ statement in response to his falling short of induction once again. A statement in which Clemens took a swipe right back at Halladay:

It’s rather surprising that Clemens directly responded to a critic like this as his going after critics strategy proved disastrous for him a few years back. It’s especially surprising that Clemens makes this accusation of Halladay given that, as far as I can find and as far as I can remember, Halladay has never been accused of being a PED user, amphetamines or otherwise.

Which, to be sure, is also the case with lots of players who have used amphetamines — they are said to have been ubiquitous in clubhouses until very recently and no one has really focused very hard on the history of that — but it is still eyebrow raising to see Clemens make this accusation at a former player. It’s especially eyebrow raising that he’s using “the strength coach” — almost certainly Brian McNamee —  as his source, what with Clemens spending the past several years in litigation claiming that McNamee is a big fat liar. Any weapon at hand, I suppose.

Oh well. Passions run hot at Hall of Fame time. Go back to sleep you two retired men. We’ll wake you up this time next year and you can swipe at each other again.

Hall of Fame: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens still on the outside looking in

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There was never a chance that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were going to be elected to the Hall of Fame today. Their performance enhancing drug associations too strong, their infamy too great to sway a great many voters. But they did see significant improvement in the vote totals this year, suggesting that their path to Cooperstown — once considered impassable — has gotten somewhat easier.

Bonds received 44.3% of the vote. Clemens: 45.2% Compare that to Bonds’ 36.8% and Clemens’ 37.5% a year ago. A nice little jump for them, but still a long way to go for the required 75%.

Why did they see the uptick? A couple of reasons. The largest is likely the Hall of Fame culling its voter rolls, removing roughly 130 voters who had not covered baseball in the past 10 years. It is thought that the older and the more out-of-touch a Hall of Fame voter was, the less likely they were to vote for players with PED associations, and with many of them gone, players like Bonds and Clemens were sure to benefit. The benefit was modest, but real. In the past three years on the ballot Bonds’ totals has stayed static, between 34-36%. Clemens: in the 35-37% range. Going up 7-8 percentage points is a pretty big deal for these two.

Another reason: changing minds. As we have been arguing ever since Bonds and Clemens first appeared on the ballot in the fall of 2012, PEDs or not, both are worthy of Cooperstown. As time has gone on, voters have very slowly begun to come around to our way of looking at things, including influential voters such as Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman, each of whom have changed their voting habits with respect to Bonds and/or Clemens recently. Over time PED moralizing has become less popular and, over time, the case for Bonds and Clemens has thus become more compelling.

Not compelling enough. At least not yet. They still have yet to reach the magical 50% threshold, which has ensured eventual election for everyone except Gil Hodges, Jack Morris and, so far, Lee Smith. There’s no escaping the fact that Bonds and Clemens each have a long way to go.

But, as of today, they don’t have anywhere as near as far as they had to go before.