PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 30:  Starting pitcher Collin McHugh #31 of the Houston Astros watches from the dugout during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 30, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Collin McHugh calls out Donald Trump for criticism of John Lewis

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Astros pitcher Collin McHugh was among those who took to social media on Saturday after Donald Trump disparaged Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis on Twitter.

During NBC News’ “Meet the Press” interview on Friday, Lewis called Trump’s presidency into question, casting doubt on its legitimacy after the alleged tampering of the election results by Russian hackers. In response, Trump posted a series of tweets that criticized Lewis for not spending enough time “fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested),” despite ample evidence to the contrary.

Trump also accused Lewis of being “all talk, talk, talk – no actions or results.” The Congressman, whose efforts to further civil rights span over 50 years, served as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963-66 and is considered one of the six fundamental leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

McHugh was one of many to call out Trump on Twitter, defending Lewis and speaking directly to his own experiences in Atlanta:

Last year, McHugh was also one of several players to speak out on social media when Trump dismissed his own crude, misogynistic comments as “locker room talk” after an Access Hollywood video was leaked prior to the election.

I don't like to comment on politics publicly. I never feel competent or knowledgeable enough to say something that a thousand more well-informed people haven't already said. However, I feel the need to comment on the language that Donald Trump classified the other day as "locker room talk", given my daily exposure to it. Have I heard comments like Trump's (i.e. sexist, disrespectful, crude, sexually aggressive, egotistical, etc.) in a clubhouse? Yes. But I've also heard some of those same comments other places. Cafes, planes, the subway, walking down the street and even at the dinner table. To generalize his hateful language as "locker room talk" is incredibly offensive to me and the men I share a locker room with every day for 8 months a year. Men of conscience and integrity, who would never be caught dead talking about women in that way. You want to know what "locker room talk" sounds like from my first hand perspective? Baseball talk. Swinging, pitching, home runs, double plays, shifts. The rush of victory and the frustration of defeat. Family talk. Nap schedules for our kids. Loneliness of being on the road so much. Off-season family vacations. And most importantly, coffee talk! The best places to find quality #coldbrew. What's currently brewing on the #aeropress in the empty locker between me and Doug, affectionately known as #CafeStros? How strong do you need it today? Kid wouldn't sleep last night? I'll make it a little stronger for ya. Maybe Mr. Trump does talk like that in his country club locker room. Perhaps he's simply not privy to the kind of conversations that take place in other locker rooms. But as for me and my @astros team, our "locker room talk" sounds absolutely nothing like his. And I couldn't be more proud of that.

A photo posted by Collin McHugh (@cmchugh) on

While some applauded McHugh for his strong words on Saturday, the pitcher was quick to state that he doesn’t consider himself “anti-Trump,” just “anti-bullying and pro-respect.”

Report: Rays sign Colby Rasmus

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 18:  Colby Rasmus #28 of the Houston Astros greets a fan before taking the field against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum on July 18, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images)
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Update (8:45 PM EST): Rasmus will get a base salary in the range of $5 million with bonuses that can push it to around $7 million, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

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The Rays have signed free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus to a contract, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Details of the deal have yet to be revealed.

Rasmus, 30, had a down year with the Astros this past season. He finished batting .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI in 417 plate appearances. Rasmus had surgery in mid-October to repair his core muscle, shave down a bone spur, and repair the labrum in his left hip.

The Rays were looking for a cheap hitter who could handle corner outfield and some DH. Rasmus fits that bill. Given his career platoon splits — a .775 OPS against right-handers, .656 against lefties — the Rays may decide to use him in a platoon.

Andy Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case is going to be a hot mess

Retired New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte speaks during a pregame ceremony officially retiring his number before a baseball game in New York, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015.  The Yankees will install a monument honoring Pettitte in Monument Park. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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Andy Pettitte is not in the news and he won’t be eligible for the Hall of Fame vote for two years, but he’s on my mind this morning.

The reason: I’ve spent the past few days reading various Hall of Fame voting columns, all of which hit on a standard set of factors for each candidate. None of them mention Pettitte, of course, but all of them talk about stuff which suggests that Pettitte’s candidacy is going represent something of a Hall of Fame argument singularity.

Think of every Hall of Fame vote justification you’ve ever heard. Not the specific justification for any given candidate, but the broad categories which lend themselves to overarching philosophical arguments about what a Hall of Famer is or isn’t. Stuff like:

  • Pitcher wins being overrated/underrated;
  • Compiling stats vs. “dominance”;
  • Postseason success mattering/not mattering;
  • The quality of one’s teammates mattering/not mattering;
  • PEDs; and
  • Whether the candidate in question is a “good guy” who the media liked when he played.

After you get past the analysis of a candidate’s stat line, one of these argument-starters applies to most guys. Maybe two categories apply. Andy Pettitte’s candidacy, however, will touch on every single one of them. What’s more, they will apply to him in ways which will make a lot of voters uncomfortable or will challenge voters’ understanding of how these argument-starters apply compared to how they’ve applied them in the past.

Let’s run down the list and take a quick look at some of these longstanding points of Hall of Fame contention and see how they’ll apply to Pettitte. Note: none of this is to make an argument that Pettitte is or is not worthy of induction. I’m still torn on that and don’t intend this post to come down on that one way or the other. It’s simply to point out the parameters of the impending Pettitte debate, which I think will be a hot mess.

Pitcher Wins

Pettitte was never a dominant pitcher in the way we normally conceive of pitcher dominance. He didn’t win any Cy Young Awards, he didn’t lead the league in ERA or strikeouts or any other category apart from starts (thrice) and wins (once). He threw four shutouts in his 18-year career. That will lead a league for a single year sometimes, but not always.

Given the lack of dominance, voters will have to rely on other stuff when it comes time to talk about Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case. The postseason is obviously big for him, but we’ll get to that in a minute. As far as the 521 of his 565 starts which did not take place in the playoffs, however, it’s going to focus mostly on wins and durability. Obviously people can dig deeper than wins if they want to, and they should, but for these purposes, it’s enough to note that a lot of people adding their voice to the Pettitte Hall of Fame arguments will relitigate the utility of pitcher wins at least to some extent.

This is going to take us on a tour through Jack Morris Land and maybe Bert Blyleven Land. Whether you’re pro-Pettitte or anti-Pettitte, it’s going to force people to confront a lot of  inconsistencies with respect to how starting pitches have been judged over the years. In a lot of ways Pettitte is not really different than first-ballot inductee Tom Glavine. At the same time, he is not nearly as good as Mike Mussina, who will be on the outside looking in for some time, it seems.

Man, when you think about it, starting pitcher evaluation is almost as big a mess as PED-associated player evaluation when it comes to the Hall of Fame. Maybe even bigger, really.

 

Postseason

This will likely be where most Pettitte supporters spend their time. And yes, Pettitte was a big-time postseason pitcher. It may be kinda hacky to simply say “count the rings!” but Pettitte not only has a lot of rings but he was a key performer in every one of those World Series pushes. I’m sure someone can construct an argument that Pettitte’s postseason resume is overrated — people can construct arguments about anything — but it’s not one in which I’m going to get super invested.

The real issue here, then, is going to be how much weight we give postseason performance in the first place.

Jack Morris’ long candidacy hinged on, basically, one single World Series game. Meanwhile, a whole lot of earth was moved during the very long Bert Blyleven candidacy to downplay postseason stuff as a key factor for the Hall of Fame. There are obviously distinctions to be made — Pettite’s postseason track record is, in the aggregate, better than Morris’ and one can credit Pettitte for his postseason performance while not dinging Blyleven for not having a postseason track record — but Hall of Fame arguments tend not to lend themselves to nuance. As is the case with pitcher wins, people will use Pettitte’s candidacy as a forum for renewing, and in some cases reversing, old arguments about “big game” pitchers and the playoffs mattering and all of that. And man, that stuff can be tedious.

 

Team Quality

This is related to the playoff stuff, of course. But it also bleeds over into the pitcher wins thing. Does Pettitte win 256 games if he comes up with Oakland or Colorado? Of course not. But Pettitte’s presence on the 1990s-2000s Yankees will open up other avenues of argument related to team quality as well.

People may knock Pettitte a bit because he had the help of a great team, but Tom Glavine doesn’t win 305 games if he comes up with the Expos, right? Why will Pettitte take a Hall of Fame discount for the quality of his team while Glavine got a boost? Narratives, I suspect. Pettitte will be seen as the beneficiary of offense from The Bronx Bombers. Glavine is seen as an ace (or one of ’em anyway) of a pitching-first club. This leaves out the fact that the Braves had the second best offense in the NL when Glavine won his first Cy Young Award and were the third best offensive team in the league when he won his second. In arguably Pettitte’s best season — 2005 — his Astros had a below average offense. If he wins a couple of more games, there’s a good chance he wins the Cy Young Award that year.

The narratives will still be strong, however, and Pettitte’s time on the ballot will lead to a lot of argument about how to weigh starting pitchers from good teams.

 

PEDs

This is gonna be a real cluster.

Despite recently-changing attitudes about some PED-associated players, the template on all of this is well-worn: if you were found to have conclusively taken PEDs, you’re out. End of story. Pettitte took PEDs. He was named in the Mitchell Report and admitted he did. That recent reconsideration notwithstanding, that disqualifies him, right?

Well, maybe not. In the wake of the Mitchell Report, Pettitte was widely praised for allegedly owning up to his drug use. He was not treated as a pariah because, it was argued, he did not lie and certainly did not create a big distracting controversy that spun into legal proceedings like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds did.

Except . . . Pettitte did lie. As I’ve detailed many, many times, Pettitte has only been as forthcoming as he’s had to and has changed his story about his drug use on more than one occasion. When he’s been caught he has admitted to what he was caught doing but no more. Then was caught doing more. When asked why he used, he said it was only to recover from injuries. The media has taken that claim at face value from him but has generally considered that to be a baseless excuse from any other player who offers it.

Compare Pettitte’s track record on this score to Mark McGwire’s. McGwire did not lie — he kept mum as long as he could, but he did not lie and eventually admitted all — and he consistently claimed that he took PEDs to deal with injuries. Hall of Fame voters have not accepted that argument from him. They have consistently shown that they’re OK with Pettitte floating it.

It’s all so . . . curious, and will lead to a lot of Hall of Fame voters contorting themselves into some pretty uncomfortable positions about PEDs once Pettitte is on the ballot.

 

The Nice Guy Factor

Everyone seemed to like Pettitte. He gave good interviews, was friendly, was “classy” in the weird way that baseball writers like to call people “classy” and all of that. That’ll help him, and at some point I suspect that a writer with column inches to fill will cite that as a reason why a borderline case like Pettitte’s should be given a greater hearing. If nothing else, it could be used as a means of distinguishing Pettitte from Curt Schilling, who is recently catching all kinds of heat for being a jackwagon.

A lot of folks find any discussion along these lines to be dicey, one way or the other, but I feel like the Schilling precedent that is being set at the moment — character clause considerations being brought to bear separate and apart from the PED debate — will not die with this year’s balloting. Especially if Schilling is still on the ballot when Pettitte arrives.

 

Conclusion

Like I said, none of this is to say that Pettitte definitively is or is not worthy of the Hall of Fame. I tend to think he falls just short and that there are pitchers on the ballot now who have a far better claim to Cooperstown than Pettitte will. But he has a better case than a lot of guys who got a lot of consideration for a long time [cough] Jack Morris [cough] and a lot of his case will invoke some long debated and frankly nebulous territory like postseason success and “heart and soul” and “big game pitcher” things.

Which means that, whether or not Pettitte deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and whether or not he actually gets in, his candidacy is going to be something of a perfect storm for people who like to argue about the Hall of Fame. It’ll serve as one of the bigger battlefields in the proxy war people have been fighting over Hall of Fame standards for a long time.

Depending on how you feel about that proxy war and Hall of Fame arguments in general, that’ll either be the best or the worst thing to happen to them in a long, long time.