God, politicians drive me absolutely freakin' nuts

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OK, this is about politicians, but (a) it’s non-partisan; and (b) it’s also about baseball. It’s also a rant, so if you’re not into that sort of thing I’m sure Aaron will have something coming online in a few minutes that is calm and sober and reasoned and everything. With that out of the way . . .

I live in Ohio, and it’s a gubernatorial election year here. The incumbent is Ted Strickland, a Democrat. The challenger is John Kasich, a Republican. While they obviously differ on policies in the ways you might expect, we have a rare situation in this race in that both of these guys are generally thought of as nice, reasoned, educated, and decent men. Unlike the increasingly popular political style of the day, they tend to spend their time in the arena of facts and logic and policy and stuff and don’t let emotion or craven careerism dictate their positions. It’s kind of refreshing!

Except I’ll be damned if they aren’t both out to lunch when it comes to choosing the best baseball player of all time. Which they did in one of those silly little polls newspapers run from time to time about what a candidate’s favorite ice cream is and such.  Strickland’s answer to the “who was the best baseball player ever” question: Cal Ripken Jr. Kasich’s: Roberto Clemente. Which is so obviously nuts I don’t even have to explain why it’s nuts.

And I’d let it go if I didn’t suspect that something other than baseball ignorance was afoot. No, I smell calculation.  I smell Strickland trying to message the concept of perseverance, of keeping going no matter what faces you in the Ripken choice, thinking that it’s a smart move for a guy trying to keep his job despite a budget crunch and the state’s economy being in the toilet.  I smell Kasich going with Clemente as a means of messaging “charity” and — maybe — diversity, which would be useful for a guy who needs to move a bit towards the middle in order to secure the election.

Am I reading too much into this? Possibly! I’ve been doing it all day!  But man, I’ve met and talked to both Kasich and Strickland and I find it hard to believe that if you asked them point blank, either of them would say Ripken or Clemente. Even if they were total baseball ignoramuses I’d figure they’d say Babe Ruth or Willie Mays or something because — setting aside the fact that those would both be great answers — they’re way more well-known names.  Ignorance actually helps you with this question! And if they know a little about baseball then they know that the answers they actually gave are dumb.

And you know what else? Even if this is political calculation, it’s dumb political calculation!  Kasich is a Republican, and Republicans have a hard damn time getting votes in northeast Ohio. Go with Bob Feller or Rocky Colaovito! They’re just as bad an answer as Clemente, but at least there’s a percentage in it! People in Cleveland hate Pittsburgh! Likewise for Strickland, who will be hard pressed to get votes in southwest Ohio: Go with Pete Rose! They love Pete down there! You might push someone into voting for you!  If you’re going to be political animal at least do it right!  And people wonder why I left state government!

Now, will the three of you who haven’t stopped reading because I’m a freakin’ moonbat please direct me to my medication?  Thanks.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.