Some baseball writers believe they are the morality police

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In the course of Michael S. Schmidt’s recent column on Jeff Bagwell, Ross Newhan, the retired Los Angeles Times writer and still-current Hall of Fame voter, describes what he sees as the role of the electorate:

“Somebody said we are not the morality police, but yet I think we are. If we aren’t, who is? Part of our job is that we are custodians of the game’s history.”

I get why someone can think that. The Hall of Fame ballot invites voters to weigh-in on the character of candidates.  But there’s a big difference between passing on a single player’s character and being “the morality police” or “the custodian of the game’s history.”

In the former instance, a voter is merely judging one player.  If limited to that, one must necessarily look at Bagwell’s record and note that there is not a single thing on his professional resume that could be viewed as a character deficiency. In the latter instance, however, voters give themselves permission to read all of baseball’s sins of the Steroid Era into Bagwell’s biography.  They feel they are protecting some sacred institution, not merely judging one man. In this case it’s easy, then, for a writer to explain away the injustice he might visit upon Jeff Bagwell. After all: he believes he is doing something more important than passing on Bagwell.  He’s protecting the Hall of Fame! Even though there is nothing on the ballot or in his marching orders that tasks him with this.

And why would there be? The Hall of Fame is capable of protecting itself. It does so by setting its eligibility standards. It could change them in five minutes if it felt threatened. It hasn’t done so in response to the steroids epidemic. That should tell the writers something. Sadly, it has not.

The Hall of Fame is not heaven, my fellow baseball writers, you are not St. Peter at the gate, and no one — not even Jose Canseco — has written baseball’s book of life.  Have a sense of humility about you. Understand that your role is not to be baseball’s moral arbiters, writ-large.  You are to look at one player at a time and judge him accordingly. If you have nothing negative to say about him, and if his accomplishments are sufficient, vote him in.

Nick Markakis leads all NL outfielders in All-Star voting

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I would hope by now that I no longer have to preface All-Star talk with my usual “none of this matters” disclaimers, but please keep all of that in mind when I mention that Nick Markakis is leading all National League outfielders in All-Star voting.

Markakis, with 1,173,653 votes, has surpassed the slumping Bryce Harper in that category. Harper has 1,002,696 votes. The third place outfielder is Matt Kemp of the Dodgers with 925,697. Fourth place — Charlie Blackmon of the Dodgers — is like 300,000 votes back of Kemp.Yes, Markakis, Harper and Kemp may be the starting NL outfield. Brandon Nimmo — not on the ballot — should be grumpy, but he’ll get his chance I’m sure.

The thing about it: Markakis, for as unexpected as his appearance may be on this list, deserves to at least be in the top three. He’s second in WAR among National League outfielders behind Lorenzo Cain. He’s slowed down a good bit in June and he’s coming off of a 2017 season in which he had a 96 OPS+ and 0.7 WAR, but he’s having quite an outstanding season. I write that mostly so that there is a record of it come October and we’ve all forgotten it.

Seriously, though, good for Markakis, who has never made an All-Star Game. Good for Kemp too for that matter, who most people assumed was a walking — well, limping — corpse heading into this season. Good for Harper because anything that can keep up the guise of him having a good year when, in reality, he’s really not, will help his confidence as he heads into free agency.

Finally, good for the American League, who will likely get to face a far, far inferior National League team next month in Washington.

The rest of the voting: