Jayson Stark makes a damn good point about the Hall of Fame ballot

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Today Jayson Stark makes a point about the Hall of Fame ballot that I hadn’t even considered: writers leaving suspected PED users off their Hall of Fame ballots are, perversely, making it harder for the suspected non-users like Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy to make the hall. How is that? Because not everyone thinks like they do, they’ll still vote for the Jeff Bagwells and Rafael Palmieros of the world, and thus you end up with a huge backlog of candidates:

For the first time ever, 10 slots weren’t enough for me to vote for all the players who fit my definition of a Hall of Famer. For the first time ever, I had to leave off the names of players I’ve voted for in the past — not because I’d changed my mind, but because that 10-player limit got in the way.

Because I wanted to vote for three first-timers — Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro and Larry Walker — I had 12 names for 10 spots. So after agonizing for two weeks about how to deal with that challenge, I decided the fairest way was to rank them from 1 to 12.

That meant eliminating, with a case of massive heartburn, the two guys I ranked 11th and 12th — Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy. And so, because I’d voted for them in the past, that meant abandoning a voting philosophy I believe in. That truly stunk. But it also meant penalizing two players I firmly believe were clean, in large part because the Hall of Fame has no idea how to handle the guys who weren’t. That stunk even more.

Bagwell and Palmiero will still be on that ballot next year, and voters like Stark who don’t believe, regardless of what the PED evidence says, that McGriff or Murphy were better than them, will be obligated to vote for them lest they twist themselves in knots.  And just imagine what happens in a few years when Clemens, Bonds and a ton of other inner-circle talents enter the conversation.

Stark aims his ire at the Hall itself, believing that they need to do something with the ballot. It seems he’d have them take the character and morality clause out of the equation.  That may help, but I suspect that the current electorate would still vote against the PED users, believing that their newfound morality on the steroids issue outweighs the criteria set forth by the Hall.  Just a guess, though.

That stuff aside, Stark’s ballot is a good one and his reasoning — even when it comes to players I wouldn’t support — is sound.  Especially good stuff: his evisceration of the view that, on his merits as a player, Bagwell is not Hall of Fame-worthy.

The Manny Machado deal was done days before it was actually announced

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Last week as the Manny Machado trade drama was playing out, I and a lot of other people suspected as early as Monday and into Tuesday morning that the Orioles already had a deal in place for Machado and that they were just keeping it under wraps in order to get through the All-Star break (a) without any awkwardness; and (b) with the Orioles still having an All-Star representative. It would be Wednesday morning before the Orioles would make it official.

Turns out we were wrong. Machado was actually traded before Monday morning. Basically anyway, with the Orioles going so far as to pull him out of last Sunday’s game early because of it. And, of course, they lied about it. From Bob Nightengale of USA Today who spoke with Machado following his debut weekend with the Dodgers:

It was a week ago Sunday when Machado homered for the 24th time this season, the Orioles playing the final game of the first half against the Texas Rangers, when he was removed after the fourth inning after a 26-minute rain delay.

The Orioles told reporters after the game it was simply for precaution, making sure Machado didn’t get hurt playing on a wet field.

They may have fibbed to everyone else, but they told Machado the truth.

“That’s when they had told me I had been traded,’’ Machado said. “They said they pretty much had a deal done. They just wanted to wait until after the break to get all of the medical stuff done.

That didn’t stop all of the usual rumor-mongering reporters from tweeting stuff about this or that team “being in the race” or “taking the lead” or three or four teams in the “debry” or “sweepstakes” as it entered “the home stretch.” A bunch of track announcers calling a race that wasn’t even being run.

In the final analysis this is all benign. Teams lie about stuff all the time and a day or two in either direction made no difference to anyone involved. Still, it says a lot about how the trade rumor business works.