What they’re saying about the Hall of Fame vote

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And with the exception of the first one, I’m steering clear of the obvious “hooray for Bert and Roberto” stuff, because I think that goes without saying:

Rich Lederer: “BERT BLYLEVEN IS A HALL OF FAMER!”

Rob Neyer: “when two deserving Hall of Famers like Blyleven and Alomar are elected, it’s easy to forgive the voters for missing on Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell, and Tim Raines. If nobody is elected next year, forgiving will be very difficult.”

Joe Posnanski: “If the Hall of Fame voters feel like they should punish McGwire for admitting he used steroids — even if he was evasive about the effects — then it seems to me that we are discouraging anyone from coming clean. It’s almost like the voters don’t really want to know the truth. Maybe we would rather think the worst.”

Nate Silver: “If you’re not willing to reserve a place for players who meet or exceed the statistical standards of the average Hall of Famers at their positions, however — players like a Larkin or a Bagwell — the discussion really ought to turn to which players we need to kick out. No Barry Larkin? No Travis Jackson. No Tim Raines? No Max Carey. No Jeff Bagwell? No High Pockets Kelly. No Trammell and Whitaker? That’s fine: let’s boot Tinker and Evers.”

Tim Marchman: “The waiting is finally over for Kevin Brown. Garnering 77% of the vote on his first try today, he is the newest member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.”  [note: you probably need to read the whole thing to get what Tim is driving at].

Nick Cafardo: “You have to wonder whether Rice, Dawson, and Blyleven would have been elected if the Steroid Era never happened. That it took so long for Blyleven raises red flags, as it did with Rice and Dawson.”

Ted Berg: “None of Bonds, Clemens, Piazza and Bagwell were ever punished by Major League Baseball for doing whatever they did, if they did anything. It’s ridiculous to try to punish them now. The Hall of Fame should just eliminate the character clause from the voting criteria and focus on honoring the best players.”

Danny Knobler:  “Bert Blyleven is what’s great about the Hall of Fame. I say that even though he got in without ever getting my vote. In fact, I say that in part because he got in without my vote.”

Joe Lemire: “While some mock the concept that a player can grow more or less worthy of induction with each passing year — after all, everyone up for election has been retired for at least five years and so Blyleven hasn’t added to his 287 career wins since 1992 — new research and insight can shape how a player’s career is considered … Blyleven’s longevity — both in the macro sense of his 22-year career and the micro sense of his 242 complete games — is increasingly absent in today’s game, so with each year on the ballot appreciation grew for what he accomplished in the sport.”

I’m sure a lot more reactions will trickle in today. We’ll highlight the good ones, the bad ones and the simply perplexing ones as we see them.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.