Get used to the “Roger Maris for the Hall of Fame” arguments

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At the Winter Meetings this December the Veteran’s Committee will be looking at players from the so-called “Golden Era” of 1947-72 for induction into the Hall of Fame.  One of the candidates for whom I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot of agitating is Roger Maris.

Via a link at Baseball Think Factory we are treated to some of the earliest agitating for him in The National Post.  As I expect we’ll see from a number of writers between now and December, however, the case for Maris is couched not in terms of his baseball accomplishments but in terms of him as some moral paragon.  A virtuous figure who we can use to throw dirt on Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and other sluggers of the Steroid Era:

Bonds, McGwire and Sosa put up six seasons between them with more than 61 home runs, the old record held by Maris. Absent the steroid era, Maris would still have the record. If Maris were in the Hall, while the steroid triplets were kept out, it would be fitting way to honour the real home run record — held by a decent man who brought honour to the game.

Yet Roger Maris is not in the Hall of Fame, despite his record, despite being a two-time league MVP, despite various campaigns and petitions to get him inducted. Four years ago I wrote that inducting Maris would be a correction to the steroid era. In the intervening years, baseball’s steroid stain has only spread. Maris is needed now more than ever.

Spare me.  One can admire Roger Maris and loathe Bonds and company all they want, but such moral judgments are not the stuff of a Hall of Fame induction.  As I’ve written before, Roger Maris had two great seasons — although it’s worth noting that in both 1960 and 1961 Maris was not even the best player on his own team — a couple other good ones, and a lot of innocuousness in a short and otherwise pedestrian career.  If you put him in the Hall of fame you are essentially saying that overall career value doesn’t matter, and then you’re inducting guys who had a couple of great seasons like Dwight Gooden, Fernando Valenzuela and Tony Conigliaro.

The argument for Maris’ induction to the Hall of Fame is a political argument, not a baseball argument. Given the shabby treatment that Marvin Miller has received from the Veteran’s Committee I suppose that they’re not above politics, but dammit, they should be.

Twins designate Phil Hughes for assignment

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
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Phil Hughes was officially designated for assignment by the Twins on Tuesday, the culmination of multiple injury-plagued seasons and poor performance.

Things couldn’t have started out much better for Hughes in Minnesota. The former Yankees hurler joined the Twins on a three-year, $24 million contract in December of 2013 and reeled off a 3.52 ERA over 32 starts during his first season with the club. He set the MLB record (which still stands, by the way) for single season strikeout-to-walk ratio and even received some downballot Cy Young Award consideration. The big year resulted in the two sides ripping up their previous agreement with a new five-year, $58 million deal, but it was all downhill after that.

Hughes took a step back with a 4.40 ERA in 2015 and struggled with a 5.95 ERA over 11 starts and one relief appearance in 2016 before undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He wasn’t any better upon his return last year, putting up a 5.87 ERA in nine starts and five relief appearances. Hughes missed time with a biceps issue and required a thoracic outlet revision surgery in August. He began this year on the disabled list with an oblique injury, only to put up a 6.75 ERA over two starts and five relief appearances before the Twins decided to turn the page this week.

Hughes is still owed the remainder of his $13.2 million salary for this year and another $13.2 million next year. The deal didn’t work out as anyone would have hoped, but unfortunately this is another case of health just not cooperating.