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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.