The Roger Maris discussion heats up

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George Vecsey wrote a column on Sunday — and follows up with a blog post today — about Roger Maris, his legacy and his Hall of Fame chances.  In both places Vecsey says that he would not vote for Maris for the Hall of Fame if he had the franchise (he doesn’t, because the New York Times does not allow its writers to vote). The blog post, however, features many reader comments in support of Maris for the Hall.

As I said last month, I’m sort of keeping track of this stuff because Maris will be up for consideration by the Veteran’s Committee this December.  I think the general shape of this coverage in the Times — “we really need to appreciate Maris’ accomplishments more in light of what happened in the 1990s and 2000s, but I’m not sure he’s a Hall of Famer — will be the dominant one.

I agree with Vecsey. My view is that Maris is decidedly not a Hall of Famer, because two really good seasons is not enough, even when one of them featured a significant record. His career is worthy of celebration, of course, but it’s not like it’s been lacking celebration, especially in recent years as folks have used his accomplishment to draw distinctions between the Steroid Era sluggers and those who came before.

Which is fine if illumination and understanding of these things go is all you’re interested in doing.  But if you take the next step and decide that he’s now Hall of Fame worthy because of that comparison, it seems to me you’re making a political argument (“take that, PED guys!”) as opposed to a genuine assessment of Maris’ Hall-worthiness.  That assessment was done for years and years prior to the Steroid Era and Maris was found lacking.  What has changed?

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.