I wonder if Bonds and Clemens might make the Hall of Fame this year after all

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My strong presumption is that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will not make the Hall of Fame this year. I think, at best, they get about 50% of the vote and stay in that limbo-land until the anti-PED crowd’s fever breaks.

But I just read something that makes me wonder if I’m being too pessimistic. It’s a column from Ian O’Connor of ESPN New York in which he takes the “Bonds and Clemens were so good that you have to vote for them even though they juiced” tack. Kind of a “discounter” argument which, while obviously flawed, makes some degree of sense and allows one to differentiate between guys like McGwire and Palmeiro on the one hand — guys who may not have had Cooperstown numbers without PEDs — and Bonds and Clemens on the other, who were gonna make it regardless.

This is somewhat surprising coming from O’Connor, because he has, in the past, given off all the indications of a “PED use = disqualification” kind of guy.  Back in 2010 he demanded that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson offer a public apology for being complicit in allowing “the monstrous steroid culture to grow fangs on his watch.”  Earlier that year he eviscerated Alex Rodriguez as a player who “cheated the game, cheated the fans and cheated himself” and wrote that nothing could “absolve him of his not-so-venial steroid sins.”

I know there is a vast, silent block of Hall of Fame voters who don’t actively write columns and tweet like O’Connor does and who do not, per their job description, think all that much about baseball.  As such, he may not be truly representative of the electorate and thus it may be premature to view O’Connor’s surprising reasonableness about Bonds and Clemens as some sort of harbinger.

But it is interesting. Very, very interesting.

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.