Settling the Scores: Memorial Day Edition

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Hope you had a good weekend. For many of you that weekend still continues today.

Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. As one remembers the dead of any given war one can, and in many cases maybe one should, consider the righteousness or necessity of that war or the politicians who and ideas which sent these men and women into battle. In this day and age such things are thought of by most as decidedly unpatriotic, however. And given that Memorial Day has, regrettably, become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday, one is liable to be shouted-down if one were to raise questions about the leaders and causes which sent men and women to their death.

Don’t let people conflate those things, however. Commemorating the dead does not require venerating the leaders who gave them their orders or the stated causes for which the wars in which they served were fought. In fact, in some cases appropriate commemoration may require the exact opposite of that so as to ensure that other men and women, later, do not unnecessarily become the subject of Memorial Day commemoration themselves.

But while the misplaced patriotism that has come to characterize Memorial Day irks me a bit, it’s inevitable and I don’t begrudge it too terribly much. Wave a flag or campaign for whatever you consider to be patriotism if you feel it’s important to do that. Protest wars and the leaders who start them if you feel it’s important to do that. Enjoy your free time if you happen to have it. Go to a barbecue, take in a ballgame, binge-watch some awful TV show or get crazy, crazy, crazy Memorial Day deals at Mattress Wholesalers if that’s your thing. Given the purpose of the holiday, it’s always weird to say “happy Memorial Day” or to treat it like some other random bonus day off work, but we do it anyway, even on what’s supposed to be a day of mourning or reflection.

And that’s OK. Because no matter what one can say of a war — say of its leaders or the stated reasons it was fought — the men and women who actually fought in it and died in were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s frivolous sometimes.

So do have a happy Memorial Day. Have a silly or dumb Memorial Day. Have a flag-waving, camouflage-wearing troop-supporting day. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many happy, silly, dumb or reflective days as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness.

Blue Jays 8, Mariners 2
Astros 10, Tigers 8
Indians 5, Reds 2
Marlins 5, Orioles 2
Athletics 7, Rays 2
Red Sox 6, Angels 1
Braves 2, Brewers 1
Nationals 4, Phillies 1
Pirates 9, Mets 1
Twins 8, White Sox 1
Cardinals 6, Royals 1
Padres 11, Dodgers 3
Rockies 11, Giants 2
Diamondbacks 4, Cubs 3
Rangers 5, Yankees 2

 

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.