I’m getting out of the Mocking-Hall-of-Fame-Ballots Business

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It’s Hall of Fame season and that means everyone with a vote is writing columns or tweeting out their ballots. Even people without votes are doing it.

Normally this is also the season where I write a lot of posts ripping bad ballots, bad reasoning behind those ballots and, often, ugly rhetoric and innuendo from voters (Hi, Pedro Gomez!). I really don’t feel like doing that this year, however. Indeed, I’m getting out of the mocking-hall-of-game-ballots business.

It’s not because there aren’t bad ballots being cast and spurious reasoning being offered in their defense. There certainly are. I’m just having a harder time caring so much about them and if you’re going to criticize something, especially if you’re going to do it sharply like I often do, you have to care about it.

Which isn’t to say I don’t care about the Hall of Fame or the players on the ballot. I do and always will. I’ve simply decided that Johnny Sportswriter of the North Haverbrook Picayune and his “Lee Smith, Fred McGriff, Ken Griffey and no one else” ballot and his column in which he accuses online writers of living in their mothers’ basements isn’t worth getting mad about. If a couple of decades of advances in baseball analysis and writing hasn’t penetrated his thick skull, he’s not listening to me either.

In a lot of ways it’s similar to how I’ve changed my views on music criticism. I used to get mad when people liked stuff I didn’t and didn’t like stuff I did. I would argue about it all day. Eventually, though, I stopped. Not because people I argued with suddenly understood that my tastes were great and theirs sucked. And not because I got to some zen “hey, everyone’s opinion is equally valid” place. After all, even even in matters of personal taste there are some baseline objective criteria in play (and baseball analysis is still way more objective than music is). No, I gave up on that because I simply decided that one person being wrong or ignorant about something does not require me to yell at them. There are other things worth yelling about and there is only so much yelling one can do.

And really, what are the stakes here? We’ve now gone several years without one of baseball’s all-time best hitters, all-time best pitchers and the all-time leader in base hits not in the Hall of Fame and no one has died. Barry Bonds is no less great because some self-important moralists decided that he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. My memories of Bonds playing are not sullied. If asked I will explain to anyone why Bonds was, in fact, great even if I’ve done it 1,000 times before, but I’m not going to use the now regrettably arbitrary fact of his Hall of Fame induction or exclusion as the jumping off point. If Johnny Sportswriter wants to continue to patrol some imaginary beat and believe that he’s protecting people from something he can do it. I’ll be over here talking about baseball players and games and stuff. The stuff from which the matter of Hall of Fame induction has become increasingly removed but which matters a whole hell of a lot more in an absolute sense.

I won’t entirely cede the field here. I may still tweet some barbs and jokes about someone’s Hall of Fame ballot from time to time. If someone’s Hall of Fame column is vile and petulant and borderline slanderous — as many have been over the past few years — I may write about it. And in no way will I ever accept Johnny Sportswriter’s defense of his dumb ballot — “hey, it’s my opinion and my opinion is my opinion” — because I don’t recall reading anyplace that opinions, by their very nature, are incapable of being dumb and uninformed. But I’ve decided that dense men simply casting bad votes is not worth putting anyone on blast over anymore. Partially for its own sake and mostly because that little exercise has very little to do with the fun business of talking about baseball.

Well, maybe Murray Chass. His bad opinions are at least kind of entertaining so I reserve the right to talk about them when he releases his ballot. Always gotta save room for Uncle Murray at the Christmas table.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.