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The Hall of Fame president wants players “who play the game the right way” to be inducted

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Evan Grant was in Cooperstown for Pudge Rodriguez’s Hall of Fame induction and he got the chance to interview Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson. They talked about a lot of stuff, most of it not in any way controversial. At one point, however, Grant asked Idelson about his views on the famous “character clause” Hall of Fame voters are supposed to consider when assessing candidates.

People have talked about the character clause in a lot of different ways over the years. As many know, it was originally devised to give a boost to players whose on-the-field bonafides may have fallen short but who were exemplary off the field in some way. For decades it was ignored almost completely, at least in public discourse. In recent years, however, it came to be used as something of a cudgel via which otherwise worthy players were barred admittance if they were associated with performance enhancing drugs.

Idelson, however, has a different spin on it. One dealing with a couple of the most loaded and contradictory cliches in all of baseball: playing the game the “right way” and “respecting the game”:

Q: What is your definition of the “character” clause on the Hall of Fame ballot?

A: As I view it, character, integrity and sportsmanship is a guide for the writers to use when determining a players’ overall contribution to the game and it’s a part of the voting rules. I look at it as how [the player] respected the game on the field. It’s meant to be how did they treat the game, how did they respect the game? It’s not supposed to be a judgment on character away from the ballfield, although you hope everybody is a good character. Did they respect the game? Did they treat the game right, did they respect the uniform, did they play the game the right way? That’s what you want, is to make sure you don’t have somebody in here who didn’t respect the game. Did they succeed with a level playing field and achieve the level of elite athlete the right way? I’m often asked why baseball is held to this higher standard? In society, things have to have a set of standards. Why not baseball?”

We’ve talked about “playing the game the right way” and “respecting the game” for years, but no one has ever offered a definition of what those phrases means that is even remotely consistent. Most of the time it means “playing the game the way that does not piss me, the person who is mad at another player, off.” And, of course, there’s all sorts of historic racial baggage in which white players, regardless of how demonstrative they are on the field, are said to play the game the right way and black and Latin players who show exuberance and emotion are said to be “showboats” or allegedly lack respect for the game.

I do not think Idelson is trying to secretly codify a new standard of decorum for Hall of Fame induction here. I think he’s actually just leaning on some empty, shopworn cliches out of laziness. But he should know dang well that Hall of Fame voters have, for years, begged the Hall of Fame for guidance on what the “character clause” is supposed to mean and how it is supposed to be applied. If the comments of the Hall of Fame’s President cause even one voter to believe that, say, bat-flipping, celebrating or running afoul of some dumb unwritten rule is disqualifying for a player’s candidacy, he has committed a disservice to the game and to the Hall.

Washington Nationals roster and schedule for 2020

Nationals roster and schedule
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The 2020 season is now a 60-game dash, starting on July 23 and ending, hopefully, with a full-size postseason in October. Between now and the start of the season, we’ll be giving quick capsule previews of each team, reminding you of where things stood back in Spring Training and where they stand now as we embark on what is sure to be the strangest season in baseball history. First up: The Washington Nationals roster and schedule:

NATIONALS ROSTER (projected)

When the season opens on July 23-24, teams can sport rosters of up to 30 players, with a minimum of 25. Two weeks later, rosters must be reduced to 28 and then, two weeks after that, they must be reduced to 26. Teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.

In light of that, there is a great degree of latitude for which specific players will break summer camp. For now, though, here are who we expect to be on the Nationals roster to begin the season:

Catchers:

Yan Gomes
Kurt Suzuki

Infielders:

Eric Thames
Starlin Castro
Carter Kieboom
Trea Turner
Howie Kendrick
Asdrúbal Cabrera

Outfielders:

Juan Soto
Victor Robles
Adam Eaton
Michael Taylor
Andrew Stevenson

Starters:

Max Scherzer
Steven Strasburg
Patrick Corbin
Aníbal Sánchez
Austin Voth
Erick Fedde

Relievers:

Sean Doolittle
Daniel Hudson
Will Harris
Tanner Rainey
Wander Suero
Hunter Strickland
Roenis Elías


BREAKDOWN:

The Nationals shocked the world last year, recovering from an abysmal start to the season to win an NL Wild Card before cutting through the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Astros to win the first championship in franchise history. While the roster is largely unchanged, there is one gaping void: the loss of third baseman Anthony Rendon, who signed with the Angels. Rendon, a perennial MVP candidate, led the majors with 126 doubles and the NL with 44 doubles while smacking 34 homers with a 1.010 OPS last season. He’ll be replaced by the young Carter Kieboom and the veteran Kendrick and Cabrera. Those are some large shoes to fill.

With Rendon out of the picture, Juan Soto becomes the crux of the Nationals’ offense. Last year, he tied Rendon with 34 homers while knocking in 110 runs. He also, impressively, drew 108 walks, by far the highest on the team. The Nationals will likely have to utilize their speed even more. Last year, Soto stole 12 bases while Adam Eaton swiped 15, Victor Robles 28, and Trea Turner 35.

As was the case in 2019, the pitching will be how the Nationals punch their ticket to the postseason. Max Scherzer finished third in Cy Young balloting, his seventh consecutive top-five finish. The club retained Stephen Strasburg and brings back Patrick Corbin as well. There really isn’t a better 1-2-3 in the game. The rotation will be rounded out by Aníbal Sánchez and one of Austin Voth or Erick Fedde, though both are likely to see starts during the season.

The back of the bullpen is led by closer Sean Doolittle, who posted an uncharacteristically high — for him — 4.05 ERA last year. He still saved 29 games and averaged better than a strikeout per inning, so they’re in good hands. Daniel Hudson and Will Harris will work the seventh and eighth innings leading up to Doolittle.

As mentioned in the Braves preview, it’s tough to make any definitive statements about a 60-game season. Variance is going to have much more of an effect than it would in a 162-game season. Additionally, the NL East is highly competitive. It would be wrong to say with any degree of confidence that the Nationals will win the NL East. For example, the updated PECOTA standings from Baseball Prospectus only project a five-game difference between first and last place in the NL East. What we can say is that the Nationals will give everyone a run for their money in 2020.

NATIONALS SCHEDULE:

Every team will play 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games.

  • July 23, 25-26: vs. Yankees
  • July 27-28: vs. Blue Jays
  • July 29-30: @ Blue Jays
  • July 31-August 2: @ Marlins
  • August 4-5: vs. Mets
  • August 7-9: vs. Orioles
  • August 10-13: @ Mets
  • August 14-16: @ Orioles
  • August 17-19: @ Braves
  • August 21-24: vs. Marlins
  • August 25-27: vs. Phillies
  • August 28-30: @ Red Sox
  • August 31-September 3: @ Phillies
  • September 4-6: @ Braves
  • September 7-8: vs. Rays
  • September 10-13: vs. Braves
  • September 15-16: @ Rays
  • September 18-20: @ Marlins
  • September 21-23: vs. Phillies
  • September 24-27: vs. Mets

The entire Nationals schedule can be seen here.