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Hall of Fame

Hall calls for four more

Congrats to all.

Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was announced Wednesday.

Jones and Thome were both elected in their first year of eligibility. This is the fourth time that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has elected four players in a year (1947, 1955, 2015).

“It was waterworks,” said Jones, who drew 97.2 percent of the vote after being selected on 410 of 422 ballots.

The four will join veterans committee inductees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell in entering the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29 in Cooperstown, New York.

It took 75 percent for election, or 317 votes, to be elected into the Hall of Fame. Designated hitter Edgar Martinez came close — falling just 20 votes shy — after a grass-roots campaign. Roger Clemens, who was picked on 57.3 percent of ballots, and Barry Bonds (56.4), both tainted by the steroids scandal, edged up in voting totals but again fell far short.

[…]

[Mariano] Rivera highlights the newcomers on next year’s ballot, once again raising debate over whether any player will be unanimously elected to the Hall. Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte and the late Roy Halladay also will be first-time candidates.

For Martinez, who finished with 70.4 percent of the vote in his ninth time on the ballot, it was the second straight year with a significant jump; he was at 58.6 percent in the 2017 voting.

Martinez remains optimistic about his chances in 2019.

“Getting 70.4 percent is a big improvement, and all I can think right now is that it’s looking good for next year,” Martinez said on a conference call. “It would have been great to get in this year, but it looks good for next year.”

Just four years ago, Martinez was slogging at 25.2 percent in the balloting, but the past few years have marked a major change in how voters are viewing his contributions, even though he rarely played the field after 1992. Martinez’s career .312 batting average, .933 on-base plus slugging and seven All-Star Game appearances created a strong foundation for his candidacy.

“At that time, I thought I would never get to this point,” Martinez said. “It is encouraging to see 70 percent going into my final year. I just feel I still have a good chance. But yeah, 2014, I didn’t think I was going to be at this point right now.”

In addition to Martinez, Clemens and Bonds, pitchers Mike Mussina (63.5) and Curt Schilling (51.2) were named on more than half the ballots but were not elected.

See here for the earlier election. I don’t have any quarrel with the four inductees, though I’m not sure how Hoffman came to be so much more favored over Billy Wagner, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m more pleased by the showings of Edgar Martinez and especially Mike Mussina. The logjam is clearing up a bit, and I feel like that bodes well for their chances. Deadspin has more.

Morris and Trammell elected to the Hall of Fame

The Modern Era committee has spoken.

Fittingly, Jack Morris reached the Hall of Fame in extra innings.

Morris was elected to the Hall by its Modern Era committee on Sunday along with former Detroit Tigers teammate Alan Trammell, completing a joint journey from Motown to Cooperstown.

The big-game pitcher and star shortstop were picked by 16 voters who considered 10 candidates whose biggest contributions came from 1970-87. Morris got 14 votes and Trammell drew 13, one more than the minimum needed.

They will be enshrined on July 29, and they’ll go in together. They both began their big league careers in 1977 with Detroit and played 13 seasons alongside each other with the Tigers.

See here for the background. Like many others, I just don’t have it in me to argue the Jack Morris issue any longer. It is what it is. As Jay Jaffe, the go-to person for all things Hall of Fame, says, whatever else you may think of Morris and the controversy over his candidacy, his election lowers the bar for Hall of Fame pitchers and serves as a slight to numerous contemporaries such as Bret Saberhagen, Dave Stieb, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and David Cone. I’ll add Kevin Appier and Frank Tanana and Tim Hudson and Wes Ferrell and Tommy John, all of whom have at least a career WAR at least ten wins higher than Morris. And that’s before we get to Mike Mussina, whose career WAR of 83.0 is nearly double Morris’ 44.1. Oh, and the continued exclusion of Marvin Miller is an utter travesty, too. But there I go arguing again. The Hall of Fame is just a museum and none of this matters. I’m going to go find my happy place now. Deadspin, which wisely focuses on Trammell’s well-deserved enshrinement, has more.

The Modern Era Hall of Fame ballot

A little bonus baseball content as we head into the long, dark off-season.

Nine former big league players and one executive comprise the 10-name Modern Baseball Era ballot to be reviewed and voted upon Dec. 10 at the Baseball Winter Meetings.

Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell are the candidates the Modern Baseball Era Committee will consider for Hall of Fame election for the Class of 2018. All candidates are former players except for Miller, who was the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966-82. All candidates except for Miller are living.

Any candidate who receives votes on 75 percent of the ballots cast by the 16-member Modern Baseball Era Committee will earn election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 29, 2018, along with any electees who emerge from the 2018 Baseball Writers’ Association of America election, to be announced on Jan. 24, 2018.

The Modern Baseball Era is one of four Era Committees, each of which provide an avenue for Hall of Fame consideration to managers, umpires and executives, as well as players retired for more than 15 seasons.

There’s a brief bio of each candidate there, but I suggest you read Jay Jaffe for a more thorough view. I’m here for Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell, and of course Marvin Miller whose exclusion is an ongoing travesty. I fear that what we’re going to get is Jack Morris and maybe Dale Murphy, but there’s no point in worrying about that now. A better thing to ponder is why these candidates and not some alternative choices, but again, that’s the way these things go. Who would you vote for?

Bagwell, Raines, Pudge elected to Hall of Fame

Congratulations!

Jeff Bagwell

The most exclusive team in sports has five new members.

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez join John Schuerholz and Bud Selig as the Class of 2017.

Today’s Game Era candidates, John Schuerholz and Allan H. “Bud” Selig were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, Dec. 4, becoming members 313 and 314 of the Cooperstown shrine.

They will join Bagwell, Raines and Rodriguez as the Class of 2017, to be inducted July 30 in Cooperstown as part of the July 28-31 Hall of Fame Weekend. The Weekend festivities will also feature the presentation of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award to Claire Smith for writers and the presentation of the Ford C. Frick Award to Bill King for broadcasting excellence.

Since the inaugural Class of 1936, the National Baseball Hall of Fame has honored the game’s legendary players, managers, umpires and executives. Included in the 317 Hall of Famers are 220 former major league players, 30 executives, 35 Negro Leaguers, 22 managers and 10 umpires. The BBWAA has elected 124 candidates to the Hall while the veterans committees (in all forms) have chosen 167 deserving candidates (96 major leaguers, 30 executives, 22 managers, 10 umpires and nine Negro Leaguers). The defunct “Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues” selected nine men between 1971-77 and the Special Committee on Negro Leagues in 2006 elected 17 Negro Leaguers.

There are currently 74 living members.

Here’s the Chron breaking-news story about the vote, and a longer story with some reactions from the man himself.

Jeff Bagwell has autographed countless baseballs. On Wednesday, he signed his first ball with this inscription accompanying his signature: “HOF ’17.”

Bagwell, synonymous with the golden age of the Astros and one of the best first basemen of his era, was elected Wednesday to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He will be only the second player enshrined in an Astros cap, appropriately joining 2015 inductee Craig Biggio, Bagwell’s teammate for all 15 seasons of his major league career.

Overwhelmed by the news, Bagwell was at a loss for words in describing the feeling.

“It’s just kind of surreal right now,” he said.

Bagwell, 48, spoke emotionally in a terminal at George Bush Intercontinental Airport minutes before boarding an evening flight to New York City, where he and fellow electees Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez will share a news conference stage Thursday afternoon. The Astros icon was only two hours removed from receiving his life-changing phone call while at home with his wife and children.

[…]

“I’m still kind of in shock,” said Bagwell, for whom the Astros will hold a public rally at 5 p.m. Monday at Minute Maid Park’s Union Station lobby. “I’m excited. I’m happy. It’s just very cool.”

This year’s induction ceremony will take place July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Bagwell is the 50th Hall of Famer to spend his entire major league career with one team. He and Biggio are the fourth pair of Hall of Fame teammates to accomplish that while playing together for at least 15 years. Their company includes Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski (Pittsburgh Pirates), Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott (New York Giants) and Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle (New York Yankees).

“It’s a great day for him and his family and obviously the Astros organization and his teammates and the fans,” Biggio said of Bagwell. “He was a tremendous player who did some amazing things here, and now to have two Astros be in the Hall of Fame who played together for 15 years, it’s pretty exciting stuff.”

I didn’t realize the teammates angle. In case you’re curious, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were teammates for 10 years, from 1925 to 1934. Fifteen years really is a long time.

Bagwell was the headliner as he received the most votes, but the even better news was the long overdue induction of Tim Raines, who was on his final year on the ballot. Getting those two plus Ivan Rodriguez in clears the logjam a bit, which may help the candidacies of a few other players who fell short. I feel like I have less to complain about regarding this year’s voting than I’ve had in some time, and that to me is an even bigger win. ESPN, SI, MLB.com, and the Press have more.

Bud Selig elected to MLB Hall of Fame

Ugh.

Bud Selig, the folksy former commissioner of Major League Baseball who presided over an unprecedented period of expansion, innovation and turmoil in the sport, was elected to the Hall of Fame on Sunday by the hall’s restructured veterans committee along with John Schuerholz, the World Series-winning general manager with the Atlanta Braves and the Kansas City Royals.

“To say this is a great day in my life would be an understatement,” Selig said on a conference call Sunday. “I’ve looked forward to this day for a long time and I’m really honored to say the least.”

Selig was named on 15 ballots and Schuerholz on all 16 from a new version of the veterans’ committee created to consider not only older players but also candidates who are not eligible for election through the traditional process, a vote by baseball writers. The group, the Today’s Game Era Committee, is made up of eight Hall of Fame inductees, five M.L.B. executives and three writers and historians. Inductees needed a minimum of 12 votes at baseball’s winter meetings outside of Washington.

Selig and Schuerholz will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in July.

[…]

Selig, the original owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, led baseball from 1992 through 2014, one of the most dynamic and controversial periods in its history, in which the sport grew into a $10 billion-a-year industry. He governed, in part, through his ability to build consensus among the owners, perhaps his greatest skill.

“We were a sport resistant to change,” Selig said. “I believe in those years that is the most change in baseball history.”

Selig, 82, was the acting commissioner during the worst strike in baseball history, a work stoppage that wiped out the 1994 World Series, and the so-called steroid era that so badly tarnished the image of the game. But baseball has now gone 22 years without a work stoppage, and, after great upheaval and acrimony, it has instituted a stringent drug policy.

“Yes, it was terribly painful, broke my heart,” he said of the 1994 strike. “But it served as a great lesson and we took it. The same thing with the steroid thing. Yes it was painful, yes it had its ups and downs. But we solved that problem. We now have the toughest testing program in American sports.”

Selig is credited with introducing popular innovations including the wild-card playoff system, realignment, interleague play and television replay of umpires’ decisions, as well as with the creation of baseball’s lucrative internet presence, M.L.B. Advanced Media.

More than anything, Selig was a tireless supporter of small-market and midmarket teams, pushing through revenue-sharing policies that redistributed millions of dollars from the larger market teams to the smaller ones. That, combined with the increased number of playoff spots, gave clubs from cities like Detroit, Houston, Kansas City and Tampa Bay entrée into the World Series in recent years.

Actually, Selig was an advocate of contracting small market teams out of existence, all the while engaging in what Joe Sheehan called an “anti-marketing campaign” on baseball. Guess all that is down the memory hole now, so here we are. If you’ve read my blog for more than a few years, you know I am not now and have never been a fan of Bud Selig – “Beelzebud” was my preferred nickname for him. So let me just endorse what Craig Calcaterra says.

Bud Selig has been credited with and has eagerly taken responsibility for every positive development in baseball under his watch. But he has never taken an ounce of responsibility for the “environment which developed” with respect to PEDs in baseball. Indeed, he has actively shirked it. Remember what he said in 2009, after Alex Rodriguez admitted he used PEDs?

“I don’t want to hear the commissioner turned a blind eye to this or he didn’t care about it. That annoys the you-know-what out of me. You bet I’m sensitive to the criticism. The reason I’m so frustrated is, if you look at our whole body of work, I think we’ve come farther than anyone ever dreamed possible. I honestly don’t know how anyone could have done more than we’ve already done . . . A lot of people say we should have done this or that, and I understand that. They ask me, ‘How could you not know?’ and I guess in the retrospect of history, that’s not an unfair question. But we learned and we’ve done something about it. When I look back at where we were in ’98 and where we are today, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made . . . It is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity.”

Beyond that he has only talked of baseball’s efforts to combat drug use from the mid-2000s on. Never once explaining why it took Jose Canseco’s tell-all book and not baseball’s obvious knowledge of PED use by players to act. Never once explaining why its initial response was so weak and why it was only ratcheted up in direct proportion to how much bad publicity baseball received in terms of players and PED use. Bud Selig did nothing for years and then only did the bare minimum he was required to do until it became untenable to do so. After that he used the Mitchell Report to change the subject from baseball’s drug problem as a whole to a decade-long parlor game in which naming names and scapegoating individual players for drug use became the order of the day, turning scrutiny away from MLB’s Park Avenue offices and shining the spotlight on players and players alone.

It has been a wildly successful strategy. Today only the players have paid the price in terms of their legacy and reputation. Only players associated with performance enhancing drugs — or even baselessly accused of performance enhancing drug use — have had the doors to the Hall of Fame barred to them despite their other accomplishments. Barred by the very language on the ballot which asks voters to weigh in on their character. A clause which the Hall of Fame, on who’s board Selig sits, has made no effort to clarify or explain vis-a-vis PED use. As such, the Hall endorses the BBWAA’s continued holding of players responsible for the Steroid Era.

Yet Bud Selig, a man who held more unilateral power in baseball than anyone since Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis died, has ben allowed to get away with pleading ignorance and innocence when it comes to baseball’s greatest black mark since the game was integrated in 1947. He is allowed to accept baseball’s highest honor this week and again in July when he is inducted in Cooperstown. The loud and clear message this week and next July will send is that the buck only stops with the Commissioner of Baseball when the buck makes the Commissioner of Baseball look good.

It’s a bad look for baseball. It’s a disgrace that so many deserving players are denied induction because of mistakes they made while Bud Selig, a man who presided over the Steroid Era and is thus due the ultimate responsibility for its existence, is gong to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Calcaterra argues that Selig was a great commissioner, though mostly in comparison with other Commissioners and keeping in mind who Selig’s actual stakeholders were, but I will concede the game has done very well since Selig was elevated into office. There’s no question about who has gotten the blame for the PED issue, however, and it ain’t Bud. That’s how you get into the Hall. David Schoenfield has more.

Hall of Fame 2017 ballot

The end of the year always brings a new Hall of Fame ballot with it.

Prominent names, old and new, highlight the annual ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which was released Monday and mailed to eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Outfielders Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez and catchers Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada are the prominent newcomers. First baseman Jeff Bagwell, outfielder Tim Raines and closer Trevor Hoffman missed election in the 2016 vote by slim margins. And with the lack of a first-ballot lock, Bagwell, Raines and Hoffman all have good chances again this time around.

The announcement of the Class of 2017 is scheduled for Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. ET, live on MLB Network and MLB.com. The induction ceremony will be held on July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“I do think about it,” Rodriguez said when asked about his first time on the ballot. “Now that the year gets closer, I think about it almost every day.”

The ballot will grow tighter again during the next three years, with first-ballot certainties Chipper Jones (2018), Mariano Rivera (’19), and Derek Jeter (’20) set to enter the mix. Jim Thome, who hit 612 homers in 22 seasons, will also be on the ballot for the first time in ’18.

The complete ballot:

Jeff Bagwell
Casey Blake
Barry Bonds
Pat Burrell
Orlando Cabrera
Mike Cameron
Roger Clemens
J.D. Drew
Carlos Guillen
Vladimir Guerrero
Trevor Hoffman
Jeff Kent
Derrek Lee
Edgar Martinez
Fred McGriff
Melvin Mora
Mike Mussina
Magglio Ordonez
Jorge Posada
Tim Raines
Manny Ramirez
Edgar Renteria
Arthur Rhodes
Ivan Rodriguez
Freddy Sanchez
Curt Schilling
Gary Sheffield
Lee Smith
Sammy Sosa
Matt Stairs
Jason Varitek
Billy Wagner
Tim Wakefield
Larry Walker

I’ve highlighted my choices in bold, which includes all of the still-eligible holdovers from last year plus Pudge. Unlike last year, I have room for two more candidates, and will add Vladimir Guerrero to Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling, and Billy Wagner as my list of Others To Think About. I love Jorge Posada and may consider him going forward, but I think there are enough concerns about how his defense affected his overall value to defer that for a year. As for Manny Ramirez, he’s got the stats and I care less about PEDs than your average HOF obsessive, but he was suspended twice for PED usage, and I do see a distinction between people who may have used PEDs before they were formally banned and people who got caught using them after that. And yeah, that standard will have to apply to Alex Rodriguez too, which bums me out personally. No one ever said life was fair, and I may change my mind later, but for now ManRam is off the list.

This is Tim Raines’ last year on the ballot thanks to the change to ten years of eligibility instead of 15, and I will be Very Upset if he doesn’t get in. Results will be announced on January 18. Craig Calcaterra and Jay Jaffe have more

Hall of Fame revamps Veterans Committee

Sounds reasonable, but we’ll see.

Baseball’s Hall of Fame has again revamped its veterans’ committees to increase consideration for more contemporary players, managers, umpires and executives.

Under the change announced Saturday by the Hall’s board of directors, there will be separate committees for Today’s Game (1988-2016), Modern Baseball (1970-87), Golden Days (1950-69) and Early Baseball (1871-1949). Today’s Game and Modern Baseball will vote twice every five years, Golden Days once every five years and Early Baseball once every 10 years.

“There are twice as many players in the Hall of Fame who debuted before 1950 as compared to afterward, and yet there are nearly double the eligible candidates after 1950 than prior,” Hall chair Jane Forbes Clark said in a statement. “Those who served the game long ago and have been evaluated many times on past ballots will now be reviewed less frequently.”

Today’s Game will vote in 2016, ’18, ’21 and ’23; and Modern Baseball in 2017, ’19, ’21 and ’23. Golden Days will vote in 2020 and ’25, and Early Baseball in 2020 and ’30. The Hall’s Historical Overview Committee will decide which committee will consider those players who span eras, based on the time or place of their most indelible impression.

[…]

Committees will remain at 16 people, with a vote of at least 75 percent needed for election. The ballot size will be 10 for each committee; it had been 12 for Expansion Era and 10 for the others.

Yes, the Hall is too heavily weighted towards pre-WWII players. A big part of the reason for that is the Veterans Committee and the excesses of Frankie Frisch in the 1970s, stuffing the Hall with his pals from the 1920s and 1930s. Any list of “least valuable players in the HoF” will include multiple representatives from that group. There’s not much we can do about that, but we can try to correct the mistakes of more recent BBWAA members and their refusal to embrace better metrics as well as their bizarre inconsistencies on PEDs. I don’t really expect much here, but the potential is there for some good work to be done, beginning this year. I look forward to seeing what the first ballot for the Today’s Game group looks like.

Sheryl Swoopes elected to Basketball Hall of Fame

Congratulations!

Swoopes, who contributed to the Comets’ memorable run of four WNBA championships after the league was established in 1997, winning three league MVP awards, and who played on three Olympic gold medal-winning teams, said she was proud to be announced as a Hall of Famer in the state where she played high school and college basketball (at Texas Tech) and became one of the foundations of the women’s pro game.

Still, she said, she feels a twinge of regret that she no longer has a home team to call her own with the Comets’ demise after the 2008 season.

“I went to the Rockets game (Sunday) and saw the Comets banners, and it brought back so many memories,” she said. “My mom said, ‘I hate that there’s no place for you to have your jersey retired.’

“If the Rockets would decide to do something like that, it would mean a lot to me. But if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t make this honor any less special.”

Swoopes also received high praise from [fellow inductee Shaquille] O’Neal, who said, “She could play with us. That is how good she was.” Val Ackerman, who was the first commissioner of the WNBA and is now commissioner of the Big East Conference, said Swoopes “helped form the identity of the league.”

Swoopes joins Yao Ming in this Houston-centric Hall of Fame class. I attended a lot of Comets games back in the day, and Swoopes was a joy to watch – she could do it all on the court, and she did it with grace and tremendous athleticism. It would be nice for the Rockets to honor her at a game, as I’m sure they will do with Yao, and to hang her jersey from the rafters. She’s a distinguished part of Houston basketball history, and a key component of a team that won four straight championships. 2017 will mark the 20th anniversary of that first championship. Let’s take the opportunity to celebrate that.

Yao Ming elected to Basketball Hall of Fame

Congratulations!

Yao Ming

Ground-breaking former Rockets center Yao Ming has been elected for inductions in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, a person with knowledge of the voting confirmed on Wednesday.

Yao, the first player taken in the 2002 draft who became a bridge to the NBA’s successful outreach into China, was an All-NBA second-team selection twice and third-team pick three times before foot injuries cut his career short after playing parts of just eight NBA seasons.

One of the world’s most popular athletes, Yao, 35, was nominated by the Hall of Fame International Committee, automatically making him a finalist. His selection, first reported by Yahoo Sports, will be officially announced on Monday, with Yao saying he considered the timing of his initial eligibility coming in the year the Final Four and Hall of Fame announcement are in Houston to be “destiny.”

“Of course I’m very excited and very honored to be nominated by the Hall of Fame,” Yao said during the All Star weekend in Toronto. “The Hall of Fame is a symbol for basketball people on the court or off the court. For myself, I’m so excited and (appreciative) of the committee for choosing me.”

[…]

“He’s truly a global basketball icon,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said said in February. “His career was cut short, and I think he didn’t achieve everything he wanted to the floor. But I have no doubt that over a long life, he’s going to end up probably having as great an impact on this game as anyone who has ever played.”

Here’s the Yahoo story referenced by the Chron. ESPN reminds us of Yao’s impact:

He was the league’s first Chinese star, and NBA merchandise sales and television ratings in China mushroomed during his career. In 2007, a game his Rockets played against the Milwaukee Bucks, featuring Yi Jianlian, was broadcast on 19 networks in China and watched by more than 200 million people in the country, making it one of the most-watched NBA games in history.

Here are Yao’s career stats. Hard not to imagine what might have been, if only his body had been a bit more durable. Congratulations to Yao Ming on this well-deserved achievement.

Griffey and Piazza reach the Hall, Bagwell and Raines come close

Congratulations to the new inductees.

Ken Griffey Jr., the sixth-leading home run hitter in history and one of the most complete players of his generation, and power-hitting catcher Mike Piazza were elected Wednesday to baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Griffey set a record for highest vote percentage, as he was named on 437 of 440 ballots for 99.32%, breaking the record of 98.84% set by Tom Seaver in 1992. Piazza received 83% of the 75% of votes required for election.

In some ways they will enter the shrine in Cooperstown, N.Y., together as polar opposites. Griffey was baseball royalty all along, the son of a three-time All-Star who played 19 seasons in the majors, the last two alongside him. Junior was the first overall pick in the 1987 draft, reached the big leagues two years later and always seemed destined for greatness without the need of chemical enhancement.

Piazza was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft as a favor to his father’s friend, manager Tommy Lasorda, converted from first baseman to catcher and was dogged by steroid rumors for parts of his career. Nobody drafted that late ever made it to the Hall before.

The official announcement is here and the voting results are here. Jeff Bagwell got 315 votes for 71.6%, and Tim Raines received 307 for 69.8%. Both should be in good shape for next year, though in Raines’ case that will be his last chance. Both may have benefited from a reduction in the number of voters, as 90 former BBWAA members who hadn’t covered the sport in the past 10 years were dropped from the rolls. Mike Mussina, who had a big jump in support may have also done better as a result of that. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds ticked up a bit, but not that much, while Mark McGwire went nowhere in his last year on the ballot. First timer Trevor Hoffman got 67.3% and feels like a favorite to get in next year as well. I’d have liked to see a bigger class, but at least there’s nothing this year to make me throw a fit, and that’s about all I can reasonably ask for. David Schoenfield and Craig Calcaterra have more.

Pete Rose remains banned from baseball

No argument from me.

Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, has decided not to lift the permanent ban imposed on Pete Rose more than a quarter-century ago, meaning the player with more hits than anyone else in the sport’s history will continue to be kept out of the Hall of Fame.

The decision by Mr. Manfred, who succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner last January, was announced on Monday after The New York Times reported that the ban would be kept intact.

Mr. Manfred’s decision comes less than three months after he met with Mr. Rose, 74, at Major League Baseball’s headquarters on Park Avenue in Manhattan to discuss the ban, which was first imposed in 1989, when baseball concluded that Rose had bet on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds and that some of the bets had been placed on his own team.

In the report, which was released on Monday and accompanied his decision to uphold the ban, Mr. Manfred said Mr. Rose informed him at the September meeting that he continues to bet on baseball, which he can legally do in Las Vegas, where he lives.

That disclosure clearly concerned Mr. Manfred, as did what he described as Mr. Rose’s inability, at the meeting, to admit that he not only bet on games as a manager but also as a player.

“In short,’’ Mr. Manfred concluded in the report, “Mr. Rose has not presented credible evidence of a reconfigured life either by an honest acceptance by him of his wrongdoing … or by a rigorous, self-aware and sustained program of avoidance by him of all the cirucmstances that led to his permanent ineligibility in 1989.”

Yeah, Pete Rose, who was banned for life for violating the very clear and simple rule not to bet on baseball, still bets on baseball, and lied about betting on baseball while he was still a player. Any questions?

I’ll say what I said before, that I’d be okay with the idea of Rose being posthumously elected to the Hall. In terms of his on-field accomplishments, he’s a no-brainer. Put Shoeless Joe in with him – it’ll surely have been a century since the Black Sox scandal by the time this would be relevant. Along those same lines, I’d love to see everyone knock off the stupid arguments about PEDs and just evaluate everyone’s cases on their statistical merits. Until then, Rose can continue to not learn from his mistakes. Joe Posnanski, Craig Calcaterra, and Jayson Stark have more.

2016 Hall of Fame ballot

The other election of importance going on right now.

Under new voting rules established this summer by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the annual Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot was released Monday on the earliest date in recent history.

Ken Griffey Jr. and his 630 homers and Trevor Hoffman and his National League-record 601 saves are the top candidates among a bevy of first-time qualifiers for the Class of 2016. Billy Wagner, who had 422 saves in 16 seasons for five teams, is another significant new name on the ballot.
Mike Piazza (69.9 percent of the vote last year), Jeff Bagwell (55.7 percent) and Tim Raines (55 percent) are the returnees with the best chances of being elected this time around.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

[…]

The BBWAA ballot announcement commences the Hall of Fame voting season that includes elections by the 16-member Pre-Integration Committee and nominees for the Ford C. Frick Award and the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, all slated to be unveiled at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., from Dec. 7-10.

This year’s version of the Veterans Committee will vote on six players, three executives and an organizer who were all active in baseball prior to Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947. The Frick Award voters will pick a baseball announcer who was a pioneer during that same period. The BBWAA honors a writer with the Spink Award for meritorious contributions to the baseball writing profession.

The new rules for the BBWAA ballot winnowed the rolls by about 125 voters, a Hall official said. While 625 ballots were sent out last year, about 475 were put in the mail on Monday. The ballots historically had been mailed just prior to Thanksgiving and had to be returned by New Year’s Day. Voters will now have until Dec. 24 to mail their ballots.

The results are to be revealed on MLB Network on Jan. 6, with a news conference involving any of the electees to be held the following day.

In the past, all members of the BBWAA with more than 10 consecutive years of membership received a ballot. Under the new rules passed in July by the Hall’s board of directors, members who have not actively been a member of the BBWAA for 10 years must apply every year for their ballot. The Hall then determines by the number of games an applicant covered in the previous season whether to issue a ballot.

As you know, I’ve had my issues with the way the BBWAA has done its thing in recent years. Perhaps this winnowing will make the process a bit better by eliminating some of the writers who haven’t actually watched a game since the Carter administration. I’m not nearly naive enough to think that this will absolutely be a change for the better, but it’s hard to see how things could get worse.

The full ballot, with the choices I would make highlighted:

Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Luis Castillo, Roger Clemens, David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Glaus, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Trevor Hoffman, Jason Kendall, Jeff Kent, Mike Lowell, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith, Sammy Sosa, Mike Sweeney, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker, Randy Winn.

I think Trevor Hoffman is a Hall of Famer, but Alan Trammell is running out of time, and as voters are limited to ten selections and there’s still a backlog that needs to be worked through. I’d give more consideration to Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling, and Billy Wagner in a different year, but these are the conditions, so make the best of it as you can. Given the plethora of qualified candidates and the lack of space on the ballot, anyone who votes for the likes of Luis Castillo or Mark Grudzielanek, even as a joke or to pay off a bet, needs to have their privileges forcefully revoked. We’ll know shortly after the new year just what fresh hell the HoF voters have unleashed on us this time. Who would be on your ballot?

The latest Pete Rose revelations

He bet on Reds games while he was still a player, despite his loud assertions to the contrary.

For 26 years, Pete Rose has kept to one story: He never bet on baseball while he was a player.

Yes, he admitted in 2004, after almost 15 years of denials, he had placed bets on baseball, but he insisted it was only as a manager.

But new documents obtained by Outside the Lines indicate Rose bet extensively on baseball — and on the Cincinnati Reds — as he racked up the last hits of a record-smashing career in 1986. The documents go beyond the evidence presented in the 1989 Dowd report that led to Rose’s banishment and provide the first written record that Rose bet while he was still on the field.

“This does it. This closes the door,” said John Dowd, the former federal prosecutor who led MLB’s investigation.

The documents are copies of pages from a notebook seized from the home of former Rose associate Michael Bertolini during a raid by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in October 1989, nearly two months after Rose was declared permanently ineligible by Major League Baseball. Their authenticity has been verified by two people who took part in the raid, which was part of a mail fraud investigation and unrelated to gambling. For 26 years, the notebook has remained under court-ordered seal and is currently stored in the National Archives’ New York office, where officials have declined requests to release it publicly.

[…]

Dowd, who reviewed the documents at Outside the Lines’ request, said his investigators had tried but failed to obtain Bertolini’s records, believing they would be the final piece in their case that Rose was betting with mob-connected bookmakers in New York. Dowd and his team had sworn testimony from bookie Ron Peters that Rose bet on the Reds from 1984 through 1986, but not written documentation. Dowd also had testimony and a recorded phone conversation between Bertolini and another Rose associate, Paul Janszen, that established that Bertolini had placed bets for Rose. But Dowd never had the kind of documents that could cement that part of his case, especially in the eyes of fans who wanted to see Rose returned to Major League Baseball.

“We knew that [Bertolini] recorded the bets, and that he bet himself, but we never had his records. We tried to get them. He refused to give them to us,” Dowd said. “This is the final piece of the puzzle on a New York betting operation with organized crime. And, of course, [Rose] betting while he was a player.”

See here for the documents in question, and be sure to read the whole story. The main moral here is that one should never believe a word Pete Rose says.

I recommend you read Craig Calcaterra’s Q&A about what this all means. Remember that Rose has asked Commissioner Rob Manfred to review his case and reconsider the lifetime ban against him. I’ll qute from the last bit of Calcaterra’s discussion:

Q: Does this affect his Hall of Fame case? Should it?

A: He has no Hall of Fame case now, because people who are banned are not allowed to be on the ballot. If and when he is reinstated, he will be subject to the same sort of scrutiny any player is when considered for the Hall. Part of that scrutiny is the so-called character clause. As it was, some voters were probably going to hold Rose’s gambling history against him and make his Hall case, if he ever gets one, tougher than it should be. With new evidence that Rose’s lying didn’t end years ago when he finally copped to betting on baseball, it may turn a few more minds against him.

Personally speaking, I think the character clause is dumb and I’d put Rose in the Hall immediately. There are a lot of liars and cheats in there. None of them is the all-time hits leader.

Q: Got anything else, smart guy?

A: Just one observation: Pete Rose politics are dumb. There is no reason why people who think he should be back in the game or in the Hall of Fame have to believe he’s a great guy or that he’s a truth-teller. Those are not mutually-exclusive categories. Yet for years, including the past ten minutes, I have heard people believe that it is. That if you think Rose is a liar, you MUST be against him for all purposes, or that if you think Rose should be reinstated and enshrined in Cooperstown that you MUST believe everyone is out to get him and that he’s a choir boy.

That’s silly, of course. Rose is a liar. That’s pretty clear. He got a punishment he richly deserved and, because of the nature of that punishment (i.e. it’s permanent) — Major League Baseball is doing him a gigantic favor by even reviewing his case again. If they told him to pound sand, there wouldn’t be a great argument for him or any of his partisans to lodge in his favor. But you can also, like I do, think that Rose is a liar who should be in the Hall of Fame. And one that, at this point in his life, could be reinstated without much harm happening. It would make a lot of people happy to boot.

This new news — or this new corroboration of old news and the bad P.R. that attends it — could be bad for that reinstatement case. There’s no getting around that unless and until MLB says it doesn’t care.

As you know, I’ve long been in the anti-Rose camp, mostly because 1) baseball’s rules about gambling are simple and clear; 2) Rose agreed to the punishment he now serves; and 3) he’s been lying about it for a quarter of a century. I mean, if he’d ever shown any sign that he at least understood what he did was wrong and why, I’d have been less of a hardass about it. Be that as it may, I can see where Calcaterra is coming from, and I’d be willing to go along with it on two conditions. One, that any consideration for Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame happens posthumously, and two, that every self-appointed moralist with Hall of Fame voting privileges agrees to get over the whole ridiculous PED thing already. Put in everyone whose as-is numbers say they deserve it, and tell the unvarnished truth about them on their plaques. Then we can move on to less controversial things, like the DH and improving the pace of the game. Who’s with me on this?

Hall calls for Biggio

Third time’s the charm.

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame on Tuesday, the first time since 1955 writers selected four players in one year.

Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz earned induction on their first tries, and Biggio made it on the third attempt after falling two votes shy last year.

Steroids-tainted stars Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa remained far from election.

Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner with 303 victories and 4,875 strikeouts, was selected on 534 of 549 ballots by veteran members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. His 97.3 percentage was the eighth-highest in the history of voting.

Martinez, a three-time Cy Young winner, appeared on 500 ballots (91.1 percent). Martinez was 219-100, struck out 3,154, led the major leagues in ERA five times and in 2004 helped the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years.

Smoltz was picked on 455 ballots (82.9 percent) and will join former Atlanta teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who were inducted last summer along with Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas. Smoltz, the 1996 NL Cy Young winner, was 213-155 with 154 saves, the only pitcher with 200 wins and 150 saves. He went 15-4 in the postseason.

Biggio appeared on 454 ballots, 42 more than the 75 percent needed and up from 68.2 percent in his first appearance and 74.8 percent last year. He had 3,060 hits in 20 big league seasons, all with the Houston Astros.

The quartet will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 26. The BBWAA had not voted in four players in a single year since selecting Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance 60 years earlier.

I’m guessing you could win yourself a few beers at your favorite sports bar with the trivia question “Who was inducted to the Hall of Fame the same year as Joe DiMaggio?” (In case you’re wondering, Gabby Hartnett was a catcher in the 20s and 30s for the Cubs, Ted Lyons pitched for 20 years with the White Sox – check out the season he had in 1942, when he was 41, it’s the sort of stat line you’d never see anyone have today – and Dazzy Vance was Sandy Koufax 40 years before Sandy Koufax was Sandy Koufax.)

I have to say, other than my usual spittle-flecked rant about steroid hysteria, I have few complaints about this year’s voting results, which if you’ve followed this blog for awhile is saying something. The three top non-qualifiers – Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, and Tim Raines – all improved their standing over last year, and ought to be in decent shape for 2016. I’d have voted for those guys and a few others over Smoltz, but he’s deserving and would only have been left off my ballot this year because I’d have been limited to ten selections. Biggio, Johnson, and Pedro were all no-brainers. In addition to his prowess at the game, Craig Biggio was also the inspiration for the greatest sports-related blog of all time. He was Hall-worthy just for that, to be honest. I don’t expect to say this again any time soon, but well done, writers. Now get over your steroid idiocy and get to work electing everyone else that belongs. The official HOF announcement is here, the MLB.com story is here, and Hair Balls, Pinstripe Alley, Charlie Pierce, and Ultimate Astros have more.

The frontlogged Hall of Fame ballot

Here are all of the eligible candidates for the MLB Hall of Fame class of 2015:

Here are the first-time eligible players, in alphabetical order:

Rich Aurillia
Aaron Boone
Tony Clark
Carlos Delgado
Jermaine Dye
Darin Erstad
Cliff Floyd
Nomar Garciaparra
Brian Giles
Tom Gordon
Eddie Guardado
Randy Johnson
Pedro Martinez
Troy Percival
Jason Schmidt
Gary Sheffield
John Smoltz

Now, here are the holdovers, listed in order of the percentage of the vote they received last year.

Craig Biggio, 74.8 percent
Mike Piazza, 62.2
Jeff Bagwell, 54.3
Tim Raines, 46.1
Roger Clemens, 35.4
Barry Bonds, 34.7
Lee Smith, 29.9
Curt Schilling, 29.2
Edgar Martinez, 25.2
Alan Trammell, 20.8
Mike Mussina, 20.3
Jeff Kent, 15.2
Fred McGriff, 11.7
Mark McGwire, 11
Larry Walker, 10.2
Don Mattingly, 8.2
Sammy Sosa, 7.2

The ones in bold are ones that I would vote for right now if I could. The ones in italics are ones I would seriously consider in a year where there weren’t so insanely many qualified candidates. Note that I would have to not vote for a couple of the candidates that I absolutely believe deserve enshrinement because there are more than ten of them. This is nuts, and it’s entirely because of the voters and their head-up-the-butt approach to this over the past few years.

Joe Sheehan calls this “The Ballot Frontlog”:

In 2013, this — not some ballot limitation — is what broke the system. With Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa joining the ballot, more than one in three Hall of Fame votes was used on players who have no chance to be elected by this group of voters, not because they’re unqualified — my god, we’re discussing Jack Morris seriously while dismissing Palmeiro and Sosa? — but because a significant subset of the voting pool rejects them out of hand.

That’s why we have a logjam. In a rational system, five to seven players on this year’s ballot wouldn’t be on it. McGwire would have been elected on his third or fourth try. Bagwell would have been in on his second or third. That would have cleared 435 votes on last year’s ballots to be used on downballot candidates like Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell and Curt Schilling, or better still, to elect three inner-circle Hall of Famers in Bonds, Clemens and Piazza and a fourth mid-tier Hall of Famer in Craig Biggio. (In this parallel universe, Jack Morris probably gets elected in 2012 or 2013 as well.) You would certainly have a deep ballot, perhaps edging towards those seven-votes-per-ballot averages from the 1970s, but nothing the Hall hasn’t handled in the past.

That’s the problem. It’s not that there are 17 players on this ballot with pretty good cases for the Hall. It’s that there are at least six players on this ballot who have no business still being under consideration for the Hall of Fame. This isn’t a talent-depth issue, a ballot-size issue or anything else. It’s a steroids issue. It’s not a backlog, it’s a frontlog. The seven marked players returning from last year’s ballot are again going to eat up 1250-1350 ballot slots, 30-35% of the total. Then they’re going to do it again next year, and the year after that, and for years to come, making it impossible for qualified Hall of Famers who aren’t inner-circle types to gain ground in the voting. There probably won’t be another shutout for a while — you have Ken Griffey Jr., Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and others coming down the pike — but it will be impossible for anyone in the middle of the current ballot to advance, and the 5% rule (which I called for modifying last winter) is going to lop some fully-qualified candidates off the ballot along the way. Palmeiro, McGwire and Sosa, just to name three, are going to struggle to stay on the ballot for 2015.

Expanding the ballot, everyone’s favorite solution, doesn’t come close to addressing that problem. It’s the Hall — to be clear, the BBWAA doesn’t get to make that change on its own — passing the buck as it has now for the better part of a decade. The ten-man ballot works because it gives value to a place on the ballot relative to the number of names under consideration, and changing it to avoid taking a stand on the so-called “Steroid Era” would cheapen the process for political expediency. The Hall, and the Hall alone, is responsible for this, by not issuing clear instructions about how the voters should handle players from the last 20 years. By outsourcing this one to the writers, the Hall has broken the voting system. This is an issue on which the voters want leadership and guidance, and the Hall, deathly afraid of taking a position that will alienate anyone, has walked away from them — and by extension, baseball fans.

The only way to address this is for the Hall to issue clear directions to the voters…and it’s clear what those directions need to be. See, whether your dad likes it or not, some day Barry Bonds is going to be on that wall. So is Roger Clemens. So are Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell and probably the other three guys as well, along with the players like Alex Rodriguez who will come along after them. As steroid hysteria and all of the bad math, history and chemistry that came with it fade into the past, smart people who weren’t invested in our narratives will recognize that a place that honors the greatest players ever, but doesn’t acknowledge these all-time greats, cannot stand; that a Hall of Fame without Bonds and Clemens creates more questions than it answers. There’ll be a committee, maybe in my lifetime, certainly in my daughter’s, that corrects the mistakes being made now, that inducts these players, that acknowledges that in the heat of the moment, a lot of people got it wrong in the early days of the 21st century.

I think Sheehan is a little too easy on the voters, whose fact-free slandering of Jeff Bagwell is beyond shameful, and I don’t share his belief that “clear directions” from the Hall would have settled this. I just don’t think there’s anything short of not being allowed to vote that would keep enough of these moral scolds from blackballing an unacceptably large number of qualified candidates. That said, he’s clearly put his finger on the problem. I for one look forward to that day Sheehan describes when enough time has passed to allow some sanity to reign. I hope I live long enough to see it. Results of this year’s voting will be announced on January 6. I’ll be back to bitch about them afterward as always. Deadspin has more.

Maybe the Hall of Fame voting procedure changes aren’t so bad

I admit, when I heard the news that the MLB Hall of Fame changed its voting procedures to reduce eligibility from 15 years to 10, I was outraged. That’s my usual reaction to things the HOF does, since most of them are indeed outrageous. But Joe Sheehan has just about convinced me that maybe this time it wasn’t such a bad move.

The 15-year number stems from a time when we didn’t have the access to the tools to evaluate a player’s career that we do today. Given the number of players eligible for election and the greater reliance on contemporary observation and oral history, a long window for reflection and discussion made sense. Now, it no longer does. We’re not writing letters and publishing columns in newspapers and digging through Total Baseball anymore. For one, the Hall passes judgment on almost all players in the first ten years; in the past 30 elections, just three players have been elected to the Hall past their tenth year on the ballot. That includes two of the BBWAA’s worst picks — Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter — and Bert Blyleven, who may have ended up a ridiculous omission but for the work of Rich Lederer. That’s one par-or-better Hall of Famer elected after the tenth year since 1985. It seems quite clear that the BBWAA doesn’t need those last five years.

(Based on history, you might even want to cut that down to eight years. Hall of Famers elected in years 9-10 on the ballot over the past 30 years include Andre Dawson, Rich Gossage and Tony Perez. With due respect to Dawson, five of the last six players elected after Year Eight on the ballot are among the weakest ever selected by the BBWAA. If they had instituted an eight-year cutoff in 1985, the Hall would be stronger than it is today.)

Think about the conversations we have about these players. Nowadays, we pass judgment on Hall cases 20 minutes after a player retires, and those judgments don’t change much over 20 years. Look at the players on last year’s ballot. Do we need more time to talk about Don Mattingly or Lee Smith or Alan Trammell? This isn’t 1948. We have scads of data, and we have huge video archives, and we have a series of tubes through which we talk about this stuff incessantly. We just don’t need to talk about these players every year for 15 years. As I note above, eight might very well be plenty. I’d actually have gone one step further and shortened the time from retirement to the ballot as well, probably from five to three years in a couple of steps. These arguments can be had, and had well, over 10-15 years. They can generally be had over 10-15 months. This change was a boon to the process.

The one mistake the BBWAA did make is in not grandfathering in more players. Not that Trammell, Smith or Mattingly are getting in, but it would have been unfair to just remove them from next year’s ballot. However, the same courtesy should have been extended to everyone on last year’s ballot. The negative reaction to the change is correlated to the strong feelings many people have about candidates such as Tim Raines (entering his eighth year), Edgar Martinez (sixth) and Larry Walker (fifth). Those players will have less time to advance through the process now, with Raines in particular — a fully-qualified candidate now down to three years with which to advance — getting shafted. The BBWAA undercut its good decision by not extending the grace period to all players who reached the ballot under the 15-year rule. Changing a player’s eligibility retroactively is bad form, and gives support to the idea that this change — which, again, is a good one and long overdue — is actually more about ridding the group of the Barry Bonds Question than improving the process. This is a correctable error, one I hope they will address next year.

Sheehan argues that the logjam created recently by the writers’ mulish refusal to elect anyone one year and to be stingy in the next year after that should work itself out over the next three years (Andrew Mearns disagrees on this), and that the real problem we face continues to be with voters that don’t know how to properly evaluate players. I remain a little skeptical of all this because it’s the Hall of Fame’s job to do stupid and reactionary things, but at the very least Sheehan has tempered my indignation. What do you think?

Lance Berkman

Former Astro and Rice Owl Lance Berkman hung up his spikes this week.

Lance Berkman
(credit: Photo Mojo on Flickr)

Lance Berkman, who starred at Rice before becoming one of the most clutch hitters in Astros history, is retiring after a 15-year career in the major leagues.

“He’s going to go down as one of the great players in Astros history,” said Phil Garner, who managed Berkman during the team’s playoff runs in 2004 and 2005. “A local Texas kid, goes to Rice, makes good, comes to the big leagues. He’s been a fabulous player in the big leagues, and he’s done it all with a touch of class.”

It was at Rice where Berkman’s smooth swing first got noticed. He hit 41 homers in 63 games as a junior and was drafted in the first round (No. 16 overall) by the Astros in 1997. Just two seasons later, Berkman was in the majors to stay.

From 2000-09, Berkman hit .300 for the Astros, averaging 31 homers and 103 RBIs.

“There aren’t many better in this generation,” baseball historian/statistician Bill James said at the time.

Among switch hitters, Berkman ranks among the best of all time. His career on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .943 is second only to Mickey Mantle’s .977 among switch hitters, and he ranks third among switch hitters in on-base percentage (.406, behind Mantle and Roy Cullenbine) and fourth in home runs (366, behind Mantle, Eddie Murray and Chipper Jones).

No question Berkman was a great hitter. But is he a Hall of Fame player? There’s certainly local sentiment for that. My gut intuition was that his career was a little short and left his overall numbers, especially the kind of counting stats that tend to most impress Hall of Fame voters, a bit below the standard. Cliff Corcoran took a deeper look and agreed with that.

Berkman ranks second in baseball history among switch hitters with at least 3,000 plate appearances in OPS+, behind only Mickey Mantle, and fourth among switch-hitters in home runs (behind Mantle, Eddie Murray and Chipper Jones, though Carlos Beltran will likely pass him this year). However, he doesn’t fare quite as well in the other cumulative stats (which covers everything from hits to wins above replacement), and that reveals the soft underbelly of his Hall of Fame case. For the bulk of his career, Berkman was a tremendously productive hitter, but not only did he play just 15 seasons, he only played in 140 or more games in eight of them.

[…]

Berkman’s retirement doesn’t come as a great surprise, particularly given how close he was to hanging it up a year ago. It does leave us with the question of whether or not he is a Hall of Famer. Jay Jaffe’s JAWS stats say no. Berkman’s 51.8/.38.9/45.3 career/peak/JAWS scores all fall short of the standard at first base and left and rightfield, his three primary positions (he also played 166 games in center early in his career, which yielded this gem on Tal’s Hill).

It may be surprising that Berkman doesn’t at least meet the standard on peak score, but the combination of the offense-heavy era in which he played, the Astros’ move to the hitter-friendly Enron-cum-Minute Maid Park in 2000, and some brutal fielding scores undercut those impressive statistics above. That, in combination with his short career, make the Hall seem like a longshot for Berkman, though he may get some extra points from the voters for his postseason performance, being a switch-hitter, and for his personality and honesty with the press.

In terms of a comparable candidate, one player that jumps to mind is Edgar Martinez. The legendary Mariners DH was also an undeniably great hitter who also had a memorable postseason moment, made essentially no contribution on defense by virtue of having been a designated hitter for the bulk of his career and had a similarly short career (just 12 qualifying seasons). Martinez hit .312/.418/.515 (147 OPS+) in his career to Berkman’s .293/.406/.537 (144 OPS+). Berkman hit more home runs (366 to doubles-hitter Martinez’s 309), but Martinez, perhaps crucially, surpassed 2,000 hits while Berkman did not (2,247 to 1,905). Martinez also played in more games (2,055 to 1,879) made more plate appearances (8,674 to 7,814), and had superior WAR (68.3 to 51.8) and JAWS scores (55.9 to 45.3). Martinez can also stake claim to being the greatest ever at his position, even if that position was designated hitter. Despite all of that, after five years on the ballot, he has yet to surpass 36.5 percent of the vote.

Edgar Martinez is a good comp, but I think it’s fair to say that Jeff Bagwell belongs in the Hall of Fame before Berkman gets there. He’s got a case, and I’ll be interested to see who argues for him in five years’ time, but I don’t think it’s inaccurate or insulting to say that the Big Puma was a great player and a fearsome hitter who falls a bit short of Cooperstown.

One thing for which there should be no argument at all is for Berkman to retire as an Astro. The team needs to make this happen.

The Astros should sign Berkman, give him his No. 17 to wear one last time for a farewell news conference, and let him retire as one of them, at home in Houston, where he belongs.

Berkman was a clutch hitter who gave the Astros many happy endings. Now they can give him one.

“He’s really an Astro,” said Phil Garner, who managed Berkman in Houston for parts of four seasons, including the teams that reached the playoffs in 2004 and the World Series in ’05. “He knows it. We all know it.”

That is the mother of all no-brainers. The Yankees did this last year for Hideki Matsui, who was a popular and well-regarded player that made key contributions to the 2009 World Series win and the 2003 LCS win over the Red Sox, but is hardly a franchise cornerstone. Whatever you think about the Yankees, they do this sort of thing right. If the Stros want to ensure at least one sellout crowd this year, they need to start planning for Lance Berkman Day at Minute Maid. (They should be planning JR Richard Day, too, but that’s another story.) It’s great that the team wants to bring Nolan Ryan on board, but one way or the other they need to give Lance Berkman a proper sendoff. Make this happen, y’all.

No BGO for HOF

Missed it by one vote.

One of the most majestic induction classes in the history of the National Baseball Hall of Fame was set on Wednesday with the announcement that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were elected by eligible writers of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, all of them by big margins.

On the ballot for the second time, Craig Biggio, who had 3,060 hits in 20 seasons, all with the Astros, did not get the necessary 75 percent, falling two votes shy of induction.

Already to be inducted in July are three of the greatest managers of all time — Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, all selected by the Expansion Era Committee last month.

That means six living members are heading toward one of the grandest Induction Weekends from July 26-27 in Cooperstown, N.Y. The results of this year’s BBWAA vote were in stark contrast to that of last year, when the writers didn’t elect anyone.

Maddux and Glavine, a pair of 300-game winners who pitched the bulk of their careers for the Braves, were the favorites, but the 571 voters outdid themselves by also adding Thomas. It was the first time since 1999, when Robin Yount, Nolan Ryan and George Brett were elected, that the writers put three first-time eligibles into the Hall.

Maddux, who won 355 games, the eighth-highest figure in Major League history, saw his name appear on 97.2 percent of the ballots, falling short of the all-time mark still held by Tom Seaver, who was elected on 98.84 percent of the vote in 1992. Glavine, who won 305 games, fourth-most among left-handers, was at 91.9 percent, and Thomas, a first baseman and designated hitter, who batted .301, hit 521 homers and amassed 1,704 RBIs in 19 seasons, 16 of them with the White Sox, finished at 83.7.

I’m going to take a break from all the ranting and airing of grievances about the deserving candidates that didn’t get elected and the idiocy of the voters, for this year at least. Biggio becomes the first player to miss being inducted by a single vote, which at least bodes well for his future. You aggrieved Astros fans, go vent your spleen at Ken Gurnick, you’ll feel better. How much better off we’d all be if he had given his vote to Deadspin instead. Congratulations to the three supremely qualified new members, and better luck next year, Bidge. Hardball Talk has more.

Hall calls for Torre, Cox, and LaRussa

Congratulations to the newest members of the Hall of Fame.

The first wave of inductees for the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class have been announced. The Veteran’s Committee has decided to induct managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, and Tony La Russa:

All three managers were inducted unanimously by the 16-man committee, and absolutely no one should be shocked. They are all extremely well-loved in baseball circles and rank 3rd (La Russa, 2,728), 4th (Cox, 2,504), and 5th (Torre, 2,326) all-time in managerial wins.

All three are deserving, no question about it. However, the joy of seeing those deserving candidates get enshrined is greatly tempered by the sadness of the one that didn’t.

The other people who were on the ballot were Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Billy Martin, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, Ted Simmons, Steinbrenner, and Marvin Miller. Of these nominees, I’m of the opinion that Simmons, John, and Steinbrenner should probably be honored in Cooperstown one way or another, but the biggest crime of all is the continued dismissal of the late Marvin Miller. It is a complete and utter joke that the Hall of Fame claims to honor the biggest figures in the history of baseball but has never done anything for Miller. Dayn Perry over at CBS Sports nicely sums up Miller’s slam-dunk case:

Marvin Miller

Miller is the man who, armed with his training as an economist for the United Steelworkers of America, forged the MLBPA into something more than a handmaiden to ownership, something more than a “company union.” Recounting the gains made by the players under Miller would take too much bandwidth (and keep in mind that bandwidth is not especially finite). Most notably, though, he methodically and relentlessly attacked the reserve clause — the patently unfair system that yoked a player to one team for life or until the team was done with him.

Finally, in 1975, thanks to the “test cases” of Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, the reserve clause was overturned by arbitrator Peter Seitz, and free agency in baseball was born. In part because of that and in part because Miller was able to persuade owners to accept salary arbitration, the average major-league salary increased tenfold during Miller’s tenure. And that’s to say nothing of the pension system he created — one that’s the envy of athletes in other professional sports.

All of those are good things, both on the principle of economic freedom and in terms of making MLB a more attractive destination for athletic talent around the world. Contrary to popular misconception, free agency also improved parity and competitive balance across the league.

The players’ union was an absolute joke when Miller took over. By the time he left office, players had far more rights than ever before. The nigh-century old reserve clause was a complete injustice; Miller’s hard-fought case against it eventually led to its elimination. Average salary increased by 1,616% during his tenure. (No, that is not a typo.) Players were previously unable to file grievances against owners. As previously mentioned, anyone arguing Steinbrenner’s case better be arguing for Miller’s too, since free agency, the very institution that Steinbrenner capitalized on, would not have been possible without Miller. Miller changed the game for the better, but his continued to exclusion is why people like Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra have legitimate reasons to completely dismiss the Hall’s validity (emphasis mine):

The direct problem is one I’ve mentioned many times before, and that’s the horrendous exclusion of Marvin Miller. He’s been passed over multiple times now, and he’s probably never getting in. I’ve accepted that. I’ll never accept, however, that the Hall of Fame is anything approaching legitimate without Miller’s inclusion. Many owners, executives and commissioners — many feckless at best, some actively harmful to the game — are in the Hall. Very few of them if any have had as big an impact on how baseball operates than Miller.

Bowie Kuhn, the crappy commissioner who Miller constantly fought and triumphed over multiple times, is in the Hall of Fame while Miller remains outside. That is just completely baffling. What’s worse is that Miller apparently received even fewer votes than he did during his last vote in 2010: six at most. Coincidentally, the 16-man committee had six former players on it. Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro, and Frank Robinson better all have voted for Miller, if not only due to his effect on their salaries. The remainder of the committee consisted of managers Whitey Herzog and Tommy Lasorda, historians Steve Hirdt, Bruce Jenkins, Jack O’Connell, and Jim Reeves, and executives Andy MacPhail, Dave Montgomery, Jerry Reinsdorf, and Paul Beeston. Even if all four executives on the ballot decided to screw Miller over for what he did to them over the years, the remainder of the voting bloc could still have inducted him with the requisite 12 votes. Hirdt, Jenkins, O’Connell, and Reeves don’t deserve the title of “historian” if they didn’t vote for Miller, given how much Miller did to impact baseball history. We might never see a Hall of Fame without Marvin Miller. and until he’s elected, that gross fact likely stands as Cooperstown’s biggest failure.

I agree completely. I wish I knew what it would take to fix this massive oversight, but then the Hall of Fame stopped making sense years ago. Think Progress and Linkmeister have more.

Time to ponder how the Hall of Fame voters will screw things up this year

Pinstripe Alley reviews this year’s Hall of Fame ballot and heaves a sigh.

If I was given a ballot and asked to name at most 10 players for induction, I would first complain that I can’t add more, then submit the following ballot:

[Greg] Maddux, [Frank] Thomas, [Mike] Mussina, [Tom] Glavine, [Barry] Bonds, [Roger] Clemens, [Craig] Biggio, [Jeff] Bagwell, [Mike] Piazza, [Tim] Raines

Seriously, how are voters supposed to cut that down? The BBWAA needs to eliminate the 10-player limit or at least extend it. Otherwise it’s only going to get more crowded next year as Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield join the ballot. My ballot for this year wouldn’t be permitted to include the other worthy players I mentioned above, like [Curt] Schilling, Edgar [Martinez], [Larry] Walker, [Jeff] Kent, and [Alan] Trammell. I frankly don’t bear much ill will to [Mark] McGwire, [Sammy] Sosa, and [Rafael] Palmeiro, either. The bottom line is that the limit of 10 just doesn’t cut it anymore.

In the end, I can sadly see the possibility that only Maddux is chosen for induction. Voters have been weird about seemingly obvious candidates like Thomas before, and despite Biggio’s strong showing last year, the large ballot could complicate matters. Although there are other candidates better than Biggio, those are my predicted top three finishers. Please surprise me and induct more than one Hall of Famer, BBWAA. There are so many worthy candidates.

I can see an even worse possibility, that the writers once again ignore worthy candidates like Raines and Trammell, insult candidates that have no credible allegations of PED use against them like Biggio, Bagwell, and Piazza, and elevate clearly less worthy candidates like Jack Morris and Lee Smith instead. The ballot is indeed jammed with deserving candidates this year, with more to come next year, thanks to two consecutive years of inactivity fueled by ignorance and hypocrisy. Going out of their way to enshrine the undeserving at the expense of those who belong in the name of personal vendettas and bogus statistics would be the bitter cherry on top of the rancid sundae. So yeah, that’s what I expect to happen.

On wins and losses

This story about CC Sabathia and his chances of winning 300 games in his career got me thinking along some slightly different lines.

CC Sabathia won his 200th career game [last] week against the Minnesota Twins, becoming the 114th pitcher in major league history to do so. While wins are an overrated stat for pitchers, the fact is that they become a pretty good barometer of how good a pitcher was over his career.

Nowadays, most stat-savvy fans recognize that pitcher wins are more a function of run support and bullpen quality than anything else. Pitcher quality is more accurately measured by the things that the pitcher has control over – primarily strikeouts, walks, homeruns yielded, also known as defense-independent pitching stats (DIPS). At a somewhat deeper level, things like groundball and flyball rates are factored in, as are ballpark effects. It is true that while a so-so pitcher can luck into a big-win season, any pitcher that can rack up a large number of wins over his career is almost by definition of high quality. There can still be a pretty broad range of quality among even pitchers with gaudy career win totals, however, and that got me to wondering who are the “worst” pitchers with at least 200 career wins. “Worst” is obviously a highly subjective term, just as being of Hall of Fame quality is, so this is just one person’s attempt to quantify that. For these purposes, I used two measures of Wins Above Replacement, or WAR. The most common ones used are fWAR and bWAR, where the “f” is for Fangraphs and the “b” is for Baseball Reference. Here are the pitchers with at least 200 wins and less than 40 fWAR and/or bWAR:

fWAR Name Wins Losses FIP fWAR ========================================== Hough, C 216 216 4.29 24.6 Niekro, J 221 204 3.79 26.9 Spalding, A 253 65 2.93 26.9 White, Will 229 166 2.92 28.4 Burdette, L 203 144 3.68 31.1 Fitzsimmons, F 217 146 4.05 32.0 Perry, J 215 174 3.78 32.6 Hunter, C 224 166 3.66 33.8 Lemon, B 207 128 3.79 34.4 Welch, Mickey 307 210 3.27 35.4 Haines, J 210 158 3.95 35.9 Welch, Bob 211 146 3.71 36.1 Root, C 201 160 3.78 36.4 Mullin, G 228 196 2.80 38.0 Stivetts, J 203 132 4.11 38.8 Wakefield, T 200 180 4.72 38.9 McGinnity, J 246 142 2.89 39.2 Mays, C 207 126 3.27 39.4 McCormick, J 265 214 2.87 39.8 Dauss, H 222 182 3.29 39.9 bWAR Name Wins Losses ERA+ bWAR ========================================== Burdette, L 203 144 99 25.8 Niekro, J 221 204 98 28.7 Reuss, J 220 191 100 33.1 Fitzsimmons, F 217 146 112 33.5 Marquard, R 201 177 103 34.2 Mullin, G 228 196 101 34.3 Wakefield, T 200 180 105 34.5 Dauss, H 223 182 102 35.2 Haines, J 210 158 109 35.7 Hunter, C 224 166 104 36.6 Lemon, B 207 128 119 37.5 Root, C 201 160 111 38.0 Perry, J 215 174 106 38.7 White, Will 229 166 121 38.9 Derringer, P 223 212 108 39.0 Hough, C 216 216 106 39.6

“FIP” means Fielding Independent Pitching, and is a way of calculating ERA based on strikeouts, walks, and homers. “ERA+” is simply the ratio of the pitcher’s Earned Run Average to the league ERA. A 100 ERA+ means your ERA is the same as the league average; the higher the ERA+, the better your ERA is relative to the league that year. Fangraphs had FIP, Baseball Reference had ERA+, so I just went with what they had.

As a point of reference, nine pitchers have an fWAR of over 100 – Roger Clemens is the all-time leader with 139.9 fWAR – and nine pitchers have a bWAR of at least 100 – Cy Young leads that group with a bWAR of 170.3. If you don’t recognize some of the names in this lists above, don’t worry – neither did I. A number of them are from the pre-1900 era. While there are a number of pitchers on both lists, fWAR and bWAR are calculated differently, and in some cases they were quite disparate. I think it’s fair to say that Lew Burdette, Freddy Fitzsimmons, and Joe Niekro are the bottom three here. Doesn’t mean they weren’t good pitchers – they most certainly were – but of all hurlers with at least 200 wins, they had the least overall career value. Hey, someone has to be at the bottom of the list.

Note that several of these pitchers are in the Hall of Fame – Catfish Hunter, Bob Lemon, Jesse Haines, Rube Marquard, Joe McGinnity. (Al Spalding is also a Hall of Famer, but as an executive; he did not play ten full seasons and thus would not have been eligible as a player.) Lemon racked up nearly all his value, and 186 of his wins, in only nine seasons as a fulltime starter; McGinnity had a bWAR of 60.6. The others are perhaps not quite as worthy of the HoF as they might have seemed at the time of their induction. That’s an argument for another time.

I must say, when I started writing this post, I’d assumed that one name to appear on these lists would be Bobo Newsom, one of only two 200 game winners to have a losing record. Newsom went 211-222 over a long career with mostly crappy teams, but had a 51.7 bWAR (107 ERA+) and 62.2 fWAR (3.81 FIP), making him a notch above the ones that did get included. The other such pitcher was Jack Powell, about whom I knew nothing going in. Powell went 245-254 lifetime with a 56.0 bWAR (106 RA+) and 46.3 fWAR (3.01 FIP) in a career that began in 1897.

All this talk about losses and 200 wins got me to wondering whether there are any active pitchers closing in on 200 career losses. Here’s the leaderboard for losses among current pitchers:

Name Wins Losses Age ===================================== Lowe, D 176 157 40 Pettite, A 252 148 41 Zito, B 164 138 35 Buehrle, M 179 137 34 Dempster, R 129 132 36 Burnett, AJ 141 127 36 Colon, B 183 125 40 Garland, J 136 125 33 Wright, J 92 125 38 Arroyo, B 131 121 36

Only 45 hurlers have lost 200 or more games in their careers. I don’t see anyone joining that list anytime soon. The youngest players with at least 100 Ls are 32-year-olds CC Sabathia (108) and Dan Haren (106). I suppose if Sabathia could win 100 more, he could lose 92 more as well, though given that his career winning percentage is .649, it’s hard to imagine he’ll revert to being a near-.500 pitcher the rest of the way.

Finally, the players bidding to be the next member of the 200 win club:

Name Wins Losses Age ===================================== Colon, B 183 125 40 Buehrle, M 179 137 34 Lowe, D 176 157 40 Zito, B 164 138 35 Oswalt, R 163 99 35 Garcia, F 155 106 36 Carpenter, C 144 94 38 Burnett, AJ 141 127 36 Santana, J 139 78 34 Garland, J 136 125 33 Lee, C 135 80 34

Barring injury or a complete dropoff in effectiveness, I’d say Mark Buehrle is a cinch to reach 200, possibly next season. The ageless Bartolo Colon, who has 12 wins this season, could join him. If Chris Carpenter hadn’t lost nearly three full seasons to injury, who knows how many more wins he’d have. Cliff Lee would need to regain some form, but he has a shot. Beyond that list, Justin Verlander (133 wins, 30 years old), Dan Haren (123, 32), and Felix Hernandez (106, 27) seem like the ones with the best odds. And going back to my original statement about wins being tightly connected to run support and bullpen quality, imagine how much closer to 200 King Felix would be if he toiled for a better team than the Mariners. He’s in his ninth season now; Andy Pettite collected 149 Ws through his first nine years. Don’t let anyone tell you that luck isn’t a part of the game.

The Hall calls for Guy Lewis

Long overdue.

Guy Lewis and friends

Former University of Houston coach Guy V. Lewis, who won nearly 600 games, was the architect of the high-flying, rim-rattling Phi Slama Jama dynasty of the 1980s and helped integrate college basketball in the South, will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, a person familiar with the selection process said Thursday.

Later Thursday, Lewis’ wife, Dena, said the 91-year-old legendary coach received the news of his election after years of being passed over.

“We think it’s great,” Dena Lewis said. “Long overdue. I cried when I heard.”

Asked how Lewis, who retired in 1986, reacted, she said: “He said, ‘That’s great.’ ”

[…]

Despite his on-court success, Lewis was presumably bypassed from consideration – only making it as a finalist one previous time in 2003 – for never winning a national championship. Word of Lewis’ making the Hall came on the 30-year anniversary of his most stunning loss – North Carolina State’s 54-52 upset of the heavily favored Cougars in the 1983 championship game.

Lewis failed to receive enough support in recent years and was removed from the ballot for five years from 2008-2012. He became eligible again this year and joined a group of 12 finalists announced during NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston in February.

“The coaches I hated coaching against were the real good ones, and Guy was one of those,” legendary UCLA coach John Wooden told the San Antonio Express-News in 1998. “I think Guy took a bum rap because he never won a national championship.”

Here’s Lewis’ Wikipedia page, which includes his yearly record as UH coach. The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is a bit of an odd duck since its MLB and NFL counterparts it incorporates all parts of the game – NBA, ABA, college, women’s, and international basketball. There is longstanding criticism of the backlog of worthy entrants, including very loud protest over Guy V’s exclusion up till now. It’s great to see this oversight get corrected while the very deserving recipient is still with us to appreciate it. Congratulations, Coach, on the long overdue honor. Mean Green Cougar Red and Hair Balls have more.

Hall of Fame elects nobody

Truly, utterly, ridiculous.

Steroid-tainted stars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa were denied entry to baseball’s Hall of Fame, with voters failing to elect any candidates for only the second time in four decades.

Bonds received just 36.2 percent of the vote, Clemens 37.6 and Sosa 12.5 in totals announced Wednesday by the Hall and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. They were appearing on the ballot for the first time and have up to 14 more years to make it to Cooperstown.

Craig Biggio, 20th on the career list with 3,060 hits, topped the 37 candidates with 68.2 percent of the 569 ballots, 39 shy of the 75 percent needed. Among other first-year eligibles, Mike Piazza received 57.8 percent and Curt Schilling 38.8.

“I think as a player, a group, this is one of the first times that we’ve been publicly called out,” Schilling said. “I think it’s fitting. … If there was ever a ballot and a year to make a statement about what we didn’t do as players — which is we didn’t actively push to get the game clean — this is it.”

Jack Morris led holdovers with 67.7 percent. He will make his final ballot appearance next year, when fellow pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine along with slugger Frank Thomas are eligible for the first time.

It was just the eighth time the BBWAA failed to elect any players. There were four fewer votes than last year, and five members submitted blank ballots.

I’ve run out of ways to express my loathing for the Hall of Fame voters, who to my mind are as contemptible as a room full of Rick Perrys. I had to stop the embedded video on that ESPN link because I was about to start yelling obscenities at Pedro Gomez and Harold Bryant. At least Tim Kurkjian was making some sense, as do Jayson Stark, David Schoenfeld, and Joe Posnanski. But hey, it’s not all negative. Despite the BBWAA’s epic fail, there will be inductions this year, as Deacon White, Jacob Ruppert, and Hank O’Day will all be enshrined. If you have any idea who even two of these fellows are, go to the head of the class. If this isn’t a clarion call for a complete John Byrne does “Superman”-style reboot of the whole process, I don’t know what would be. Linkmeister has more.

The Hall of Fame and guilt by association

John Royal hits on one of the least admirable traits of Hall of Fame voters.

There are some voters out there once again claiming that Jeff Bagwell used ‘roids, and these same folks are claiming that Craig Biggio used them as well. How do they reconcile these statements with the truth that there’s no evidence that either cheated?

They use the eye test and the guilt by association standards. So because Bagwell bulked up and started hitting homers. He’s guilty. And while Biggio didn’t really bulk up, his power numbers also spiked; ipso facto, they both used PEDs. They were also teammates with Ken Caminiti, Andy Pettitte, and Roger Clemens, thus they must have used steroids.

This extreme stupidity has so far kept Bagwell out of the Hall of Fame, and could possibly keep Biggio out this year. And while this line of thinking is moronic, it’s kind of interesting to see if it’s going to keep being applied over the next several years, and if it is applied, will it be applied to all eligible players.

Take next year’s ballot. Among those on the ballot will be Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, two of the best pitchers of the ’90s — they’re also acknowledged as two of the best ever. There have never been any allegations of either of these two taking steroids. Just as there was no suspicion on Biggio while he played. But what makes Maddux and Glavine any different than Biggio?

Both Maddux and Glavine played on teams with Ken Caminiti, Gary Sheffield, and David Justice, who used steroids. Sure, neither Maddux or Glavine looked like they used steroids, but by the unwritten rules being established, neither Maddux or Glavine should be inducted into the Hall of Fame because they are steroid users. And that same argument should apply in about five years when Chipper Jones appears on the ballot.

And if Craig Biggio is supposed to have used steroids because he played with Caminiti, Clemens, and Pettitte, then watching the fools explain why they won’t apply the rule to Derek Jeter when he’s up for induction is going to be like watching a train wreck.

Let’s look at the list of superstar PED users Jeter has been teammates with: Clemens, Pettitte, Justice, Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Chuck Knoblauch, and the Johnny Appleseed of steroids, Jose Canseco. If the excuse for Biggio is guilt by association, then it must be a without a doubt fact that Jeter juiced, and as such, he can’t go into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But the national media and the New York baseball writers will have the vapors if anybody attempts to besmirch the sainted Jeter like this.

I have heard the Bagwell/steroids “accusations”, though I don’t know how much effect that has had on his enshrinement prospects. Honestly, there are a lot of baseball writers out there who just flat don’t get how good Bagwell was, and how much his stats were depressed by the Astrodome early on in his career. The type of voter who never votes for anyone in his first year of eligibility will probably be enough to keep Biggio out this year, but if the same steroids silliness gets attached to his name, who knows what could happen after that. As if I needed another reason to hold this process in contempt.

Biggio on the ballot

Former Astros great Craig Biggio will make his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot this year.

Ballots for the 2013 Hall of Fame class will be issued this week to media members; candidates will officially be announced Wednesday. Results will be disclosed Jan. 9 for a controversial list of names that will include first-timers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa.

Biggio also is a first-timer. And if he receives a once-in-a-lifetime confirmation call — a thought he’s playing down — the lifetime Astro who spent 20 major league seasons with the organization and is employed as a special assistant to general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday the moment will be humbling and surreal.

“It’s an incredible feeling. It’s hard to put into words,” Biggio, 46, said during a news conference at Minute Maid Park. “I just loved to play the game. I would’ve played it for free if that’s what I had to do. I just enjoyed the game for what it was. It never was anything to do with trying to get yourself in the Hall of Fame.”

Biggio can submit quite the résumé for potential Hall enshrinement. The highlights: 3,060 hits, 1,844 runs and a .281 batting average during 2,850 career games that saw him play catcher, second base and the outfield.

“I’ve been very lucky and fortunate to be around good people, a great organization,” Biggio said. “It was a lot of special memories at a special time.”

[…]

With Bonds, Clemens and Sosa dominating conversation about a potential 2013 class that includes several former stars linked to performance-enhancing drugs, some believe Biggio could sneak into the Hall in January as a safe, respected choice.

The flip side to that is that the ballot is “too crowded” with Hall-worthy candidates, which may prevent Biggio from being elected because the voters don’t like to vote for too many candidates in a given year. Biggio’s teammate Jeff Bagwell has supposedly suffered from the BBWAA’s short attention span as well. I find the whole thing ridiculous, but that’s the Hall of Fame for you. I think Biggio’s case for inclusion is clear, and I hope it doesn’t take the writers too long to figure it out.

RIP, Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller, whom Red Barber said was “one of the two or three most important men in baseball history, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson”, has died at the age of 95.

Marvin Miller

It is impossible to overstate Miller’s impact on Major League Baseball. While some — including Hall of Fame voters — have long given Miller short shrift (or piled on utter disdain), baseball today cannot be understood without understanding Marvin Miller’s contributions. He was a truly transformative figure who, after Jackie Robinson, did more to correct the excesses and injustices delivered onto players by baseball’s ruling class than anyone.

When Miller took over as the head of the MLBPA in 1966 there was no free agency. Players were told by ownership what they would make the following year and if they didn’t like it, tough. They couldn’t switch teams. They couldn’t do what any other worker can do and shop their services elsewhere. They were stuck thanks to baseball’s reserve clause and the ridiculous Supreme Court decision which exempted baseball and its owners from the antitrust laws.

Miller took all of that on and he won. He started small, negotiating the union’s first collective bargaining agreement with the team owners in 1968, which raised the game’s minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000. In 1970 he got the owners to agree to arbitration for the first time. In 1970 Curt Flood, with Miller’s support and guidance, challenged baseball’s antitrust exemption — and the dreaded reserve clause, which kept players tied to one team against their wishes — in the courts. Flood ultimately lost that case in the landmark 1972 Supreme Court decision. The decision did not, however, blunt Miller’s resolve, and he took his fight to other forums.

In 1974 he exploited a loophole — and an oversight by Oakland Athletics owner Charlie O. Finley — to get Catfish Hunter free agency and baseball’s first $1 million contract. Up next: the whole enchilada. In 1974, he got Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to play out the season without contracts, placing them in cross-hairs of the reserve clause and giving them standing to fight the provision in arbitration. In 1975 they won, with the Seitz Decision ushering in the age of free agency. Baseball players’ indentured servitude was over.

In all Miller led the union through three work stoppages: two short ones — 1972 and in spring training 1980 — and then the long, season-altering strike in 1981. In all three stoppages, the union prevailed. Overall during his tenure the average players’ salary rose from $19,000 to $241,000 a year and their working conditions improved dramatically. It is no understatement to say that Miller turned the MLBPA into the most effective and successful labor union in the United States. Not just in sports: in the entire United States.

The New York Times has a thorough obit that you should read as well. Truly, Miller was one of the giants of the game, who changed it for the better in a profound way. His exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a monument to pettiness and spite, but he took it in stride. Rest in peace, Marvin Miller.

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann remembers Marvin Miller.

Mills and Clemens

Enjoy your paid time off, Brad Mills.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and owner Jim Crane see no reason to wait until the season ends to begin the search for the next Astros manager after Brad Mills was fired and replaced by interim skipper Tony DeFrancesco.

Some candidates might not become available until after Oct. 3 — or after the World Series should their employers advance far enough — but the search begins now and interviews will likely start during the season for those unattached.

“Right now, we’re at the very first stage, which is gathering information,” Luhnow said Sunday. “Once we get past that stage and determine which candidates we want to speak to, there’s going to be a lot of factors involved in that.

“There’s no reason to wait, so we’re going to move as fast as we can.

“We’re going to be working diligently on that for the remainder of the season and into the offseason or however long it takes.”

Crane said the Astros have four or five candidates in mind but have not compiled a list, which is expected to be larger than that once phone calls start today.

That Mills was fired isn’t a surprise. Changes in ownership almost always mean changes in management, and it’s not like Mills has a long record of managerial success to mitigate against that. Of course, it’s hard to imagine any manager from John McGraw to Casey Stengel to Bobby Cox getting a whole lot more out of the talent on hand. Still, I am curious what the actual case against Mills was, since no one is saying anything bad about him and I don’t recall seeing anyone argue that he’s been a failure. When a club is in complete tear down and rebuild mode, you need a manager that’s good at teaching and who won’t unnecessarily risk the health of his players to win a game that in the long run doesn’t mean much. I don’t know if Luhnow and Crane didn’t like what they saw with Mills or if they just wanted to get their own guy in there. Not that it really matters, as whoever they bring in is unlikely to still be there when the team finally turns it around. That’s usually the way these things go in the process, and with the Astros years away from being competitive, I’m pretty sure that’s how it will go here. Best of luck to whoever will be nurturing them in the interim.

Then there’s Roger Clemens.

Roger Clemens, whose remarkable 30-year baseball travelogue has taken him from Houston to Austin, Boston, Toronto, New York and points in between, will make his next stop in Sugar Land.

Clemens, 50, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner who last pitched in 2007 and was last in the public eye for his acquittal on federal perjury charges earlier this year, will return to the mound on Saturday night to pitch for the minor league Sugar Land Skeeters.

Clemens threw for about 90 minutes Monday morning at Sugar Land’s Constellation Field and pronounced himself ready for his comeback against the Bridgeport Bluefish, which along with the Skeeters plays in the independent Atlantic League.

[…]

“It is a fun, local, one-time kind of thing,” said Clemens’ longtime agent, Randy Hendricks. “The hitters will let him know Saturday if he should pitch another game.”

Whether it is indeed a one-time curtain call or a return to action that could at some point lead to Clemens’ return to the major leagues, it is an unexpected swerve in the career of one of baseball’s most charismatic yet polarizing athletes.

“We’re going to take things one game at a time and see where they lead us,” said Michael Kirk, operations manager for the Skeeters. “I am fascinated to see what happens this weekend, and we’ll take it from there.”

I think a little Pete Townshend is appropriate here:

“After the fire, the fire still burns
The heart grows older, but never ever learns
The memories smolder, but the soul always yearns
After the fire, the fire still burns.”

There’s two ways for an athletic career to end: For the athlete to accept that it’s over and move on, and for the athlete’s performance to make it clear to anyone who might think of hiring said athlete that it’s over. Neither has happened yet with Roger Clemens. As long as he’s got the fire, and until the objective evidence says otherwise, I say what the heck. For all we know he may still be a viable option for the Astros a few years down the line when they’ve finally put together a team that can win again. Or perhaps sooner than that, as Campos speculates.

So here’s the deal. If he does OK in a couple of outings, the ‘Stros will pick him up for three games in September when they can expand the roster. The ‘Stros will let him start against three non-contending clubs at The Yard – Cubbies, Phillies, and San Luis (soon to be non-contenders) – and they will let him pitch four or five innings and sell out The Yard. It is gate money the team wasn’t counting on. They will pay The Rocket the minimum but since he’ll be an MLBer, he’ll be knocked off the Hall of Fame ballot for the next five years and won’t have to face the humiliation of not getting the votes next January to join the Hall of Fame. By 2018, some of the old school BBWOA members won’t be around to leave The Rocket off of their ballot and the most recent Rocket memory will be of the 2012 Comeback at The Yard. That’s not a bad strategy if you ask me. Plus, at least it would be something to look forward to at The Yard this September.

That actually makes a lot of sense, for all involved. We’ll see how it goes.

Why I hold the Hall of Fame voting process in contempt

This story has the best distillation of why the Baseball Writers Association of America should have had the Hall of Fame voting privilege taken away from them years ago.

Former BBWAA president Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer didn’t need a jury to help him with his decision.

“I wasn’t going to vote for him anyway, so this won’t affect it,” said Hoynes, who is in his 30th year covering the majors. “I just think he’s guilty. I don’t care what the court said. I think he did it. I think he knew he was cheating, and I’m not voting for him.”

He doesn’t need any facts. He knows what the truth is, and that’s good enough. To steal from William F. Buckley, I’d rather have the Hall of Fame decisions made by the first thousand people in the Houston telephone book than these arrogant ignoramuses.

Even if you do truly believe that Roger Clemens cheated and got away with it, the simple fact remains that he would not be the first cheater, admitted or not, the be enshrined. Whitey Ford wrote at length in his co-memoir with Mickey Mantle about the various ways in which he doctored the baseball. Gaylord Perry’s spitballing was the worst kept and most openly joked about secret in the game. (Anecdote reported by Thomas Boswell: Among the substances Perry allegedly used to lube the ball was Vicks Vap-O-Rub. This led Billy Martin, who might have been managing the Tigers at the time, to ask the home plate umpire to “smell the ball, please”, to which the ump replied “Billy, I have allergies and a deviated septum”, leading Martin to fume “Great, I have an ump who can’t see OR smell!”) Both are members in good standing in Cooperstown, and last I checked people like Paul Hoynes – who would have been a BBWAA member when Perry was on the ballot – have never uttered a peep of protest about that. Because that kind of cheating is totally different than this kind of cheating.

My way of looking at it is that if cheating is all it took to be a Hall of Famer, everyone would cheat and everyone would be better than they would be otherwise. It turns out that it’s hard to cheat successfully and actually gain an advantage from doing so. Doctored baseballs are hard to control. Way more scrubs than stars have tested positive for steroids, mostly in the minors. Corked bats don’t actually help you hit a ball farther. You can’t cheat your way to the top in baseball. I don’t know why that’s so hard to accept.

Larkin elected to Hall of Fame

Congratulations to Barry Larkin on his Cooperstown call. I just wish he had some company for the dais.

Barry Larkin

Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop and current ESPN analyst Barry Larkin was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday, getting 86.4 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

A player needs at least 75 percent to gain election. A 12-time All-Star and the 1995 NL MVP, Larkin got 62.1 percent of the vote last year, falling 75 votes short as Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were elected.

Jack Morris was next with 382 votes (67 percent), missing by 48 votes on his 13th try but up sharply from 54 percent last year.

Jeff Bagwell was third with 321 votes, followed by Lee Smith (290), Tim Raines (279), Edgar Martinez (209) and Alan Trammell (211).

Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, received 19.5 percent in his sixth try on the ballot, down from 19.8 percent last year and 23.7 percent in 2010 — a vote before he admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.

Rafael Palmeiro, who received a 10-day suspension in 2005 for a positive test but is among just four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, failed to gain election again, getting 12.6 percent of the vote in his second appearance on the ballot.

Bernie Williams received the most votes among first-time eligibles, with 55. Bill Mueller got just four votes and will be dropped in future years along with Juan Gonzalez (23) and Vinny Castilla (six).

I’m glad to see Bagwell and Raines move up in the vote totals, but they both deserved better. The problem with the writers overlooking them now, as Jayson Stark, Jim Caple, and Joe Posnanski have all observed, is that there’s going to be a large glut of newly eligible players whose Hall cases range from debatable to slam-dunk entering the ballot in the next couple of years, and there’s an excellent chance some worthies like Baggy and Rock will get shafted, at least for a few years, as a result. Go read that Posnanski piece for a history lesson on how the writers’ penuriousness led directly to the creation of the various Veterans Committees, with all they entailed. How often are you aware of the fact that history is repeating itself as it is happening?

Ron Santo elected to Hall of Fame

Long overdue.

Ron Santo, a nine-time All-Star who amassed 342 home runs and five Gold Glove awards, has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Era Committee, it was announced today.

Santo was the lone candidate to garner the necessary 75% of votes cast by the 16-member Golden Era Committee, which considered a ballot of eight former players and two executives whose contributions to the game were most significant from 1947-1972. The Golden Era Committee held meetings on Sunday in Dallas, site of the baseball winter meetings.

Santo becomes the 12th major league third baseman to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first elected at the position since Wade Boggs in 2005. Including three selections from the Negro leagues, there are now 15 third basemen in the Hall of Fame. In 15 major league seasons, Santo compiled a .277 lifetime batting average, with 2,254 hits in 2,243 games, while totaling 1,331 runs batted in and 365 doubles.

Santo, who passed away on Dec. 3, 2010, will be joined in the Hall of Fame Class of 2012 by any electees who emerge from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting, which will be announced on Monday, January 9.

Results of the Golden Era Ballot (12 votes needed for election): Ron Santo (15 votes, 93.75%); Jim Kaat (10 votes, 62.5%); Gil Hodges (9 votes, 56.25%); Minnie Minoso (9 votes, 56.25%); Tony Oliva (8 votes, 50%); Buzzie Bavasi, Ken Boyer, Charlie Finley, Allie Reynolds and Luis Tiant each received less than three votes.

Santo and Bert Blyleven were for the longest time the standard bearers for Players Not In The Hall Of Fame Who Most Deserve To Be. Now that both of them are in, I’d put Tim Raines at the top of that list; I’ll have to think about it for pitchers. I’m glad the Golden Age Committee – basically, the Veterans Committee for post-WWII players – corrected this oversight. If only it could have been done while Santo was still with us. Regardless, well done and congratulations to Ron Santo.

Will the feds get another shot at Clemens?

Probably.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton is considering the possibility that putting Clemens on trial again would subject him to double jeopardy.

Walton, who declared a mistrial on July 14, has ordered both sides to submit their arguments in writing and has scheduled a Sept. 2 hearing.

Attorneys and scholars who have reviewed case transcripts provided by The Associated Press say a second trial seems likely under rules established by the Supreme Court.

“It is one thing when something like this happens three weeks into a month-long trial where the defense has poked big holes in the government’s case and effectively crossed main witnesses,” said Andrew Wise, a white-collar attorney with the Washington firm Miller & Chevalier. “But when you are on day two of a month-long trial, it is harder to argue that the government was throwing in the towel and goading the defense into seeking a mistrial so they could have a fresh start.”

Protection against double jeopardy is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which says in part, “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

The Supreme Court has ruled that a defendant is considered to be in jeopardy once a jury is sworn in, so Clemens had been in jeopardy for just over one day. But the question is whether the jeopardy ended with Walton’s declaration of a mistrial.

At least one prominent expert disagrees with the chorus of his colleagues who are predicting a second trial. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said there’s no innocent explanation for why prosecutors put inadmissible evidence in front of the jury.

“The government constantly does this because they think they can get away with it,” Dershowitz said. “When you are preparing a case for so long, you don’t make errors like this. I have a high level of confidence that a good lawyer could keep this case from being retried.”

I’m not a lawyer, so I have no idea what the “correct” ruling should be. As a non-lawyer, I think the prosecution screwed the pooch badly enough the first time around that they don’t deserve a second chance, but that’s an emotional opinion, not a legal one. Whatever happens, it won’t change my opinion that Clemens belongs in the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible. To me, the only true disqualifier is what is spelled out in baseball’s rules: Thou shalt not bet on games. I don’t expect the writers to see it that way – the opportunity to pontificate about the evils of steroids, which they missed doing for basically the entire time that players were actively using them, will be way too much for them to pass up. As such, I will go back to paying only minimal attention to this until we get a result.

Der-ek Jet-er!

Clap-clap-clap clap clap.

After Derek Jeter fouled off consecutive full-count pitches in the third inning on Saturday, the Yankee Stadium organist tickled the ivories to the tune of “Let’s-Go, Yank-ees!” Impulsively, the 48,103 fans who made up the sold-out crowd responded by chanting “De-rek, Je-ter!”

On a picture-perfect afternoon in the Bronx, the Yankees and Jeter were one and the same.

Jeter acted on cue, recording his 3,000th career hit on the very next pitch by lacing a David Price curveball to left field for a solo home run. In becoming the first player in franchise history to reach the 3,000-hit plateau, Jeter went 5-for-5, carrying the Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Rays.

Hard to write a better script than that, isn’t it? Click the link to see the video, since you can’t embed from MLB.com. Congratulations to the Captain, Derek Jeter, on reaching this milestone. May there be many more hits left in the tank. See you in Cooperstown later this decade. Be sure to read this Joe Posnanski appreciation for a great perspective on his career, and maybe a few things you didn’t know.

Bonds found guilty on one charge

A mixed result for Barry Bonds and the feds who have been pursuing him.

Just like the whole Steroid Era: We’ll never really know.

Even the one charge that left Barry Bonds a convicted felon didn’t specify steroids.

Instead, a federal court jury found the home run king guilty of obstruction of justice Tuesday for giving an evasive answer under oath more than seven years ago. Rather than say “yes” or “no” to whether he received drugs that required a syringe, Bonds gave a rambling response to a grand jury, stating: “I became a celebrity child with a famous father.”

The decision from the eight women and four men who listened to testimony during the 12-day trial turned out to be a mixed and muddled verdict on the slugger that left more questions than answers.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston declared a mistrial on the three charges that Bonds made false statements when he told a grand jury in December 2003 that he never knowingly received steroids and human growth hormone from trainer Greg Anderson and that he allowed only doctors to inject him.

Defense lawyers will try to persuade Illston or the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss out the lone conviction. Federal prosecutors must decide whether it is worth the time and expense to try Bonds for a second time on the deadlocked charges.

[…]

Amber, a 19-year-old blonde woman who was the youngest juror, said the final votes were 8-4 to acquit Bonds of lying about steroids and 9-3 to acquit him on lying about HGH use. The panel voted 11-1 to convict him of getting an injection from someone other than his doctor, with one woman holding out, she said.

Jurors decided to convict Bonds on the obstruction count on Tuesday; on Wednesday they decided they could not come to unanimous decisions on the rest.

Jayson Stark wonders if this was all worth the bother, as does Allen Barra. I figure the main result from all this will be to make it easier for the anti-PED hardliners in the BBWAA to justify keeping out of the Hall of Fame anyone they think is tainted by steroids regardless of the evidence or logic of it. The less zealous will have a legitimate reason to not vote for Bonds. Maybe someday he’ll have people crusading for his inclusion as Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson now do.

Alomar, Blyleven enter HOF

Congratulations to Roberto Alomar and (at long last) Bert Blyleven for their election to the Hall of Fame.

Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were chosen to the baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, in an election in which voters again rejected candidates closely identified with baseball’s steroid era.

Alomar got 523 votes and Blyleven 463, with 436 of 581 votes (75%) required for election.

Rafael Palmeiro got 11%, in his first year on the ballot.

Palmeiro is one of four players in major-league history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, along with Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray. His 568 home runs rank 12th on the all-time list, one spot ahead of Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson and one spot behind Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Palmeiro also was the first star suspended after owners and players agreed to test for performance-enhancing drugs and penalize first-time offenders with mandatory suspensions.

Mark McGwire got 19.8%, in the first election after he admitted to using steroids. In his previous four years on the ballot, he received between 21% and 24%.

I felt that Palmeiro fell short despite his traditionally qualifying 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, so that doesn’t bother me. McGwire will be the player that the BBWAA loves to crap on the most until Barry Bonds becomes eligible. Other results of interest, via SBNation:

Barry Larkin, 62.1%
Jack Morris, 53.50%
Lee Smith, 45.30%
Jeff Bagwell, 41.70%
Tim Raines, 37.50%
Edgar Martinez, 32.90%
Alan Trammell, 24.30%
Larry Walker, 20.30%

Larkin ought to have an excellent shot at election next year when there are no likely inductees on the ballot. I’m not a fan of Morris, and I think Lee Smith is overrated, but I can live with their candidacies, and at least they wouldn’t make it before Blyleven. Bagwell had a decent first showing – to address Bubba’s comment, quite a few players have made it in despite less than 50% support on their first ballot – and now that he’s not a first-timer, perhaps some of the bizarre animosity towards him for not ratting out teammates (a standard that would exclude the likes of Greg Maddux and Derek Jeter, by the way) will fade. Still not enough love for Raines and Trammell, Edgard Martinez does about as well as you’d expect – I wouldn’t have voted for him this year, but Jay Jaffe has me reconsidering – and Larry Walker will likely hang on over the years but not get any momentum, which is okay by me.

So there you have it. Congrats again to Alomar and Blyleven, and better luck next time to the deserving hopefuls that fell short this year.