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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.

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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.

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.

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?

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?

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.

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.

On peeing in a cup

Another solution in search of a problem from the Republican leadership.

Out of the more than 250 bills filed Monday, the first possible day to file legislation for the 83rd session, one measure — concerning drug testing for welfare applicants — is already drawing the support of the state’s top lawmakers and the criticism of civil liberties advocates.

Senate Bill 11 would require applicants to the Texas Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to undergo a drug test. If applicants fail the test, they would not be eligible to apply again for a full year, unless they attended a substance abuse treatment program. The bill was written by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and several other Republican lawmakers.

“This will help prevent tax dollars from going into the pockets of drug abusers,” Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday at a news conference. He said that the goal of the bill is to “empower every Texan to reach their potential,” because “being on drugs makes it harder to begin the journey to independence.”

“It is a legitimate function of government to help people that are not able to help themselves,” added Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. He said that because “virtually every” business he has encountered uses random drug testing on employees, it’s a good idea for the state and will lead to reduced unemployment by proving to employers that the people they are hiring have been certified by the state as drug-free.

“We owe it to all Texans to structure our welfare and unemployment programs in a way that guarantees that recipients are serious about getting back to work,” he said.

“This is not all about punishment,” Perry added. “This is also an incentive to get people off of these drugs.”

But critics of the bill say the bill is needlessly punitive and will mainly harm innocent children, whose parents are found to have even a minor amount of drugs. “The purpose of TANF was really to help children,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas. “If you don’t give the moms the money, then the children lose out.”

She pointed specifically to the bill’s provision that would require the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to report applicants with drug abuse problems to Child Protective Services. “Now we’re going to take the child of a parent who has smoked a couple of joints and give them to CPS,” she said. “If there’s a genuine concern about drug abuse, let’s do something about it. There’s no evidence that poor people abuse drugs more than other folks, but we keep coming up with bills that target poor people.”

“Adding insult to injury,” Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a press release, “is that Perry would pay for the drug testing out of the very TANF funds that should go to provide assistance to people. In other words, he’s taking about $350,000 worth food and assistance from all families from the general TANF grant just to try to find a few violators. This is simply callous and perverse.”

I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said by Lisa Falkenberg, Burka, Jason Stanford, BOR, Stace, or EoW. I’m particularly fond of Rep. Joe Deshotel’s response, noted in that BOR post, which was a call to add a drug test requirement to the application to run for state office in Texas. Lord knows, for the amount we spend on Rick Perry’s travel detail, we ought to get some assurance he’s not taking the opportunity to toke up while out on the road.

All other concerns aside, the bottom line is that this has been done in other states, most notably Florida, and there were no savings to be had and very few users getting caught. Burka astutely noted the parallel to the failed program of steroid testing for high school athletes, another expensive way for the state to (if you’ll pardon the expression) piss its money away chasing something that wasn’t there in the first place. For a gang that likes to rhapsodize about getting government out of people’s lives, they sure sing a different tune when it comes to the lives of people they don’t like.

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.

Clemens cleared

The saga ends.

A federal jury today acquitted baseball superstar Roger Clemens on charges of lying to Congress about the use of performance enhancing drugs in a stinging rebuke to a four-year campaign by legislators and federal prosecutors to turn the legendary pitcher into a cautionary icon for baseball’s doping scandal.

The 49-year-old Houstonian, winner of seven Cy Young Awards for pitching excellence during a 24-season career, mounted a successful multimillion dollar defense led by famed Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin to defeat six felony charges with maximum cumulative penalties of up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

The charges stemmed from Clemens’ sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2008 where the retired veteran of four major league baseball teams vehemently denied receiving injections of anabolic steroids or human growth hormone from long-time strength and conditioning coach Brian McNamee between 1998 and 2001.

The committee, accepting McNamee’s version of events, referred Clemens’ contradictory testimony to the Justice Department for a perjury investigation.

The protracted inquiry involved 93 federal agents and four assistant U.S. attorneys interviewing 179 people at 68 locations to collect evidence that led to the charges and ten weeks of legal proceedings featuring 46 witnesses.

All for nothing, as it turns out. Can we please now consign the whole “steroid era” thing to the past and move on? I’d appreciate it. Allen Barra has more.

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.

Steroid prevalency: Opinions differ

Richard Justice writes about steroids in sports, in particular steroid use among high school students, and quotes a familiar source.

[Don Hooton] cites a Procter & Gamble Co. study in which 2,000 kids were asked if an adult, parent, coach or teacher had talked to them about the dangers of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Eighty-four percent answered, “No.”

“We think that just because something makes the headlines or is on the 10 o’clock news that it’s getting through to our kids,” Hooton said.

He’ll speak at all 30 major league ballparks this summer. He’ll speak to dozens of high schools and middle schools and to countless medical organizations. He has forged relationships with the NCAA and the Canadian Center for Ethics in sports.

So are fewer kids using steroids?

“We’ve seen no indication at the youth level that steroid use has diminished at all,” he said, “and there’s reason to believe it’s increasing. Steroids are moving out of the locker room and into the hallways.”

How so?

“When you’re competing for the attention of the opposite sex and girls like the beefed-up look, guess what boys are doing.” he said. “We’re seeing steroid use among kids who have never stepped on the field. It’s believed that half of the users of steroids at the youth level aren’t athletes.”

He said a University of Iowa study asked young steroid users why they were doing something that could be so harmful.

“The top two reasons were ‘to look better’ and ‘to feel better about myself,’ ” Hooton said.

“The third reason was to improve in athletics. The horse is out of the barn with steroids, and it’s a social phenomenon. Depending on the study you believe, 4 to 6 percent of high school students are either using steroids or have used them.”

Mr. Hooton has been the leading force behind Texas’ high school steroid testing program. Our experience differs greatly from what he cites, however. From a Dallas Morning News story in January, which I blogged about at the time:

[T]he random steroid testing program for University Interscholastic League athletes in Texas is shrinking. The Legislature initially funded the effort in 2007 with an annual budget of $3 million, but the allotment for the current school year is $750,000 – after a cut to $1 million a year earlier. A total of 4,560 athletes are scheduled to be tested in 2010-11, compared with 35,077 in 2008-09.

While the economic downturn played a role in the reductions, Hooton said he believes state politicians don’t fear steroid use as much as they did when the bill was enacted. That, he said, is because the 51,635 tests done over the last 2 ½ years have resulted in 21 positive tests, two unresolved and 139 not passing for procedure violations, such as unexcused absences. Last spring, all 3,308 tests were clean. Two years ago, Gov. Rick Perry said the results to date indicated the funding might have been excessive.

Hooton said the results of the testing, done for the UIL by Drug Free Sport of Kansas City, Mo., don’t accurately measure steroid use among the state’s high school athletes.

“Those people who read the results as proof we never had a steroid problem in the first place, we just gave them all the ammunition in the world,” said Hooton, who runs the foundation out of his McKinney home. “We’re going to budget this down to defeating the purpose of the program.”

That’s a 0.04% positive rate for tests in Texas, which means 1) the overall problem is vastly overstated; 2) steroid use in Texas is far less prevalent than elsewhere; or 3) the testing we did sucked. Regardless, this vast discrepancy, which Justice does not mention, leaves me highly skeptical of the problem and of the need to “solve” it by spending our limited revenues on a bunch of expensive tests, which if you follow Mr. Hooton’s logic ought to be done on all high schoolers, not just athletes. As a father, I have a great deal of empathy for Mr. Hooton. As a taxpayer, I’m not buying what he’s selling. As a news consumer, I’d like to see all the facts brought to bear in these discussions. We now have several years’ experience and over 50,000 test results in Texas. You want to make the case we need to be doing more, you need to explain why we need to keep looking for something we have so far largely been unable to find.

Judge declares mistrial in Clemens case

You’ve got to be kidding me.

The judge declared a mistrial Thursday in baseball star Roger Clemens’ perjury trial after prosecutors showed jurors evidence that the judge had ruled out of bounds.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Clemens could not be assured a fair trial after prosecutors showed jurors evidence against his orders in the second day of testimony.

Walton scheduled a Sept. 2 hearing to determine whether to hold a new trial. Rusty Hardin, Clemens’ attorney, said he needs until July 29 to file the motion for the hearing. The prosecution has until Aug. 2 to respond.

Walton told jurors he was sorry to have wasted their time and spent so much taxpayer money, only to call off the case.

“There are rules that we play by and those rules are designed to make sure both sides receive a fair trial,” Walton told the jury, saying such ground rules are critical when a person’s liberty is at stake.

[…]

Walton interrupted the prosecution’s playing of a video from Clemens’ 2008 testimony before Congress and had the jury removed from the courtroom. Clemens is accused of lying during that testimony when he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs during his 24-season career in the Major Leagues.

One of the chief pieces of evidence against Clemens is testimony from his former teammate and close friend, Andy Pettitte, who says Clemens told him in 1999 or 2000 that he used human growth hormone. Clemens has said that Pettitte misheard him. Pettitte also says he told his wife, Laura, about the conversation the same day it happened.

Prosecutors had wanted to call Laura Pettitte as a witness to back up her husband’s account, but Walton had said he wasn’t inclined to have her testify since she didn’t speak directly to Clemens.

Walton was angered that in the video prosecutors showed the jury, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., referred to Pettitte’s conversation with his wife.

“I think that a first-year law student would know that you can’t bolster the credibility of one witness with clearly inadmissible evidence,” Walton said.

He said it was the second time that prosecutors had gone against his orders — the other being an incident that happened during opening arguments Wednesday when assistant U.S. attorney Steven Durham said that Pettite and two other of Clemens’ New York teammates, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton, had used human growth hormone.

I haven’t followed the trial much because I only have so much bandwidth, but I never expected this to happen. What a massive screwup by a federal prosecutor. At this point, I think for the charges to be dismissed is the best outcome. We’ll see what happens next.

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.

Is this finally the end of steroid testing?

I hope so, but the fight is far from over.

In 2008, Texas became the third state to begin steroid testing, setting up a massive $6 million program. Every one of the state’s 700,000-plus public school athletes — from freshmen female tennis players to senior offensive linemen in football — were eligible to be randomly selected, pulled from class and required to submit a urine sample.

But after the first 50,000 tests produced fewer than two dozen confirmed cases, critics derided the effort as a waste of money. This month, with the state facing a projected $15 billion budget shortfall, the House’s first draft budget eliminated the program’s money. A Senate draft still includes funding.

Even some one-time supporters of screening are wavering. “We accomplished our goal,” said state Rep. Dan Flynn, “and that was to educate and create a deterrent.”

[…]

Texas has been scaling down the program almost since it began. The original $6 million budget was slashed to $2 million in 2009.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, an early supporter, intends to fight to preserve the tests as “an important deterrent,” said his spokesman, Mike Walz. When put up against proposed budget cuts for teachers and pre-kindergarten programs, health care for the poor and myriad other budget issues, said Flynn, “What’s more important? We didn’t catch a lot of kids, but we were hoping we wouldn’t have to. I can’t fight to get $1.8 million.”

I just can’t understand the mindset that says this is the line in the sand to draw. Why is this so much more important than all those other things that are being gutted? I get that people think it has value, even though I disagree with them. But look, we’re on the Titanic and there’s not enough lifeboats to save everybody. The question is not whether something has value, it’s whether it has enough value to put it ahead of everything else in line. I don’t see how this can be justified in that context.

Steroid testing can never fail, it can only be failed

It’s definition of insanity time.

Don Hooton’s anti-steroid message aimed at young athletes has never been more in demand.

The foundation he started six years ago in the wake of his teenage son’s suicide, attributed to steroid use, has grown to a full-time staff of five. They speak at high schools and colleges across the U.S. and Canada. Annual donations from Major League Baseball and the National Football League to the Taylor Hooton Foundation are scheduled into the middle of the decade.

At the same time, the random steroid testing program for University Interscholastic League athletes in Texas is shrinking. The Legislature initially funded the effort in 2007 with an annual budget of $3 million, but the allotment for the current school year is $750,000 – after a cut to $1 million a year earlier. A total of 4,560 athletes are scheduled to be tested in 2010-11, compared with 35,077 in 2008-09.

While the economic downturn played a role in the reductions, Hooton said he believes state politicians don’t fear steroid use as much as they did when the bill was enacted. That, he said, is because the 51,635 tests done over the last 2 ½ years have resulted in 21 positive tests, two unresolved and 139 not passing for procedure violations, such as unexcused absences. Last spring, all 3,308 tests were clean. Two years ago, Gov. Rick Perry said the results to date indicated the funding might have been excessive.

Hooton said the results of the testing, done for the UIL by Drug Free Sport of Kansas City, Mo., don’t accurately measure steroid use among the state’s high school athletes.

“Those people who read the results as proof we never had a steroid problem in the first place, we just gave them all the ammunition in the world,” said Hooton, who runs the foundation out of his McKinney home. “We’re going to budget this down to defeating the purpose of the program.”

So we’ve spent millions of dollars testing thousands of high school athletes for steroids, and caught only a handful of actual steroid users. And the recommended solution is apparently to spend millions more doing more testing. For what purpose, I couldn’t say.

Delaware is one of a handful of states that considered starting steroid testing but declined. Kevin Charles, executive director of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, said the state passed in part because of concern about cheating.

“The cost didn’t seem to make the bang worth the buck because testing was so easily beaten,” Charles said. “We had a real good presentation by a medical intern on how easily one can beat drug testing.”

And, Hooton said, his contacts in the federal Drug Enforcement Administration say new steroids coming from China can’t yet be detected by the U.S. testing.

In good budget times, this would be at best a questionable exercise. In the face of a $25 billion budget hole, it’s completely inexcusable, even if the amount spent is tiny. Declare success and quit while we’re ahead, I say.

The 2011 Hall of Fame ballot

Brace yourself for lots of posturing and moralizing about the eeeeevils of steroids and the general decline of society.

Suspected steroid users Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez are on baseball’s Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, joining Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar, both of whom fell just short in last year’s vote.

Former Most Valuable Players Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker, and former Rookies of the Year Benito Santiago and Raul Mondesi also will be on the 33-man ballot, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America said Monday.

Mark McGwire, 10th on the career list with 583 homers, received 128 votes (23.7%) in totals announced last January following his fourth appearance of the ballot — well under the 75% needed for election. He admitted before last season to using steroids and human growth hormone during his playing days.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both under indictment on charges related to their denials of steroids use, become eligible for the Hall ballot in two years.

Palmeiro is 12th on the career list with 569 home runs and had 3,020 hits, joining Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players in the 500-3,000 club. Palmeiro wagged his finger at Congress in 2005 while denying he used steroids, then tested positive a few months later and was suspended for 10 days.

He tested positive for stanozolol, a person with knowledge of the sport’s drug-testing program told The Associated Press at the time, speaking on condition of anonymity because the drug wasn’t announced. Palmeiro testified before a congressional panel that he “never used steroids.”

Jose Canseco claimed in his 2005 book that he used steroids with Gonzalez, who was 35 when he played his last major league game. Then-Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks said in 2007 that he had no knowledge that Gonzalez used steroids, but said he was suspicious the two-time AL MVP did because of his injuries and early retirement.

[…]

The complete ballot: Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Jeff Bagwell, Harold Baines, Bert Blyleven, Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Barry Larkin, Al Leiter, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Raul Mondesi, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago, Lee Smith, B.J. Surhoff, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker.

JuanGon doesn’t have a Hall of Fame case, so I’m not too worried about him. Palmeiro, on the other hand, is in a pretty exclusive club and would seem a lock were it not for the steroid thing. Given the climate, I’ll be surprised if he gets as many votes as McGwire has gotten.

I’m somewhat ambivalent about Palmeiro’s case for the Hall. I don’t care about the steroid thing. I’ve decided that if I had a vote, I’d completely ignore any steroid allegations and admissions on the grounds that there are plenty of other voters who will gladly reject entire classes of player based on whatever damn-fool thing they believe about the stuff, just to provide a little balance. Palmeiro’s raw numbers are certainly impressive, but he played in a great offensive context, and my gut reaction is that he’s a somewhat better version of Fred McGriff. I’d like to see how a guy like Jay Jaffe evaluates his case before I make a commitment. As such, I’d leave him off the ballot this year, but am prepared to change my mind.

Beyond that, my choices are: Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Larkin, Raines, and Trammell. I’m also on the fence about Edgar Martinez and may reconsider that decision next year. Bagwell has better triple-slash stats than Palmeiro despite playing most of his career in the Astrodome, so he’s an easy choice. Who would you be voting for if you had a vote?

UPDATE: I agree completely with Linkmeister about the continued shameful omission of Marvin Miller.

Clemens indicted on perjury charges

Not a good day for the Rocket.

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens for allegedly lying to Congress about using steroids and growth hormone.

Clemens faces charges of obstruction of Congress, making false statements and perjury.

The six-count grand jury indictment said that Clemens obstructed a congressional inquiry with 15 statements that he made under oath, including denials that he had ever used steroids or human growth hormone. The indictment alleged that he lied and committed perjury regarding the same matters.

I said some things in Clemens’ defense back at the time all this was happening, mostly because I hold the whole steroids witch hunt in such contempt, but he’s on his own now. Well, his and his lawyers’ own, anyway. The one thing I know for sure is that it will be a long time before I read anything written about him by anyone who has a Hall of Fame vote. If there’s anything I hold in more contempt than steroids madness, it’s the BBWA.

UPDATE: Thankfully, there’s still Allen Barra. And Tom is sensibly skeptical, too.

Still steroid-free

No juicing here.

The University Interscholastic League on Thursday released results of [steroids tests of high school athletes] for the spring semester of the 2009-2010 school year. Of the 3,308 boys and girls tested last semester, all of the student athletes were clean.

About 50,000 tests since February 2008 have found only about 20 confirmed cases of steroid use.

The program has been shrinking since lawmakers created it in 2007 with a $3 million annual budget. In May 2009, when the small number of positive tests caused some to question whether testing should be stopped, state lawmakers cut the program to $1 million annually.

It’s now down to $750K. Which ought to be the first thing erased from the budget next biennium, since clearly we’re spending all that money on a non-problem. That’s obvious to most people, but sadly not to deficit poseur David Dewhurst. If he gets his way again and saves it for another session, be sure to ask yourself what it was that Dewhurst preferred to cut instead of this.

UPDATE: Grits suggests redirecting the money instead. I’m okay with his idea.

Some cows are more sacred than others

To quote Mel Brooks, it’s good to be the king.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst will not be denied his steroid testing money.

The Texas Education Agency had included the $1 million cost of the steroid program among its $135.5 million in proposed cuts. But state leaders left in $750,000 for that program as they cut $1.2 billion from the current two-year budget.

Dewhurst had championed the 2007 bill that created the testing program at a cost of $6 million over two years. The program produced 11 positive tests from a pool of 29,000 student-athletes tested in that time.

Some of the other education programs that were not spared include several initiatives aimed at helping low-performing high schools.

As with the Governor’s McMansion, the cost of the item in question is not the point. It’s a trivial amount of money in context. The issue is the lack of leadership, the putting their own narcissistic priorities above things that do actual good. The rest of us can go hang, they got theirs.

How you can tell when someone isn’t serious about making budget cuts

An inability to prioritize is a pretty strong indicator.

The $135 million budget cut proposal from the Texas Education Agency includes one item that will probably not please Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

The agency suggests eliminating the $1 million needed to test high school athletes for steroids next year.

Dewhurst had championed the 2007 bill that created the testing program at a cost of $6 million over two years. The program produced 11 positive tests from a pool of 29,000 student-athletes tested in that time.

[…]

Among TEA’s other suggested cuts are a number of reductions to the Texas High School Initiative, which is an effort to help low-performing high schools; grants for new science labs; and textbooks.

Which of the aforementioned items sounds to you like the best place to spend a million bucks in this economy? It’s been clear to me for awhile that this is a poor use of the state’s money. I don’t know why David Dewhurst is incapable of recognizing that.

Steroids: Still not a problem in the schools

At least, as far as our ridiculous and expensive steroid testing og high school athletes program can tell, we don’t have a problem.

More than a year has passed since the state implemented one of the world’s most ambitious steroids testing programs at Texas high schools. The results so far: $6 million spent to test 45,193 student athletes, 19 of whom came up positive.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 0.04% positive rate. Every professional sport in the world wishes they could say the same for its participants.

That last number, depending on your perspective, either refutes the need for testing or validates it as a successful deterrent.

“We have a program that proved it worked by virtue of the fact that so few kids were caught doing steroids,” said Don Hooton, founder of the Plano-based Taylor Hooton Foundation, which raises steroids awareness. “For those that are making the argument that it proves we don’t have a steroid problem is dangerously naive.”

Critics don’t dispute that performance-enhancing drugs are a problem, but they question whether random testing is the solution.

“It’s really expensive, it’s a hassle, and it doesn’t seem to do very much,” said Dr. Diane Elliot, a professor of medicine who conducted a 2007 study on random drug testing at the Oregon Health and Science University.

Officials from local school districts chosen for state testing last year said they considered the program to be effective as a deterrent, but none reported a single positive test.

I’ve noted the weird logic of those who claim that the testing program must be a deterrent because it isn’t catching anyone before. There are some arguments you just can’t win. Happily, we’ll be spending less money on this foolishness next year. And we’ll probably get about as many positive tests as before as well.

Tuesday Lege roundup

Some more notes about what has been happening in the Lege…

– It looks like the program to test high school athletes for steroids will be scaled back.

Texas lawmakers have reached a deal to slash steroid testing of public high school athletes to less than half of the current program, but still leave it big enough to test thousands of athletes over the next two years.

The deal was struck by House and Senate members negotiating the 2010-2011 budget, lawmakers said Tuesday.

The current $6 million program was designed to test up to 50,000 students by the end of the current school year. The tentative deal for the new program would slash funding to $2 million over the next two years.

Good! Zeroing it out completely would have been better, but I can live with this. Maybe next time it’ll go away.

– There’s still some hope for the omnibus gambling resolution, but Rep. Ed Kuempel has a backup plan ready anyway.

UPDATE: Brandi Grissom tweets that “the fat lady has sung” for the gambling bill.

– If you’re under 21, getting a driver’s license for the first time just got harder.

– A tax on smokeless tobacco, which would fund a medical school repayment fund for doctors who agree to move to rural areas, passed the House.

– And finally, Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s HB982, the alternate strip club tax, has passed the Senate.

The Texas Senate voted on Tuesday to repeal a $5-per-person admission fee on strip clubs that has been ruled unconstitutional and agreed to replace it with a new tax on sexually oriented business.

The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Perry for his consideration even as House members were poised to debate a competing bill favored by sexual assault victim advocates.

Passed in 2007, the strip club admission fee has been ruled unconstitutional by a judge and is currently under appeal. Money collected under that fee was sent to a fund to help sex assault victims and a pool for uninsured Texans.

The new tax proposed by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, would apply to adult movie theaters, adult video stores, adult bookstores and other sexually oriented businesses that charge admission fees. It would total 10 percent of gross admissions receipts.

According to a legislative analysis, the new plan would send 25 percent of the new fee to a state school fund and the rest to a sexual assault victims fund.

But some advocates for victims say the new bill is a ruse put forth by strip club owners, who would not be required to charge admission to their clubs, and would sharply reduce the money collected to help assault victims.

The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault instead supports a separate House bill by Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, who pushed the original $5 fee. Cohen’s bill would reduce the club entry fee to $3 and dedicate all the money to the sexual assault fund.

Rep. Cohen’s HB2070 is still pending in the House. More here.

Scaling back steroid testing in the schools

Yes, yes, yes.

House and Senate budget negotiators will decide in the coming weeks whether the [$3 million a year program to test high school student athletes for steroids] continues — and its scope and pace.

“It’s not needed. House members think that we should not do the test at all,” said House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie. Pitts will lead House members in their negotiations with Senate counterparts.

A scaled-down program is possible, Pitts said. And that would satisfy Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, who sponsored the steroid-testing legislation two years ago.

He prefers a scaled-down program where random tests for steroid use are given to students who participate in football, track, weight lifting and wrestling, sports in which steroid abuse is most prevalent, as opposed to volleyball, for example.

“No, we don’t have a whole lot of people that we caught, but the whole idea was for them not to use it,” Flynn said. “It was a fairness and health issue, and we think we raised that level of awareness to a bar where it’s been successful.”

As noted, in the story, a grand total of 11 athletes, out of 29,000 tested, came up positive. Both Rep. Flynn and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, who was also quoted in support of this foolishness, have given all kinds of silly justifications for this in the past as well. Even Governor Perry supports scaling this back. Now three million bucks is chump change in the context of the budget. Killing this program isn’t going to achieve any real savings. That’s not the point. Steroid testing was done for a reason, whether you believe it was deterrence or fact-finding or something else, and the results have shown that it’s not needed. We should pay heed to those results and take the next logical step.

Steroid madness

Can we please declare victory in the war on steroids in Texas high schools and move on to something more productive?

Only 11 Texas high school students proved positive for steroid use among nearly 29,000 students tested in the last year, leading some lawmakers and others to suggest a downsizing of the $3-million-a-year program.

Nearly all of the students who tested positive during the yearlong program were football players or wrestlers and all were male. Those tested were randomly selected from an estimated 740,000 student athletes.

[…]

Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said the governor “would be open” to a scaled down steroid testing program.

Many Texas athletic coaches have said they believe education works better than an expensive testing and continue to question the merit of testing for steroids but not for recreational drugs.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a main backer of the steroid-testing program approved by lawmakers two years ago, wants to continue the project but is receptive to changes.

“It is too early to determine what, if any, adjustments should be made to the program, but as with any important initiative like this, I am always looking for ways to make improvements,” Dewhurst said.

Some high school coaches believe the money could be better spent.

[…]

The test results, showing a positive steroid result of only .03 percent indicates, “it’s not quite the epidemic that a lot of people feared it was,” said D.W. Rutledge, executive director of the Texas High School Coaches Association.

“There are a lot of concerns we have that this money could be used on, one being childhood obesity, another being recreational drugs,” Rutledge said.

The first round of testing, done in the spring, netted three violators. Would someone please explain to me how this is a good use of our financial resources? I didn’t see how it was then, and I don’t see it now. I think we’ve clearly demonstrated that steroids are not a problem in Texas’ high schools, at least not a $3 million one. Surely this money can be put to better use.

Please listen to Hank

I’m not sure which depresses me more – that Hank Aaron feels the need to remind everyone that Barry Bonds is the home run king (and that Hank himself is just fine with that), or that there’s a bunch of idiots like this one who don’t care and want to commit violence to the record books anyway in order to satisfy their perverse sense of justice or something. The fact that one of these people is MLB Commissioner Beelzebud Selig, who of course bears no responsibility whatsoever for the whole steroids thing, just makes it that much worse. I don’t even know what to say about this stuff any more. Between the hysteria over steroids and the annual ignorance-fest known as the Hall of Fame voting, it seems like the only way I can continue to enjoy the game of baseball is to strictly limit my exposure to what’s spoken and written about it. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bang my head against a wall.

The border camera boondoggle blues

Your tax dollars at work, courtesy of Governor Perry.

A virtual border surveillance program Gov. Rick Perry has committed millions of taxpayer dollars to fell far short of expectations during the first six months of operation.

Border sheriffs, who Perry gave $2 million to line the Texas-Mexico border with hundreds of Web cameras, installed only about a dozen and made just a handful of apprehensions as a result of tips from online viewers.

Reports obtained by the El Paso Times under the Texas Public Information Act show that the cameras produced a fraction of the objectives Perry outlined.

Perry’s office acknowledged the reported results were a far from the expectations but said the problem was with the yardstick used to measure the outcome and not with the camera program.

“The progress reports need to be adjusted to come in line with the strategy,” said Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger.

How about aligning it to the cost of implementation? Crazy idea, I know.

In the first six months of the grant period, the coalition spent $625,000 to get the cameras running.

The Web site went public Nov. 19, and in the first month saw nearly 2 million hits.

All those hits didn’t translate into much law enforcement work, though, according to a six-month progress report required for the grant.

The report describes both the objectives for the program during the first year of the grant and how much progress was made in achieving those goals.

The coalition’s goal was to make 1,200 arrests as a result of tips from the online cameras in the first year of the project.

They made three arrests in the first six months, according to the progress report.

Of some 4,500 suspected immigration violations they expected to report to U.S. Border Patrol in the year, the first six months produced six.

The report also showed the group installed just 13 of 200 cameras it planned to install this year.

Boy, that makes it almost as effective as the high school steroid testing program. Which was declared a success by its boosters, by the way. Gotta love that alignment of progress and strategy.

As the story notes, Perry has had a long fascination with the idea of border cameras and an army of online border-camera-watchers. The fact that the first, smaller-scale version of this was about as effective hasn’t cooled his ardor for them.

Some lawmakers panned the program as ineffective, and in 2007 legislators denied Perry’s request to fund more cameras and resume the online offensive.

Last year, though, Perry secured $2 million in federal grant money to get the cameras online.

But when his office sought a vendor, none would do the job for that price.

So Perry turned to the border sheriffs, a group he had previously given tens of millions for border security operations.

The sheriffs contracted with a social-networking company called Blueservo to set up the cameras and the Web site.

Once enough users sign up, the company says it plans to sell advertising on the site to generate a profit and pay for the border camera effort.

Cesinger said Perry is committed to the camera program because it uses technology to help secure the border, a mission the federal government has failed to accomplish.

“It’s utilizing technology so you don’t have to pay for an extra set of eyes,” she said.

You know, I’m thinking that for two million bucks you could probably get more than one extra set of eyes, and that you’d get a lot more results from them as well. I know, I know, that’s crazy talk. But at least it’s not as crazy as the idea that you could pay for these cameras in perpetuity with advertising revenue from a border camera social networking scheme. Seriously, who thinks this stuff up? I hope this program meets the same fate as its predecessor.