Can CC Ride into Cooperstown?

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia had a big night last night, giving his team a much-needed six-inning shutout start and a chance to even the series against the  Houston Astros in the ALCS. With Sabathia, at age thirty-seven, in the final year of his current contract, Sabathia’s performance made some wonder about his Hall-of-Fame credentials, a subject I attempt to parse in only slightly greater detail in my latest post for Banished to the Pen.

The full post is available here.

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At last, unimpeachable grounds for removing a BBWAA member’s hall of fame vote

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Voting now is underway for the 2017 class of Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, which means it’s the time of year when two things happen: 1) people who vote on HOF enshrinement write articles explaining their ballot choices as a way of reminding us that they (i.e., the writer-voters) are important, and 2) people say that some of those people should lose their voting rights for some reason or another. Maybe the voter voted for Roger Clemens. Maybe the voter didn’t vote for Roger Clemens. Maybe the voter hasn’t covered baseball in ten years and thinks Roger Clemens still is playing for the Blue Jays. Maybe the voter sold his vote to Deadspin. Who knows. What these would-be disenfranchisers tend to have in common is that they themselves are disenfranchised but want their voices heard on the ballot questions just as much as those actually allowed to vote. These “disputes” come down to policy preferences, and it’s tough imagine a voter’s decision to vote or not vote for a particular player providing a basis for stripping a voter of his or her vote (though Lou Whittaker and Alan Trammel’s exclusions from Cooperstown will never not baffle).

At last, though, we are presented with an actual voter who, without question whatsoever, is deserving of banishment from the collection of people entitled to vote on admission to the Baseball Hall of Fame. If ever there were grounds upon which all agree a voter should lose voting privileges, it would be a demonstrated inability to actually vote.

Bill Livingston is one of those people who falls into the first group described above, and he wrote one of those group-one articles about his ballot this year. He wanted to tell the world that he had a vote, but that he was abstaining from voting because he hasn’t decided what he thinks about steroids in baseball. Actually, more precisely, he wrote that he was abstaining because other people (the royal “baseball”) hadn’t figured out what to do about steroids in baseball. Whatever. Maybe it’s dumb or lame or a waste, or maybe you’d hope the people upon whom HOF-voter status is bestowed would undertake a little personal responsibility and make up their minds, but it ultimately is fine. He’s abstaining. So be it.

Except Livingston didn’t abstain. He cast a blank ballot. In elections run like this one, that action constitutes casting a vote against everybody, and that’s a lot different than abstaining. Deadspin explains the situation succinctly:

The thing is, if you want to abstain from voting, what you need to do is not submit a ballot at all. That way, your ballot won’t be counted in the total pool of ballots and thus won’t change the number of votes a player needs to get to cross the 75-precent threshold [required for induction]. All Livingston has done by submitting a signed, blank ballot is to make it a little bit harder for everyone in this year’s class to get into the Hall of Fame . . . .

Mr. Livingston, I presume from his publicly described action, actually does not know how to vote, and that demonstrated ignorance constitutes unimpeachable grounds for removal of his voting privileges.

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Related
The Baseball Hall of Fame, Deadspin, the Third Rail, and the Fourth Wall
No one elected to Baseball Hall of Fame
Totally disinterested person offers opinion on 2013 MLB Hall of Fame candidates
Amid the glut of Pete Rose journalism, a new, false dichotomy

Book Review: Up, Up, & Away

jonahkeriupup&awayJonah Keri has completed the keystone work of his young life with Up, Up, & Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos. While Keri surely will continue to be one of the top baseball writers of this generation, he was born to write this book about his dearest baseball love.

The book tells the full story of the Expos franchise, beginning with pre-Expos baseball in Montreal, which included the minor league Montreal Royals, a team that counted Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente among its alumni, through the bitter end and the franchise’s departure to Washington, D.C. Readers learn about Montreal and the men who brought Major League Baseball to that city (and Canada) and administered it while it was there, but Up, Up, & Away really is a fan’s story of the talented characters who wore the red, white, and powder blue.

The Expos generally had two peaks in their thirty-five-year history. The first came in the early 1980s, Continue reading

Amidst the glut of Pete Rose journalism, a new, false dichotomy

IMG-20140317-00078It is not difficult to get an interview with Pete Rose. I’m sorry to pull back the curtain on one of sportswriting’s recent tricks, but it’s true. People assume that Rose, one of sports’ all-time controversial figures, must be a tough get, but the sheer volume of articles published in recent years based on one-on-one interviews with Mr. Hustle belie that assumption. I’m reasonably confident ALDLAND could secure a sit-down interview with Rose. He seemingly wants to talk to anybody and everybody– the more he’s in the news, the more likely a public clamor for MLB to reverse course and allow him to stand for a Hall of Fame vote– and I don’t see anything wrong with that. Think what you want about Rose, but Sparky Anderson made his peace with his former player before he died, so you probably should too.

The latest entry into that glut of Rose prose is a book by Sports Illustrated’s Kostya Kennedy, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. The March 10 issue of the magazine carries an excerpt, available online here. The magazine cover teases a central– and magazine-cover-worthy– quotation: “Rose has been banished for the incalculable damage he might have done to the foundation of the game. Steroid users are reviled for the damage they actually did.”

Again, I like Rose, I think he belongs in baseball, and I think the PED-user analogy can be illustrative. Few people love an illustrative analogy more than me, probably. But here, Kennedy takes the wind out of his own quotation’s sails, and rightly so. We cannot now be sure of the precise effect Rose’s baseball gambling had on his playing and managing. Kennedy is straightforward about this, and, just paragraphs before his money line, he set out in detail how, even if Rose only bet on his Reds, his managing decisions could have been impaired by his collateral financial interest in the outcome of his team’s games. For example, Kennedy suggests that Rose might have utilized his players to achieve short-term results in a way that impaired long-term effectiveness. A baseball season, to say nothing of a baseball career, is a marathon. Kennedy points out that Rose appeared to overuse a lefty reliever, Rob Murphy, in the 1987 and 1988 seasons. Murphy fairly denied the charge to Kennedy, but the writer still put the following tag on this section, which immediately precedes the highlighted quotation above: “There’s no indication, either through game logs or player testimony, that Rose’s betting influenced how he managed. But it could have. speculation, sure. Evidence? Not yet.”

Kennedy seems to miss the point with his “Rose has been banished for the . . .damage he might have done” line, the point he himself just finished making: that Rose’s gambling damaged the game, but we simply don’t yet have the evidence to show exactly how. The same is true of the PED users, for whom evidence has been perhaps the central issue. How many fewer home runs would Barry Bonds have hit had he not used PEDs? (He did use PEDs, right?) How many fewer hits for finger-waving Rafael Palmeiro? How many fewer strikeouts for Roger Clemens? Why pretend like the damage is any more or less obvious for one or the other?

I hope baseball allows Rose back into the game, to stand for election to the Hall of Fame (a privilege Kennedy notes Bonds and Clemens and their lot enjoy). While MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has hinted at some easing of Rose’s ban, this is an all-or-nothing issue. I’m not sure what, if anything, will tip the scales in Rose’s favor, but a false dichotomy like the one Kennedy presents doesn’t help anyone’s cause on this issue.

The Baseball Hall of Fame, Deadspin, the Third Rail, and the Fourth Wall

I started writing about the Baseball Hall of Fame even before we started ALDLAND (see also here and here), and the issues and conversations surrounding Cooperstown and the process by which players are chosen to be enshrined there often lack basic elements of reason and logic.

Briefly, membership in the Hall is regulated by a group of writers who are affiliated with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who enforce unwritten rules and take self-aggrandizing positions in a way that makes Brian McCann look progressive and relaxed.

Today, Deadspin announced that it has broken the mold: an eligible voter agreed to sell Deadspin his or her vote. The site now is in the process of determining how it, and its readers, will cast that ballot, which was released today. In the meantime, the site is trying to buy more votes.

For someone else’s thoughts on what this means, click here.

I don’t know that the predominant basis of the HOF selection process should be a popular vote. After all, we see that on a small scale every year in the All-Star Game balloting, which leads to ridiculous and deeply uninformed outcomes. I do think it’s okay to mix things up a little bit, though.

I might write more about the names on this year’s ballot at a later date– it’s sort of interesting to see the number of hilarious former Tigers, including Todd Jones, Sean Casey, and Kenny Rogers, alongside the great Alan Trammell, on the list– but I’m not really qualified to do that.

At the very least, we now can say that Cooperstown is Y2K compatible. Whether that will or should change anything about the place, and how this real-life experiment will unfold, are other questions.

From the Vault: Is Cooperstown Y2K12 Compatible? (via QuestionsPresented)

Today, Barry Larkin became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I first contemplated this day more than a year and a half ago, and it was one of the first stories imported to this site last August.

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Is Cooperstown Y2K12 Compatible?Yesterday, voters inducted two former players, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While the primary subtext to the story about the 2011 class has been the low number of votes players tied to steroids– including Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro– received and the implication that players associated with performance-enhancing substances might never make it into the Hall of Fame, ESPN’s Rob Nayer is looking ahead to 2 … Read More

via QuestionsPresented

Is Cooperstown Y2K12 Compatible? (via QuestionsPresented)

Is Cooperstown Y2K12 Compatible? Yesterday, voters inducted two former players, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While the primary subtext to the story about the 2011 class has been the low number of votes players tied to steroids– including Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro– received and the implication that players associated with performance-enhancing substances might never make it into the Hall of Fame, ESPN’s Rob Nayer is looking ahead to 2 … Read More

via QuestionsPresented