Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Hallmarks and More
By Ross Newhan
Roberto Alomar should have been elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot (not his second) and Bert Blyleven long before his 14th, but one positive about the eligible voters among the Baseball Writers of Assn. (and the numbers and cast shift some every year) is that at some point they will always get it right.
Alomar was the best defensive second baseman--not to mention owning a combination of offensive statistics that put him in a category matched only by Paul Molitor--I saw in almost 50 years of coverage (with apologies to Bobby Knoop during the early years of the Angels and Joe Morgan in the 70s) and you have to believe that some voters withheld their support last year because of the spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck, an event that both men have long since moved past, as last year's voters should have. Blyleven has terrific numbers in almost every category, particularly strike outs, shutouts, complete games, post-season and even some of the new metrics, and should not have been forced to creep up on the 75% needed for election before getting 79.7% in his next to last year of ballot eligibility.
Next year's first year cast of eligible players is a weak one, but weather Barry Larkin can make the jump from 62.1% and Jeff Bagwell from 41.7% is still problematic. I voted for both, but in the case of Bagwell, he was obviously hurt by the shadow of the steroid era, even though there has never been tangible evidence that he used steroids. My policy--as I stated while working for the Los Angeles Times and since starting this blog--is that I will not vote for any player carrying tangible evidence of steroid use. Suspicion is not enough, and should not handicap a player of Bagwell's credentials.Clearly, however, any player who has tested positive or acknowledged steroid use has little chance of getting in, as evidenced by Mark McGwire, who is going backwards in the low 20s, and Rafael Palmeiro, who has first ballot credentials but received only 11% of support.
Two years from now there will be a remarkable array of players eligible for the first time, promising one of the most interesting elections in Hall history. Those players include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza. Talk about the shadow of the steroid era, although Bonds and, perhaps, Clemens, could escape it on the basis that many voters believe they had produced Hall of Fame careers before syringes and a commodity called the cream allegedly became part of their training regimen. I don't accept the pre-PED contention. An envious Bonds, for example, watched McGwire and Sosa receive national notoriety with their home run battle in 1998, knew he was a better player than either one, became determined to top anything they had produced (or he had produced previously) and suddenly and literally emerged in the physical form of a Transformer, going on to besmirch the McGwire and Henry Aaron home run records.
Some writers have made the point that we are not the morality police and should accept the Steroid Era as we do the Dead Ball Era or any other, but I don't agree. As I was quoted in a New York Times story Sunday, if we are not the morality police, if we are not the custodians of the game's hsitory and its legacies, who will be? Bud Selig, who has done so many things right in his tenure as commissioner, should have kept hammering at the players union in regard to the absence of a testing policy, and the union, riding the shaky policy of civil liberties, should not have fought it for so long while many of its non-cheating constiuents were thrown under the bus. The history is what it is, and there is no sense going over the sad ground.
That, however, does not mean that eligible Hall of Fame voters should whitewash the era, accepting the phony numbers as if we have no responsibility to baseball's history.
Righteous indignation? I don't apologize. I accept the badge of the morality police.
* * *
So, Adrian Beltre goes to the Texas Rangers for $96 million over six years and Carl Crawford goes to the Boston Red Sox for $142 million over seven years, and where does that leave the Angels?
What are we supposed to think of owner Arte Moreno drawing a financial line after going into the winter saying he will pay any price to return his team to the playoffs?
Moreno probably regrets making that statement, making it seem that he would literally pay any price.
It is clearly not quite what he meant, but he will have to live with the expectations it created and the abuse he is going to receive.
The market exploded on Moreno and clearly moved beyond his checkbook, or at least his willingness to write a check for any amount.
Closer Rafael Soriano is still out there, but last year's acquisition of Dan Haren and the return of first baseman Kendry Morales may represent the biggest moves for the team that now carries the name of the nation's second leading market.
Who's on third? It's like asking who's in left field for that other Los Angeles team.