‘Twas the DNA that Cleared Me
Welcome to the 2nd year of my weekly sports blog “Reid ‘Em & Weep”. Last March of 2016 I started writing, out of the blue. I felt like a dude that just got out of prison, wrongly incarcerated of course. ‘Twas the DNA that cleared me. Anyway, I should’ve been writing my entire life but for whatever reason, I never believed in my ability. It was probably due to that college professor that gave me a “D” for an essay I wrote about “Beowulf.” I remember going into her office hours and asking why she gave me such a poor grade. “Well, you’re not a good writer” she said. “You don’t back up any of your opinions with facts from the text.” Hmmm, ok. I can learn from that.
Now I thank her for her honesty and her advice. It took me too long to get over it…..two decades to be exact. 20 years. “No doctor, I don’t hold grudges….never have. By the way, how much are you charging me for this session anyway?”
So now that two decades have passed, I decided to write again. Last year my writing evolved into a weekly sports blog. I wrote consistently for 8 weeks. Then I took a hiatus from the blog to become a beat writer for Football Nation, writing for the beloved Chicago Bears. You may be familiar with that work as I posted two articles per week. I previewed and recapped each Bears game during the 2016 season. So all of that kept me busy for ten months. Now that the NFL season is over, the “Dutch Lion” returns!
I’m hopping back on the horse and riding off to start the 2nd leg of this journey. I hope my horse doesn’t buck. Bucking broncos anyone? “Bucking Broncos” sounds like a good blog for a Denver NFL crowd. Anyway, let’s start 2017 with a controversial topic that got me thinking way back in….January……the Baseball Hall of Fame inductions.
Baseball Hall of Fame Voting
I have plenty of thoughts on the whole Hall of Fame process. The voters, the players, the actual building in Cooperstown, the controversies, the steroids, the BBWAA writers that have the privilege of voting…..these are all interesting topics to be analyzed in detail. Where do we begin? I might need to address the entire sports Hall of Fame business in another post. For now, let’s focus on this year’s nominees and analyze what happened on January 18 with the announcement of the 2017 class. Thirty four players were on this year’s ballot. Three players were elected by virtue of gaining 75% of the votes: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez.
I know what you’re thinking……”Only three made it? Those three? That can’t be right.” Well, you’re right, it’s not right. So let me write.” Oh brother, I’m tired already! Who does this “Dutch Lion” think he is, anyway? Here’s the list of all 34 eligible players on this year’s ballot:
I was watching a great show on MLB Network a few days before the vote took place. It was hosted by Brian Kenny and featured Bob Costas, Ron Darling, Ken Rosenthal, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, and Tom Verducci. They discussed everything from voter eligibility to PED’s to ethics to traditional stats versus sabermetrics. Their votes and opinions varied all over the board and as you would guess, I disagreed with a ton of what they said. However, I also agreed with plenty of their comments. They brought up some really good points and argued effectively in most cases. Outside of “Mad Dog” Russo, they all provided respectable ballots. Here they are:
Two writers from the Chicago Tribune, Mark Gonzalez and Paul Sullivan, posted their ballots in the newspaper as well. They agreed on 3 players. Sullivan only voted for 4 players like Chris Russo but he had only one player in common with Russo, that being Vlad Guerrero.
You see where I’m going with this? It’s a mess! The opinions on these former players is all over the board. The spectrum is wide.
There is a deep, deep flaw in this process. Well actually there are MANY deep flaws in the voting rules but the first one I need to address is the limit of voting for 10 players maximum. Why do they have this rule? It makes absolutely no sense. What if you had the 11 greatest players of all time eligible in the same year. 11 Babe Ruths as it were? You can only vote for 10 of the 11 Babe Ruths. Who do you leave out?……as Yogi Berra would say, “When you get to the fork in the road, take it”. In this case he might say, “I’ll leave Babe Ruth out, or myself”!
It’s just insane and a huge flaw with the process because then voters need to choose and thus mess with their OWN ballots to fit into the confinements of said process. I’ve heard writers say things like “Well, I had to keep so-and-so eligible so I voted for him”, “I’ll vote for him next year because I wanted to vote for so-and-so this year in his 10th and last year on the ballot”, or better yet “He was mean to me once in an interview so I will never vote for him, or at least as a first ballot entry. He probably deserves it but I’ll make him wait since he made me wait once for 20 minutes for our interview while he toweled off after a long hot shower”. Ok, I may have made up that last one but the first two are legitimate things you hear writers say was their reasoning for yeas or nays. How silly is that?
It reminds me of when I work in the sales industry years ago. I used to work at this place doing inside sales and the managers were so concerned about our call numbers, almost more than our actual sales numbers. In their minds, the more calls you made the more money they made so they would set quotas of 20 “spins” (spins are phone calls or dials) and 4 “contacts” (actual conversations with a buyer) per hour. They would literally keep updates on a dry erase board to pit you in competitions with your co-workers. I remember them chiding workers for only making 15 “spins” and 3 “contacts” whether or not they made 3 sales or even zero sales. Their priorities were all messed up. That happens with quotas. It fudges the numbers. “Did I deserve that speeding ticket for going one mile per hour over the speed limit officer or did you just need to meet your quota? By the way, did you see that person set that arson fire down the street while you were speed gunning me?”
So me being a classy young gentlemen decided to…..fudge the numbers to mess with the managers. If I found a phone number that went to voicemail, I dialed it over and over again to quickly achieve the 20 calls. That way, I could move on to concentrating on making sales. As you’d imagine, the managers figured out what I was doing and pulled me into the office for a confrontational discussion. “Why are you messing with us Dutch Lion?” I retorted with “I wanted to point out to you that your system and your priorities are all misguided. What are we trying to do here? Make calls or make sales?”
The Hall of Fame voting is a similarly misguided adventure. What are we trying to do here gentlemen? Are we trying to vote in the correct Hall of Famers or are we trying to determine a baseball player’s character or are we making a political statement or are we keeping the legends mystique alive by not voting in many first ballot HOFers? Writers actually think of this stuff: “If my favorite player of all time (insert name here, in this case we’ll pick Harmon Killebrew) didn’t make it in on the first ballot then I don’t want Jeff Bagwell making it in on the first ballot either, that’s for sure! Therefore I’m not voting for him this year. Next year….oh yeah, for sure I’ll vote for Bagwell.” Oh brother, these pitiful baseball writers.
Either the player deserves to be in the Hall or he doesn’t. Enough with this first time ballot BS. If you think 19 players deserve to be in, then vote for 19. Don’t worry about their % of the vote, don’t worry about guys in their last year of eligibility, don’t worry about how they compare to your hero when you were a kid in the 1940s. With most Hall of Fame players, you just know. Was Ken Griffey Jr. a HOFer? Yes! Was Vladimir Guerrero a HOFer? Yes! It’s the numbers yes but it’s the eye test. It’s the awe-inspiring skills and performance on the field!
All you need to know about how messed up the HOF voting is that nobody, I mean nobody! has ever earned 100% of the vote. Not even a guy like Griffey. What does that tell you? Who is the IDIOT that didn’t vote for “The Kid”? Check that….3 guys didn’t vote for Griffey! 437 out of 440 voted for him, but 3 didn’t. As Dennis Hopper yelled into the forest while holding his rifle in “Hoosiers”……..”IDENTIFY!” Did those 3 dudes want to mess with the system? Did they truly think that Griffey, all 630 career HR and 10 straight Gold Gloves, NOT deserve induction? One of my favorite baseball writers, Phil Rogers, wrote a great piece about a year ago regarding this travesty:
See what I mean? So where do we go from here? If I were to vote right now using the ridiculous 10 players limit, here would be my 2017 MLB Hall of Fame ballot in alphabetical order:
- 1) Jeff Bagwell (64th in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with 79.6) – They all had Bagwell on their ballots except Russo and Sullivan. Those two writers are often the outliers as you’ll see below. Russo went so far as to say on the show that any player that has EVER been linked or suspected of PED use was a No for him. I think it was Rosenthal who had a great reply to that absurd comment, “That’s unfair to anyone who played with Jose Canseco because he outed all his PED user teammates whereas other players with no connection to Canseco get a huge HOF break.” Think about that real hard. It’s true. Provocative and profound.
- 2) Barry Bonds (4th greatest player ALL TIME in WAR with 162.4) – Barry “US” Bonds was simply one of the greatest players we ever saw. Even before his alleged PED use, the guy was the Player of the Decade in the 1990s (Sporting News). He could’ve retired after 1998 and made the Hall. PED’s or no, you still gotta swing the bat and we all know Barry was the best bat-handler since he was called up to the bigs in 1986. His secret….his vision of the ball at the pitcher’s release point. Is 20/20 vision a performance enhancer? You’re darn right it is. Bonds was not only the best of HIS time, but he was one of the greatest of ALL time. Costas, Darling, and Rosenthal all voted for Bonds.
- 3) Roger Clemens (8th overall in WAR, 3rd best pitcher ever with 140.3) – No matter how you stack it up, Roger was one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Only 3 writers had Clemens on their ballots: Costas, Darling, and Rosenthal.
- 4) Vladimir Guerrero (188th in WAR with 59.3) – Not the greatest WAR stats but Vlad falls into the ‘You know it when you see it’ type of Hall of Famer. He had it all….power, average, speed, and a live arm. He was a 4 tool player that you could argue lacked in the 5th category, his glove. Vlad was known for swinging at everything. So how did he hit .318 with 449 career HR? The dude could rake. I had the pleasure of seeing Vlad at Comiskey Park a few times. One of the most powerful arms in RF I’ve ever seen. Don’t forget about his back to back 30-30 and 39-40 seasons in Montreal in 2001 and ’02. 7 of 8 voted for Vlad. The lone dissenter……Ken Rosenthal!
- 5) Trevor Hoffman – 2nd all time with 601 saves in 18 years. 7 of 8 guys voted for Hoffman. The lone dissenter……”Mad Dog” Russo.
- 6) Edgar Martinez (112th in WAR with 68.3) – He gets knocked because he was a DH…..the best DH that every AL team wanted in their lineup batting cleanup. Why is he knocked for this? Sure, go ahead and rip him for his lack of fielding experience. This is like knocking Stephen Curry for his lack of dunking. Kenny, Russo, Rosenthal, Verducci, and Gonzales all voted for Martinez. No love from Costas, Darling, and Sullivan.
- 7) Tim Raines (108th in WAR with 69.1) – I love Tim Raines. He was a premier leadoff man who finally made it in his 10th and final year on the ballot. What took the voters so long? They stink! At least they voted him in this year rather than waiting until after he died like they did to Ron Santo and his family. That was shameful. 7 of 8 voted for Raines here. The lone dissenter…….who do you think?…..”Mad Dog” Russo!
- 8) Manny Ramirez (107th overall in WAR at 69.2) – One spot ahead of Raines, Ramirez gets ripped for being a weirdo that got suspended for PED’s. Yeah, he was a weirdo alright. He was so strange that he practiced hitting constantly. Insiders know. Manny was simply one of the greatest right handed hitters ever! .312 average with 555 HR! Yikes! Those numbers are insane. Watch him swing and you’ll see why pitchers were scared of him. Frozen ropes galore! Nobody above voted for Manny. I’m the only one. I’m the “Mad Dog” on Manny.
- 9) Ivan Rodriguez (111th overall in WAR at 68.4) – I had the pleasure of seeing Pudge II in his major league debut weekend at the new Comiskey Park on Sunday June 23, 1991. (His debut was Thursday night in the opener of a 4 game set.) We saw him go 0 for 5 with a whiff to cap off his first 4 game series in the bigs. If I remember right, the White Sox won on a Jeff Russell walkoff wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th. I know! Block the ball in the dirt young man. Ivan was just 19 years old in his debut season. Tough beginnings make for wonderful endings. From that moment forward, Rodriguez dominated behind the plate. PS Both Juan Gonzalez and Big Frank Thomas homered. “The Deacon” Warren Newson was involved in the walk off too. Great day! Half of the guys above said NO to Ivan Rodriguez: Kenny, Russo, Verducci, Sullivan.
- 10) Curt Schilling (63rd overall in WAR, 26th best pitcher EVER with 79.9) – He lost votes this year, probably because of his controversial politics and opinions. Schilling is clearly one of the greatest pitchers ever, especially when you consider his 3 World Series Championship performances in 2001, 2004, and 2007. Don’t forget about his time with Philadelphia, helping them to the 1993 Series. Extraordinary career topped by an amazing 11-2 postseason record with a 2.23 ERA and 2 shutouts. 15th all-time in strikeouts. Bloody sock anyone? It blows my mind when shortsighted writers like Paul Sullivan claim that they don’t hold Schilling’s off field stuff against him for the Hall, that they simply think he was “borderline at best”. Hey Paul, C’mon man….Who you crappin’? Meanwhile, all six MLB Network guys voted for Curt. Both Tribune guys said no. Here’s a link to Curt’s blog here on WordPress in which he addressed his Hall chances back in December: https://38pitches.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/my-response-to-jerry-and-the-bbwaa/
If I was allowed to vote for more than ten players, I’d add these:
- 11) Rafael Palmeiro (89th in WAR with 71.6) – Why does everybody label Palmeiro as the poster child for PED use so he’s not good enough? Look at his body of work. It’s tremendous. Was he proven to use PED’s? Were any of these guys? How many players actually used, were found guilty, and admitted it? I can think of Andy Pettitte, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire off the top of my head.
- 12) Mike Mussina (58th in WAR with 83.0) – Before I looked at his numbers, I thought he was overrated. Now that I look at his stats, I think he’s UNDERrated. I know! Life is weird, no?
- 12) Mark McGwire &
- 13) Sammy Sosa – These guys could mash. Was it all PED’s? No. Do they deserve induction? Probably. If proven, convicted, and admitted PED users get inducted, let’s just write this info on the plaque. Maybe have a separate wing in the Hall or something. Let us the fans be the judges. Don’t let the writers have the power to keep possibly valid careers OUT of the Hall. It goes back to the fairness issue. Bagwell is in. McGwire is out. That might not be fair.
- 14) I’d maybe put in Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, and Lee Smith too. I need to study those guys more before making a valid judgment. Am I wrong? Probably. My family tells me I’m wrong all the time so I’m probably wrong here too.
I don’t care if a guy retweeted something lowbrow. I don’t care if he has outspoken opinions. I don’t care about their political views. In fact, I don’t even want to know really. I don’t hold anything against any of these guys if I can help it. For example, I absolutely hate Roger Clemens. The guy’s a big jerk in my opinion. But I’m going to vote him into the Hall anyway because he was simply a great pitcher. Way before his suspected PED use he was a HOFer and I’m sticking with that analysis, just like I would for Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, and Sosa. I’m not advocating players should cheat, but remember that MLB didn’t even have a rule against PED’s until 2004 so most of these guys weren’t even breaking any rules other than USA federal laws. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Barry Bonds has never been proven guilty. He has never tested positive for PED’s. Everyone assumes he did it but we can’t just assume. Did he do steroids? Maybe. Probably. But so did Ivan Rodriguez. Maybe. Probably. Why do we exalt some guys but blaspheme other guys? It’s not fair.
Where do we draw the line? Marijuana and cocaine are against the law. Should we not allow anyone who has ever used these drugs to be admitted to their respective Halls of Fame? Maybe, but then Tim “Rock” Raines needs to be un-admitted before he gives his speech this Summer! One time I drank too many “Three Wisemen” on my 20th birthday. Mistake. Am I barred from any Halls of Fame now? Am I barred because I DID IT, because somebody has PROOF (good thing we didn’t carry camera phones to bars in 1995), or because I ADMITTED it? Does it matter if I apologized for it?
How about the “performance enhancing” aspect of cheating? Well, I have really bad spring-time outdoor allergies. If I didn’t use a couple of pills and eye drops every April and May, I’d be worthless on a grass baseball field. So technically, if I were a baseball player I’d be guilty of using PED’s every April. What about glasses or contacts? Those are vision enhancing. What about eating a good breakfast the day of a game? Is that allowed? What if I took an Excedrin and the lack of a headache helped me hit that game-winning HR? Was that a performance enhancing drug? What about the so-called “greenies” amphetamines that many/most of the MLB players of the 50’s and 60’s used to get more energy for games? Those were allowed until about 2005 and then all of a sudden MLB put that on their illegal drug list too. Why was that ok for 40-50 years? Maybe Hank Aaron’s HR record should be tainted because of his alleged use of “greenies”. Maybe George Herman “Babe” Ruth himself used steroids, greenies, or something else to improve his performance back in the 20’s and 30’s. My theory is Babe Ruth indeed used an early form of steroids that he received from his barnstorming tours around the globe to Europe and the Far East to spread the game of baseball.
So where do we draw the line? I think it’s a complex, difficult question to answer. In my opinion too many of these writers want to exclude each player that has ever been linked to PED use or “suspected” of PED use. In addition, some of these writers want to exclude THE ENTIRE ERA of baseball. I don’t think that’s the right way to go. We’re going to pretend that an entire era of baseball doesn’t count, at least in the Hall of Fame sense?
And another thing, don’t even get me started on Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Now that’s a subject for another post entirely. That is all for now. So long you “bucking broncos”. See ya next week as I plan on writing at least once weekly from now on.