Tag Archive | "Barry Bonds"

Has Voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame Become a Joyless Chore?

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Has Voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame Become a Joyless Chore?

Posted on 14 January 2013 by Trish Vignola

Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News pondered this question. “There was a time, not so long ago, when I received the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot with great joy and anticipation.” There was also a time when we as fans waited with “great joy and anticipation” for this outcome.

RogerClemens

Bondy continued. “It was tremendous fun to mark down each year the maximum 10 candidates for election — for I fully believed the writers had fallen far behind when it came to several deserving players. Some serious catching up was required. Now, though, it’s all a joyless chore.” For fans, this week was pretty joyless as well.

Bondy gives his readers intimate insight on what it was like to face this controversial ballot. “The ballot arrives. I take a deep breath and vote for cheaters I don’t like. I vote for them nonetheless, all the proven and alleged steroid guys. This year I voted for Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and, yes, even Rafael Palmeiro — which means that at least half my ballot was consumed by almost certain law breakers.” Regardless of Bondy’s decision, the first pages of writing the Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) era of baseball have been written.

So why did Bondy vote the way he did? He opens up in his article for the News, “I believe a voter needs some sort of system, some consistency, and I don’t believe in selective prosecution. 

Some of these guys are 100% likely PED-users, some are 99% likely, even if they haven’t been caught or convicted. But what of the 50-50 guys, or the 60-40 players? I have no idea. Should I exclude Mike Piazza because some reporters noticed acne on his back? Should I snub Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, because of all the rumors down in Houston?”

Bondy ultimately couldn’t do that. He felt he was in no position to know for certain. To Bondy’s point, I agree that steroids were endemic in this era. It is time for the Hall of Fame to recognize this and find away to put that into perspective. This isn’t about a plaque. If the Hall of Fame recognizes itself as a true museum, it is the responsibility of that institution to educate everyone on the subject.

Bondy admits to voting for all of them. He considered their stats and dominance at their position, their endurance and most importantly their value to teams. For Bondy, “I didn’t enjoy mailing in the ballot and I’m not particularly upset that none of these players attracted enough votes from fellow writers. I feel sorry for everyone trying to deal with this issue, including the voters, and grow angrier at the cheaters for dividing us into warring cliques.”

Although right now, we struggle with an imperfect system to recognize the greats of the game. Bondy show us how it still works. “I was proud to vote for Lee Smith, who has been ignored for no particular reason. When he was with the Cubs, I was on the field before a game at Wrigley as he tossed a warm up pitch that bounced past a teammate and hit me on the ankle. I suffered a Hall of Fame bruise, I can attest.”

For Bondy, this is not about Bonds. I agree to the point that these players shouldn’t be judged in one stroke. If you do, then people like Lee Smith are lost to history and that’s not fair. As Bondy concludes, “No PEDs there. At least I don’t think so. We never, ever can be sure again.” For more on Bondy’s insight, check him out on line an in print with the New York Daily News.

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The Hall Will Be A Bit Emptier This Year

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The Hall Will Be A Bit Emptier This Year

Posted on 10 January 2013 by Trish Vignola

After days of speculating, today we found out that no player was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for 2013. This has easily been the most controversial vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BWAA) since they were a part of the election process. Today shows us that trauma of the steroid era has clearly not healed.

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The first page in baseball’s history of the “steroid era” has been written. The owner of baseball’s most cherished records, Barry Bonds, was clearly rejected. Cy Young winner, Roger Clemens, might have skirted prison time in 2012, but today he did no better. Only Craig Biggio came close to election. He got 68.2% of the vote, falling 39 votes short.

With 569 members of the BWAA returning ballots, the Los Angeles Times reports that 427 votes would have been needed to meet the 75% standard for election. This is only the eighth time since 1936 that there has been no election class. The last was 1996. Former Detroit Tigers ace Jack Morris, in his second to last year on the ballot, was second with 67.7%. Jeff Bagwell got 59.6%, followed by Mike Piazza at 57.8% and Tim Raines at 52.2%.

This is the first time the Baseball Hall of Fame will host a ceremony with no living inductees since 1960. The July 28 ceremony will honor the three inductees of baseball’s pre-integration era. Each of these inductees had been dead for at least 74 years.

Barry Bonds holds the career and single-season home-run records. He is the only seven-time most valuable player and was only named on 36.2% of the ballots. Clemens is the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner and was named on 37.6%.

Players remain on the ballot for 15 years, provided they receive at least 5% of the vote. However, this has easily been the most baffling ballot in the Hall’s history. Links to alleged steroid use has turned a player the Times described as “a first-ballot lock into an also-ran.” Voters were divided between those who wanted to deny induction to any player with ties to performance-enhancing drugs, those who are taking a “wait and see” approach to what additional information might emerge about those players, and those who just want to vote for the most dominant players of their their era.

Mark McGwire got a paltry 16.9% of the votes. In his six previous appearances, he never received more than 23.7%. McGwire and Sammy Sosa were credited with reviving baseball in 1998, when the two players battled for the single-season home-run record. McGwire ended with 70. Sosa finished with 66. In 2001, Bonds hit 73 home runs.

Bonds leads the all-time home-run list at 762, with Sosa eighth at 609 and McGwire 10th at 583. The trio is the only men to hit more than 62 home runs in a season – Bonds did it once, McGwire twice and Sosa three times. Yet, these former historic impact players are now dim long shots for Baseball’s Valhalla.

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With January’s Hall of Fame Inductions will come the rewriting of History.

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With January’s Hall of Fame Inductions will come the rewriting of History.

Posted on 27 November 2012 by Trish Vignola

This January, as it does every year, the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BWAA) will be voting on the National Baseball Hall of Fame. What’s far from typical is the attention this year’s particular ballot will receive. Among those eligible for the first time will be Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling and Mike Piazza.

In the cases of Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, each had the numbers to be a no-brainer first-ballot winner. Each had also been tainted by rumors of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), although they never publicly tested positive. It’s been a storm gathering on the horizon for years. It’s been a five-year waiting period that began the moment they retired. The day of reckoning will come this January when the results of the voting by 10-year members of the BWAA are announced.

Several current Hall of Famers strongly and publically oppose the inclusion of any players tarred by the so-called Steroid Era. George Brett, Goose Gossage and Reggie Jackson are among those who have expressed opinions on the subject. There have been suggestions that many of the 65 living Hall of Famers might boycott next year if any of the suspected PED-users are elected.

“I wasn’t a home run hitter,” Brett told the Arizona Republic during Spring Training last year. “But I know from talking to guys in the 500-home run club, guys like [Mike Schmidt] and some other guys like that, if those guys make it in, then they’ll never go back. … Those guys will never go back and attend [the Hall of Fame inductions] if the cheaters get in.”

Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson is prepared for every possibility. “There’s a lot of great talent coming up on the ballot next year, as there is every year. In terms of the rules for election, we feel the rules are very clear,” he said to MLB.com during last year’s inductions. “In terms of the process, we’re very pleased with the process. And, historically, in terms of the baseball writers, as a group they’ve shown great diligence in electing people who belong in the Hall of Fame. Because when you walk through the gallery of plaques, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who’s in there who doesn’t belong.”

Idelson is staying studiously neutral on the steroid issue. “Our position is that the rules are very solid, that whomever the writers choose to elect we’re looking forward to honoring,” he said. The rule most at issue is the guideline that voters should consider “integrity, sportsmanship [and] character” when casting their ballots. Some BBWAA members have publicly stated that they will never vote for players suspected of using PEDs because they were cheaters. Others point out that Gaylord Perry, for example, was on the stage Sunday even though he has admitted throwing illegal spitballs.

The threshold for election to baseball’s Hall of Fame is high. A candidate must be named on 75 percent of the ballots cast. So it wouldn’t take many hardliners to block admittance. To this point, there has been little support for players about whom there’s been the slightest suspicion. Mark McGwire, in his sixth year, got 19.5 percent. Rafael Palmeiro received support from just 12.6 percent of the electorate in his third year of eligibility.

This raises the possibility that no players could be inducted, possibly for several years in a row. Idelson said he’s not worried about that. Nor is he bothered by the possibility that Bonds, the all-time home run leader, might not get in despite clearly being one of the best players ever. Or that Clemens, with 354 wins, could be left on the outside looking in. Or that Sosa could be marked absent even though he hit 609 homers. “There is no concern. We feel very, very comfortable, as I say, with the rules. We feel very comfortable with the process. And at the end of the day, history is what it is,” he explained.

“In Cooperstown, we’re three entities under one roof. We’re a history museum that takes the visitor from the beginning of baseball history up until today. And you find artifacts, stories and exhibits that tell the history of the game. We’re an education center, and we go into classrooms around the country, to all 50 states every year. And we’re a Hall of Fame. And, at the end of the day, however history plays out, we’re prepared to honor that.”

The next induction is set for July 28, 2013. Either way, it will be history in the making.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Working on 20th Year of Futility

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Pittsburgh Pirates Working on 20th Year of Futility

Posted on 25 September 2012 by Dennis Lawson

WC Standings (from ESPN)

The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates finished with a record above .500 Barry Bonds was skinny, George H. W. Bush was the President of the United States, and Miley Cyrus had not yet been spawned.  Jim Leyland was the manager, and the team had reached the NLCS 3 consecutive times without winning a trip to the World Series.  From 1990-92 the Pirates went 289-197 during the regular season and had all the makings of a perennial contender.  Then Barry Bonds hit free agency and ended up taking his toys to play in the San Francisco sandbox.

Since that time, the Pirates have posted 19 straight losing seasons, and they are in danger of making it an even 20.  Unfortunately for the Pirates (and their fans), this year was really supposed to be different from the previous 19.  The team made a serious effort to at least make this season a turning point for the franchise.  Just over 1 month ago, the Pirates looked really, really good.  The team stood 67-54, and it was not a smoke-and-mirrors act, either.  The team had a run differential of +21, and they were in serious contention for a wild card spot.

Then the bottom fell out….or the wheels fell off….or they found themselves stuck in a certain creek without means of propulsion.  Regardless of how it happened or how one chooses to describe the precipitous fall – it happened.  In spite of an opening day payroll of $52M (team’s largest since 2003), the Pirates simply could not handle prosperity.  The team went from 13 games above .500 to 2 games below that mark.  It took an 8-23 stretch, but they managed it.  Now the Pirates need to finish at least 6-4 to avoid the 20th consecutive season with a losing record.

They may need some assistance to reach that record.  The team has 4 games against the Mets starting today in NYC.  After that, the Pirates host the Reds and then the Braves for consecutive  3-game sets to finish the season.  Given that the team does not have a winning record against any of the 3 aforementioned opponents, 6-4 might be a tall order.  As a longtime fan of the Cardinals, I must admit to having some bias where the Pirates are concerned.  Old rivalries fade away slowly.  As a baseball fan, I’m quietly rooting for them to go 7-3 to secure a winning record for the first time in 2 decades.

Despite having what appears to be a significant talent deficit on paper, the Pirates always seem to play really well against the Cardinals and happen to own a 8-7 season series victory this year.  That earns them a certain measure of respect.  Playing hard to be a “spoiler” near the end of the season also warrants some respect.  Finally, the ability to persevere through almost 20 years of futility should give each hardcore fan some kind of “I watched 19 really bad seasons of baseball in Pittsburgh and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” badge on Foursquare.

Instead, the Pittsburgh faithful may be stuck with yet another losing season and exclusion from the MLB postseason yet again.  If nothing else, at least they can look forward to next year when the payroll projection may push the Pirates over the $70M mark.  Of course, the fans have already learned that spending more money does not come with a guarantee of team success.  On the other hand, it usually doesn’t hurt, either.

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Bring on the Asterisk Era

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Bring on the Asterisk Era

Posted on 30 August 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Got Melk?

Despite public outcry over well-established baseball “cheats”, MLB blatantly refuses to mark record book items with an asterisk or any other symbol to denote any form of cheating.  Technically, a player can receive a ban for PED use and still win a triple crown category, a World Series, or even All-Star game MVP.  The fact that most violators never go beyond a 50-game ban practically encourages some players to at least consider using a performance enhancer.  Why not?  Weigh the potential good against the bad – both in terms of ethics and practical factors.

The sport possesses no strict ethos against cheating, and some of the most glorified, hallowed names in the Hall of Fame cheated the sport in one way or another.  Doctoring the ball to improve pitch movement?  Definitely.  Spiking opposing players to break up a double play or help ensure a safe call on an attempted steal?  Sure.  Taking various flavors of amphetamines to make it through a game after a long bender the previous night?  That encompasses a whole decade or more of players.

But start making a run at the career home run record, and all of a sudden people get religion about PED use.  Miss about 60 games in your age 34 season and come back and hit .339/.535/.781/1.316 with 258 HR, 544 RBI, 872 BB, and a 241 OPS+ from your age 35-39 seasons, and the 4 consecutive MVP awards lose a bit of luster.  That will not stop you from being lauded and spoken of in glowing terms even as many, many casual observers and critics whisper not-so-quietly about your bobblehead self being a better player AFTER 15 years in the majors than you were for those first 15.

Of course, Barry Bonds has some elite company in the pantheon of known cheats and suspected cheats.  Mark McGwire was not in Washington to “talk about the past”.  Sammy Sosa had no idea he ever used a corked bat or anything else to give him an edge.  That 50 HR season for Brady Anderson just happened to be a cosmic alignment gone right.  Ignore the fact that he never hit more than 24 HR in any other of his 15 major league season.  He just had it going for 1 magical season, right?  Sure.  MVPee Ryan Braun narrowly escaped a 50-game suspension when Shyam Das was unable to properly interpret MLB’s wordy description of “chain of custody”, and now Melky Cabrera has upset the apple cart yet again.

When I first heard the news about Melky Cabrera’s positive test for synthetic testosterone, I immediately wanted to know whether or not he would qualify for the batting title.  My first reaction to hearing that he would not gave me a sense of relief, although I sincerely hoped that someone else like Andrew McCutchen would top Cabrera’s .346 average outright.  After giving all this some time to digest, I have changed my mind.  Would baseball be better off in the long run, if Cabrera actually did win a batting title the same year he tested positive for PED use?  I think the answer may be “yes”.

The unfortunate and unintended consequence would be that McCutchen likely deserves a batting title that he would not win.  That alone should get Pirates fans up in arms and rightfully so.  It would also have much of the MLB fan base outraged, and some greater good could be the end result.  If ever there was a time and place to introduce the ” * ” into the record books for PED use, then the proper time and place would be after a PED user wins an award in a triple crown category.  In a sense, such a thing flies in the face of all who have played the game even more so than a cheater winning a Gold Glove or an MVP award.  The triple crown categories are not decided by vote, a show of hands, or hanging chads in Florida.  No, the category winners are decided by raw numbers, and those rarely lie.

If Melky can go from a lifetime .275/.331/.398/.729 hitter to a .346/.390/.516/.906 masher, then maybe MLB can wake up and smell the testosterone finally.  The current system still favors the bold, or at least it favors the bold cheater.  As this pertains to the aforementioned concern regarding practical factors, consider for a moment the basic risk/reward scenario for an average player.  After taxes, agent fees, and all other sorts of business expenses, a player making as much as $1M a year may do quite well, but he certainly won’t be able to sustain wealth at that pace.  If he intends to cash in enough to be set for life, he needs to make at least twice that amount or multiple years.  Given that scenario, how tempting might a quick fix to overcome injury or improve physical stamina be?

Honestly, I’d do it in a heartbeat in that situation.  I’d sacrifice long term health for a huge payday without thinking twice.  The thought that my family would be financially secure outweighs any concerns I have about myself.  Does that make me a bad person?

Who cares?  I would not lose any sleep over such a thing, and I’m sure some athletes face that decision all the time.  Since MLB cannot change the player side of the equation, then it must change the baseball side.  If that means stricter rules, longer suspensions, and a symbolic addition to the player’s career numbers, then that needs to happen.  If players must submit to more random testing, then so be it.  The argument about personal freedoms and rights just rings hollow when your integrity gets challenged.  Man up and pee in the little cup.

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