Thursday, November 30, 2006


Albert Pujols is complaining loudly that he, not Ryan Howard, deserved the MVP award. His rationale? Only players who lead their teams into the playoffs deserve the award. Sorry, Albert, but yours is not the official definition of the award. In fact, there is no “official” definition. Over the years, the award has sometimes been given to the individual player who had the best season regardless of his team’s performance; at other times, it has been given to the player whose outstanding performance led his team into the playoffs and World Series.

So, until and unless the voters strictly define the criteria, Albert, yours are just sour grapes. While we’re at it, let’s throw in greed, too.

* * * * * * *

The FA market is rapidly dwindling down to marginal players, questionable commodities, players with alarming health profiles and other flotsam and jetsam. Under the circumstances, it is only prudent that Phillies GM Pat Gillick is casting a wary eye at those players still circling the remaining chairs. If he needs further confirmation of the risks of spending a lot of money on guys with a history of arm miseries, he can look no further than the Phillies closer, Flash Gordon, who broke down last year and upon his return had a decidedly mediocre finish to the season.

Gillick’s problem is that he needs a lot of bullpen help and none seems available. Rather than sign some guy who is going to break down, the Phillies would be wise to use Matt Smith in the main set-up role and as their emergency closer, bring back Fabio Castro and actually use him in meaningful situations and tell Ryan Madson he is their sixth or seventh inning guy period and stop even thinking about any other role.

* * * * * * *

The Red Sox seem to have hit a stumbling block in their negotiations with Daisuke Matsuzaka and it’s name is “money”. What a surprise. MLB has informed Boston they “cannot reduce their $51.1 million bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka in order to sign him, even if his Japanese team agrees to take less…”

"There are no side deals in the situation," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office. "Everybody's been assured that's not allowed, and everybody's been made aware of the rules."

The next sentence in virtually every media outlet reporting this development is that the Red Sox will figure out a way to work around these rules. What a great idea this posting system is!!

* * * * * * *

While many people believe the most important developments thus far in the Hot Stove League have been the outlandish salaries heaped on Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee, I would also point to the fact that Barry Bonds remains unemployed at this date. Generally acknowledged as the most feared hitter of his generation, Bonds will eventually sign with someone who wants the box-office boost his chase of Hank Aaron’s home record will surely produce, but in the meantime it is gratifying to see him in limbo.

Meanwhile, another home run hitter of note, Mark McGwire, is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time and his candidacy looks to be in real trouble. Many voters are making their secret ballots very public when it comes to McGwire and opinion is running against him, not, it should be pointed out, simply because of his unacknowledged use of steroids, but because his overall numbers are not HOF-worthy in the eyes of many voters. Some writers are frankly stating they are not in the business of policing the morality of baseball. Others say that the moral issue is important to them but MLB itself abrogated this responsibility during the height of the steroid era and it isn’t up to them to right this wrong. Instead, they point to Big Mac's overall offensive totals and say they do not measure up.

With the clearly worthy Cal Ripken and Tony Gywnn on the ballot for the first time as well as a few holdovers from the past who deserve serious consideration, McGwire’s chances of admission are poor in his first year and will no doubt deteriorate going forward.

Rest assured that when Bonds’ name comes up six or seven years from now he will be a first ballot entrant. Even with the tainted power numbers of recent years and a body that has “Steroids” written all over it, Bonds is a certifiable baseball immortal. While entry to the Hall has never been strictly defined in terms of numbers, it is clear Bonds has matched or exceeded the standards of those already admitted to this select circle. Nothing in the guidelines says anything about jerks, many of whom have been getting into the Hall for years. When Bonds’ becomes eligible, he will get the same “morality” pass guys like Ty Cobb got and be elected strictly on statistics. McGwire cannot rely on those.


dane said...

pujols led his team to the playoffs but lets not forget that Howard led his team to more victories

RickSchuBlues said...

McGwire has zero chance of getting in the Hall in his first year, and only a slightly higher percentage oif ever getting in. It appears that at least half of the eligible writers are either totally against the idea or heavily leaning against it. I don't think he'll get the necessary percentage to make the HOF.

Bonds is no lock, either, and I disagree that he'll be a first-rounder. I would find it hard to believe that a baseball writer could voite for a Bonds or McGwire and not make yet another crusade for Pete Rose. The argument against Rose is that he violated a policy that was in effect *at the time* - yet not one single statistic Pete ever put up was tainted the way Bonds' and McGwire's were. I don't believe that the 'official' lack of incriminating evidence and technical grounds that because baseball didn't have a steroids policy at the time they were anusing themselves and the sport, is going to be the mitigating factor in most of the writers' minds - as is pretty much confirmed the lengthy representation of opinions rounded up by Claire Smith the other day.

If no team winds up signing Bonds, by the way, you just *know* he'll file some kind of collusion suit against MLB. Can't wait for that.

Tom Goodman said...

RSB: I based my assumption on Bonds' first round election on a few things: one, six or seven years from now the writers are not going to be in the same mood they are in currently and many of them will have succumbed to the argument that it's "time to put this all behind us". Two, Bonds' history was impressive before the steroids era and this statement comes from a guy who cannot stand him and would love to see his banned from baseball for life, too. Which brings me to number three. Pete Rose violated one of baseball's cardinal rules and was caught with hard evidence. He earned his lifetime ban on merit. Bonds has yet to be convicted of anything other than overwhelming circumstancial evidence. I'd love to see them get the goods on him, but until they do there isn't much baseball can do about him.

Would baseball like to do something about him? You bet they would. MLB would love it if no one signed him and he just went away. But there is always at least one owner out there willing to take on Atilla the Hun if it means money and or a pennant.

RickSchuBlues said...

Bonds may well get in eventually, and I wouldn't say he doesn't deserve it. My point is that, aside from your correct assertion that Rose earned his ban based on vioating an official rule, and Bonds not technically being guilty of an offense that was not technically enforced - most voters are going to be swayed by factors apart from what constitutes baseball-stipulated violations and concrete evidence; the fact that it's (cream and) clear to everyone that he used an illegal substance to enhance and distort his performance and statistics is going to supercede the fact that he's never been "officially" charged with wrongdoing. It's circumstantial and not concrete ebidence, but it is rather massive and overwhelming circumstantial evidence. In the legal world, it is still not enough to convict, but in the eyes of baseball hall of fame voters, it well could be.

Moreover, in a lot of people's eyes - including my own - Rose's crimes pale in comparison to the sham job enacted by Bonds & Co., if we're talking about pure harm done to the integrity of the game. No one (now that Bob Feller is dead) believes that Rose literally and irrevocably did any measurable harm to the game, and made fans question whether it was being played on the level. Players like Bonds, on the other hand, absolutely violated that trust. Ask Ryan Howard if that didn't harm the game well beyond the mere ramifications of their own individual acts.

I believe voters should use their own sense of morality to determine who is qualified to be enshrined in a reverential museum, rather than be held to the 'official' doctrines of what constitutes violation and 'harm to the game' as determined by MLB. If the Hall of Fame wants that code strictly adhered to, they should have the commissioner's office and executives vote, and not independent writers.

Tom Goodman said...

You and I agree on Bonds. I just don't know if the writers will several years down the road. I am on record in this space alone, on many occasions, as denouncing Bonds.

That said, Rose's crime was far worse. The only reason some think his punishment is too severe is that he was caught in sufficient time to prevent further gambling on games in which he had a professional as well as personal stake. Nothing, not even Bonds' obvious use of steroids to enhance his personal performance, can compare to a guy who is addicted to betting on the outcome of games in which he is not only involved but has ultimate, in-game authority to affect the outcome.


RickSchuBlues said...

That's a bottom-line perspective on Rose. What I'm surprised no one has ever done is go back to those years when he bet his team's games, and dissect those games one by one to try to determine whether Rose ever did anything, used any kind of questionable strategies, tried to persuade injured players to perform in the interest of affecting the outcomes of the games to suit his bets.

I highly doubt that any traces of suspicion could have been linked to him using these parameters, rather than through transcripts and recorded phone conversations. And that's what I mean about Rose not hurting the game. It's a serious rule which he violated, no question. But the question should more appropriately be: well, were these games *affected* by Rose's actions? Were they truly tainted - or were they not? And if they were not - than neither is he, at least not to the extreme degree baseball has determined.

Tom Goodman said...

We aren't going to agree on this one and I am not trying to get the last word here. I doubt the games could be dissected to the degree you suggest (calling pitches from the dugout,etc.) but that isn't really the point. If it is understood a manager is betting on games including those in which his team is a participant, all integrity is out the window by definition. My guess is (and here the records might be useful) Rose began betting on games in which he wasn't a participant and graduated to those in which he was. It isn't hard to imagine the further he got behind in his losses the more he was tempted to place some "sure" bets, ie, ones he could control to some extent. And that is why his crime is a capital one in baseball, because it isn't difficult to imagine those next steps.

RickSchuBlues said...

Well, that is a point I hadn't considered.

Still - you can't hold something against a guy which he might well have gone onto do, but hasn't actually done. Baseball might have been right to yank him out of uniform, but to ban him from appearing on the fields of stadiums - that's unnecesarily draconian and hypocritical. The owners who were found guilty of collusion weren't exactly kicked out into the street, and that obviously had some grave implications for the way the entire sport is operated.

Shoot, we're not going to agree on *everything*. And I'm not trying to last-word you either. But it's all your fault by posting these thoughtful, analytical blogs that you do. Now you have me in full Pete Rose-defense mode all of a sudden. Change the subject - let's talk about the DH or something!

Tom Goodman said...

You really crack me up.

As a guy who grew up in an AL city and endured the period during which the NL won every AS game (twice a season a few times if I recall correctly), I wasn't nearly as upset about the DH as you might have guessed. But having logged so many years in the NL I am dead set against it...or at least against only having it in one league. I think the Players Association would never agree to its elimination, so at least have it in both leagues.

Uh, oh, I guess that opened a can of worms, didn't it? Heck, just get rid of the DH and the PA be damned.

George S said...

We should not be judging Pete Rose's actions RELATIVE to somebody else's. All that does is turn the discussion into a never-ending, subjective, no-win argument.
It's simple. Baseball has a strict rule with strict punishment assigned to violators. Pete Rose was one of them. There were no extenuating circumstances. There was no ignorance of the consequences. And there is/was certainly no redeeming character traits that might mitigate his punishment. He's a self-focused, immoral hustler. He got what he deserved. That's it. Over. It doesn't matter if every player in baseball is on drugs. That's irrelevant.

Mark McGwire doesn't deserve HOF entry because the only stat that might get him in is certainly tainted. Other than that, he's not qualified from a performance standpoint.

Bonds, on the other hand, probably is a solid HOF candidate, based on his performances before he bulked up. He was an MVP, had outstanding numbers and was a consistent all-star. That his pride apparently drove him to cheat to stay on top is pathetic, and I can never root for him. The writers will certainly keep his arrogance in mind when they consider him for the HOF.
Like OJ, Barry Bonds will be walking around years from now trying to convince people that he was innocent, to no avail. It would be a fitting ending if he got in the HOF and people just walked away when he got up to give his acceptance speech.
That's what I would like to see.

Tom Goodman said...

George: As usual, you make a lot of sense and put it better than I did.