The Week That Was in Baseball: January 4-10, 2010
Semi-Greatness Reigns at the Hall The Big Unit Steps Down A Real "World" Series?
The Pirates Go Mental
What Peeves Us About the Hall of Fame Vote

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The Hawk in the Hall
Andre Dawson apparently benefitted from being on a Hall of Fame slate that included no no-doubt-about-it candidates, and registered high among the portion of the voting bloc that felt compelled to vote for at least one guy just to say they did. Yes, this is a backhanded complement for Dawson, who in this column last week was described as frequently being a gear away from greatness. Dawson’s collective numbers simply don’t shout Cooperstown on this end—and for those seeking intangibles in his favor, he seldom appeared in postseason play (just twice—in 1981 and 1989—with no World Series). Still, his .279 average, 438 homers, 2,774 hits and 310 steals collectively resonated with voters. This year, at least.

Outside of Dawson’s inclusion into the Hall of Fame, the other newsworthy element in this year’s voting were the oh-so-close failures of pitcher Bert Blyleven and first-year candidate Roberto Alomar to get in. Blyleven, on his 13th ballot, needed 405 votes to finally top the 75% threshold to make it in the Hall; he got 400. Alomar fell eight votes shy at 397, and although this may bode well for future tallies, consider that the competition will considerably strengthen over the foreseeable future with controversial heavyweight choices such as Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens emerging on the ballot.

Wardrobe TBD
There was some confusion after Dawson’s election from the general public over which team he would represent in Cooperstown. While many debated over whether Dawson, who split the bulk of his career between Montreal and Chicago, should choose to go in as an Expo or Cub, others correctly responded that the choice is actually determined by the Hall itself, not the player. This has been the case since 2001, after Dave Winfield shamefully told the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres that he’d represent the team that gave him the most perks (money, jobs, etc.).

All is Forgiven
Umpire John Hirschbeck, the victim of Alomar’s notorious spit in 1996 that may have cost Alomar additional votes needed to enter Cooperstown, said he would have voted for him.

For Future Consideration
When the 2015 Hall of Fame vote is taken, you can bet that
Randy Johnson will be a first-time entrant. Saying he had nothing more to accomplish in baseball, the Big Unit retired this past week at the age of 46 after playing out his final year with the Giants and winning eight games, including his 300th career victory on June 4 at Washington. Johnson ended up with 303 wins, lost just 166, authored a superlative 3.29 ERA throughout the steroid era, and is second only to Nolan Ryan in career strikeouts (4,875) and Roger Clemens in Cy Young Awards with five. Now those are no-brainer numbers in regards to Cooperstown.

Doc Holliday to the Rescue
When the New York Knights were struggling along with Roy Hobbs chained to the bench in The Natural, the running joke in a montage sequence showcasing the team’s losing ways was the appearance of a mild-mannered psychologist who frequented the locker room and lectured the players on how “losing was a disease.” The Pittsburgh Pirates, baseball’s modern-day, non-fictional version of the Knights, have hired someone similar of sorts, a “mental-conditioning coordinator” named
Bernie Holliday to teach positive, mental toughness and discipline to help players succeed in a game that is “designed to make you fail.” The 36-year old Holliday, whose work experience to date has been mainly tied to the military, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that his duties in the Pirate organization will be largely focused on minor league players—though it might be wise for him to consider hypnotizing key members of the front office responsible for extending the Pirates’ streak of losing campaigns to a record 17 years.

Cardinal Sin?
Tony LaRussa, one of Mark McGwire’s staunchest defenders, said this past week that he fantasizes the thought of bringing Big Mac, who hasn’t played since 2001 and is now the Cardinals’ hitting coach, onto the playing roster for the stretch run in 2010 if the team is in playoff contention. The St. Louis manager admittedly summed up the chances that all of this would actually happen by saying, “Is it likely? Probably not. I don’t think it’s a zero possibility.” Somewhere, Barry Bonds is hearing about this and beelining to the nearest batting cage.

Sorry, Giant Nation
Many Bay Area fans were briefly excited when they read a headline on proclaiming “Giants sign ex-Padre Gonzalez.” Then they realized that it wasn’t Adrian Gonzalez but his brother, second baseman Edgar Gonzalez—and the team was the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, not San Francisco’s own.

We Ought to Tell You: Our All-Decade Awards
With the end of the Oughts (read: 2000s), This Game Great has released its choices for the best, worst and most memorable of the decade that was. Check it out now.

A Chat With Baseball's Biggest Communist Fan
Lester Rodney, who pressed for racial integration within baseball through the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker a good ten years before Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, passed away on December 20 at the age of 98. One of the last people he gave an in-depth interview to was our own Ed Attanasio a few years back; that interview is now up in our They Were There section. Check it out now.

New and Improved at TGG
The Teams section has been updated to include results from the 2009 regular season.

Pet Peeves About the Cooperstown Vote
The annual Hall of Fame vote lays bares the fact that not everyone’s going to agree with each other on everything, which makes for great water-cooler or sports bar talk. Having said that, here’s some things that really peeve us about the process:

• How can voters who don’t vote for a candidate one year but do the next explain themselves? Did the candidate’s numbers suddenly improve? Did a certain check come in the mail? We would think that if a guy should be or shouldn’t be in the Hall, a voter should make up his/her mind and stick with it.

• Some voters say they hold back a player for a few years—usually because of something they might disapprove about regarding that player’s attitude, brush with drugs, etc.—then belatedly vote them in by design. That’s petty. If you feel you’re going to vote them in eventually, just do it and be done with it.

• To those candidates who campaign to get into the Hall: Stop it. Your career should speak for itself.

• Can the voters who checkmarked Kevin Appier, Pet Hentgen and David Segui (one vote each) for the Hall this year let us know what they were drinking at the time?

It's Never Unaminous
We stumbled upon a list of all Hall of Fame inductees over the years and the percentage of voters that elected them, and found it amazing that:

• Eleven voters in 1936 did not think Babe Ruth should be in the Hall.

• Twenty-three voters, or 5.32% of the voting bloc in 1979, did not select Willie Mays.

Ted Williams was enshrined in 1966 although 20 voters felt otherwise (they were probably all Boston sportswriters, who had an incendiary relationship with Williams).

• Nine voters said no to Hank Aaron in his year of eligibility, 1982.

Mickey Mantle failed to get 12% of the vote in his first year of eligibility (1974), perhaps from those who felt indigent over how his penchant for the hard life curtailed an already brilliant career.

Walter Johnson, winner of 411 career games, did not get votes on 37 of 226 ballots in 1936.

• It took three tries for the legendary Joe DiMaggio to get inducted.

• It took two tries for Cy Young—far and away the game’s winningest pitcher with an astounding 511 victories—to become part of the club, and even then did so with just 76% of the vote, just a hair above qualification.

For the record, Tom Seaver holds the highest vote rate of any Hall of Famer, snaring 98.84% of the electorate in 1992. Of the 430 voters who entered ballots, five apparently thought that Terrific Tom wasn’t so terrific.

The Hall of Shame
It seems a crime that Bill Hall, arguably the game’s worst underachiever in 2009, will make $8.4 million in 2010, and no one will feel the pain of this more than the Milwaukee Brewers, who’ll pay $7.1 million of those wages—even though Hall is suiting up this year for the Boston Red Sox. The Brewers were so desperate to give up on Hall, whose career has sunk fast after being rewarded for a stellar 2006 campaign with a rich multi-year contract, they shipped him away to Seattle midway through 2009 with the promise they’d keep paying him the majority of his salary. That arrangement stays intact while Hall moves on to Boston.

A True World Series?
Commissioner Bud Selig chatted with his Japanese counterpar, Ryozo Kato, in Milwaukee this past week and brought up the idea of an annual series between champions of the World Series and Japan Series, to be played after the Fall Classic. Not only is anything regarding this been set in concrete, it hasn’t even yet been poured. But as long as MLB is easily considered to be in a class all by itself, why bother? (One word comes to mind: Ka-ching!)

Vlad the Ranger
In the tradition of ‘if you can’t beat him, sign him,’ the Texas Rangers inked
Vladimir Guerrero to a one-year deal this past weekend. No team has been bashed about by Guerrero more than the Rangers; he has a lifetime .396 average against them in 102 games.

Say Hi to Hi Bithorn Again
The memories of the Montreal Expos playing home games 2,000 miles away in Puerto Rico in 2003-04 apparently aren’t bad enough for Major League Baseball to consider regular season action on the Caribbean island once again. Reports tag the June 28-30 series between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins, originally scheduled to be played at Miami, being moved to Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan where the Expos played 22 games in 2003 and 21 in 2004.

He Said What?
From Yahoo baseball blogger David “Duk” Brown: “Robbie (Alomar) is well within spitting distance of Cooperstown.”

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.