This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: January 7-13, 2013
Revenge of the (Writing) Nerds The HOF Reactions
Dodger Stadium Undergoes Cosmetic Surgery Wireless in the Dugout

The Pen Proves Mightier Than the PEDs
It’s pretty surprising when you think of it. The all-time home run king. The pitcher with the ninth-most wins in history. A 3,000-hit man with the more career doubles than any right-handed hitter. Three players with at least 500 home runs. The all-time leading home run hitter among catchers.

All were eligible for the Hall of Fame. None of them got in.

This year’s shutout (the first since 1996) of Cooperstown entrants pitched by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America despite the firepower of talent showed just how complicated and disparate the voters’ thought processes have become. It seemed that everyone had a reason for keeping Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and others from attaining the required 75% to earn a Cooperstown plaque. The steroids argument, of course (Bonds-Clemens-Sosa). The accumulation without greatness argument (Biggio). The assumption argument (Piazza). The more angles exposed from the voting bloc, the more head-spinning it induced for those without votes trying to break it down.

The final count for Bonds and Clemens was particularly startling. We didn’t think they’d get in on the first try, but we initially expected a vote percentage roughly in the 60% range. Other pundits followed with predictive figures in the 40s and 50s. But when it all got tallied this past Wednesday, Bonds and Clemens could net no more than 37% each—barely half of what they needed to gain enshrinement.

Biggio received the highest vote at 68% but still became the first member of the 3,000-hit club (the steroid-tarnished Rafael Palmeiro excused) not to be selected on the first ballot since Paul Waner in 1952. Did the career .281 average scare off the other 32%? Or was it the industrial-strength elbow guard that helped him gain all those free trips to first after getting plunked? Or, perhaps, was it his proximity to that cloud of suspicion that cast a dark shadow over the steroid era?

Biggio will ultimately get in, as probably will Piazza. We’ll also put it out there that the protest vote on Bonds and Clemens will diminish and their vote will grow in the coming years, but the wait may be longer than expected. Until then, enjoy the notoriety, boys .

HOF Reaction: Sammy Sosa
We knew Sosa’s chances of getting into Cooperstown were less than those of Bonds or Clemens, but the 13% he totaled must have been especially sobering to a guy who three times hit over 60 home runs in a season. Sosa publicly responded to the vote by stating, “Even if we weren't inducted on our first time, we are still winners and there is always a next time.” But that’s not what was interesting; what was interesting was that his comments came via a press release put out by Injex21, a company managed by Sosa. And what does Injex21 do? Among other things, it says it has developed a method of “needleless” drug injections, helping people “who are afraid of needles to those who have to subject themselves to daily self-injections and to medical workers who are at risk for puncture wounds.” Something you know personally from experience, Sammy?

HOF Reaction: Roger Clemens
“After what has been written and said over the last few years I’m not overly surprised.”

HOF Reaction: Craig Biggio
“I think it’s kind of unfair, but it’s the reality of the era we played in. Obviously, some guys are guilty and other guys aren’t. It’s painful for the ones that weren’t, and hopefully this situation will all pass and move on and we’ll have something possibly good to talk about maybe next year.”

HOF Reaction: Dennis Eckersley
“Feels right.”

HOF Reaction: Mike Schmidt
Curt Schilling made a good point. Everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use. This generation got rich. Seems there was a price to pay.”

HOF Reaction: Ken Burns
The master documentarian said of the cheats: “…Those motherf**kers should suffer for awhile.”

HOF Reaction: Barry Bonds
No reaction. Instead, he was spotted vacationing on Maui.

“A Striking, Profound Emptiness”
The New York Times gave its report on this year’s Cooperstown vote on Page One of its sports section with nothing. Literally. Nothing. Most of the page remained blank below a headline that said, “Welcome to Cooperstown.” Not since the cover of The White Album has so little said a lot.

Alright, Who’s the Aaron Boy?
Of the record 569 people who officially cast ballots for the Hall of Fame, only 114 made their votes public on the BBWAA web site. Not surprisingly, among the 455 who didn’t was the one who chose pitcher Aaron Sele, who ran up a career 4.61 earned run average to go with a 148-112 record—and was 0-6 in the postseason. Among the more clever comments emerging from the Twitterverse in response to the thumb’s up for Sele: “What’s worse, turning in a blank ballot or voting for Aaron Sele?” “No offense to Aaron Sele, but when did he become a member of the BBWAA?” “Did the person who gave a HOF vote to Aaron Sele just see the ‘Aaron’ part and think it was Hank?”

Good Luck Next Year, Cheats
Anyone who’s expecting an uptick in 2014 for the 2013 cast which failed to make the Hall of Fame might want to think twice as the room will only get crowded with more talent. Next year’s first-time eligibles will include two 300-game winners (Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine), another who came close (Mike Mussina), a bona fide hitting great (Frank Thomas) rarely suspected of steroid use, and a talented, refreshingly outspoken second baseman (Jeff Kent); it will also represent the last chance for pitcher Jack Morris, hoping to finally net 75% on his 15th try. All of this places the Three Juiced Amigos (Bonds, Clemens and Sosa) into the risk of becoming an afterthought.

Well, Duh!
As if almost on cue, it was announced a day after the Hall of Fame vote that MLB and the players’ union have agreed to testing of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) during the regular season. Testing had begun last year, but only during the offseason and spring training; after eight players (included high-profile stars in Melky Cabrera, Carlos Ruiz and Bartolo Colon) were caught for various, illegal forms of performance enhancement drugs, the union perhaps felt pressured to extend the testing into the season to appease the growing contingent of clean players tired of being scrutinized in public as possibly being a cheat.

Look Out, Black Market—Here Come the Griffeys
A news story out of Wichita, Kansas this past week reports of a residential robbery of 500 Ken Griffey Jr. baseball cards valued at $1,200. Think about it: The average card cost for a no-doubt-about-it future Hall of Famer is roughly two bucks. This is how saturated the baseball card market has become?

Chavez Ravine 2.0
If you’re going to buy a major league ballclub for a couple billion bucks, you might as well as put some money into the aging ballpark you’re going to call home. So it is for the Guggenheims, the wealthy lords of the Los Angeles Dodgers who are in the midst of an offseason upgrade to 51-year-old Dodger Stadium, the majors’ third oldest active venue. We’re talking more than just a fresh coat of paint; the team is pouring $100 million into the facelift, which will include larger scoreboards with hi-def video, wider concourses and the implementation of Wi-Fi for the increased number of people using cell phones or tablets at the game. The Dodgers are serious enough about this that they are employing Janet Marie Smith, the go-to for ballpark construction/renovation oversight (she was there when Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards ignited the modern ballpark explosion in 1992) to look after the enhancements.

If Only Rose’s Advisors Were as Clever
We don’t know how good Pete Rose’s new reality TV show (which premieres this week on TLC) will be, but the title—Pete Rose, Hits and Mrs.—sure rates high on the cleverness scale. The show will follow the adventures of the all-time hit king and his beautiful (and much younger wife), Kiana Kim.

Meltdown Milton Strikes Again
This could be the end of the line for Milton Bradley, the talented yet highly troubled slugger who repeatedly wore out his welcome with one major league team after another due to his nasty temper. Now that he’s been unemployed for over a year, he apparently has been taking out his anger at home. Bradley is facing up to 13 years in prison after being charged with numerous counts of spousal abuse against his wife, who he’s in the process of divorcing. It all has yet to be proven in a court of law, but the more Bradley’s pattern of tantrums stays consistent, the more disturbing it all is.

And He’s Making the Text to the Bullpen...
The wall phone may soon be a thing of the past in major league dugouts and bullpens. As part of a deal between MLB and T-Mobile, cell phones will now be available for managers and coaches wishing to communicate with one another during games. Let’s just hope that T-Mobile’s less-than-stellar reputation for cell reception doesn’t come bubbling to the surface in the middle of a tense ballgame or two this coming season…

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