Memo from the Sports Desk: Spitting Encouraged at the Baseball Hall of Fame

4 January 2011

By Raoul Duke Jr.

Last year ended and thanks go to whatever visible or invisible creature you believe in for that. It ended, but not working baseball writers who have to fill out the coveted ballots to anoint those lucky, good or not on juice for the Baseball Hall of Fame. By the loosest possible terms, I am considered a baseball writer. It will take a lot more than drunk and vagrancy charges in Cooperstown, NY to get me kicked out of that group of degenerates. By their low standards, I am an upright citizen. Perhaps that is the only place I am thought of by that term. Most bars in the area have a wanted picture of me (have you noticed how the editor has never posted a picture of me? Think that’s a coincidence? Least nine states and three countries have a bounty on my head. In addition, I took the over of 17 on UGA at the Liberty Bowl. I should keep a low profile should anyone be seeking me.)

Last year, I wrote down Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven on my ballot. The Hawk made it and Blyleven came close, missing by five votes. Five miserable votes! Imagine the year he had trying to hunt down five idiot writers who went against him?

The other also ran last year was Roberto Alomar. I didn’t vote for Robbie due to the spitting incident with umpire John Hirshbeck. That indent cost him first year entry on to Cooperstown and rightly so. I don’t even spit at umpires. I usually throw up at their feet in some bar in Mexico after an all night scouting session with my partner in debauchery Freddy Romeo.

Running down this year’s candidates looks like a list of guys who got picked last in all sports: B.J. Surhoff, Raul Mondesi, Lenny Harris, Bret Boone, Marquis Grissom, Carlos Baerga, Al Leiter. There are a few names that do make you wonder like: Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker,

John Franco, Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago. Last year’s leftovers include: Harold Baines, Jack Morris, Barry Larkin, Lee Smith, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly, Dave Parker and Dale Murphy. I have left out two names, they will be discussed one all the mescaline hits. Right now, I am not in the proper space to give them their due.

A case can be made for Jeff Bagwell, Juan Gonzales and Larry Walker. They were dominant players of their time. They all have MVP awards, which always helps. “Bags” and “Juan Gone” hit over 400 HR, while Walker has a career average over .300. The other two were close with .297 and .295 respectively. None of the three has golden numbers: 3000 hits or 500 HR. Combined they have no World Series rings. Walker has seven Gold Gloves, Bagwell one and Gonzales zero.

A new formula, championed by putative rock and roll baseball minister Peter Gammons, has become all the rage – OPS+. It is a saber metric stat used to calculate the sum of a player’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage adjusted for the park and the league in which the player played, but not for fielding their position. The league average is 100 thus any player with a 150 or above is excellent, 125 is very good and below 100 means you play for the Cubs.

Of the newbies, the highest OPS+ belongs to Bagwell with 149. Walker has an OPS+ of 140 and Gonzales 132. The highest OPS + for a modern era player not in the Hall of Fame, who are/were eligible is Dick Allen. He was a great player and an even better reprobate. In other words, my kind of ballplayer.

I did not vote for the three above. Maybe one day they will get enshrinement. Maybe the Veteran’s committee will correct my injustice but they do not belong in on the first ballot.

Next, we come to the ones who missed it last year: Robbie Alomar and Bert Blyleven. I would like to see Alomar wait another year for his transgression but that won’t happen. Both candidates have good enough on-field numbers and something to consider is that they both missed entry by a handful of votes. They will both be elected this year. Bank on it; you hear that Benn, I am putting my money on these two.

The category of last year’s leftovers as mentioned above includes some above average players, some were feared in their day but none of them has stats that pop out to make them Hall of Fame worthy. I was arguing this point on Tino Martinez with an unabashed Yankee lover Brian Lesko. Like all Yankee fans, Lesko has no concept of reality. He thinks Andy Stankiewicz belongs in the Hall just for the fact he put on pinstripes.  He tried to convince me of Martinez’s worth. He has none, sorry Brian.

Sadly, the Baseball Writers of America have missed out on one of the all-time greats. Cubs great Rey Sanchez is NOT even on the ballot even though he is eligible. Rey had a 15-year career, which is a surprise to just about everyone. As a Cub, he hit .262 BA/.304 OBP/.323 SLG, 6 HR, 124 RBI. Not a bad season. Except those are his Cubs career totals. His real value was in the field where his range and glove made him worth keeping on the team. The Rey Era ended in 1997. Of course, Rey will always be remembered for Harry Caray’s call on a routine infield fly, forward clip to 3:41

The elephant on the ballot so to speak is Rafael Palmeiro. The only stat we need to look at is this:

That was March 17, 2005. On July 15th, he became one of only four players in major league history with 3,000 hits and more than 500 home runs. On August 4th, Palmeiro was informed of his positive for steroids. At the time, he claimed he didn’t not know how it got into his system. The former owner of the Texas Rangers, his former team stood behind Palmeiro, Who was that? The same guy who swore Iraq had WMD’s. Jeez, did that buffoon say anything truthful on the way to ruining this once great country?

The only question left to answer about Palmeiro is how low will he go in the voting? Mark McGwire, who last year finally admitted to taking steroids but in the same breath said it didn’t help him in anyway, is sitting at 23.7%.  My guess is that Raffi, an ex-Cub, will fall below the McGwire line, somewhere around 17-19%. He gets the low total due to his hubris.

My ballot once again has two check marks: Alomar and Blyleven. No one else is worthy and no one else will get in this year.

What is there to look forward to? How about 2013 when Barry Bonds, Roger Clements and Sammy Sosa are all eligible. Three of the greatest who ever used the juice in baseball history.

That’s a discussion for another day. The juicers are starting to retire. We have to decide how to handle them. Do they all get in or do none of them get in? Should McGwire be allowed in because he admitted it, while Bonds stays out because he steadfastly denied using anything stronger than linseed oil? Is it a case-by-case situation? Smarter minds than mine will have to answer that question. They pay me to write, not to think. I’ll stick to that thank you very much.

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