Friday, December 6, 2013

The Most Miserable Time of the Year

No, not the holidays. I’m down with the holidays.

I’m talking baseball. There aren’t any games, obviously. The biggest news is contract signings, which, because of the amount of money Jhonny Peralta, who was suspended for 50 games last season, is getting, has led to a new round of teeth-gnashing over PEDs. And the Hall of Fame ballot was released.

I don’t know what annoys me more, articles about PEDs or articles about the Hall of Fame. (Lately, there has been a convergence, amplifying the annoyance.) They have nothing to do with what goes on On The Field of Play. Worse, the Hall of Fame voting season allows sportswriters who don’t even write about baseball (really: you don't have to be currently following baseball to vote) to pontificate about a game that you and I know more about.

And the controversies…The cause célèbre in recent years is Jack Morris. Personally, I wouldn’t vote for him.* But if he gets in, as I expect he will, good for him. No hard feelings. It won’t ruin the Hall for me. But you can be sure that the pro- and anti-Morris prose will go over the top, what with this being his last year on the ballot.

I get more upset by deserving players who don’t get in. Ron Santo, probably one of the ten best third basemen of all time, didn’t get in until 28 years after he retired and two years after he died. That was classy. A Hall of Fame without Tim Raines, possibly the second best leadoff hitter of all time, doesn’t work for me. I get more upset by exclusion than inclusion.

But we are now in the midst of sportswriters and baseball fans and all sorts of baseball commentators talking about how nobody should get in who isn't of the same caliber as Willie Mays, or how nobody should get in at all because Barry Bonds took steroids (some writers returned blank ballots last year to "protest" PEDs that Raines and Craig Biggio, to name two, didn't take), mixed in with people complaining about how much money players make today.

When do pitchers and catchers report?

*Morris was a regular starter from 1979 to 1994. During that period, there were seven pitchers with over 2,800 innings pitched: Morris, Charlie Hough, Dennis Martinez, Bob Welch, Nolan Ryan, Frank Tanana, and Dave Stieb. Of them, Morris had the worst career ERA, even adjusted for playing in a hitter’s park at Tiger Stadium. His most-wins-in-the-1980s can be attributed to fantastic run support: 4.9 per game, 0.6 better than the league average. That's a lot. None of the others got more than 0.2 over average. So he had a high ERA (3.90--that'd the worst among pitchers in the Hall) and a won-lost record that as much a product of his teammates as his doing.

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