January 2013

View this article on UpperReserved >

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) decided as a group to not elect anyone into The National Baseball Hall of Fame this year. For those who aren’t familiar with the voting process, each writer can vote for as little as zero, or as many as ten eligible candidates. The candidates who receive a vote on 75% of the ballots are elected to membership in the Hall. Seems simple right? This year was anything but.

Supporters of the PED accused argued that these great players belong in the Hall because it’s a history museum and they deserve to be remembered.

Those willing to reduce them to historical footnotes argued that artifacts from their career-defining moments are already in the Hall and they shouldn’t be elected because they didn’t meet the integrity, sportsmanship and character requirements.

So what the real argument seems to be is whether the players in question deserve a plaque with their mug on it or not.

Now, I haven’t been a baseball writer for over 10 years (a necessary requirement to be part of the BBWAA). Hell, I’m not even a baseball writer. But even I know that this plaque issue could’ve been handled much better. Here’s how my ballot would’ve looked.

WRITE-IN VOTE – PETE ROSE

Every other time I’m in Vegas, I see Pete sitting in the mall. If you’ve never been, watch the ESPN short on him above or a clip from his TLC reality show, “Hits and Mrs.” He says it himself, “Life is hard.” And there aren’t too many people who know that more than him.

By today’s standards, his crime seems on par with chewing gum in Singapore. According to the Dowd Report, “no evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Reds.” So what’s the big deal? Couldn’t he have just served a secret suspension like Michael Jordan? People in baseball gamble all the time. Don’t general managers gamble that draft picks will end up being worth more than their rookie contracts? Don’t owners gamble that their teams will bring in more money than it costs to pay them? Don’t television stations gamble that they’ll generate more advertising revenue than what they pay for the rights to broadcast the games? Seems to me like everyone in baseball is taking risks for financial gain.

Ty Cobb might’ve taken another man’s life and was a Django Unchained-level racist, but he’s in the Hall. That makes Rose a better candidate both on baseball and character standards. Pete Rose recorded 4,256 hits. THAT’S INSANE. I’m talkin’ Gary Busey insane. If the average baseball player is good enough to get 600 at bats a year and hits a moderate .275, it would take him 18 to 19 seasons to reach 3,000 hits. Rose has 1,256 more than that. To give you a specific example, if you added Ichiro’s Japanese stats to his MLB ones, he’d have 3,884 career hits. That’s how good Rose was.

Even if you’re an anti-PED freak, Rose’s punishment has to seem harsh right now. There’s no proof he gambled against the Reds or fixed a game to win a bet. The man deserves to stand in Cooperstown, New York in front of a plaque with his face on it and deliver a speech to the baseball world that could be summed up in three words: fuck you all.

 

VOTE #1 – BARRY BONDS
Yes, Bonds hit more home runs in a season and career than anyone else before him. But that’s not why I’d vote for him. You could make it your life’s work to find someone with a legitimate argument against him being one of the five best all-around players to ever play the game and die a failure. Bonds has 7 MVP awards, 8 gold gloves and 14 all-star appearances. He was the ultimate 5-tool player.

It’s beyond a reasonable doubt that the only reason he didn’t get his name checked on 100% of the ballots is the PED issue. But, consider this. At the end of the 1998 season, Bonds had 3 MVP awards, 411 home runs and 445 stolen bases. He was a living legend and on pace to pass his godfather as the greatest of all time. Sorry fat ass. However, in 1998, Bonds was ignored. Every single baseball writer was covering the home run chase between McGwire and Sosa. Think about that for a second, the same writers who ignored Bonds’ accomplishments to cover two men (who they were 99.999% sure were on steroids) are now keeping him out of the Hall because of PEDs. If anything, you could reasonably argue that Bonds took PEDs to level the field, prove to these hypocrite writers that there were more talented players in the league and get the nation’s attention where it should’ve been.

In a league where thousands were suspected of using, Bonds was the best.

In 2001 Bonds came to the plate 664 times, walked 177 of those opportunities, had an on-base % of .515 and still managed to hit 73 HRs.
In 2002 Bonds had 612 appearances at the plate, walked 198 times, had a .582 OBP and hit 46 home runs.
In 2003 – 550 PAs, 148 walks, .529 OBP and 45 HRs.
In 2004 – 617 PAs, 232 walks, .609 OBP and 45 HRs.

From 1990 to 2004, no one was better than Bonds. Steroids or not, no one in history was a more feared hitter. He had an incredible eye at the plate, was extremely disciplined and had a perfect compact swing that allowed him pull base hits against shifted infields. Like Rose, Bonds earned the right to give an asshole speech that we’ll all have to pay attention to like we’re in school listening to the greatest that ever did it.


VOTE #2 – ROGER CLEMENS

What’s a guy gotta do to make it into the Hall of Fame? Win 7 Cy Young Awards? Maybe win 354 games? (Jack Morris had 254 wins, zero Cy Youngs and got on 67.7% of the ballots). Clemens also struck out 4,672 batters. He knocked 20 of those out in a game. Twice. There are only two pitchers with more strikeouts: Randy Johnson (4875) and Nolan Ryan (5714). Nolan Ryan’s a robot. Randy Johnson’s so tall he released the ball halfway to home and is a known jacket and garage door murder. Clemens was a master.

Sure, he’s a PED case. But what’s a pitcher to do? Utility players were on them. Middle relievers were on them. He was getting old. Like Bonds, he was mind-blowingly good before PEDs and he was one of the best in the PED era. Give the guy a plaque so he can add it to his weight set and bench press it when he’s 64-years-old.


VOTE #3 – CRAIG BIGGIO

I didn’t get this omission. Biggio was 20th all-time with 3,060 hits. His body took 285 hits. He also took 1,401 career walks and parlayed that into a career .363 OBP. Most impressive of all, he not only played his entire career with a single team, that team was the Houston Astros! The man even took two pay cuts to stay in that God-forsaken place. Someone please give Craig a HOF plaque, a 3-liter bottle of Coke and a NASA shirt.


VOTE #4 – MIKE PIAZZA

It’s 1988. Some guy named Rick’s on the radio and you’re Mike Piazza waiting for your named to be called in the MLB Amateur Draft. You’re a rockstar at Phoenixville Area High School. But for some reason, you end up waiting through more rounds than home runs hit by Roger Marris in 1961 before you hear your name called. Most players would give up and take the entry-level management job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Not Piazza though. He went on to become the best hitting catcher ever and a 12-time All-Star. He had a career .308 batting average and even stole a whopping 17 bases. Not only that, he had volcanic back acne and was pretty funny dude.


VOTE #5 – CURT SHILLING

216 wins. 3.46 career ERA. 3,116 strikeouts. 11-2 record & 2.23 ERA in the postseason. 3 World Series championships with 3 different teams. 1 bloody sock. 1 failed video game company. Give the guy a plaque. He’s great with PED quotes and general quotes for that matter.

 

 

VOTE #6 – JACK MORRIS

Jack Morris didn’t have a great statistical career. He got 254 wins with a career 3.9 ERA and 2478 strikeouts. He never even won the Cy Young Award. But what he did do was remain stupid consistent throughout his career, even winning 20 games in a season 3 times. Morris is best known though for tossing a 1-0 shutout in Game 7 to win the 1984 World Series.

Morris is also a nostalgia vote for me. When I was a young kid and just getting into baseball, I started collecting baseball cards. I didn’t get to watch a lot of games on TV and there was no SportsCenter because we didn’t have cable. But I heard people talking. And Morris’ name kept coming up. So, when I opened a bubble gum pack and found a Jack Morris, I knew it was something. And every player I knew was something back then is now in the Hall, except Jack. So you get my vote.

Sosa, Bagwell, Raines, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, McGwire, Mattingly, etc…they can all wait. And Dale Murphy, if by some random miracle or Google search, you end up reading this, I’m sorry. I know this was your last shot but I only remember you because of the rare 1989 Upper Deck reverse negative baseball card I wanted. I didn’t even know you had 2 MVP seasons.

View this article on Upper Reserved.

fansvsfans

As a native San Franciscan and lover of the great sport of baseball, there’s nothing I’ve hated more since March 31, 2000 than Giants “fans”.

Giants “fans” are the absolute worst.

They’re worse than high ticket prices.
They’re worse than the lines for public transit after games.
They’re worse than torture.

So, what exactly is the difference between a “fan” and a fan?

A “fan” is at the absolute bottom of the sports viewer totem pole, even lower than fair weather fans and bandwagon hoppers. At least fair weather fans need to somewhat follow a team to know when they’re good and bandwagon fans need enough awareness of sports news to make sure their favorite team is the one who won the title. “Fans” don’t even put forth this minimal effort.

I’m sure every major sports team in the world has their fair share of “fans”. But when PacBell Park (then SBC Park & now AT&T Park) opened, they came out of the woodwork faster than a Robb Nen fastball. These “fans” didn’t really like the Giants. Hell, they didn’t even like baseball or know anything about it. They were there because it was cool, because their company owned a box, they were with a sales rep, they were on a date, or more in more recent years, they wanted a photo of them holding garlic fries on Facebook and Instagram.

I can’t fully blame them. It’s easy being a “fan”. You don’t have to learn anything. All of you have to do is show up, enjoy some good ballpark food, drink a few beers, and if it was between 2000 and 2007, pay attention to what’s happening on the field 4 to 5 times a game when Barry Bonds was up. But just because it’s easy to be a “fan”, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.

There’s something special about catching a ball game in person. Baseball’s the only major spectator sport without a time limit. As real fans, we dedicate hours of our days to our team, the experience of being there and the people we share that experience with. And nothing ruins that more than sitting next to, or near “fans”.

I’ll never forget a game in 2011 when the number of “fans” multiplied after the Giants won their first World Series in San Francisco. The row in front of me was empty for the first 3 innings and I was enjoying the extra legroom. In the 4th Inning, a group of hipster “fans” finally decided to show up and take their seats, but I’m not sure why they bothered. Instead of paying any attention to the game, they talked about random clubs and DJs. One of them even fell asleep before the end the of the inning.

The only time they all focused on something the Giants were doing was during the 7th Inning stretch when Giants’ entertainment team decided to use LMFAO’s Party Rock during the Dance Cam segment. The sleeping “fan” instantly woke up and joined his friends in a spirited session of shuffling. When the 8th Inning started, the “fans” went back to their previous activities before leaving in the bottom half of the 8th.

Again, I can’t fully blame the “fan” for falling asleep, waking up for LMFAO and then falling asleep again. The glory days of the “fan” (the home run years) were over. The Bonds Show was over. Our middle infielders weren’t hitting for power like Kent and Aurilia. So without the obvious and dramatic home run, how was the “fan” supposed to pretend to participate?

The time between Bonds and the 2010 championship team was nice. The Giants weren’t bad, but they were bad enough for the “fans”, fair weather fans and bandwagon hoppers to find other places to spend their time. It was easier and cheaper for the rest of us to get tickets and enjoy the game.

Then, without any perennial power hitters, the Giants won a second World Series title in three years. That’s pretty impressive. But, what’s most impressive about this current run is that the Giants have been good enough to turn some of the “fans” into fans.

Scoring a minimal amount of runs has forced “fans” to find other things to occasionally cheer for other than Splash Hits. They found themselves looking for strikeouts, double plays, well-placed bunts, shoestring catches, triples, stolen bases and saves. But because these events are easy to miss, “fans” have had to pay closer attention to the games and learn about its nuances. And with many of the names in the lineup in 2012 different from those in 2010, they’ve also been forced to learn a new set of names to cheer for.

While I do hate that ticket prices are at an all-time high, Fan Fest is full of people from the far reaches of the Bay Area–you can’t walk to work between April and October without swimming through a sea of Giants hats that look like they were purchased the night before–I do like that our city has finally turned into a great baseball city instead of a city with a great baseball show.