(FOR REACTION TO HALL VOTE, PLEASE SEE BELOW)
First of all, voters owe nothing to the baseball industry to create good will by voting in a few new members of the Hall of Fame to brighten up the dark of winter. This is baseball’s mess. Why vote for those guys right now?
Messrs. Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Sosa and McGwire are a collective symptom of all that went wrong with baseball in the past generation. Management did not want to know why the players had new muscles on their muscles – even when a reporter like Steve Wilstein spotted the evidence sitting there in McGwire’s locker.
And the Players Association was fighting off drug rules and drug testing on the spurious grounds of individual rights. I’ve often wondered what became of Donald Fehr.
Tyler Kepner has a great point in the Monday New York Times: some good candidates may be held back by association with their place and time.
Tyler makes the point that the Times does not let its employees vote for any award, sports or show business. Since I still write for them occasionally, I don’t vote. The paper quite properly does not want its people to be part of the story for taking some eccentric vote.
However, if I did vote, I would be a strict constructionist. This year, five players with the best statistics are handcuffed together in a squad car of suspicion and evidence and admission.
As somebody who has told the very nice sons of Roger Maris and Gil Hodges that I do not quite think their fathers were Hall of Fame players, I could make the same judgment about Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly and Lee Smith. Too many really good players in the Hall right now.
And a lot of really good players eligible this year.
There is no tangible evidence against Mike Piazza. His career numbers seem worthy of the Hall. Wait a year.
Edgar Martinez may have been the best designated hitter in history. But designated hitter is still a gimmick in my opinion. It means he didn’t play defense most of the time. Wait a year.
Jeff Bagwell has the statistics but is generally suspected of bulking up. I don’t know. Wait a year.
Curt Schilling? Great post-season statistics. Wait a year.
Craig Biggio? He played three positions – very impressive – and has excellent longevity numbers – but was not necessarily the most feared hitter on his own team. Wait a year.
It’s really baseball’s fault we have this attitude about the past generation.
If you told me I had to vote for one player, I’d vote for Jack Morris, because he won big games for a long time, and is running out of eligibility.
There are historic considerations – “time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” to quote Andrew Marvell in a baseball column.
Pete Rose was a Hall of Fame player, absolutely, but he hurt himself by betting on baseball as a manager, and then he lied. Pete belongs in the Hall, somehow, sometime. He also loved the game, and gabbed about it incessantly with fans and reporters and other players, sitting in Sparky Anderson’s office. Bud Selig could declare that Pete broke the rules and lied – his plaque could say so -- but as a player, what a force Rose was, and versatile, too.
No doubt in my mind Bonds and Clemens were cheats as well as creeps. As time moves on, more voters could reason they were great players before they took the stuff. I can see voters including them in the Hall, but surely not now.
(MY SATURDAY COMMENTARY ABOUT THE VOTE:)
I had lunch Friday with a dozen friends who write about baseball – not beat writers, but people who follow the game just as closely. Some had wanted a Morris or Biggio to get into the Hall, but nobody seemed surprised by the shutout. It’s more than pique. It’s respect for the game.
Tyler Kepner (who was not at lunch) recently proposed a panel of 36 voters, including nine Hall of Fame players.
Tyler’s got a good point, but I’ll bet you the old players would have higher standards for inclusion than the writers, particularly if the vote were secret. They would be really tough on anybody suspected of using stuff. Even if the Hall panelists used “red juice” or “greenies” back in the day. You think not?
I don’t think there was one truly great – and clean -- player of the Ruth-Mays-Koufax level who was excluded on Wednesday. You know what we used to say back in Brooklyn? Wait til next year.
Your comments welcome below.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.