Dammit, Biggio is a sweetheart so elect him to the Hall already!

Craig Biggio did not win election to the Hall of Fame today.  Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas did, and they deserve it; congratulations to them.  For the second year in a row, his first two years of eligibility, the Houston Astros icon was the biggest vote-getter without getting the 75% of votes required from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Last year, when the writers elected no one, Biggio was the leading candidate but came up 39 votes short; this time, it was two.  TWO VOTES, out of 571 569 (nope, now they say 571 after all)!  Don’t those people understand that Biggio is a great guy?

I mean, Houston’s Leading Information Source switched into full cheerleader mode last week (as it did this time last year), fulfilling its civic responsibility of promoting Biggio’s candidacy by reminding readers that he is…well, that he is a nice man.  Jose de Jesus Ortiz made the point that Biggio’s teammates think he’s a great guy, and that his agreeing to switch positions showed his further greatness; new guy Evan Drellich has found that even people who knew Biggio as a kid say he’s a lovely fellow.  (To a lesser degree the Chronicle tried to shine the same sweet sunlight on Biggio’s teammate and pal Jeff Bagwell, who carries credentials that match up pretty well with Frank Thomas but who also labors under the suspicion of having used performance-enhancing drugs; he was seventh on today’s list of candidates with more than 54% of the vote.)

But I’ve just discovered that even the local daily doesn’t know it all.  A tweet from Lance Zierlein led me to this eye-opening YouTube video that should convince any remaining skeptics who aren’t sold on Craig Biggio being a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame.  Just take a look for yourself.

What else must this man do?  I mean, really…

         

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Heralding the Classic with a clash of the brass

Are you like me, are you looking forward to what ought to be a pretty good World Series between Boston and St. Louis starting tonight?  Of course you are.  And this may just be me not paying attention, but I’m pleased not to have had to hear about the usual stupid bets between mayors and governors when a series like this comes around; on the other hand, I was very pleased to learn, from NPR, about this unusual throwdown between the orchestras of the two towns!

I’ll take the Cardinals in 6…

A day in the life

It’s one of those days…you know the kind I mean.  The details of my today aren’t important and I’m not trying to play on your sympathy; just saying we’ve all had those days when the universe makes it clear, again, that your well-laid plans are not binding on anyone else.  A day when you’d agree with the characterization offered by Ned Racine in Body Heat: “Sometimes the shit comes down so heavy I feel like I should wear a hat.”  A day when a lot of frustration gets vented, or distilled out, on the drive home.

If you are lucky enough, you stumble upon something coming out of the car radio that nudges aside the pall, at least for a few minutes, and reminds you that today is just today…there will be plenty of tomorrows that are not today.  For me, today, it was this story on NPR about the positive effect of organized baseball on some kids in a drug-infested neighborhood of Camden, New Jersey, creating safe pockets out of the despair where “kids can still be kids.”

Now, I know that just about any activity for kids that their parents and other adults in the neighborhood actively support could have the same impact on the kids as baseball is having for these particular kids today…and I try not to go all Ken-Burns-and-George-Will on the mystical healing powers of baseball…but on this day—All-Star Game day!—hearing about the mystical healing powers of baseball for some kids in Camden, New Jersey really hit the spot.

And then, there’s this:

Hu on 1

(apologies for the misspelling, Bud!)

This is a no-brainer…so it’s perfect for this blog

My Houston Astros kicked off their American League existence Sunday night with a big exciting win over the Texas Rangers, and Monday I thought I should write something nice for the blog about the entire event. You see how far I got with that.

Tuesday night my Houston Astros nearly got perfect-gamed for the second time in less than a year, just the kind of thing that the doomsayers who’ve predicted a third 100+ loss season for the Astros needed to be able to say “I told you so.” Yeah, well, you didn’t count on Marwin Gonzalez, did you? (Yes, Marwin Gonzalez. I know.)

This morning I found a post on Awful Announcing that combines the comfort and excitement of Opening Day with the sense of disorientation that we Astros fans are working through as we get acquainted with our new team and league: major league players performing bits of “Who’s on First?

And that made me think, I want to see the original in all it’s glory…and I’m betting, so do you!

Thoughts on the Baseball Hall of Fame election on the occasion of really caring about the results for the first time

As a kid I thought all the players in the Baseball Hall of Fame, by definition, National_Baseball_Hall_of_Fame_and_Museumwere great players and great guys. It’s not so, but I was just a kid; now that I know better I still want it to be true; I want things to be simple. For the most part, anyone who’s followed baseball for years just knows who’s a Hall of Famer and who’s not, and can make an elevator argument for their guys. And that’s fun, when people who love baseball talk about the shared past from their different perspectives. For what it’s worth, here are the only guidelines handed to the voters as they consider the choices.

Most of us who grew up in a big league city grew up rooting for the hometown team, and I’ve been in Houston since I was nine. Today is the first time in all those years that players who spent most (or in this case, all) of their Major League careers with the Houston Astros have a real chance (or in this case, two chances) of getting in. So, yeah, it’s exciting to be waiting for the news: will Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell make it?

(I don’t know how those of you who didn’t grow up in a big league city picked your favorite team: was it the nearest big league team? The one that had a minor league team in or near your town? The team that had your favorite player? Your dad’s favorite player?)

My guess is, Bagwell won’t make it anmlb_g_bagwell_sy_576d Biggio will. Bagwell’s got the numbers, but I think the doubts about his alleged-but-unproven use of steroids are what’s keeping his vote short. Biggio has no steroid shadow over his career; he’s got more than 3000 hits; he was multiple times an All-Star at two different positions, and a multiple times Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner; he’s in.

Let’s see if I’m right. (BTW, this is the first time ever that I’ve stopped whatever else I was doing to try to hear the HOF announcement live…always interested before, but never in quite this way.)


OK then, the headline is: NOBODY was elected to the HOF this year! First time that’s happened since 1996, only the eighth time since they started voting for the HOF in 1936.

The subhead: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa and the other strongly-suspected steroid users didn’t even come close—seven-time Cy Young Award winner Clemens had 37.6% of the vote, all-time home run king Bonds 36.2%.

The sub-subhead: it turns out my feelings weren’t far off the mark. Craig Biggio was the top vote-getter with 68.2%, just 39 votes short of the 75% needed to be elected. And Jeff Bagwell was third at 59.6%. (Jack Morris was second, just behind Biggio at 67.7%.)

My reaction: I’m fine with this.

First, there is no shame—none—for Biggio not to be elected in his first year bw-29-biggio-0627-4_3_r560of eligibility; something like 80% of the players in the Hall weren’t elected in their first year of eligibility. To be the top vote-getter in his first year, and so close to the threshold, means the voters think he’s worthy, and his ultimate election is all but assured. And Bagwell’s vote total improved again: he had 41.7% in his first year, 56% last year and 59.6% this year. He’s going to make it, too.

It would have been great to see either of them, or the two of them together, get this honor, and I’m now even more confident that one day they will. Other HOFers have ties to Houston—Joe Morgan and Nolan Ryan the most prominent—but none of them is wearing an Astros cap on his plaque; Bagwell and Biggio will be the first players from my team to get to the HOF, and I was in the stands to watch them play their entire major league careers, so it will mean something to me when they are recognized as being among the greatest players ever.

The second reason I’m fine with this is, the steroids cheaters were shut out.

Let me start by acknowledging my ambivalence on the subject of steroids. I can accept the scientific evidence that the use of steroids poses a danger to the user, and I’m conformist enough that I have no problem punishing players who broke the rules that prohibited the use of steroids, once those rules were finally put in place. It’s the concept that some performance-enhancing drugs are banned while others are allowed that gives me trouble. Why are antibiotics, protein supplements, vitamins and caffeine OK, but anabolic steroids and amphetamines prohibited? How do we draw the line that says an athlete’s efforts to become the best they can be are to be applauded but only up to this point, and no further?

Second, I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made that baseball writers—the journalists who cover baseball as a news story—shouldn’t be the ones with sole authority over which players get into the Hall of Fame: the people whose job it is to cover the news should not be involved in making the news. (I don’t know who, in the alternative, would select Hall of Famers, but that’s a different question.) In this case, we’re talking about the baseball writers who covered the game in the 1990s and 2000s, who saw the players get freakishly bigger and the old records fall, and decided not to write about the fact that the players breaking the records were taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

This Hall of Fame ballot wasn’t the first one to feature prominent players whose careers came during the era of steroid use, but in Bonds and Clemens it had two of the most accomplished players of all time who also happened to be suspected of cheating. Their worthiness to be enshrined in the HOF was judged by the writers who were once complicit with the players and their union and Major League Baseball and its teams in facilitating the use of steroids by players and the subsequent mutilation of the record books that it caused, and who now unapologetically pivot into the role of moral arbiter and protector of the faith to declare that no cheaters shall prosper in Cooperstown. Nice work if you can get it.

The hypocrisy of the writers notwithstanding, the circumstantial evidence of cheating against many of the players, including Bonds and Clemens, is overwhelming, and I’m satisfied at their being rejected this time around; remember, they’ve got 14 more chances, and attitudes are likely to change/soften over the years. Bob Costas suggested that a comparison of next year’s vote totals with today’s for Clemens, Bonds and Sosa will give a real indication of their ultimate chances for getting into the Hall. The vote totals for steroids users like Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire started low and then slipped: Palmeiro (569 homers, 3020 hits) started at 11% in 2011 and was down to 8.8% this year, Mark McGwire (583 homers) got 23.5% in 2007 and this year just under 17%. (And just in case you’re interested, here’s the Mitchell Report on steroids in baseball, with dozens of references to Bonds and Clemens.)

Oh, and one more thing: pitchers and catchers report in just one month!