By The Common Man
Today, the Hall of Fame got a little better with the election of Ron Santo by the Veterans Committee. We’ve been over how good Santo was, and how deserving he is of this honor, but it’s nice to see an ignorant injustice corrected, and TCM commends the 15 out of 16 voters who understood what baseball’s writers ignored for so long.
Baseball writers continue to be ignorant in their Hall of Fame voting, treating their ballots as column fodder and as a belated punishment for crimes and slights both real and imagined. Thanks to our friend LeoKitty, of The Girl Who Loved Andy Pettitte, and her terrific Hall of Fame voting tracker, TCM came across the shining example of Jeff Schultz, of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, who published his intellectually inconsistent, moronic, and hypocritical ballot this morning.
Schultz votes for Tim Raines, Barry Larkin, Lee Smith, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, and Dale Murphy. The vote for Murphy isn’t terribly troubling. Schultz is an Atlanta guy, and TCM doesn’t mind a little bit of homerism on the HOF ballot, as long as it doesn’t prevent a voter from casting a ballot for a deserving candidate. Likewise, TCM doesn’t have a lot of scorn for the Fred McGriff pick, despite Schultz’s idiotic reasoning that “the fact that the Atlanta-Fulton Stadium press box caught on fire the day the Braves traded for him, cementing their 1995 World Series championship, is reason enough to put him in the Hall.” Of course, Schultz is joking (one would hope), but the refusal to actually justify McGriff’s inclusion is incredibly troubling. It’s as though Schultz can’t think of a good reason McGriff deserves to be in, but he wants him there anyway. We’ll continue to see that not thinking will be a hallmark of Schultz’s ballot.
Schultz votes for Mattingly because he has “Over 2,000 hits, nine Gold Gloves, seven All-Star Games. One MVP. A great ambassador for baseball. A thousand times, yes.” But Alan Trammell has even more hits than Mattingly, one fewer All Star appearance, just missed the MVP in 1987 (when he was absolutely robbed), and four Gold Gloves from a tougher defensive position. And unlike Mattingly, Trammell has a World Championship to his credit, for which he won the World Series MVP (hitting .450/.500/.800). And while Mattingly may be “a great ambassador for baseball,” no one has ever said an ill word about Alan Trammell, who is still beloved in Detroit. What makes Mattingly a more deserving candidate then?
Schultz also leaves Edgar Martinez off his ballot because “he was a designated hitter. DH is a half-player in my book.” Which is an acceptable position to take, TCM supposes. DHs should have a higher hurdle to clear. But then why is Schultz so eager to put Lee Smith, who averaged 68 games and 85 innings per season in the Hall of Fame? Isn’t “closer” similarly half a player, at best? Heck, 85 innings is less than 6% of a team’s innings in a given season. Yes, Smith has all those pretty saves, but are those saves really worth more than all the extra hits Edgar provided to make saves possible for his closers?
Schultz also doesn’t vote for Mark McGwire since, “He only finally admitted steroid use, not because of regret or shame but because he wanted to come back to coach and try to salvage his legacy. And by the way, I’m not sure he would’ve been a HOF player without steroids.” Schultz, by the way, wrote a column in 2009 in which he stated that steroid users should “Come clean, guys. Come clean, like Rodriguez. Come clean because sports fans can be quite forgiving, particularly when somebody is leading their team to a pennant. Fans embrace heroes, even flawed ones. Honesty sells. Hold a news conference, declare what you did, when you did it, why you did it and let’s move on. In the steroid era, admission is the mother of all closures.” Apparently, Schultz meant that admission provides closure for other people, but not for himself, because holding a news conference, admitting what he did, and taking responsibility is exactly what Mark McGwire did.
And finally there’s the troubling exclusion of Jeff Bagwell. According to Schultz, “He has a Hall of Fame credentials…but he was well short of induction last year…in part because he has been suspected of using PEDs.” Schultz then quote Tom Verducci at length, who used the careers of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Juan Gonzalez to connect Bagwell to steroid use, despite exempting Ken Griffey (for no reason) and having absolutely no evidence that Bagwell used.
It’s possible that Jeff Bagwell used PEDs. It’s likely that we’ll never know that for sure one way or another. Bagwell can’t prove a negative, and is unlikely to spontaneously admit to using without being faced with evidence that, by all indications, simply doesn’t exist. So we’re in a Catch 22. If Bagwell admits to using, he’s out. If he’s innocent, he gets kept out because no one can prove he didn’t. Good lord.
But let’s clear up a couple things. Bagwell’s power didn’t come out of nowhere. As a 22 year old at AA, Bagwell hit .333/.422/.457 with 4 homers. But his entire team hit just 31 homers that year and allowed only 44 in 139 games. The problem wasn’t Bagwell’s power, it was the ballparks of the Eastern League. He hit 15 homers as a rookie in 1991 at 23 years old, which led his team in the Astrodome, the worst homerun ballpark in the game in down offensive year. Bagwell increased his offense the next year, hitting 18 in an even worse offensive environment. Finally, in 1994, Bagwell busted out in a big way at the age of 26, hitting .368/.451/.750 with 39 homers in 479 plate appearances. From there, his homerun rates remained between 4% and 6.5% until his final year.
As The Common Man wrote last year, there is exactly as much evidence that Jeff Bagwell used steroids as there is that Jim Schultz, and other mainstream writers who essentially accuse Bagwell without any evidence, are plagiarists. After all, if they aren’t cribbing off each other, how have so many of them come to this conclusion without evidence? Also, Schultz has already demonstrated he's willing to let Tom Verducci basically write his argument for him. And given Schultz’s inability to think consistently and complexly about any issue, TCM can’t help but suspect that he’s getting some extra help. The onus is on you, Jim. Prove you’re not a plagiarist, or give us some evidence that Jeff Bagwell used steroids. TCM isn’t accusing you of anything. But you’re awfully suspicious.