It’s time to reform the Hall of Fame election process.
Yesterday’s historic election of three Hall of Famers was met with more criticism of the process than congratulations for the new honorees. Considering the increasingly controversial nature of the voting, that’s not surprising. It’s also unacceptable. Reform of the Hall of Fame’s voting procedures has been long overdue, but when the process overshadows the pomp, the call to action becomes more urgent.
The first obstacle to reforming the voting process for the Hall of Fame is the institution itself. After all, what’s not to like about the low cost and convenience of outsourcing the process to the Baseball Writers Association of American (BBWAA), especially when it comes with months of free publicity? If that’s more important to the Hall of Fame than historical integrity, then reform of the voting process is a non-starter. However, if the Hall of Fame takes seriously its role as guardian of baseball history, it can’t settle for minor tweaks to the current system. Instead, significant changes are needed.
It’s one thing to diagnosis the problem, but another to prescribe a solution. Too many criticisms of the process have focused on the BBWAA, but they are not to blame (well, some members might be contributors). On the contrary, its many well meaning members are an important part of the solution. After all, most baseball writers remain well qualified jurors; however, they are no longer uniquely qualified to serve as the sole arbiter of baseball’s greatest honor. In addition to tenured writers, several other groups merit a voice, including historians, sabermetricians, former players and executives, broadcasters, and other members of the media, including those who work for electronic platforms or lack 10 years on the print side. It’s time for the Hall of Fame to turn away from convenience, and make diversity, transparency, and accountability the guiding principles of its electoral process. It also wouldn’t hurt to have more clearly defined voting guidelines to help prevent the moral dilemmas that exist in the gray areas of the current instructions. Continue Reading »
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Cooperstown is going to be crowded this summer. One year after failing to elect a new Hall of Famer, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has enshrined a record setting class. For only the fifth time since annual elections became the norm in 1967, three different players were elected. In addition, the highest voting rate was recorded. However, despite the packed ballots and crowded podium, this year’s Hall of Fame class is most conspicuous by those who will be absent.
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas will join Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa at a star-studded Hall of Fame induction ceremony in July, but the list of deserving players who were snubbed is even longer. You can thank PEDs for that, but when it comes to players like Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, and Curt Schilling, the clash between old and new statistics has also resulted in notable omissions. The result has been a backlog of deserving candidates, and the glut isn’t likely to subside until these issues are resolved, especially with Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz joining the ballot next year.
Total Hall of Fame Votes as a Percentage of Available Slots
Note: Percentage = Votes cast / total ballots x 10
Source: baseball-reference.com and BBWAA Continue Reading »
Posted in Baseball, Baseball History, Hall of Fame, MLB | 4 Comments »
There’s something disturbing about the recently released email exchanges between Randy Levine and Alex Rodriguez. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with a team executive giving email pep talks to a star player, especially when both men have been unfairly maligned despite making enormous contributions to the franchise’s success. However, the communications between Levine and Arod suggest something more than commiseration, and those undertones should make Yankee fans a little uneasy.
Randy Levine and Alex Rodriguez in friendlier times.
The email exchanges between player and president were mostly innocuous, but there was a smoking gun. On two occasions, Levine made direct references to Robinson Cano using performance enhancing drugs. Although Levine has since characterized these statements as “bad jokes”, you can bet Bud Selig isn’t laughing. The commissioner probably won’t be happy to learn that a high ranking Yankees’ executive was, at best, being flippant about performance enhancing drugs, an issue that has become like a crusade to Selig. That the comments were made to the commissioner’s “public enemy number one” only make them worse. Will this force Selig to investigate Levine’s statements further? If so, the Yankees had better hope there aren’t any skeletons hiding in their closet.
The PED comments are serious enough, but considering Levine’s experience as a top lawyer and politician, it stands to reason that he wouldn’t so freely make incriminating statements. However, that doesn’t mean Yankee fans shouldn’t be concerned about the emails. Even if the steroid comments prove benign, an even bigger threat to the franchise could be the emergence of Levine as a front office cancer.
Hey, what’s up with Robby. This guy must not be using the liquid.” - Randy Levine, quoted in an email to Alex Rodriguez dated August 21, 2012
“What’s new?” is probably the reaction from many Yankee fans. Despite playing a pivotal role in the formation of the YES Network as well as the building and financing of the new Yankee Stadium, two pillars of the team’s financial strength, Levine has been routinely vilified by the media and fans alike. Most likely because of political bias (his reputation as a federal and city lawyer preceded his reign as team president), Levine has rarely been given credit for his contributions, but the record speaks for itself. Over the last few years, however, his words have become more prominent than his actions.
In the role of experienced business man and legal wrangler, Levine has been a valuable asset to the Yankees. What they don’t need is for him to continue operating as an organizational toady. The franchise would be better off with its president making money, not creating distractions, and the recent email revelations are the latest example of the latter. Although many will isolate Levine as the problem, his current misaligned role is evidence of greater dysfunction within the organization’s hierarchy (and hopefully not much more). There are currently too many cooks stirring the Yankees’ pot, and if that problem is not corrected, the spoils left behind wont be the kind enjoyed by victors.
Posted in Alex Rodriguez, Arod, Baseball, Brian Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner, Yankees | 2 Comments »
“Tools of ignorance” isn’t an ironic description. Although catchers tend to possess a very high baseball IQ, there isn’t much wisdom in crouching behind the plate for nine innings of target practice. With that in mind, major league baseball has decided to eliminate violent collisions at home, a long overdue application of common sense, not to mention the rules.
MLB is on the verge of banning collisions at home plate.
Concussions have been a hot button issue throughout the sports world. And, although MLB may not have a concussion epidemic like the NFL, recent revelations about Ryan Freel’s untimely death prove it is not immune. Undoubtedly, sensitivity to this issue is driving MLB’s proactive policy against head injuries, which not only includes the proposed ban on home plate collisions, but also an option for pitchers to wear protective head gear. Many baseball observers, including current and former catchers, have bristled at these new rules, but if there’s one lesson to be learned from the NFL, when it comes to player safety, leagues should error on the side of caution.
One argument made by those who oppose banning collisions at the plate goes something like this: catchers are more prone to concussions by foul tips, so are you going to ban those as well? That’s an obvious non sequitur. After all, foul tips are not intentional actions and their occurrence can’t be avoided. What baseball can do to limit the effect of foul tips is improve catchers’ equipment, but when it comes to collisions, legislation is more effective.
Albeit logically inconsistent, the “foul tip” argument against the collision ban is interesting in that it raises the question of the inherent danger at the position. This same issue has been examined endlessly in the NFL, with some studies suggesting football players have an average life expectancy of only 55 years, while others indicate a mortality rate lower than the general population. But, what about baseball? Continue Reading »
Posted in Baseball, MLB | 6 Comments »
The following post was originally published at Bronx Banter.
If Bobby Grich had signed with the Yankees, Reggie Jackson’s star would have never made it to New York.
Sometimes, the best trades or free agent signings are the ones a team doesn’t make. Many Yankee fans seem to feel that way about the team’s decision to let Robinson Cano head west to Seattle. Is that wishful thinking? Perhaps, but considering the team’s eager willingness to trade him earlier in his career, such an outcome would be par for the course.
What about the flip side? When it comes to transactions not made, is relief really more common than regret? Or, are opportunities lost just as impactful as serendipitous gains? Since the advent of free agency in 1976, no team has been more active on the open market than the Yankees, so there are plenty of case studies to consider. Listed below are some of the higher profile transactions that the team seriously considered, but never made, accompanied by alternatives that were implemented, when applicable, and an evaluation of how the net result influenced the course of franchise history.
1976: Yankees pursue free agent Bobby Grich, but settle on Reggie Jackson as a consolation.
Background: Baseball’s first free agents were subject to a very different system than today. Instead of simply hitting the open market, players filing for free agency would enter what was known as a re-entry draft. Teams would then select players in a pre-determined order, much like the amateur draft, but instead of acquiring exclusivity, they would simply be granted the right to negotiate. Because only 12 teams could select any one potential free agent, the draft process effectively cut the player’s market in half. In addition, individual teams could only sign two net new free agents (i.e., if a team lost a free agent, it could sign three). These limitations were intended to limit competition for players, but they wound up constraining supply more than limiting demand. Exponentially higher salaries were the result.
Fresh off a World Series sweep at the hands of the Reds, the Yankees entered the winter seeking a player who could put them over the top. As it turned out, Reggie Jackson fit the bill perfectly, but he wasn’t the Yankees’ first choice. When it came time to make their first selection in the re-entry draft, the Bronx Bombers went with Orioles’ gold glove 2B Bobby Grich (Jackson was selected sixth, but that was partly due to the relative lack of interest from teams who knew they would not be able to sign him). The only problem for the Yankees was Grich was intent of playing close to his home in Long Beach. So, when Grich reached an accord with the California Angels, the Yankees shifted their focus to Jackson and signed him shortly thereafter. Continue Reading »
Posted in Baseball, Baseball History, Brian Cashman, George M. Steinbrenner, Hot Stove, MLB, Robinson Cano, Yankee History, Yankees | Leave a Comment »
A $240 million smile. (Photo: AP)
When Brian Cashman said “everyone is replaceable”, he wasn’t kidding. Less than 12 hours after Robinson Cano spurned the pinstripes for the “greener” pasture of Seattle, the Bronx Bombers welcomed Carlos Beltran into the fold. Easy come, easy go.
Yankee fans may have been floored by Cano’s decision to accept a 10-year, $240 million “partnership” with the Seattle Mariners, but the organization certainly wasn’t. Judging by the alacrity to replace him, it seems as if the Bronx Bombers knew what was coming. In fact, their inflexibility with Cano pretty much dictated the sequence of events. Was it a case of the Yankees prudently devising and implementing a contingency plan, or did the franchise actually prefer Plan B from the outset?
Did the Yankees really want Cano? There are 160 million reasons why that might seem like a silly question, but the organization’s posture toward Cano suggests they may have made him an offer he had to refuse. From day one of the off season, the Yankees saturated the media with statements about how much the team would not pay Cano. By drawing a line in the sand, the organization appeared more interested in backing into an exit strategy than moving forward with productive negotiations. And, if any went on behind the scenes, no one was telling, which seems doubtful considering how public the process became.
Even before the Mariners jumped into the fray, the Yankees jeopardized their own offer to Cano by giving the same deal to Jacoby Ellsbury. Did the Yankees really think the Red Sox All Star was an equal to the homegrown Cano? It’s hard to imagine so, but even if their internal projections bucked the conventional wisdom, they had to know Cano would think otherwise. Either way, by announcing the Ellsbury deal before at least attempting an aggressive push for Cano, the Yankees were effectively sandbagging their offer. What’s more, by outbidding the Mariners for Ellsbury, the Yankees were creating a rival for Cano. In a sense, the signing of Ellsbury all but marked the end of Cano’s time in pinstripes. So, when the Mariners came calling, it’s no surprise the second baseman was eager to listen.
When you consider the $80 million difference between the two offers (which doesn’t take into account the tax advantage of playing in Washington state), it’s impossible to argue that the Yankees were competitive in the process. Ironically, Cano will likely be branded a greedy trader for taking the extra money, when it reality that exorbitant sum should be regarded as a symbol of his loyalty. After all, the Mariners would not have blown the Yankees’ offer out of the water if they didn’t have to. Seattle paid a very high price to lure Cano away from his obvious preference, and, for some reason, the Bronx Bombers made little effort to discourage him. By all accounts, Cano was willing to give the Yankees a discount, but the team didn’t seem interested in finding out exactly what it was. Continue Reading »
Posted in Alex Rodriguez, Arod, Baseball, Hal Steinbrenner, Hot Stove, MLB, Robinson Cano, Roster Analysis, Yankees | 6 Comments »
Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have reached a new posting agreement apparently designed for one purpose: thwart the Yankees and other free spenders from signing Masahiro Tanaka. However, a careful examination of the details suggests the resolution could come back to haunt the small market teams who reportedly pushed for its implementation.
Does the new posting system mean Masahiro Tanaka is destined for pinstripes?
Under the old posting systems, teams placed secret bids for the right to negotiate with a Japanese player. The MLB club bidding the highest amount was given an exclusive window to hammer out a contract, upon which the NPB team would be paid the posting fee. This system placed the player at a disadvantage because it gave MLB teams all of the leverage. If the player refused to sign a contract, his only recourse was to return to Japan. As a result, MLB clubs were able to pass on much of the posting fee to the player in the form of a discounted salary. Although the old system clearly favored the NPB because it produced bloated posting fees, MLB teams still made out well thanks to the extreme leverage those fees created.
Under the new system, NPB clubs will be able to set a posting fee up to, but not more than $20 million, and MLB clubs willing to pay that price will win the right to negotiate with the player. However, because the cap is so low, the best players will likely attract several teams willing to pay the maximum fee. When this occurs, the player will be given the opportunity to negotiate with all of the top-bidding teams, making him a de facto free agent. So, in exchange for reduced posting fees, MLB teams have ceded leverage to the player, who will now be able to play one team off another. Continue Reading »
Posted in Baseball, CBA, Hot Stove, International, Yankees | 2 Comments »