A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Stephen Clark

In 1933, Lake Oswego's neighboring town, Cooperstown, became the genesis of a grand idea - Stephen Clark realized that baseball needed a Hall of Fame to save the town, and his idea for a museum to house artifacts and memories, a nostalgia of a time that should never be forgotten was brought to life and in in 1936, the inaugural class of Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Babe Ruth were put into the Hall of Fame for all future generations to pay homage to. The next year, Nap Lajoie, Cy Young, Grover Alexander, and Tris Speaker joined the initial four members and brought owners and managers like Ban Johnson, John McGraw, Connie Mack, and Morgan Bulkeley to the fold.
In looking down the list of all those who made the Hall of Fame in its early years, there were many great players who did amazing things. By about 1945-46, some of the names are pulled from the deepest recesses of baseball history, but in dusted off tobacco cards, their images come alive again to show that they were the founders of the game that made it possible for all others.
In looking at the salaries of the modern baseball players who prove that with one good year, especially a good year in a contract year, they can go anywhere, it's hard to see general managers and owners and fans getting bang for their bucks.
Sure, Alex Rodriguez and hiss $33 million per SHOULD make the Hall of Fame - save for the pesky steroids trouble he had, but will Carlos Lee and his $19 mill per? Let's keep this trend going and ask about John Lackey, AJ Burnett, Magglio Ordonez, Barry Zito, Aramis Ramirez, Todd Helton, John Lackey, Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixara? And one could also ask about Johan Santana and CC Sabathia, he of the Taft-like figure, but perhaps they will go somewhere with the bright lights of the Big Apple shining on their careers - if they can stay consistent and win, especially on the bigger post season stages.
Perusing the top 20 salaries by year, only Ichiro and Derek Jeter are locks. At this point, Jeter could probably rob a bank and be forgiven due to his having been involved in the (most over-rated) play of all time that saw Jeremy Giambi's steroid addled self thrown out at home for failing to slide, but I digress...
If Manny Ramirez did steroids, what's to say that Ryan Howard won't be found guilty or some future generation will punish whiff masters for failing to connect with the ball more often, if only to make a ground out and advance runners?
Who's a safe bet? Miguel Cabrera? Torii Hunter? It would be easy to shift them to the same list of not quites as previously mentioned, but such is the game of baseball in 2011.
And while I've said it before and I'll say it again that players should take what they're being offered, is giving the money to really good players INSTEAD OF great players the answer? Should the whole thing be based on hope?
If so, then Carlos Gonzalez is in a great place for both himself and his team. $80million for 7 years is very affordable in a world where total salary packages are pushing towards $150million plus rapidly and that's not even getting into the waste of cash that is Alex Rodriguez's $264million salary. In a downturn of his career and coming off a steroids revelation, is this smart money? And barring steroids allegations, the long term high money package deals look relatively safer for the top players, but still... Mike Mussina? Carlos Delgado? Gary Sheffield?
Jeff Bagwell?
Which brings us to the Hall of Fame vote at 1pm today. For a man who made the All Star team 4 times from 1991-2005 and accumulated 449 supposedly "steroids free" home runs (the strength of his vote, if one is casting for him) and a near .300 lifetime batting average (which eclipses Dave Kingman's 442 and .236 respectively), are we really to believe that just because a person wins Rookie of the Year and 1 MVP award, he is worthy of Cooperstown?
And perhaps we'll see today.
Personally, I think Larry Walker's 383 home runs and .313 batting average and the idea of what could have been, even though he played at Coors Field is a hell of a lot better, but that's just me. I know that he will be nowhere close.
I also know that Roberto, "the Spitter," Alomar should sit out for another year, but alas, that's just me, too. The good folks at ESPN are giving him a 94% favorable rate in his 2nd year (out of 18 voters) and Walker only has 1 vote. However, it should be noted, Mark McGwire has 7 votes, still only half of the needed vote to get through the doors, but for his honesty and the bad advice that he took from his lawyers, we can look at his career for what it is.
Someday soon, the Hall of Fame will need to address steroids users in its wing of honor. This won't be next year because the highlight of the voting will be guys like Dustin Hermanson and Carl "Dinosaur" Everett. There will literally be nobody to vote for. Really. Don't believe me? Look it up.
But in 2013, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mike Piazza will join Mark McGwire in the vote getting. We're not even including drunken lout David Wells in that category, but should he really be getting votes either if we're talking about doing things with honor? I mean, he's not Doc Ellis, but still... next year is not going to be pretty.
So who will tip the scales this year?
Bert Blyleven in his millionth year? Jack Morris? Barry Larkin? Dale Murphy? Lee Smith?
Will the voters respect DH Edgar Martinez?
Will Tim Raines be remembered for his stolen bases or that they were done headfirst to avoid smashing the cocaine vials that he kept in his back pocket?
Will Rafael Palmeiro be believed for his stern denial of using steroids before or after the fact he was busted?
Will Barry Larkin still be seen as great in a day and age when short stops hit for power and presitge?
Will anyone remember the 80s enough to remember Alan Trammel?
Will Fred McGriff's 2 years leading the league in home runs to end up with 493 in a career that ran from 1986 to 2004, only to be derailed by the fact that nobody wanted to sign a guy for one year to let him attain a milestone, finally end up in Cooperstown?
So many choices... so much celebration ready to be unleashed, but in the end, my bet is for Bert Blyleven and that's it.
Alomar will go next year in the emptiness of the voting, as will Barry Larkin. The following July will be a dull celebration that nobody except for Reds fans will go to. You can guarantee that Mets fans won't be there to cheer Roberto on to glory.

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