Ask Gary: Reviewing the Hall of Fame ballot

by Gary Shelton on January 27, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

Who would be on your baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year? How do you stand on Barry Bonds and other steroid users being allowed in the HOF?

Larry Beller

Larry, your question was very good for me. I had written an article on Nov. 24 about my choices, and this was the perfect chance for me to check back to see how I did. For a change, I did okay.

The first four guys on my ballot all made it: Chipper Jones, Vlad Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman. I also called the fifth guy, Edgar Martinez, although he fell short of getting enough votes to get in.

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Usually, 2-3 guys, at most, get in. I voted for eight, just to have room to discuss it, and I thought all eight had an argument. Still, I was pleased with four.I like Martinez, too, and I think he'll get in next year.

With my sixth pick, I went with sentiment. I voted for Fred McGriff. I wasn't really surprised he finished 12th, but sometimes, you have to go against the flow.

After McGriff, I went with Mike Mussina (who finished sixth) and Omar Vizquel (10th).

Those were the eight I listed.

As far as Clemens and Bonds, I admit it: I'm softening. Both players were well on their way to the Hall before they had the career turnarounds that hinted at steroid use. Both players have denied usage.

In my gut, however, I think both of them took PEDs. Now, I place only half the blame on the players. The sport of baseball was pushing power hitters, and they seemed to be turning their heads as skulls got bigger. I just wish they'd admit it. (See Sosa, Sammy).

The problem is that the lines are so vague between those who have admitted it, those who we believe did it, and those who we wouldn't be surprised at it. After a while, you can blame the game or you can you shake your head at a Hall of Fame without Pete Rose, without Barry Bonds, without Roger Clemens, without Mark McGwire, without Alex Rodriguez, without Joe Jackson, without Buck Weaver and without Sosa. At some point, are you robbing the fans.

For right now, for today, I didn't vote for PED users. But next year, or the year after, I might. I had an interesting conversation about this with Joe Posnanski the last time we had dinner. He, too, thinks the evidence is far from conclusive.

We're in a nation where we like to forgive. I can tell you this: Every year since PEDs, it's been a struggle for me. I'm sure that will continue.

I just don't understand how Fred McGriff received only 23.2% of the votes on this year's HOF ballot.  Do you?

Scott Myers

I don't, but some days, I feel like you and I are fighting a losing battle. I wrote once that if Freddie had been caught corking his bat, causing a couple of bar brawls and had a history of holding out for more money, it might have made him more interesting to voters.

I know Freddie, and I like him. There has never been a whisper about him and PEDs, which as I've also written, should create a curve for him. You could believe in every one of his homers. He played on some very good teams.

Hey, I'll admit it.He wasn't Babe Ruth or Willie Mays. But you don't have to be to get into the Hall. I think if McGriff were to be inducted, he certainly wouldn't be the worst player there.

But I think a lot of years, there are sexier candidates. Because of it, I think Fred has gotten lost. It's a shame, because he's a good guy.

In my mind, he makes the cut. But there are a lot of minds that vote. I remember reading one year that a columnist wrote about Fred: "I don't know what a Hall of Famer is, but I know Fred isn't." That seemed to me kind of a vague criticism.

I recently heard Troy Aikman in an interview saying how the NFL is designed for parity, and that New England doesn’t see it that way. They believe they have a significant advantage. I’ve always thought Belichick mastered the art of "delegating," and focuses more time on finding an “edge." Then again, you've got to motivate better than the other coach, too. This guy has no personality. How do you think he figured that part out, and put it all together?

Carlos Ubinas

I think for Belichick, consistency is the operative word. He isn't going to be bland today and lively tomorrow; he's bland every day. You get what you get.

Belichick is the latest bit of proof that you don't have to be a players' buddy to get him to play for you. Tom Landry was the same way. Chuck Noll. Tony Dungy. Players just need organization and guidance.

Think about it. Sam Wyche had a wonderful personality. Jerry Glanville. Buddy Ryan. But that doesn't get a team to the end zone.

Belichick is a master of creating matchups, and of exploiting (sometimes illegally) the little things. No, he doesn't hang out with Gronk. But he's meticulous, and he gives his players the best chance to win. He's an ace in my book.

Which Super Bowl do you think was the best and which one surprised you the most?
Jim Willson
There have been quite a few good games lately, haven't there? Last. year's comeback by the Patriots was good. The Giants upset of the undefeated Patriots was memorable. The Steelers-Cowboys games were good. I enjoyed covering the Bucs as they won theirs.
To me, however, the best game was Super Bowl XXIII in Miami. It had it all. Scandal: Stanley Wilson getting caught with cocaine. Drama: Tim Krumrie's injury. Comebacks: Joe Montana was brilliant. Social commentary: The Miami riots.
I liked the Giants beating the Bills on wide right. I liked Doug Williams starring in the Super Bowl. I liked the Rams stopping the Titans at the one-yard line. I liked the Patriots edging the Seahawks on a last-second interception.
It's funny. When I started covering Super Bowls, they were all seal-bashings. Some team would steamroll the other.
As far as surprises, I have three.
1. The Jets over the Colts. I lost my lunch money for the year wagering on that one. I loved Johnny Unitas, and I thought the Colts were much, much better. They beat the Jets like nine of their next 10 games. But all of the interceptions doomed them against the Jets. I'm still surprised.
2. The Giants over the Bills. I had covered Buffalo's championship game in which they ran wild over the Raiders. I was sure that the Giants' defense couldn't hold the Bills back. But Buffalo didn't run Thurman Thomas (who averaged 8.7 yards per game, as I remember) enough. I thought Marv Levy lost that game by being outcoached by Bill Parcells.
3. The Seahawks over Denver: I really thought Peyton Manning was going to have his way. He didn't. The Seahawks rolled, 43-8. On behalf of prognosticators everywhere, well, oops.
Baseball is the only major sport without a salary cap and there is virtually no chance of ever having one. The players union would go to the mat to prevent it. But do you think a salary spending floor needs to be established ($90 - $100 million perhaps), to prevent teams like the Rays and others from taking their welfare revenue sharing money and not spending it on improving the team? If the Rays have their way and find trading partners for all their high salaried players they will become a glorified Triple A team next year.

Larry Beller

Larry, baseball holds the Rays up as a success story. The Rays have
won (in the past) while spending very little money. And don't forget, the sport sent John McHale here to control the spending. So, no, I don't think we're any more likely to get a floor than a ceiling.

But, sure, I'd like to see it. I'm all for the Rays spending money (provided it isn't for the Hit Show). Baseball seems happy with the disparity of spending whether fans are or not.

(An aside: When the NFL went to the salary cap, I was a the guy who had to ask Paul Tagliabue about a floor. As you know, the Bucs of those days weren't going to test the ceiling).

Stu Sternberg, the Rays' owner, has said often that the Rays payroll rises and falls (not too high, of course) because the franchise can't afford to spend with its opponents in the AL East. Looking at the stands, it does feel as though their revenues are limited.

So I do understand what the Rays are up against. But when the payroll bottoms out, as it probably will this year, it's hard for fans to even think about the post-season. You're right. This might resemble a Triple A team. Especially when you compare them to the Red Sox, who are trying to buy all the pitchers in the league, and the Yankees, who are trying to buy all the home-run hitters.

We've been dealt a bad hand, Larry. We have to depend on the tumblers to fall just right to compete. We have to win with players who are young enough not to have hit the big money yet. We have to hope for oafish spending elsewhere in the division.

I understand the fans, too, Larry. They're weary of being outnumbered (and outspent) every year. They want to see winning streaks, too. It's no fun pulling for the Washington Generals.

In all honesty, are you surprised just how good of a hockey town that Tampa Bay has become?    Does it happen without Vinik?
Jim Willson
In all honesty, yes. The Lightning franchise tried to be a failure for so long under Kokusai Green and Art Williams and Oren Koules. They didn't have the money, the resources or the depth. Sports Illustrated called the Lightning the worst franchise in pro sports, and it was hard to argue.
But from those embers, Vinik has built a model franchise. There is absolutely no way that this happens without him. He cares, but he doesn't interfere. The community loves him, and he seems to love it back. He's hired great people to be in charge. I vote he buys the Rays and the Bucs, too. You with me?
In sports, fans can expect a few things from their owners. They want them to care. They want to believe that winning is as important to him as it is to them They want him to spend money. They want him to make good decisions. But they don't want him to meddle. Vinik has struck the right balance.
The Lightning might not win the Stanley Cup this year. But it won't be because of Vinik. And it won't be because the fans don't care enough.

 

 

 

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller January 27, 2018 at 7:07 pm

The Rays were trailblazers in a way. They embraced metrics along with teams like the As before mainstream baseball did. They had nothing to lose and it worked. The Rays figured out that great pitching and defense plus sabermetrics strategies can take an average team a long way.

Big market teams got fat and lazy. The Rays showed them a new path. Now every team is clued in so the Rays advantage is gone. Plus the GM and manager who made it work have gone to greener pastures. It was great while it lasted but as we have seen it was a just a brief moment in time. Order has been restored and the big market teams rule.

The Rays good run is over and won’t be coming back before the team is forced to leave due to fan apathy. This market will not support a losing baseball team. I’m not sure we can even support a winning team. That’s the sad reality.

Reply

Gary Shelton January 27, 2018 at 8:55 pm

Well, a sad possibility, at least. I’m not ready to give up on the blueprint if this team will start drafting better.

More money is a safety net. More money gives a team more chances and buys it better players. But there are still a lot of high payrolls that don’t win. Baseball hasn’t outgrown stupid.

Again,none of what I’m saying matters if a team isn’t smart. The Rays haven’t been lately.

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Larry Beller January 27, 2018 at 6:39 am

The Rays were a success story at one time that’s for sure. They were ahead of the curve with sabermetric tactics and wisely used their limited resources. They had a smart GM and manager who got the most out of what they had. Some good young players blossomed at the same time.

That period is over. The rest of the league has adopted sabermetric philosophies. Everyone is doing the same thing now and the Rays aren’t outsmarting anyone anymore. Big market teams get richer with huge local TV money and can spend so much more now. The payroll gap gets bigger each year. MLB likes it that way as you said. Big market teams are not interested in having upstart, small market teams make them look silly.

Baseball is becoming a novelty sport for fans like us in this market. Nothing to get excited about. The games are too long and uneventful, the stadium is a joke and the local team has no chance of being top dog again. But the game will go on without us. Move along, nothing to see here.

Reply

Gary Shelton January 27, 2018 at 11:10 am

Ah, but it’s baseball. And while the team doesn’t win as often as we’d like — either of us — then it’s still the closest thing to major league ball we have. We’re trapped. I once wrote a column wondering what it would be like if owners had to go through an election process. I would assume that in markets like this one, it would help.

I’m not sure the Rays’ success can’t beat itself. Even in the heyday, teams were aware of metrics. I’m not sure that had a lot to do with finds like Matt Garza, Ben Zobrist, James Shields or Jason Barlett. I just think this team has to draft and develop better. Too many high draft picks have wound up as nothing. You have to take advantage of bargains, and you have to develop great players.

Certainly, this is the bottoming out of the roster. I don’t blame fans for not getting excited.

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