Peter Gammons: Hall of Fame issues, Shohei Otani, Stanton, Yawkee Way, and more

Joe Morgan was slow to accept analytics, I get it. He was traditional, and he became the whipping boy for every new waver who wanted us to know they were smarter than any of us, like the guy who wrote he hoped Felix Hernandez would lose games because it would prove how insane traditional thinkers had been.

I worked with Joe Morgan for years. We disagreed, sometimes heartily, always with respect. I get his recent letter to Hall of Fame voters, I have privately understood his love of the game, what The Hall means to that game, and why it is one of our  great Americana museums. I’ve read columns that accused him of hypocrisy because he advocated for Pete Rose’s inclusion in Cooperstown, which he does not. When the All Star Game was played in Cincinnati recently, I did an event with Morgan and Johnny Bench and because it was for Cincinnati fans who revere the players and teams of the Big Red Machine of the 1970’s, the Rose HOF issue was never addressed. The two great Hall of Famers thought the world of Rose as a teammate, but do not advocate his candidacy.

This really is nothing new. In 2005, when drug testing on the major league level went into the Basic Agreement, Rafael Palmeiro tested positive, news that broke on Induction Sunday. Palmeiro had 3020 hits, 569 home runs and had 1837 RBI, but he never came close to election. Like Rose, he broke baseball law. Mark McGwire did not test positive, but he admitted usage, and hasn’t made it.

It doesn’t mean that anyone named in the Mitchell Report or who tested positive is therefore banished from the game for life. To the contrary—there are nearly 15 people named by Mitchell who have been coaching, advising, broadcasting and representing players over the last two years. Morgan’s contention is that there is a difference between Mark McGwire being a great, tireless coach and player advocate and being elected to The Hall. It does not in any way demean McGwire’s sincere contributions to the game and to so many who play it. He has a place in the museum, just not in the lineup of plaques.

If a player gets suspended because of positive testing since this agreement went into effect, he is, in many an opinion, not going into The Hall. Manny Ramirez was suspended three times. Nyet. Alex Rodriguez’s trail is a nyet. Jason Giambi admitted. Andy Pettitte did, as well. The Mitchell Report presented a wall of evidence against Kevin Brown, who was a very good and sometimes dominant pitcher for whom, but for George Mitchell, has a solid Cooperstown case. On the other hand, unsubstantiated rumors circulated about Mike Piazza, Pudge Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell, but none tested positive, nothing was substantiated, and each has his place in Cooperstown.

The Hall is a museum that somewhere, perhaps in a room that separates the 1992-2005 era, honors the memorabilia and achievements of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, McGwire, Palmeiro, ARod and Sammy Sosa. The debates about morality, “cheating” and the fascination with statistics are at the enough-is-enough stage, and anyone who doesn’t think amphetamines like red juice didn’t help pad career numbers from the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s never saw Pirates players walking in the outfield with coffee cups before Game Seven of the 1979 World Series.

Morgan believes in due process, and Bonds and Clemens have had their processes dragged out from the Halls of Congress—which rings the bells of hypocrisy—to California courts. If the evidence against them is clear enough for BBWAA voters, their achievements as two of the greatest players ever, two players who would have been Hall of Famers before their alleged PED usage should be recognized prominently but separately. The Morgan letter reflects the feelings of many Hall of Famers. To many, that consensus seems self-righteous, but we have to move on to differentiating between the achievements and personal plaques. Going through the names mentioned in the Mitchell Report, it struck me that in all likelihood there are hundreds of players coming off surgeries and injuries and aging tried something, the majority for very short periods in their careers. There were a lot of players who got doctors’ HGH prescriptions for legitimate reasons.

Morgan laid out what he, as one of the most loyal and active members of the board, believes. To me, it doesn’t change much of anything. ARod? Not going to happen. Ditto Manny. Does it make the qualifications of Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Fred McGriff, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Jim Thome, Scott Rolen, Jeff Kent, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero and others even greater? Of course. Could Gary Sheffield be a victim here? Absolutely. Is there a contrast to me made when whispers can keep a man out, but a Dale Murphy isn’t rewarded for being one of the finest human beings to ever walk on a diamond as a two time MVP?

The Hall of Fame is not a morality play, nor is it an analytical exam. We may never know the whole truth about the Sheffield Case, just as we are unlikely to ever know how reliable 1940’s defensive metrics actually were.

There are many of us who really cared this week when the HOF ballot arrived in the mail, and will probably change our mind dozens of times before it gets mailed back. But think about this: we have no idea what was legitimate and what was not about the election of our president. I care about Mussina, Hoffman, and Schilling getting 75 per cent of the vote, you may care about Edgar Martinez, but we know that while some do not agree with the results, the process is legitimate, it will not be hacked, and it will not change the course of human events.

Between now and the mailing of our ballots, we need to view The Hall stoically, recalling Ryan Holiday’s reminder that “those who know do not speak, and (too often) those who speak do not know.”

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Shohei Otani and Giancarlo Stanton are not dissimilar. Otani has asked every interested team—and as the biggest bargain of this off-season every team should be interested—to submit written essays on why their team is the best place for Otani to sign and develop as the next Babe Ruth or Willie Smith.

And with every Giancarlo Stanton rumor comes with warning label: this is going to be a long process, and the process will essentially ask every interested suitor to make Stanton a case for why their city, culture, team, and ballpark is the place he’d most like to play the next decade. The warning label also includes a reminder that this is not about the Marlins’s return. It is about Stanton’s move. He’s not going to a handyman’s delight; if he’s going to play for a mediocre team, let it be in a city he likes, a house he likes, with teammates he likes, and he doesn’t particularly care if ownership doesn’t care to know him or the fact that Giancarlo happens to be one of the best persons in the game. If they can’t afford him, why did they buy the team and launch yet another seven year itch with a scouting department whose last four high draft choices included three high school pitchers who didn’t pitch in 2017 and a Canadian high school DH.

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Long before he was traded by the Marlins with a bundle of international slot money for Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith, before he went to Boston College, Mike King was a Rhode Island high school pitcher who between his junior and senior year went to Yankee Stadium to participate in the Rivalry Classic game between East Coast high school kids at The Stadium and Fenway Park. Being a Yankee fan, King was a Yankee for the day, and after the game marveled at his place in the bullpen and all the food that was available.

He related to the coaches that he especially liked the bubble gum, and because it lost its taste so quickly, at one point he had seven or eight sticks in his mouth. He was asked what he did with such a huge ball of gum.

“I stuck it under the bench,” King replied. “I figured I’d get it when I get back there to the bullpen as a Yankee.”

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When the issue of whether or not the street that borders Fenway Park should be changed from Yawkey Way because of the club’s civil rights history before 1959 was raging, I suggested what once was Jersey Street before Yawkey Way be changed to Taylor Way, since John I. Taylor built the park and the Taylor Family exemplified civic responsibility in more than 100 years of owning The Boston Globe.

Ben Taylor, who was the managing editor of the paper before it was sold to the Times Corporation and is currently a prominent civic leader, points out that the family already has a street named after his family abutting Fenway Park. It seems Van Ness Street was so named by John I. Taylor, as it was his wife Daiy’s family name.

Comments

  1. Is it just me, or do you find it stupid that that we need this list of voters to tell us weather or not Barry Bond, or Arod, or Manny, or whoever are worth mentioning among the greatest baseball players in history. Because I will tell you one thing, my eyes may have only had access to the last 30 years, but in those 30 years I can say unequivocally that those men were the greatest hitters I have seen. Maybe there are some out there that want to deny me and others down the road of enjoying the fact that they saw such history in from their own eyes.

  2. I guess that is what upsets me the most. Look, I was there, don’t try to tell me that Barry Bond was not the closest thing to a perfect hitter that we have seen.

  3. I was there too, and don’t try to tell me he wasn’t a cheater.

  4. John Inferrera says:

    ‘before 1959″ is too kind to the Sox. I saw my 1st MLB gm at Fenway in 1956. After Pumpsie Green, I can only remember Earl Wilson as the token black until Joe Foy in ’66. Even as late as 1967, the Sox had a promotion at Winter Haven with a segregated restaurant; “hit a home run and win a steak dinner”. George Scott had to enter through the kitchen door and take it to go. The team did nothing to protest this racism. Even with Foy, Scott and Reggie Smith (and later Howard) the 67 Sox were the least integrated team.

  5. The 1989 world series was between the Giants and A’s and lasted only 4 games, interrupted by the earthquake. Not sure what the Pirates were doing that October, but it wasn’t playing Game 7 or the World Series.
    Also, Joe Morgan HAS advocated to baseball (Bud Selig) to reinstate Rose…which would lead one to believe reinstatement would lead to Rose being eligible for the Hall, not a big leap.

  6. Anyone who took HGH, regardless of whether or not they admitted to it – I think Andy Pettitte was one, maybe there are others – should NOT be included in this group, despite what Senator/Ambassador/member of the Red Sawx board Mitchell states in his report. He soiled his entire reputation with that ridiculously-skewed ‘research’, and his misunderstanding of the difference between speed, anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, and plain old recreational drugs was embarrassing. Watch any cable TV show these days, & you will see ads for an HGH oral tablet, marketed for healing & hair loss. “Safer and more effective than shots!” Sheesh.

    Maybe it will take those of us in the “Woodstock generation” to educate these dingbats on what drugs are healers, and what drugs add bulk to a body and trigger hormonal changes that shrink testicles and stimulate dormant cancer cells, and what drugs just plain take you on a trip. Until then, these guys, ballplayers and writers both, need to pour themselves a nice-tall-cool glass of STFU till they know what they’re talking about. Their ignorance, from the Hall officers to the small-town beat writers, is embarrassing.

  7. How about “Juhzee Street ?” That’s what it used to be, more or less.

    Mr. Gammons is right, the era that ran from the origin of the Bash Brothers to the demise of Bonds should be treated relative to itself. It was the best of major league baseball, warts and all, for its time period and should be treated as such.

    Dwight Evans belongs in somebody’s hall of fame.

  8. People have been sent to prison for crimes with much less evidence than the PED evidence. Saying so and so has tons of circumstantial evidence against them but no smoking gun would mean about 70% of criminals would be set free tomorrow. I wouldn’t give a scholarship to a student who cheated on tests but was otherwise straight A’s.

  9. Billy Buck says:

    Love your work Peter, but sometimes your Red Sox bias comes through! Find it very ironic that you leave out
    David Ortiz’s name as someone named in the Mitchell report, but include Andy Pettite’s! Time to stop giving
    Otiz the free pass!!!

    • John Inferrera says:

      Ortiz was NOT named in the Mitchell Report. A number of years later one of the NY newspapers claimed they had an unnamed source with NY law enforcement that claimed Ortiz was one of the players that made up the 5%+ that tested positive in the 2005 confidential testing that led to the first MLB drug policy. Many found this strange because: 1. the samples were suppose to have no names attached; 2. the unnamed source was with “NY law enforcement”; 3. no other players were named from this testing although more than 5% were reported to have tested positive for “some illegal unidentified substance”; 4. MLB stated they did NOT have a list of names or substances, only the raw numbers.

  10. Arod,

    Gammons said the Pirates were in the 1979 World Series game 7, not 1989!! A mistake was made but it wasn’t by Gammons. 🙂

  11. Don Sampson says:

    Who am I to disagree with Peter Gammons? Oh well just a fan. Bonds, Clemons and many others, verified or unverified PED users, were among the best players in their time. As such they belong in the HOF. Put that on their plaque bio.

  12. Always respect Peter but can’t completely agree with Mr. Gammons and Mr. Morgan here. Players were popping’ greenies and other amphetamines for decades, including Joe Morgan’s 1970’s era and prior. Today’s players down Red Bull like it’s water. So coffee and Red Bull are legal but were greenies ever legal? Seems to me using amphetamines (legal or not) is only marginally different from PED use. Who draws the line on that continuum? I agree anyone who definitively tested + for PEDs post 2005 (Manny) should not be in the Hall because it was clearly banned, just like I think Rose should never be in the Hall; Mr. Rose passed under a sign each day he entered the clubhouse detailing the ban on gambling.

  13. Jeff Ganeles says:

    Peter…how can any player tarnished by PED issues be kept out of the HOF after Bud Selig was indicted…er…inducted??? His tacit approval was the biggest blot of all against baseball!

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