Sunday, November 19, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Steroid-era players no longer automatic outs for some Hall of Fame voters

RECOMMENDED READING


For veteran Baseball Writers' Association of America members with the immense privilege of Hall of Fame votes, there have become two absolute truths:

One, no matter how much time, thought, research, philosophical wrangling, intellectual tradeoffs and increasingly sinuous line drawing, and redrawing, we do, we are never quite sure we got it right.

And two, once we tweet, blog or post to Facebook (or even share with our friends, brothers and wives), we are quickly told how absurd, asinine and awful our ballots are. Then they move on to the B-words.

That immediate "You don't agree with me so you're an idiot" response has become part of the process for us voters who have opted for transparency in revealing our ballots and, in some cases, our thought processes.

That won't change when this year's results are released Wednesday night, no matter if there is one inductee or even a stunning five (Jeff Bagwell, Vlad Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez) — as a sampling of nearly half the approximate 450 ballots suggests, that's possible — with 75 percent needed for election.

But there is something considerably different this year in the voting totals: increasing support for players associated with the steroids era.

Not enough, not yet anyway, for poster boy-candidates Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to get in, but building and trending in that direction, as those early results show them making 20 percent gains from their mid 40 totals. Mike Piazza, long rumored though never proven, got in last year. Bagwell and Rodriguez, similarly tainted with doubt — fairly or unfairly — are looking likely this year.

Why? How?

Among myriad theories, some common themes emerge:

• The December committee vote to induct former commissioner Bud Selig is seen by some as an endorsement of that era, in that he was in charge and didn't do enough — initially anyway, Bud, settle down — to address the issue. (Similarly, that Piazza was somewhat of a pioneer in that the door, which undoubtedly allowed in previous users we didn't know of, was opened wider.)

• Though some voters remain staunchly opposed to any player even remotely suggested to have used, there is, through natural evolution (and some voter-eligibility tightening), a bloc of younger/newer balloters who are more open-minded and see those candidates, and their performance, as reflective.

• Related, that with the perspective of time, voters adapt to the philosophy that the Hall is a museum to record what the game was, not a cathedral to reflect what some wish it were.

As I've written annually, my admittedly very squiggly line has me voting for players who are suspected, tainted and even generally acknowledged to have used, such as Bonds, Clemens and previously Mark McGwire, but did not fail a test, were not caught. I won't — at least not yet — vote for those who were busted, which this year now means leaving off Manny Ramirez, who otherwise is arguably one of the game's most proficient hitters.

Another point worth making is voters are allowed to change their minds. The "gotcha" mentality among the social media monitors promulgates hypocrisy, but being open-minded and willing to reconsider should be considered qualities for voters with this responsibility.

That said, I voted for the first time this year for Raines. No, that wasn't because he had a good 2016 season. Yes, it was in part, at least sub­consciously, because it was his final year of eligibility.

With my ballot — limited in previous years by the Rule of 10 — cleared a bit, I was willing to revisit his statistics, impact on the game and extent to which he dominated his era, my hallmarks for induction.

While not suddenly transforming into a Raines truther, after a fresh, detailed look aided but not misled by sabermetric tools, I felt good enough — or thought I felt good enough — to check his box.

Even with "Tampa guys" Fred McGriff and Gary Sheffield on my ballot — remember, it is my ballot — I had one more spot. I took further looks at Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina, two certainly worthy candidates, but turned in a ballot with only nine names. I've heard a few complaints.

So, a third truth: No matter how much things change, the Hall of Fame debate will always rage.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

     
Comments
Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

After collecting intelligence at last week’s GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of n...
Published: 11/18/17
Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

The Rays completed the reorganization of their coaching staff by giving Rocco Baldelli the title of major league field coordinator.In being promoted from first-base coach, Baldelli will implement ideas and information from the staff, while assisting ...
Published: 11/17/17
Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays were banking on pitcher Alex Cobb declining their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer based on the lure of a longer-term and more lucrative deal elsewhere as a free agent.With that decision official Thursday, now the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

LAKE BUENA VISTA — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t want to talk Thursday about what might happen if the current effort to build the Rays a new stadium at the Ybor City site falls through."I’m more focused on working with the community to figure o...
Published: 11/16/17
A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

Here is a message from RHP Alex Cobb after he officially left the Rays Thursday in declining their one-year, $17.4-milllion qualifying offer to seek a bigger and longer pact elsewhere:"Getting to this point in my career is truly bittersweet."Twelve y...
Published: 11/16/17
UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE, 5:01: Cobb did not accept the offer by the deadline, as expected.DEVELOPING: Sometime before today's 5 p.m. deadline, the Rays will get official word that their $17.4-million slight gamble on Alex Cobb paid off.The Rays made the free-agent ri...
Published: 11/16/17
As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

Presuming Alex Cobb declines the Rays’ one-year, $17.4-million qualifying offer by 5 p.m. today, he has pitched his last game for Tampa Bay.Cobb has received preliminary interest from "lots of teams" already, agent Dan Horwits said. The Cubs and Twin...
Published: 11/16/17
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made clear Thursday that identification of a site for a new Rays stadium is merely the first step for area leaders to show they want to keep the team long-term and that there needs to "consistent forward movement" on the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said Wednesday that the team is "genuinely excited" about the proposed Ybor City site for a new stadium and more than "cautiously optimistic" the project can be completed. But ...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17

Rays journal: No big deals at GM meetings, but possible groundwork laid

By MARC TOPKINLAKE BUENA VISTA — Rays officials left the GM meetings without making any big deals — such as trading Alex Colome or Chris Archer to the Cardinals — but more knowledgeable about the possibilities. "Expectations were to utilize these few...
Published: 11/15/17