Week of January 29, 2021

Oh My God, Please Stop the Baseball HOF Argument

The 2021 Hall of Fame voting was announced this week, with no players receiving the necessary 75%. Curt Schilling came closest, with 70% – but a number of voters have publicly or privately said they will not vote for him, due to the hateful and divisive things he says on Twitter. Barry Bonds and Roger Clements pulled in just over 60%, with a large section of the electorate still refusing to vote for anyone connected to steroids. Each of those three men have one year of election eligibility left, before they are inevitably inducted by the Veteran’s Committee in 2027.

Anticipating that news, Ray Ratto hit us with a vintage Ratto column: 

“[…T]he notion that the once-hallowed act of putting a check mark in a box next to the name of a baseball player, putting the paper upon which those names reside in a prepaid envelope and shipping it to a suburb of Valhalla, is now viewed by some as an immeasurably onerous burden. … The problem here is the same as it’s always been. It isn’t an honor because voters haven’t been named priests of baseball and should stop acting like it, and it isn’t a hassle because the envelope with the ballot inside weighs an ounce, and mailboxes are always open. Work midnight-to-eight shoving crates of canned hams at a warehouse store with a balky forklift, then come talk about hassles.

He’s exactly right. Anyone calling this a burden is out of touch with reality. The issue is the stupid “character clause” included in HOF ballots. No other sport has this, and no other sport has these obnoxious debates. As Ratto so aptly puts it:

“Apparently baseball thinks it builds character by virtue of its very existence, and cures people who lack it. It doesn’t. It makes money convincing people that a stick and a ball are more fun to watch than Meet The Press. It has embraced some chemical cheats and not others, some brigands and not others, and some malignant provocateurs. Baseball, quite frankly, couldn’t give a toss about who it hires, enriches, or glorifies, and never ever has. If it lucks into an exemplar of nobility like Henry Aaron, it is perfectly happy to take credit for him years after the fact, and that’s about the end of it. Baseball didn’t give Henry Aaron character. Aaron gave character to baseball.” 

This is spot on. Baseball is entertainment, not a bastion of good morality. It’s not just that there are already terrible people in the Hall of Fame, though there are. It’s not just that these guys should be in the Hall of Fame, though they should. What’s aggravating is the ratcheting up of the emotions and rhetoric – with baseball writers acting like the vanguard of a non-existent past, fans getting so angry they are lashing out against those same writers, and former players throwing public temper tantrums, all culminating in this absolute lunacy put out by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci:

The opening footsteps, followed by that dramatic music. And then that first line: “The weight of history in your hands is heavy, even when it is but one piece of paper.” LOLLLOLOLOLOLOLOL. TOM. C’MON. Absolute lunacy! It’s a freaking museum of good baseball players. But this is what it has come to. This video is the apex…or the nadir. Whichever it is, it must stop here. Because next year there are two newly-eligible players that just might light Baseball Twitter on fire: Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. I am crying just thinking about it. Just elect the best baseball players, period. -TOB

Source: The Hall Of Fame’s Problem Is Baseball,” Ray Ratto (01/25/2021)

PAL: I’ve said it last year when we no doubt posted about the same debate, and I’ll say it again. We can tell the history of the game—including Bonds, Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Pete Rose, and others who cheated the game—but a bust for them isn’t required. To me, that’s a fair punishment for breaking the rules of the game: they are included in the museum, but they don’t need to be inducted.

I can’t stand Curt Schilling, but his hateful form of politics have nothing to do with the game he played. His shortcomings have nothing to do with his time on the field; the same cannot be said for Bonds, Clemens, ARod, and Pete Rose. 

The other side of the argument is clearly much cleaner—put the best players in—but I never understood why people are so passionate about taking up a cause for Barry Bonds of Roger Clemens. Ratto helped me out in that regard: it’s not so much about the players but about the process of writers, especially a writer that would be a part of that ridiculous video, playing the judge one last time over a baseball player. There’s a power play at hand here. 

I think Schilling should be elected, and I despise him. I think Bonds and Clemens should be out because they took PEDs after it was banned, and I think if Alex Rodriguez gets in (busted not once, but twice for PEDs), then he’s PR agency should win a big award. I think what Pete Rose did was worse than all of these morons, baseball-wise. All of their names and images and statistics should be recorded for all of history, and so should their baseball crimes.

TOB: We disagree on this so strongly it’s hilarious. In fact, I read an article this week by Michael Baumann who made a very strong case that what Clemens and Bonds *allegedly* did shouldn’t disqualify them, because it’s just baseball – a game, entertainment – but that Schilling’s hateful and abhorrent rhetoric since he retired should disqualify him because what kind of world is it where some guys who may have taken some substances to make them play better are punished, but a guy who cheers on the insurrection at the Capitol gets rewarded? Here’s Baumann:

In the broadest sense of “integrity, sportsmanship, character,” steroid use isn’t especially condemnatory. Particularly when it happened in an era when PED use was not only an open secret, but tacitly condoned by league officials and the media. It’s a penny-ante sin—punishable, but hardly unforgivable. Schilling, though, who earned a voice because of his excellence on the baseball diamond, has espoused a doctrine of hate at a time when American democracy is wobbling like a chair with three legs. If baseball players are to be denied Hall of Fame membership for reasons of character, surely Schilling’s rhetoric qualifies.

I hope—perhaps naively—that recent events cause us to think purposefully about what we valorize, encourage, and tolerate. About who gets elevated, and how, and what message that sends. About the distinction between a great ballplayer and a great person. 

And so while I think it’s easier to just let the best players in, I also agree with Baumann here. If you’re going to pick how to apply the character clause, then whether the character issues affected the field of play should have no bearing. As Baumann asks: who do we want to valorize? Is it the guy who took steroids and now uses his money and platform who help people (When the balloting was released this year “Bonds was on hand to present a $15,000 check from the Barry Bonds Family Foundation to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley Food Distribution. The money should help feed around 800 families.”)? Or is it the guy helping to whips crowds into a dangerous frenzy that threatened to destroy our society? 

PAL: Fair point. I just feel like it’s about the game. When considering a someone for the Hall of Fame, I think it makes sense to consider their contribution to the game, and how they played it/coached it, etc. 

Should we just copy & paste this exchange next year? 

Tap The Breaks, Mike

I was a journalism major for a short time in college. Like every other sports junkie who liked to read, I figured I’d be a sportswriter. I worked for the school newspaper, and the first time I doubted if I wanted to be a sportswriter was when I found myself waiting outside the basketball locker room to interview the head coach after a drubbing. The idea of walking into the locker room – the same locker room we used on the baseball team (this wasn’t the ACC, folks) – to ask a coach why his team sucked so bad that night just didn’t appeal to me. Just like it didn’t appeal to me the last time I was faced with asking the same coach of the same bad team why his team lost Colorado School of Mines (The Orediggers, naturally) or Morningside. 

I did not want to ask a coach about the game, which was an issue if I wanted to be a sportswriter. I switched my major to English by sophomore year. 

With that anecdote in mind, I share this story from our old favorite, Barry Petchesky. He tells us about a student reporter asking the walking legend, Mike Krzyzewski a question in a post-game conference. 

First off, it needs to be said that this kid is covering Duke basketball, a very different beast than my moonlighting as the Augustana Vikings basketball reporter. To his credit, the kid asks Coach K a straightforward and fair question after a loss dropped the iconic Duke program to .500 this year. Coach K is a complete dick in his response, and I love how Pertchesky takes this opportunity to tell the kid that he didn’t do anything wrong, that coaches are really good at avoiding questions and talking down to people. 

Jake, maybe you’re reading this (if you want a free Defector subscription, hit me up). Your question was fine! It might have been just vague enough to allow Krzyzewski to dodge with that last non-answer, about moving onto the next game, but coaches are wily like that; they can almost always find that escape route. But the question was, by the standards of whether it drew an interesting response, indisputably a very good one. Krzyzewski is just a dick, or was having a bad day, or both. A valuable thing you learn quickly, if you’re any sort of decent journalist, is that these coaches aren’t legends; they’re just men.

Here’s the video of the post-game question and answer: 

We’ve missed you, Barry! – PAL 

Source: Coach K Decides Maybe He Shouldn’t Have Belittled Student Reporter”, Barry Petchesky, Defector (01/25/21)

How Much Does it Cost to Raise a D-1 QB?

This is not exactly a “new” story idea – how far will some parents go to raise their child to be a star quarterback – but there are some specifics in here that are eye-popping. For example, this accounting from Alabama quarterback Bryce Young’s dad on what they spent to get their son to this spot:

Craig Young is doing some tablecloth math.

“We’ll just average the QB coach to $100 a week, which is on the low end,” he says. “That’s $400. We’ll add another $100 for speed and weight training. Let’s say that’s $800 to $1,000 a month on training. So we could say about $1,000 a month on training. So if we add that up to a year, that’s going to be about $12,000.”

That total doesn’t include the $300-500 fee for the seven-on-seven teams Bryce played on or the registration fees for participation in youth football, most notably the Inland Empire Ducks, which Bryce led to a national championship as an eighth-grader. It doesn’t include travel costs to camps, tournaments, games and, later, unofficial campus visits.

Craig Young estimates that his family spent upwards of $15,000 a year on football training and participation for Bryce, with most of that spending coming during his high school years, and some in middle school.

What inspired Craig to drop roughly $75,000 for this? 

Bryce had only been playing football for two years, but as his father, Craig, watched him perform week after week in the YMCA Leagues of Pasadena, Calif., he came to believe his son was special.

The way Bryce intuitively sidestepped defenders and delivered throws, the way the ball came off his hand, Craig just knew it: His boy was a prodigy.

It was decided. Bryce “was going to be a quarterback,” Craig said. And that felt less like a position they picked for him and more like one that had chosen Bryce. It was destiny.

At the time, Bryce was 5 years old.

That is such a funny anecdote, and such funny writing. Nice set-up and delivery. I will say, as a father to an athletically-precocious 6-year old, I understand Craig’s feeling. But man, someone kick me in the ass if I start spending that kind of cash on training for him over the next twelve years. Or if I spend FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS to send him to an athletic powerhouse private high school, like UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s mother did. Instead, parents should take our cues from Eric Nelson, father of 4* high school sophomore QB Malachi Nelson:

When Malachi Nelson, a highly-touted quarterback prospect in the 2023 recruiting class was younger, his father, Eric, would receive calls from QB trainers who charged $100 a session, but he couldn’t afford to hire them. Instead of playing for the Inland Empire Ducks, as Young and Georgia QB J.T. Daniels did, Malachi played for his neighborhood Pop Warner team, the Garden Grove Bulldogs, a cheaper option.

Until Malachi was 12 or so, Eric trained his son himself.

“I did everything I could not to mess him up,” says Eric, a pastor.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to me about this article is that the QB training guru industry has become so flooded that prices have been driven down:

In the past, a quarterback like Malachi Nelson, even as he got older and his talent became undeniable, might have not had access to the quarterbacking machine that hones young prospects. Quarterbacks from low-income families were priced out. But the proliferation of quarterback trainers across Southern California and the rest of the country has driven down prices and has led some tutors to scholarship prospects, training them for free or close to it as a way to raise their own profiles.

So, don’t drop $15,000 a year for 5 years creating your own Todd Marinovich. Instead, remember the lessons of Malachi Nelson and his father:

Despite starting his QB specialization much later than most elite prospects, Malachi Nelson has offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, and other blue-blood programs like Texas, USC and Penn State.

“You have this clock in your head and you think if you’re not getting things done early, you’re behind,” Craig Young says. “Having gone through it, I realize that’s a self-inflicted urgency and you just really want to focus on getting better, improving and playing well. If you do all those things, it will happen.”

I mean, maybe it will. But if it doesn’t, you wouldn’t have wasted your money like a fool. -TOB

Source: The Cost of Raising a Blue-Chip QB: ‘God Dang, That is a Lot of Money’,” Antonio Morales, The Athletic (01/27/2021)

PAL: When I kick you in the ass, just remember you asked me to do it.  

Always a very good sign TOB and I have not only posted a link to the same story, but also pulled out the same quote. That’s what happened here (we both had the anecdote about the kindergartener sidestepping a defender. 

In all seriousness, I can understand it might be a hard balance to find between supporting your child’s ambition and encouraging them to “dare to be great” and suffocating them with your ambition for them.

Tom Brady’s Playoff Weakness: Mostly Very Average QBs

H/T to Jack Loflin for this one. Yahoo Sports ran down the list of QBs that have beat the GOAT in the playoffs. It’s a pretty funny list. Before you look, how many can you name? A beer on me for anyone that gets at least 6/7 (honor system, you morons). Click through to the story to check your work. – PAL 

Source: Who are the 7 QBs to Have Beaten Tom Brady in the Playoffs? Let’s Rank a Weird List”, Frank Schwab, Yahoo (01/28/21)

TOB: No cheating, I swear: Eli, obviously. Peyton. I believe Jake Plummer got him. Joe Flacco for sure. Oh uh the Titans QB last year – Tannehill! Man, I’m so close. OH, FOLES. Boom, I’ll take a beer. But…who is number 7? *clicks link* LOLLLL wow. Forgot about that one.

Video of the Week – Thank you to my buddies for the Hrbek Cameo!

Tweet of the Week

Hawk is 52. He was the first person to land a 900, and that was over 20 years ago.

Song of the Week: John Prine – “I Remember Everything”

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I think I’m basically a good person, but I’m going to try to make him cry. 

-Oscar Nunez