You're killing me, Rick Telander

>> Wednesday

Typically, I don't do New Years resolutions. I think they're kinda stupid, as is the big fuss over New Years in general. But this year, I came up with a whole list. They are, in order:

1. Go to church more often.
2. Quit lying about how often I go to church.
3. Save Darfur.
4. Stop sitting with my hands in my pants in the company of others.
5. Quit wearing Starburys to work.
6. Learn how to use chopsticks.
7. Learn how to use, and acquire, a handgun.
8. Meet a girl.
9. Get married.
10. Have a child.
11. Cheat on my wife and have an illegitimate child with that woman.
12. Quit stealing other bloggers' schtick and keep my promise to Paul that I will no longer write bold face-plain text responses to sports columnists.

Well, I may still learn how to use chopsticks before the year is through, but you can consider No. 12 crossed off because Rick Telander of Chicago's most respected paper, The Sun Times, had to write this:

No erasing empty feeling
This non-vote is not frivolous. Instead, a blank Hall of Fame ballot sums up what the Steroid Era has done to my feelings about baseball

First of all, I can't believe that entire thing is his subtitle. It has a period for chrissake.

I look at my 2008 Hall of Fame ballot with sadness. That's a photocopy of it on the right, and as you can see,

Funny how it wasn't included in the online version.

other than my name, signature and Baseball Writers' Association of America card number, it's unmarked.

I'll take your word for it.

I voted for no one.

Ok, fair enough. You didn't see anyone on the ballot whose career was Hall of Fame-worthy. Personally, I disagree, but you're entitled to your opinion.

I didn't mail my ballot. The stamp is still good.

Sweet... Can I have it? My cable bill's due tomorrow.

The Steroid Era has taken the wind out of my sail.

Oh no... You didn't. Please don't start.

I am weary of the constant insult brought on by doping and stupidity and head-in-the-sand-ism and Bonds-ish arrogance and Clemens-ian tape-recording and duplicity of all manner and the way this has chipped away at the edifice of the wondrous American sport of baseball.

Cut this shit out. The game of baseball--and every sport, for that matter--has always, always had some kind of scandal or unsettling trend or "cheating" or general shadiness looming over it. Players taking payoffs, a manager gambling on his own team, racial segregation, juiced balls, corked bats, etc, etc, etc. There was no Golden Age. No enchanted forest. No Walden. No magic starship. No fairy princess. No Yellow Submarine...

Ok, I don't even know what I'm writing now.

I'm just human, folks.

No, you are deluded.

I didn't frivolously not vote.

I take this role seriously. Voting is an honor bequeathed by the BBWAA for at least 10 years of baseball writing.

Yes, it is an honor. An honor I'm not sure you deserve or should be allowed to retain if you're going to waste that vote every year by throwing up your hands and saying, "I can't vote for anyone because he might've been on steroids!" If that's your attitude, Mr. Telander, you seriously should relinquish your vote rather than penalizing every player on the ballot with your null vote dragging down their percentage.

I read the biographies of the 25 candidates in detail, studying numbers as intensely as an accountant.

Rich Gossage -- nine All-Star teams, 310 saves, 2.36 World Series ERA.

I'd like to imagine those were the only three numbers he had on Gossage and that he stared at them for hours on end, going, "Well, on the one hand... Hmmm... But on the other... Hmmm... But on the one hand..."

I'm delighted Goose was voted in Tuesday.

He deserved it.

Awesome... SO THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU VOTE FOR HIM?????

I voted for him in 2007.

Right, so it makes sense that you'd leave him off this year, despite the fact that he's been retired since 1994, and your opinion on him should effectively be the same from last year to this year. (Granted, I realize voters change their votes on guys from one year to the next all the time, but admittedly, it's a phenomenon that's never entirely made sense to me. It seems unnecessarily sadistic to not vote a guy just to make him wait for a bunch of years, even though you consider him deserving.)

But I couldn't be a part of it this year.

My steroid disgust blossomed into anger and decayed into a kind of defiant ennui.
Awesome. So basically what you're admitting is that the steroid stuff upset you, so instead of fulfilling your responsibility in spite of your emotions, you just took your ball and went home. You know what--I'm gonna start doing that at work. "Hey, Vinnie. Mind proofreading this report for me?" "I'm sorry, but I don't approve of the content therein, and it fills me with defiant ennui to even think of it. So--No, I will not."

The image of commissioner Bud Selig shrugging his shoulders, of Barry Bonds gazing smugly at a disappearing baseball, of congressmen asking star athletes if they knew anything about syringes and cycles -- all of it reached critical mass for me as I stared at my ballot.

I'm imagining these images cycling through his head, switching from one to the other faster and faster, with dissonant violins and the garbled, echo-y voices of Raffy Palmeiro and Donald Fehr playing in the background like in one of those movie scenes that ends with the tortured dreamer snapping or waking up in a heavy pant. In Rick Telander's case, it ended with him stabbing his ballot so hard with his pencil that he bored a hole straight through his desk. (And it's an oak desk, so that's all the more incredible.)

What do you do, Rick?

You wrote about steroids as far back as the late 1970s.

That's sort of... braggy, no?

Who is clean?

You sure?

Ok, we get what you're doing here, Rick and Evil Rick. Everyone on the ballot could have done steroids. Yet, if the Mitchell Report taught us anything, it's that--steroids or no steroids--Barry Bonds is still Barry Bonds, and F. P. Santangelo is still F. P. Santangelo.

Wanna be a sap one more time?

Voting in Tony Gwynn was not being a sap. His left arm could be made of steroids (not sure how that would be an advantage, but play with me here), and I would still have voted him.

I thought back to the games I had seen each candidate play.

Sentence/paragraph ratio of this column: ~1.04

I debated myself. I sifted my feelings about each man, about the intangibles

...Your first mistake.

that transcend numbers and make one worthy of immortality.

Just to remind you, Rick Telander--as it is clear this fact has escaped you, given your way-too-solemn attitude on the vote--election into the Hall of Fame doesn't grant a player actual immortality... just the pretend kind.

I saw Tommy John throw some mediocre games. But I saw him come back from radical elbow surgery that one day would be named after him.

I reeeally hope he swings that into an argument for voting him in.

Tommy John -- 288 wins -- was a pioneer.

What? A pioneer? He didn't invent the surgery.

He should be in the Hall.

I disagree.

Same with Andre Dawson, Lee Smith, Jim Rice and maybe Bert Blyleven.

I disagree on Rice, and I'm torn on Dawson and Smith, but that's neither here nor there.

What is here and these is: If you think these guys belong, WHY DIDN'T YOU SEND IN A BALLOT WITH THEIR NAMES ON IT???

But swollen Mark McGwire soils the ballot.

That is the stupidest bunch of cop-out bullshit I've ever heard. "Soils the ballot"? Come the fuck off it. I bet you're one of those people that sends back your entire entree at a restaurant if you find a hair on it, aren't you? Man, I hate people like that.

All the players starred in the 1980s, '90s and 2000s.

Actually, um, no. John and Blyleven--two of the players you believe should be in--had their best years in the '70s.

Do I know for a fact, say, that the slender, knee-ravaged, integrity-laced Dawson didn't 'roid up?

No. And you also don't know for a fact, say, that Joe DiMaggio didn't ever take a dive for a bookie or cork his bat or steal signs every at bat or wasn't part robot. It doesn't mean we should leave everyone out of the Hall just because we might elect some players who did things we consider cheating.

I'd bet my life Hawk didn't.

Ok, it doesn't matter how sure you are of something, that's not a very wise gamble.

No, I wouldn't.

Oh... kaay...

Not anymore. Not for anyone.

What if Tommy John made his comeback from that tendon grafting because of HGH?

I don't know about you, but I might call him a pioneer. A trail blazer, even. After all, wasn't it sort of cheating to have the surgery in the first place? The replacement tendon does make your arm stronger than it was pre-surgery. And major reconstructive arm surgery is just so unnatural.

Such is the ripple damage caused by the conveniently naive owners and hand-wringing commissioner Selig and a know-nothing players union led by the devilish Donald Fehr.

Major-league baseball wanted the thrill of stadiums lighting up again after the devastating strike and lockout of 1994, even if it was led by chemically enhanced, cheating freaks.

And here's its reward.

August 12, 1994 was a very sad day for me. I was only ten, but the sadness of that day still burns like gonorrhea. If you told me then that baseball would ignore a bunch of guys using steroids if it meant that baseball would be back the next season, I'd have said, "Ignore away!" And looking back, I don't feel any differently.

Having said that, I don't think the cause-effect he's trying to sell here is all that true.

Or, at least, here it is from me.

And you are very, very stupid. You should not have a vote if this is what you're going to do every year.

Roger Clemens tells us that he isn't concerned ''about the damned Hall of Fame.''

He angrily stares down writers and says, ''You keep your vote.''

Don't worry, Rocket.

If the Brian McNamee/Mitchell Report/congresssional testimony stuff doesn't turn out in your favor, seven Cy Young Awards or not, this writer wouldn't vote for you if frogs rained from the batting cage.

Dude, if frogs rained from the batting cage, I'd vote friggin' F. P. Santangelo in the Hall. (And he's never even been on the ballot!)

Roger Clemens deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, testimony, Brian McNamee, and frogs be damned.

Maybe next year I'll feel differently.



A) You'd better.

B) Why do you change your mind so much?

C) When does this column end?

But the nausea that pervades comes from the fact so many people in baseball -- players perhaps most of all -- told us for years to quit harassing everyone about steroids and quit making judgments without facts and quit acting like it's weird that a career athlete might peak in his late 30s or early 40s.

Everybody's innocent until proven guilty, we heard again and again.
And then they went right back to their dirty business.

As I said, I look at my ballot with sadness.

A little over-dramatic, no?

I have been to Cooperstown.

Hey! Me too!

And I can say unequivocally it is the most magical, enchanted village I have visited in this country.

What?! No it's not! I was, I think, thirteen when I went. Even being that young and as enchanted by baseball as any kid can be, I would still describe my recollection of Cooperstown as "little tourist trap that happens to have a kickass baseball museum and milks it to death."

Disneyland is a cartoon by comparison.

Cooperstown, hard by Otsego Lake, nestled in the Adirondacks, is nothing short of a genuine American fairy tale.

I think he's just copying sentences from an upstate New York AAA Motor Club book.

It is our past and our present, mortared by baseball. By heroes.

Oh my God, no. Not heroes. Young guys--not unlike the ones who play today nor unlike any young guy you pass on the street--who happened to be really good at hitting a ball with a bat, throwing a ball, and/or catching a ball. That's all. Young guys. Flawed human beings. Good at a sport.

''It's a shame these athletes are having to go though this,'' Gossage said Tuesday of the steroid mess. ''I don't live in a glass house. ... Maybe I would have done it, too, to compete.''

He went on.

''But something had to be done. Because the history of the game is so important.''

Why is baseball--or more accurately, the people who played and excelled at baseball--so utterly bloated with their own self-importance? Baseball is like my most favoritest thing ever, but seriously, you guys are living on another planet.

He is right.

History is important.

Which is why, in the end, I didn't vote.

But how is this any better than voting for guys without a caring if some of them used 'roids? Instead of unjustly exalting guys who may have "cheated," you'd prefer to penalize the guys who didn't by voting for no one.

I'm sorry. This just does not fly with me. I disagree a million times over.

This non-vote is not frivolous. Instead, a blank Hall of Fame ballot sums up what the Steroid Era has done to my feelings about baseball.

It's silly, short-sighted crap, and you are a bitter, sanctimonious fool.

6 comments:

Matt 12:03 AM  

1. Kudos on using "defiant ennui" as a tag.

2. Paraphrasing, but "Rice, Dawson and Smith" should all be in and "maybe Bert Blyleven?" Get the fuck out of town. Rice, Dawson, Smith: no, maybe, maybe. Blyleven? Shouldn't even be a question. In, absolutely in. I hate sportswriters.

3. If he's so pissed about steroids, why not just vote for guys that have no steroid cloud and write basically the same article about why you won't vote for McGwire? Personally, I'd vote for McGwire, but that's just me. I also would've had Gossage, Raines and Blyleven on my ballot.

4. Some guy voted for Todd Stottlemyre. How does THAT guy still get to vote?

Vinnie 9:34 AM  

Whenever I see a vote like that, I just assume it's like (in this case) the Toronto beat writer who just checks his name so he doesn't have the humiliation of being shut out. I remember a number of years back, I think it was Jim Deshaies who was lobbying to make sure he got one vote. I would think that's sort of common, especially among players who were buddy-buddy with one of their team's beat writers.

Me, I'd have been the guy voting for Dunston.

Anonymous,  2:32 PM  

Blyleven should never get in, each day that goes by without that guy in the hall is a good one. 287-250? Over 22 years? that works out to 13-11 for an average season. I understand that wins are goofy and prone to lucky breaks and weird anomolies but those shouldn't play much of a role in a 22 year career. Presumably all the bad breaks have been evened out by good ones after 22 years have come and gone. He played for pretty good teams most of the time and just consistently failed to win at anything above a slightly above average level. Slightly above average, over 22 years or not, is not Hall of Fame material.

Matt 7:33 PM  

Eh, I guess I can agree with you a little on the idea of bad breaks not evening out, but I don't know, it's a little too subjective and I'm not a fan of using wins as any sort of metric in any situation.

I will say this, that while his career W-L record isn't that great, the rest of his statistics, especially the ones that he had "control" over, are outstanding. Career, he's 2.7-1 K/BB, 118 ERA+ (3.31 career ERA, if that's your thing), pitched on 2 World Series champs (with a 4-1 career postseason record along with a 2.47 ERA if you're into 'clutch') and has a 1.198 career WHIP.

Consider this, though:

Player A: 287-250 Career W-L, 3.31 Career ERA, 118 Career ERA+, 1.198 Career WHIP.

Player B: 324-292 Career W-L 3.19 Career ERA, 111 Career ERA+, 1.247 Career WHIP.

Player A, as you can guess, is Blyleven. Player B is Nolan Ryan.

TheDukeofDank 11:17 PM  

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ScottyG,  5:23 PM  

"quit acting like it's weird that a career athlete might peak in his late 30s or early 40s."

Brett Favre thinks this man is a chode.

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