Big O Tires

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

The Baseball Hall of Fame becomes yesterday’s news Friday, as it always does. Three months of buildup, one day to announce the names, one day to castigate the voters for their willfully negligent slights, and then nine months of hibernation.

So much for the concept of “joining the immortals.”

But at least Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez never have to go through this annual pageant of nonsense again.

Barry Bonds does, though, and so does Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent, so does Curt Schilling. They are the new litmus strips for the Hall, and they will more than replace Raines (voter ignorance division) and Bagwell (presumption of guilt with evidence division) for self-involved debate.

And in that adjusted role from doomed outsiders to serious candidates, Bonds and Clemens – and to a lesser extent again, Schilling – have become invaluable to the Hall, and their eventual election and induction will reduce the Hall’s ability to inflame passions outside the seamhead community.

On a day when Bagwell and Raines finally cleared the 75 percent threshold and Bonds and Clemens moved from 45 percent to 53.8 and 54.1 percent, respectively, the Hall of Fame Debating And Chowder Society saw the end times for its power as a multi-month debate-churner.

The blatherers are dead, long live the blatherers.

An entire mini-industry of Hall watchers has been spawned, in part by the now-feted Ryan Thibodaux and his exit polling but also by the debates about what the Hall should be and who should get to decide it. It has made days like Wednesday event viewing when it hadn’t been for years. For that, the Hall owes Bonds and Clemens a debt that the powers inside Major League Baseball wishes it didn’t have to pay. But the day they are inducted is the day that PEDs die as a debating point. The answer will have been provided, and there will be no more need for discussion.

Worse yet, the BBWAA’S new voter transparency rules may unfortunately impact our pal Thibodaux, whose seminal work in this understudied area of social science undermined ballot secrecy. In short, if everyone has to fess up, the desperate need to know early returns may dry up.

Oh, there will always be the day of post mortem-ization, as those who didn’t clear the threshold are subject to a few rounds of the popular parlor game, “Who Got Snubbed, And The Tedious And Half-Informed Reasons Why.”

For instance, the big debating point from today’s results will not be about Raines and Guerrero getting in, but what happened to the Bonds and Clemens votes. People have already postulated that a lot of the jump in their respective votes can be directly linked to Bud Selig’s election from the Veterans Committee. Voters who had previously ridden the Hall-as-temple argument suddenly lost their raison d’etre and realized that the PED problem was an industry matter rather than a greedy players’ matter.

In short, they saw Selig getting in as tacit approval that the PED issue was no longer a moral one in baseball but a cynical one, a way to blame labor for management’s culpability. That is an irony whose existence Selig will almost surely deny, but it’s there anyway, and it represents one more non-glacial change in a system that has been nearly immovable for most of its existence.

The next change, of course, may be removing the vote from the BBWAA and turning it over to a more malleable panel of “experts” who may not skew as young and values-neutral as the BBWAA of the future seems to be heading. That course may be hastened if/when Bonds and Clemens are elected, because halls of fame in their more traditional role have been more about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, and a large and shifting electorate makes that harder to accomplish.

The argument against such a course, though, is that the current system of three months of fevered public debate about the same old stuff works for the Hall’s sense of its importance. I mean, MLB Network and its fetish for shrill argument only has so much reach.

By Friday, though, all of this will revert to its typically inert state. Bonds, Clemens (ATALE Schilling), PEDs, morality, practicality, secrecy, old voter/young voter – all of it will fade back into insignificance.

And in a year or two or maybe three, Bonds and Clemens will wipe it all out by being included in the one club that we once knew would never tolerate their presence, and the Hall Of Fame’s Golden Age Of Shrieking Argument will end.

In a weird and largely unpleasant way, it will be missed.

Hall of Fame voters' biggest issue: Do they work for the job or the sport?

Hall of Fame voters' biggest issue: Do they work for the job or the sport?

With Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, and maybe even Trevor Hoffman about to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, we have re-entered the hellish debates about who should vote, and why they should vote, and whether needles are good or bad and whether both are trumped by cashing the checks those needles made possible and why being transparent about their votes is good and why being transparent about their votes is actually bad.
 
In other words, the Hall of Fame isn’t actually about players any more. It’s about the voters.
 
The Danes call this “rampant narcissism.”
 
We have danced around this central fact for years now, hiding behind debates about performance enhancing drugs and the profiting thereof, voting limits and their degree of strangling artificiality, and the new writers vs. the old veterans, and who should be vilified, justifiably or otherwise, by whom.
 
Yay hatred by proxy!
 
But the process arguments ultimately aren’t the central point here. The argument is really about something more basic.
 
Are voter/journalists supposed to help enhance the mythology of the sport, or dispassionately tell its story? Who are they working for when they vote?

To that end, every vote tells a story well beyond the names checked off or the blank ballots submitted. One man, Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs, to you), has been invaluable in delving into the voting minutiae from the growing number of voters who release their opinions early. But, and he’ll admit this if you strike him often enough, that’s still a process discussion, and the core of the debate is found elsewhere.
 
Baseball writers are like football writers and basketball writers and hockey writers and curling writers and blah-blah-blah-de-blah-blah, in that they are prone to love the sports they cover beyond their journalistic mandate. That’s probably true of most journalists in most fields, but baseball has the Hall of Fame outlet to allow this internal debate to play itself out before our faces.
 
So the question becomes whether their votes are the representation of dispassionate analysis, or a defense of the mythos of the sport and the concept of the Hall itself. Boiled down to its essence, who are the voters defending here, the sanctity of the myth, or the ugliness of the reality?
 
The answer, as it usually is, is, “Depends on who you talk to.”
 
Hall of Fame debates usually lump all voters into one amorphous blob, a level of lazy and stupid thinking that should in a more perfect world be punishable by death. Okay, we kid. Life on a Louisiana prison farm, with parole after 25 years.
 
In fact, voters cover a fairly wide swath of opinion, and for whatever perceived shortcomings they might have, there are enough of them (about 450) to be a fairly accurate measure of the diaspora of baseball opinion across social, cultural, sporting and chronological lines.
 
But the argument about whether an individual voter feels more responsible to the job he or she is paid to do or to the game he or she covers as part of that job remains largely unconsidered, or at the very least masked by other considerations.
 
This manifests itself all the way down to the hot-pocket word “cheating.” Baseball is about cheating, and about honor. It’s about racism, and trying to overcome it. It’s about greed, and selflessness. It’s a sport, and it’s a business. It’s America, in all its glorious and hideous manifestations. To employ “cheating” as a word is in itself dishonest, and given that everyone got rich off the PED era and kept all the money they made makes PED use a de facto workplace condition approved by management and labor.
 
That may be unsavory, and it certainly is illegal without a proper doctor’s prescription, but because by their inaction the owners decided not to punish it (and in fact chose to reward it with contracts and extensions for users even after testing was instituted), it isn’t “cheating.”
 
And even if that argument doesn’t heat your rec room, it isn’t the role of the writer to punish it. It is the role of the writer to reveal it by journalism means, but that’s where the journalist’s role ends. The people who ran baseball took the journalism, acknowledged it, and did nothing until it ramped up detection and did little other than blame the union for a failing that both sides share equally.
 
So in the end, Raines’ votes or Barry Bonds’ votes or Curt Schilling’s votes or Edgar Martinez’ votes are fun to debate, but they aren’t the issue. It’s whether the voters think when they sit down and confront their ballot every year who exactly they’re working for – the job, or the sport.
 
And yes, I vote. Voted for the maximum 10. You’ll find out tomorrow the contents of my ballot. Then you can make that a process story, too.

Warriors send strong statement, show where they stand in rivalry with Cavs

Warriors send strong statement, show where they stand in rivalry with Cavs

As a statement in rebuttal to Christmas Day, the Golden State Warriors told the Cleveland Cavaliers, “See you back here on June 1.”
 
And they stated it with authority, for all the good it will matter come June.

Monday’s 126-91 dope-slapping of the Cavs, replete though it might have been with DrayBron Round 3, serves only as a talking point for Joe Lacob at Tuesday’s new arena groundbreaking ceremony and as a game for everyone to forget when these two teams next meet, mostly likely in the NBA Finals for a nearly unprecedented third consecutive time. 
 
The last time it has happened in any professional sport, since you didn't ask, was 1952-54 with the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. Richard Jefferson was born shortly thereafter.
 
Long-term, though, Monday’s curb-stomping has little carryover value. The Warriors have stomped the Cavs and been stomped by them since this series became must-see entertainment two years ago – yes, even against the cultural degradation of The Bachelor. They all serve as prelude to the next game, no matter how long the wait.

But the search for statements never ends, and if there was one, it was that when fully engaged on defense and in transition, the Warriors are downright evil.
 
Or, to steal the phrase off Steve Kerr’s chest, “SPIRITUAL GANGSTERS,” which we presume is T-shirt for “Find the path of eternal peace and contentment or I’ll put a cap in your hinder.”
 
The most demonstrative Warrior of all was Draymond Green, whose triple double (11/13/11) was more than enhanced by his plus-43 (tying a career high) and highlighted by his professional foul on a breaking James midway through the second quarter. Green cut off his path to the basket shoulder first, dropping James like wet laundry and causing great anger and consternation among the customers. Green was called for a flagrant foul (category 1: no evacuation needed) and a technical foul, but exempting the view of James laying face-down on the floor that created exaggerated cries of felony flopping, the decision was just.
 
“I fouled him to stop the break,” Green said impishly, “and he went down. The aftermath – I told RJ to get out of my face. It was just in the heat of the moment, I think . . . having some fun, nothing dangerous.”
 
“It was definitely a hard foul,” Klay Thompson affirmed. “I think anyone would have gone down if Draymond’s running at you that fast fouling you like that. It was a good hard foul. He probably warranted a Flagrant 1.”
 
Well, if you’re into message-sending and all that, sure, but the messaging had been delivered by then. The Cavs may have been coming off three days’ rest on the West Coast and at the end of a road trip, but that doesn’t explain a 35-point beatdown. Each of of the Warriors starters – Green, Thompson, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Zaza Pachulia – plainly outplayed their Cleveland counterparts – James, Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love – and the Warrior bench was far better than Cleveland’s.
 
In short, 126-91 was an accurate representation of the evening. A very accurate representation indeed.
 
“We wanted to win,” said the Spiritual Gangster Kerr. “We weren’t happy with our Cleveland game on Christmas Day, and any time you are facing a team that you know is one of the best in the league, you are going to be up for it. We were definitely up for it. You could tell we had a lot of good energy and played a really good game.”
 
Gangster understates his position here, as the entire game was WATB – Warriors At Their Best. They burst from the anthem quickly, put a foot on the Cavaliers before they could make the game interesting and kept it there throughout. While some folks wanted to make the Green-James collision the linchpin of the result (and it did energize the torqued-up crowd), the Warriors were already ahead, 52-35, and the Cavs never got within 14. By the half, they were down 29 and stayed there.
 
To further accentuate the energy the Warriors brought to their task of redressing the pregame narrative of a 34-6 team wracked with doubts, they outrebounded Cleveland, 58-35, allowing the Cavs only seven offensive rebounds on 57 misses. They had 10 steals and 11 blocks, and outscored the Cavs 37-13 on fastbreak points. And while the Cavs were hammered comprehensively from the top of the roster down, James’ minus-32 is the second worst of his entire career, playoffs included.
 
In short, the Warriors view this as a very real rivalry no matter what James may say in his passive-aggressive moments, and they had a run of losses and the mockery of a nation with which to deal.
 
“Oh, it’s definitely a rivalry,” Green said with that smile he uses to break people’s wills. “Just me, though. I don’t know about anyone else. But it’s definitely fun.”
 
Nor, frankly, does he care much, as you may have gathered in your time paying attention to him.
 
Besides, it’s a long time until June 1, and there are miles for both teams to walk before that happens, if it happens at all.
 
And yes, please let it happen.