No one elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

For only the 8th time in history, no veteran ballplayer got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Not the one with the home run record for both a single season and for a career.  (That would be Barry Bonds.)   Not the pitcher with the third-highest strikeout total in history.  (That would be Roger Clemens.)  Not a slew of other players with better records than some of those already enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  Why not?  This is the steroid generation.  From sportswriter Tim Brown:

On a day when 569 voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America could not agree on a single worthy candidate, Barry Bonds, the greatest hitter in the game, fell short by 221 votes. Roger Clemens, the best pitcher of his generation, missed by 213.

The outcome will be viewed as overdue justice or an outrageous injustice, depending on your heart and timeline. The system worked or it is irretrievably broken. The ballot was a statement. Or an exercise in mass confusion, coupled with dereliction of duty.

Near the end, Hall president Jeff Idelson, a good man in a difficult spot, withdrew a white piece of paper from a serious-looking envelope, arched his eyebrow and announced the result: bupkis. I’m paraphrasing.

We knew we’d get here. The tepid candidacies of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro told us so. We didn’t know the degree to which it would leak into the wispier areas of innuendo, and neither Jeff Bagwell nor Mike Piazza cleared 60 percent. (Bonds and Clemens were under 40.)

via Judgment day: Steroid era dealt first big blow – Yahoo! Sports.

Is this “overdue justice or an outrageous injustice”?

Christian perfectionism

Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox pitched a perfect game last Saturday against the Seattle Mariners:  no hits, no runs, no walks.  He was only the 21st person in baseball history to achieve that feat.  It turns out that Humber is an outspoken Christian, like Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin.  See WORLDmag.com | Perfection | J.C. Derrick | Apr 21, 12.

 

Opening Day!

The baseball season begins again! Hope springs eternal. I add reading box scores to my morning routine. Every season has its drama, intrigues, and some team that comes out of nowhere. Please report on the state of your team. What are your predictions?

Baseball’s new labor agreement

Major League baseball, unlike the National Basketball Association, has a new labor agreement, one attained with no strikes, lockouts, or threats to the season.  Here are some highlights:

HGH [human growth hormone]: Baseball will be the first North American team sport with HGH blood testing once it begins next spring. All players will be tested during spring training and will be subject to random offseason tests. The sides agreed to explore in-season tests, which can be conducted on a “reasonable cause” basis, which was not immediately defined. Weiner said the union wanted to learn more about the effect of taking blood on players’ performances. A first positive test would result in a 50-game suspension.

Replay: Expansion of video review from the current limit of potential home runs is subject to negotiations between MLB and the World Umpires Association. But MLB and the players agreed to add fair/foul calls and whether balls are caught or trapped.

Playoffs: The addition of a second wild-card team in each league was announced last week; each league’s two wild cards will meet in one-game playoffs for the right to advance to the division series. If a decision is reached by March 1, the format will make its debut in 2012; if not, the wild cards will be added for 2013.

Realignment: As previously announced, the Houston Astros will move from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013. That means interleague play virtually every day of the season. A committee has been formed to work out the scheduling formula.

Draft: Players taken in the June draft can sign only minor league contracts, eliminating major league deals agents often bargained for. The signing deadline for drafted players will move from Aug. 15 to July 12-18.

The most significant change is a compromise on owners’ hopes for a bonus slotting system. Teams will be assigned an annual pool based on industry revenue, which will cover bonuses to picks in the first 10 rounds plus any bonuses over $100,000 to later picks. Teams can spend beyond the pool but will be subject to penalties: 75% tax on amounts up to 5% over the pool; 75% tax and loss of first-round pick for 5%-10% over pool; 100% tax and loss of first- and second-round picks for 10%-15% over; 100% tax and loss of two first-round picks for more than 15% over. Teams’ bonus pools will be determined by their draft position and number of draft choices.

Tax money will go into revenue sharing for teams that did not exceed their pool; those teams also will garner the forfeited picks through a weighted lottery based on teams’ records.

Competitive balance lottery: Will provide extra draft picks for the lowest-revenue and smallest-market teams. The first 10 teams in each category will be in a lottery — weighted by previous year’s record — for six extra picks after the first round. Teams not getting a pick in that lottery will go into a similar lottery for six picks after the second round.

Free agent compensation: Rules for compensating teams that lose free agents will be abolished. Instead, teams will be eligible for compensation if they offer the player a contract equal to the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players from the previous year. That was just over $12 million last season. The offer must be made within five days of the end of the World Series, and the player has seven days to accept. Only players with their team for the entire season are subject to compensation.

Teams signing a compensation-eligible player lose their first-round draft pick unless that pick is in the first 10, in which case they lose their next pick. Teams that lose such a free agent get an extra draft pick after the first round.

•International free agents: A committee will begin studying drafting of international players. In the meantime, teams will be assigned equal signing bonus pools for the year beginning next July.

Social media: All players will be subject to a new policy.

Salaries: The minimum rises from $414,000 to $480,000 and incrementally to $500,000 in 2014, followed by cost-of-living raises the next two years.

Smokeless tobacco: Players, managers and coaches cannot use tobacco when fans are present or in televised interviews, nor can they carry the products in their uniforms.

Equipment: Beginning in 2013, no player entering the major leagues can use maple bats that have come under scrutiny for how often they break. Tougher helmet requirements will be in place as part of enhancing the concussion protocol.

Rosters: Teams can add a 26th player for some as yet unspecified doubleheaders.

via What’s new in baseball’s new labor deal? – USATODAY.com.

New baseball season scouting reports

Now that baseball season has started, what I need from you are scouting reports.  What are the developments, prospects, promising new players, and issues for your favorite team?

It looks like Philadelphia is playing a hand with four aces (maybe five aces, but then the card game metaphor breaks down).   The Brewers seem poised to make a run, what with acquiring pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, two serious pitchers.  Washington is positioning itself to be good NEXT year, when the two first-round draft pick prodigies Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper might be ready.

So, all of you Cranach sports correspondents, please report.

You may also include predictions.

The Official Site of Major League Baseball | MLB.com: Homepage.

The count

Thomas Boswell, one of the better baseball writers, says that the real key to understanding the subtleties of baseball is paying attention to the number of balls and strikes, to the count:

The count [is]  baseball’s open secret, the hidden key, the game-within-the-game that players themselves obsessed about. You don’t wait for the action. You anticipate it — through the count.

To grasp baseball better, digest one vital but little-known fact that has only been discovered in recent years as copious data about ball-strike counts has finally become easily available online.

With less than two strikes, the average hitter is a superstar in every count. It doesn’t matter whether the scoreboard says 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 0-1, 1-1, 2-1 or 3-1. In those counts, the average big leaguer is a .339 hitter, comparable to Stan Musial, and is a .549 slugger, comparable to Hank Aaron.

Last season, in those eight “hitter’s counts,” the MLB average, respectively, was .339, .340, .368, .395, .317, .332, .339 and .352. You barely need to distinguish between them. If the next pitch is hit into play, watch out. The results will evoke “The Man” and “The Hammer.”

So, don’t slumber through a game thinking, “This bum’ll never get a hit.” Oh, yes he may. As long as he hasn’t got two strikes yet.

By one of those lovely baseball symmetries that nobody can explain, almost exactly half of all plate appearances end with less than two strikes. Happy hitters! But the other half reach strike two.

Once that happens, the whole sport changes. On the two-strike counts of 0-2, 1-2, 2-2 and 3-2, batters hit .156, .171, .189 and, finally, if they can reach a full count, .233. In every at-bat last season that reached a two-strike count, the MLB average was .186, with pathetic on-base and slugging averages of .259 and .283.

How bad is that? Mario Mendoza, for whom the Mendoza Line was named — signifying the worst imaginable big league hitter — batted .215 with a .245 on-base and .256 slugging average.

via Thomas Boswell – Pay attention to the count, baseball’s hidden treasure.


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