The Hall of Fame of Apathy

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It’s a byproduct of the times we live in that not only does the vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame have to be counted, but we have to endure the detailing of the vote like the slaughtering and cleaning of a chicken before it winds up on our plate, grilled and placed over salad with a nice vinaigrette.

Or like a sausage. Sausage is a good analogy. The Hall of Fame voting exemplifies why, prior to choosing to eat it, we don’t want to see how sausage is made because if we did, we wouldn’t be able to take a bite. But combine the sausagemaker and the chef being careless about hygiene—disgusting even—and showing the world step-by-step why and how they’re coming to the conclusion that being filthy is the logical progression and for the diner, the response degenerates into an immense powerlessness and disinterest that, in the final analysis, will make us sick.

The noxious process of voting for the Hall of Fame might always have been as it is now, but we didn’t get to watch it and hear it ad nauseam until reaching this inevitable end.

I used to care about the Hall of Fame. As a kid, I wanted Phil Rizzuto to be inducted. It was mostly because others told me he should be inducted without providing viable reasons for this position, but what was the difference? Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese were contemporaries and inter-city rivals of New York, it suited the narrative if they went into the Hall together. They didn’t and that served the clashing of civilizations even more. Ted Williams supported Rizzuto’s candidacy. Writers didn’t. Eventually, the Rizzuto supporters—many of them friends on the Veterans Committee—let him in. Whether or not he “belongs” became irrelevant. Today would either Rizzuto or Reese have a chance of getting into the Hall? No. But that argument was part of what once made the debate interesting. It’s no longer so.

The dirtiest aspect of a conspiracy are those who are left to take the punishment after the fact while others walk away and join the chorus to punish the “guilty” for acts they made possible and participated in by direct involvement or by looking the other way. There are the disposable minions whose job it was to run interference for their charges (Greg Anderson for Barry Bonds; Brian McNamee for Roger Clemens) and take the legal consequences while the people they worked for walk away free.

And there are the players. The players who allegedly used the drugs or are suspected of using the drugs are serving the sentences for the people who were running baseball, allowed and cultivated the performance enhancing drug culture in the interests of making themselves more money and reviving a game that was on life-support after the canceled World Series of 1994 and evident avarice that led to that cancelation.

The media voting for the potential inductees? They’re showing a combination of righteous indignation and contemptuous dismissal of dissent that can only stem from an out-of-control egomania. As self-appointing “protectors” of the game, there’s an unstated similarity to what Max Mercy said in The Natural that his job as a reporter is not to tell the story of the game, but by creating an image that he—in an unabashed treatise of omnipotence—deems as proper and salable. We’re now getting a Hunter S. Thompson, “gonzo” voting bloc. Every reporter feels as though he not only has has to cast his ballot, but get in on the action and make public his choices, explaining why he did or didn’t select a certain player.

Mike Piazza didn’t get votes not because he was caught in a PED drug test in any context other than rumor, but because of the era in which he played and that he had acne on his back. This is presented as a reason. Not “feeling” that Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer, or that Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio don’t pass the smell test as PED suspects (Bagwell) and stat-compilers (Biggio) is equated as an excuse of why they’re not garnering support.

There’s no more conversation. No altering of hearts and minds. Perhaps there never was. But today, there are battle-lines and no hope for settlement, so the fight rages on without end in an immovable object vs. irresistible force aura of uselessness.

Like a Tim Tebow pro-life ad, each side sees it their way and takes it as a worthwhile cause to promote or an infringement on the liberty of others to behave in accordance to the laws of the land. Rather than accept it for what it actually is, a commercial, and understand that because Tebow took part in the ad and it was shown during a football game that it’s not an insult to the beliefs nor a threat to the freedoms of those who disagree, there’s a lunatic stimulus reaction. All this while no one says a word if they don’t have the money or the inclination to run out and purchase a Lexus when those commercials run non-stop during the NFL playoffs. There’s truly no difference.

Until a Hall of Fame voter has the supposed epiphany that George A. King of the New York Post claims to have had when he decided that Pedro Martinez wasn’t a worthy candidate for MVP in 1999 and hears from “people he respects” justifying the exclusion with the argument that pitchers have their award and the MVP should go to an everyday player, this will not stop. And that’s the point. As much as we can argue that King, as a Yankees beat writer and resident apologist, was simply punishing a reviled member of the arch-rival Red Sox, nothing can stop it from happening. The votes are what they are; the voters are who they are.

There’s not going to be a Skull and Bones society of enlightened and objective stat people with impressive degrees from Ivy League Universities, meeting in far off lands to determine the fate of the baseball universe, deciding that the logic of keeping Bonds, Clemens, Sammy Sosa and anyone else from the Hall of Fame is a travesty considering who’s in the Hall of Fame and what they did to get there. Nor will there be a return to the old-school and how things were before Twitter, Facebook, blogging, glory-hunting, attention-seeking, and making a name for oneself by being outrageous as per the mandate like Rob Parker did with Robert Griffin III and lost his job at ESPN because of it.

There’s no going back.

Gaylord Perry cheated and everyone knew he was cheating. He admitted it. He wallowed in it. As a journeyman whose stuff wasn’t quite good enough, he extended his career by 20 years because of it. He’s in the Hall of Fame and there’s a smirk, wink and nod as to how he accomplished the feat of gaining enshrinement. There are drunks, recreational drug users and wife-beaters in the Hall of Fame. There are racists, gamblers and individuals who would accurately be described as sociopaths in the Hall of Fame.

None of that waned my interest in the proceedings as much as having to view the sausage being made; to endure the media throwing themselves into the fray as if they were just as important to the process as the process itself.

I paid attention to the election results in a vacuum of neutrality. That is not attached to an affiliation or deep-seated belief as to whether the players should or shouldn’t be elected, but because of pure apathy that has accumulated over a number of years as a side effect of the arrogance inherent with the doling, reporting and counting of the Hall of Fame vote. It grows exponentially with each writer who not only feels he has to vote, but feels the need to explain the vote as he makes it in the me-me-me self-involvement that’s become prevalent. It spreads with every player whose public agenda and lies insult my intelligence; with every owner or baseball official who crusades against that which they allowed and encouraged to happen.

No one was voted into the Hall of Fame for 2013. And I just don’t care.

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No Connection Between Baseball and the Clemens Verdict

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You can read the news details here on NYTimes.com.

For our purposes, let’s look at the Roger Clemens trial and its aftermath.

Not guilty doesn’t mean innocent.

If Clemens or his defenders are going to take the not guilty verdict as a proof of innocence of having used performance enhancing drugs, they’d better think again. The standard of proof in a criminal trial has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. This case was shaky from the start relying on testimony from a witness, Brian McNamee, who didn’t have the greatest credibility and, if the allegations were true, was a participant in the use of the drugs by Clemens. When McNamee’s own ex-wife contradicted his testimony and Andy Pettitte backtracked on having knowledge of Clemens’s drug use, the case was doomed.

Did Clemens lie under oath in front of congress? Of course.

Did the government prove that case? Did they ever have a chance at convicting him? And was it worth it to spend the amount of money, time and other resources they did for a case that wasn’t likely to result in any significant jail time—if he had to serve time at all?

No.

In a strange way justice was done in the court of reality.

Does Clemens deserve to get into the Hall of Fame? Will he?

It’s obvious that Clemens did use PEDs to rejuvenate his career. But anecdotal evidence and the leaked findings of the Mitchell Report don’t constitute enough to warrant his exclusion from the Hall of Fame. The writers—many of whom have their own biases and look for reasons to keep players out—could keep any player from Babe Ruth onward out of the Hall of Fame.

Because there are no ironclad rules for induction based on statistics or anything else, there are no rules for exclusion either. We can debate it, but when egos and self-important gatekeeping is involved, few minds will be swayed.

Roger Clemens belongs in the Hall of Fame because he was not a creation of PEDs as certain players like Rafael Palmeiro were. Clemens was a Hall of Famer before he was accused, therefore he’s a Hall of Famer after he was accused.

It’s too soon to say whether or not he’ll get in. I don’t think it’s as easy to determine one way or the other until there’s a vote. For a player like Mark McGwire, he was a creation of the drugs. The same goes for Sammy Sosa. They’re not getting in.

For players like Clemens and Barry Bonds, they were great without the PEDs and they used them to lengthen their careers or maintain competitiveness by doing something that the majority of baseball was doing with the tacit approval of baseball itself.

If the drugs weren’t banned, how can they be punished for doing something they weren’t officially caught doing and that no one said they shouldn’t have done until after the fact?

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Andy Pettitte And The Slimy Characters

Hot Stove

Jane Heller linked this column by Wally Matthews on ESPN New York in her posting yesterday about Andy Pettitte.

Matthews suggests that Pettitte’s vacillation on whether or not to return for one more year with the Yankees may not have as much to do with money or a desire to stay home with his family as it has to do with his reticence to be an active player when he’s called to testify in the Roger Clemens perjury trial.

Here’s the main thrust of Matthews’s argument:

So either Pettitte wants to pitch, or he doesn’t.

What’s taking him so long to decide?

Well, maybe it is what is waiting for him in July, a hot seat on the witness stand in the upcoming federal perjury trial against Clemens. Pettitte is expected to be the government’s star witness against his former teammate and buddy, and in fact, might be the only man standing between The Rocket and a jail cell.

Clemens, of course, is a slimy character. His accuser, Brian McNamee, is every bit as slimy with a background that is maybe even more shady. No matter how strong the evidence or how many dirty syringes McNamee saved in a soda can in his basement, his and Clemens’ testimony will probably cancel one another out just on the sleaze factor alone.

That leaves Pettitte, and his word, as the swing vote — and you know Clemens’ attorney, Rusty Hardin, is going after Pettitte in the only areas he can in order to discredit his testimony. He is going to do his level best to crush Pettitte’s reputation for honesty and sincerity and religious convictions. Simply put, he is likely to try to paint Pettitte as a lying hypocrite whose word cannot and should not be trusted.

The cross-examination could get embarrassing and highly personal.

While I think that Pettitte will be uncomfortable in a trial situation and won’t want to answer the types of questions he’s going to be asked by Hardin during a cross-examination, I’m not buying the idea that Pettitte won’t want to be playing and embarrassing the Yankees during the trial.

Given his known religious beliefs and that he refused to lie when releasing his statement of having used human growth hormone when recovering from an elbow injury in 2002—and he easily could have—Pettitte would go into court and tell the truth as he sees it, letting the chips fall where they may.

If there’s anything I admire about the truly religious along the lines of the late Hall of Fame NFL star Reggie White, it’s the absence of fear of whatever obstacles are placed in front of them as a result of that faith.

Would Pettitte really be concerned about how he’s perceived? About the fate of Roger Clemens based on his testimony? What’s going to happen with the Yankees if he’s “dragged through the mud” as an unnamed source in the column suggests?

I don’t buy it.

Is it a factor in Pettitte’s decision? It might be; but in the grand scheme, it looks more to be a minor distraction that would be navigated by a club that’s no stranger to star-studded controversy and off-field issues. They’ve dealt with Alex Rodriguez for this long and the stuff he’s pulled and A-Rod isn’t a beloved figure in Yankees lore; Pettitte is.

Unless there are dancing skeletons in Pettitte’s closet, pounding at the door and waiting to trample his character, he has nothing to fear in terms of fan or club reaction. It would be stupid if he didn’t pitch for this reason and this reason alone.

On another note regarding public image and characterization, Matthews picks and chooses his points when pigeonholing Clemens and Brian McNamee as “slimy characters”.

We’ve all done things that we would probably prefer weren’t exposed and batted around like a game of pepper as if it’s everyone’s business to discuss private stumbles; it just so happens that Roger Clemens has had his carefully crafted Texas hero ripped to shreds because of the same determination and rage to win and be the best that helped him become one of the best pitchers in history.

Such public relations-built personalities are rarely, if ever, accurate.

I’m not defending Clemens; merely putting him into context. The stoic family man ideal may have been what he wanted out there while he was privately behaving in ways that have been exposed and are embarrassing to everyone involved. My guess is that Clemens compartmentalized his actions and truly felt he was what the public thought. It’s narcissism more than anything else.

That said, Clemens has always been generous with his time and money; he was well-liked by his teammates for the most part and always willing to help tutor young players with his knowledge.

Does that eclipse the negative things he’s done? No. But to cast him as an incorrigible villain isn’t anymore accurate than the Clemens-created persona.

Regarding McNamee, I too felt he was a “slimy” character (my word of choice was “furtive”); but in reading Jeff Pearlman’s biography of Clemens, The Rocket That Fell To Earth, McNamee is cast as a person who defended friends and took the heat for their transgressions rather than being the perpetrator himself.

If anything, McNamee is someone who doesn’t know where the bonds of “friendship” and “loyalty” end and where self-preservation begins.

Was he Roger Clemens‘s friend? According to McNamee, he was; according to Clemens he was probably just another guy who hung around with him as a wall of defense and gofer. When Clemens’s drug use became public, McNamee’s past and misplaced loyalty made him appear sleazy and self-interested.

Here’s the real truth—according to Pearlman’s book—regarding Brian McNamee.

When the PED scandal first broke and prior to Clemens’s “misrememberation” in front of congress, McNamee’s name popped up in the Jason Grimsley federal investigation. On pages 206-207 of Pearlman’s book, he quotes this Jon Heyman article in Sports Illustrated, dated November 14, 2006 in which McNamee is relentlessly defended and shown as someone caught in the middle of his loyalties and desire to work in baseball rather than an opportunistic greenfly and “sleaze”.

Regarding the stigma of being fired by the Yankees after an accused sexual indiscretion in October of 2002 when the Yankees were in Florida to play the Devil Rays, Pearlman writes the following:


What was not said—and what has gone unsaid for years—is that McNamee was made the fall guy by the organization, which later launched an internal investigation that showed the trainer to be innocent. Earlier in the evening, the woman had been seen with one of New York’s coaches, a married man with children who had paraded her around as if she were a trophy. Later on, she had been partying with a Yankee player—also a married man with children. Though McNamee was indeed in the swimming pool, he was there only at the player’s behest. He was not naked and had neither raped the woman nor supplied her with any drugs or alcohol. In fact, according to someone with detailed knowledge of the incident, McNamee aided the woman when she passed out and began to drown. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time—but not in the wrong. (The Rocket that Fell to Earth by Jeff Pearlman, page 263).


Pearlman might have added that McNamee was also taking the hits for the wrong people with a set of belief systems fostered from the code of silence in defending one’s brothers in arms.

The idea of “I got your back, you get mine” prevalent in the military and paramilitary doesn’t exist in the insular, self-serving world of multimillionaire athletes. McNamee learned that it’s every man for himself and he still appears reluctant to take care of himself and betray those that saw no hypocrisy, nor had any compunction in using him as a human shield and walking away.

As for the administering of the drugs, while it’s a weak argument, McNamee knew how to shoot the syringes into the bodies of his “friends” after needing to provide insulin to his son who’d been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes; Clemens was going to use the drugs anyway; I can understand McNamee saying that he’d prefer to be the one keeping an eye on them and making sure they didn’t shoot an air bubble into their veins to kill themselves and felt justified in doing it himself.

It’s not an excuse, it’s a reason.

These are not defenses for being too loyal to people who haven’t shown the same loyalty; they’re explanations.

If people want to call McNamee names, “naive” is probably better than “sleazy” and “slimy”.

He thought these people were his friends. They weren’t.

Did Wally Matthews know this before calling him slimy? Or was it more convenient to his column to do so without doing any requisite research into the genesis of the case; less work to suggest that McNamee is the former Clemens flunky who’s now trying to save himself?

The answer is clear.

I have no clue what Andy Pettitte‘s motivations are; the “unnamed source” who’s “close to both men” doesn’t hold much water with me; Pettitte could be seriously considering retirement because of the trial, his family, because he doesn’t want to play or it might be a negotiating ploy to get more money.

We don’t know.

Suggesting it’s a fear of the Clemens trial is speculation at its height without basis or response from Pettitte.

When he makes his decision (and I think he’s going to pitch), we won’t get an answer to the question postulated by Matthews because if Pettitte were to say that he was retiring because of the Clemens trial, it would defeat the purpose of retiring to avoid the trial in the first place. It’s a suggestion in the wind that won’t ever be validated or denied.

And it’s a waste of time for any reason other than to get a column out of it.

Get your comments/emails in and if I get enough interesting stuff, I’ll do a whole posting dedicated to Viewer Mail tomorrow.

It’ll make my life easier.