Tag Archives: Bud Selig

Baseball Hall of Fame: Three Executives Deserve Enshrinement

Voting is now underway for the 2017 candidates to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Under rules amended two years ago, players are now considered for 10 years. 

Those who are not elected pass into the “Era” committees, formerly known as the “Veteran’s Committee”, for future consideration.

The current committees include “Today’s Game”, which evaluates from 1988 – present. “Modern Baseball” looks at 1970 – 1987. “Golden Days” votes on 1950 – 1969. “Early Baseball” examines 1871-1949.

These committees will select individuals on a rotating basis. For the upcoming 2017 Hall of Fame class as well as for 2019, the “Today’s Game” committee will do the evaluating. “Modern Baseball” will go in 2018 and 2020. “Golden Days” and “Early Baseball” will take their turns together for 2021.

The “Today’s Game Era” committee working this year includes 16 members selected by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors. They will do their voting at the upcoming Winter Meetings. 

Each of the other committees who will do their selecting in future years have the same membership size They are selected in the same manner as well.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

Per the Baseball Hall of Fame website, the following are the eligibility requirements for nomination and election by an Era Committee:
(A) Eligible candidates must be selected from managers, umpires, executives and players. They must meet the below criteria related to their classification.
• Players who played in at least 10 major league seasons. They must not be on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list. They must have been retired for 15 or more seasons;
• Managers and umpires with 10 or more years in baseball and retired for at least five years. Candidates who are 65 years or older are eligible six months following retirement;
• Executives retired for at least five years. Active executives 70 years or older are eligible for consideration.
(B) Those whose careers entailed involvement in multiple categories will be considered for their overall contribution to the game of Baseball. However, the specific category in which these individuals shall be considered will be determined by the role in which they were most prominent. There are instances when a candidate is prominent as both a player and as a manager, executive or umpire. In those, the BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee shall determine that individual’s category as a player, as a manager or as an umpire or as an executive/pioneer. Those designated as players must fulfill the requirements of 6 (A).
(C) Any person designated by the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball as ineligible shall not be an eligible candidate.

THE 2017 “TODAY’S GAME” BALLOT

The 2017 ballot being considered by the “Today’s Game” committee includes five former players who are no longer eligible under the normal 10-year vote. There are also two managers, as well as a trio of baseball executives.
Players nominated this time around are Mark McGwireOrel HershiserHarold BainesAlbert Belle, and Will Clark. The managerial nominees are Lou Piniella and Davey Johnson.
All are worthy of consideration, and valid positions can be put together for their cause. But it is my opinion that only the three executives should be enshrined at this time.
Former Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz is one of these men. The colorful and controversial late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is another. And the former Milwaukee Brewers owner and Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig is the third.

RIP Oscar Taveras

Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras, 22, killed in auto accident

Francisco Taveras must have known from early on that his son Oscar, 2nd of his 8 children with wife Marisela, was going to be something special on a baseball diamond.

After all, Francisco had first-hand knowledge of what it took to make it in the game. He himself had been a prospect once, reaching the AAA level in the Milwaukee Brewers organization back in the 1980’s.

Francisco, who taught Oscar the game that he himself loved, and Marisela surely watched with pride as Oscar not only competed in baseball, but as he excelled at it. Over the last few years it became apparent to everyone that Oscar was not only likely to match, but would most certainly exceed his father’s accomplishments in the game.

That’s what every parent hopes for, of course. That our children will grow to make more of themselves than we have, to succeed and make their mark on the world. To enjoy success and happiness and achievement. At the age of 22, Oscar Taveras could say that he had all of those things. His parents had to be very proud indeed.

Oscar would indeed surpass his father’s achievements in the game. Signing for $145,000 with the Saint Louis Cardinals organization as a 16-year old in November of 2008, he quickly rose to become one of the top prospects in the game. Entering the 2014 season, Taveras was considered one of the consensus top 3 prospects in all of baseball.

Taveras finally got his call up to the big leagues this past May 30th at just age 21. The following day, in just his 2nd at-bat with the Cardinals, Taveras launched a homerun, announcing his presence with authority.

Still, as many youngsters, Taveras struggled in his first exposure to major league pitching. He was sent back down to the minors in the middle of the month, but was then recalled once again on June 30th, this time to stay. He played part-time for the rest of the season as the Cards won the N.L. Central Division crown, and was named to their postseason roster.

In Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants, Taveras was called on by manager Mike Matheny to pinch-hit. It was an important situation, as the Cards trailed the Giants 1-0 in the series, and were down 3-2 in the bottom of the 7th here.

Taveras and the Cardinals celebrate his game-tying NLCS homerun

Oscar Taveras stepped to the plate in the rain against veteran pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, and delivered like a veteran. He crushed a game-tying homerun just inside the rightfield foul pole. The blast inspired the Cardinals to victory, tying the NLCS at a game apiece.

It would end up being the only game that Saint Louis would win, as the Giants took the NLCS 4-1. In total, Oscar received 7 at-bats in the postseason, all as a pinch-hitter, and went 3-7 with a pair of runs scored. He got to play right field briefly in the Game 5 finale of that NLCS. It was a disappointing end for the team, but appeared to be just the beginning of a promising career that would yield many more opportunities for playoff heroics from the now 22-year old.

And then, this weekend, unspeakable tragedy struck. Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend, 18-year old Edilia Jamali Arvelo, were killed in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. His Cardinals-red Chevy Camaro somehow veered off wet roads as they were driving to his hometown of Puerto Plata. Those at the scene reported that the front end was heavily damaged.

It’s too soon to know exactly what caused the accident. Any speculation about their ages and the sports car vehicle would be irresponsible. What is definitely not speculative is the nature of the roads in the D.R., which are notoriously deficient. Another Dominican native, future Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez, stated this morning in response to the accident: “To all the authorities in my country: please, please do something about the highways.

Outgoing Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig spoke for everyone involved in the game in part of his statement following the announcement of the news: “Oscar, a young member of the baseball family, was full of promise and at the dawn of a wonderful career in our game, evident in his game-tying homerun against the Giants exactly two weeks ago.

Oscar Taveras and Edilia Arvelo

Now, all we have left is the memory of another brief, bright shining star taken far too soon. Baseball is game. Those of us who love it understand that, but we sometimes take it too seriously. Every once in awhile, real life steps in like this and reminds of that fact.

Oscar Taveras got to enjoy life in Major League Baseball, which will, in the end, be only a dream never realized for many millions around the world who play and share that dream. The record books will show that he appeared in exactly 80 games with the Cardinals, hitting .239 with 3 homers, 22 rbi, and 18 runs scored. He played 62 games in right field, 3 in center field, and made the rest of his appearances as a pinch-hitter.

But those are only his major league numbers. In the minor leagues, where he was almost always at least a couple of years younger than the league average age for his level, Taveras excelled. He batted .320 and drove in 324 runs across parts of his age 17-22 seasons, and consistently showed that he was going to be one of the game’s best hitters in the years to come. Now that is all we have left, his dream, ended just as it was beginning.

Now families will grieve. Most importantly, the families of these young people taken far too soon. But also the larger family of baseball, of which we who love it are all a part. We grieve the loss of one of our own in Oscar Taveras. May God bless his family, friends, and teammates during this difficult team. And may God rest the souls of these youngsters in His loving embrace.

Time for MLB to lift the ban on Pete Rose

Embed from Getty Images

Pete Rose with the Phillies in the 1981 season

 

Philadelphia Phillies fans who were around to enjoy the emergence of the team as a contender in the second half of the 1970′s know the story well.

Despite being contenders every season since 1975. Despite three straight National League East Division crowns. Despite franchise record-setting, back-to-back seasons of 101 victories in both 1977 and 1978, the Fightin’ Phils of Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Garry Maddox, and company simply could not win “the big one” in the post-season.

That team was clearly missing two ingredients. A manager who wasn’t afraid to tell them when they were playing like horse bleep, and wasn’t afraid to sit veterans on the bench for a couple of games in favor of younger players was one.
The other was a no-doubt-about-it locker room leader. A proven winner. Someone who had been over the hump in the post-season, knew what it took, and was fearless in voicing their opinion to other veterans during the difficult times that any team will inevitably face, no matter how much talent they possess.

 

Even the greatest 3rd baseman of all-time, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, couldn’t get those late 70′s Phils over the top
In 1979, the Phillies satisfied both of those needs with a change in managers from the stoic Danny Ozark to the organizational firebrand Dallas Green, and with the signing of Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose as a free agent.
By the following 1980 season, Green’s expletive-laden tirades were peeling the paint off the walls of the locker room when the players sagged. Green had inserted rookies Lonnie Smith and Keith Moreland into the lineup for energy. It certainly was a big help.
But even Green would later admit, and nearly every player who was on the team at the time would speak of it over time: it was the veteran, winning, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners presence of Peter Edward Rose that made the biggest difference.
On the field at first base, in the lineup batting at or near the top of the batting order, and in the locker room building up and massaging egos and playing horse whisperer to future Hall of Famers. That was what Rose had brought to the team, and what made the ultimate difference in finally winning the 1980 World Series.
Rose turned 38 years of age at the beginning of his very first season with the Phillies in 1979. It was the first of five successful seasons with the club that would result in a 1980 World Series victory and another appearance in the Fall Classic in 1983.
During his Phillies years alone, on the back-end of a 24-season career, Rose hit for an overall .291 average at ages 38-42. He accumulated 826 hits, an average of more than 165 per season, and was an NL All-Star the first four years.
Rose received NL MVP votes twice in that span, and won an NL Silver Slugger Award at 1st base in 1981 at age 40.
Pete Rose is beloved by the vast majority of Philadelphia baseball fans who, like me, got to enjoy the entirety of that period. He isn’t even really ours. We are Rose’s second baseball family.
Pete Rose is truly a Cincinnati Red. He broke into the majors there in 1963, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He would play in Cincy for 16 seasons, through 1978 as the driving force atop the Big Red Machine of those years.
Rose helped lead the Reds to five National League West Division crowns, four National League pennants, and back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. This included an NL playoffs victory over the Phillies in 1976.
Rose was able to become one of the earliest beneficiaries of baseball free agency during the 1970′s, jumping to the Phillies for that 1979-83 run. He then played for just over one season with the Montreal Expos before returning to the Reds to finish out his career with couple of final seasons in Cincinnati.
As a player in those 24 total seasons, Rose was an NL All-Star a total of 17 times. From 1965 through 1982, Rose appeared in the Mid-Summer Classic in all but two seasons, and in those two non-All Star years he would end up receiving MVP votes each time, almost as if to say “I’m not an All-Star? Oh yeah? Watch this.
Rose was the most versatile All-Star of all-time, appearing in the game at five different positions: first base, second base, third base, left field, and right field.
On his return to Cincinnati during the 1984 season, Rose was not just a returning player, he was installed as player-manager. He would manage the Reds for nearly five full seasons from August 1984 through August 1989, accumulating a win-loss record of 426-388 as the skipper.
In each of his four full seasons as the Reds manager, the team finished in second place in the NL West Division. As a player and as a manager, Pete Rose was one of the game’s all-time fiercest competitors, and he was one of its all-time winners.
Rose was the 1973 National League Most Valuable Player. He was the MVP of perhaps the greatest World Series of all-time in 1975. He was a three-time NL batting champion, won Gold Gloves in 1969 and 1970, and won the league’s Roberto Clemente Award in 1976 given to the MLB player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” 
A switch-hitter, Rose would amass 4,256 hits in his career, more than any player ever in the game’s century-and-a-half existence.
In addition to being the MLB all-time Hit King, Rose also set records for games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), and singles (3,215) and he was a career .303 hitter.
Rose is sixth on the all-time runs scored list with 2,165. He is second all-time on the doubles list with 746. he is 14th in walks, and is scattered across the leader boards of almost every career category in baseball history.
Problems began to surface for Rose, at least publicly, when Sports Illustrated published a front-page article in its April 3rd, 1989 issue alleging that he had bet on baseball while still the manager of the Reds.
Rose had been interviewed by outgoing Commissioner of Baseball Peter Ueberroth, as well as Ueberroth’s eventual replacement, A. Bartlett ‘Bart’ Giamatti, in regards to rumors of his gambling on the game a couple of months earlier.
Rose denied the allegations, and the investigation was dropped. But Giamatti retained an investigator, lawyer John Dowd, to look further into the allegations.
The story of the lengthy investigation process would take too long here. Suffice it to say, evidence pointed to Rose having done what he was accused of doing, what he publicly denied: gambling on baseball while a player/manager, a well-known, for obvious reasons, taboo in sports.
A settlement was reached wherein Rose accepted a permanent place on baseball’s ineligible list, and MLB would not make any formal finding in regards to the gambling charges. Rose was eligible to apply for reinstatement after one year, but there was no deal that this was simply a one-year suspension.
Importantly, there was also no agreement or consideration that this was some “lifetime ban” from baseball.
The official Dowd Report establishes that “no evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Reds“, and no such evidence has ever surfaced in the ensuing decades.
People have alleged that they “believe” it happened, but the motives and agendas and biases of those making such statements have always been questioned, including such statements by Dowd himself.
Rose would eventually admit to betting on baseball. However, he vehemently denies ever betting against his own team. For his fans, this is a vital point.
It is hard to believe that someone who was such a competitor, for whom winning was literally everything, who it was believed would run his own mother over at home plate to score the winning run, could possibly bet against his beloved Reds to lose. It is especially hard to believe that Rose would intentionally create any situation wherein such a loss would be more likely to occur.
Pete Rose has spent the last quarter century in baseball’s version of purgatory. Unfortunately, he is not alone. He is there with tens of millions of baseball fans around the country who believe that his continued ban from the game has itself become unjust.
Pete Rose did not kill anyone. He did not rape anyone. He did not destroy anyone. He was a weak man who made a mistake, and who lied about it when caught. He was eventually caught in his lie, and he accepted, even if it was grudgingly and forced, an extremely harsh punishment. That punishment, reviewable after a year, has now drug into a 26th year.
On Febuary 4th, 1991, the Baseball Hall of Fame voted to exclude anyone who was on the game’s “permanently ineligible” list from consideration for enshrinement in the Hall.
In 2008, the second year in which Rose would have been able to be considered by their group, the Veteran’s Committee also changed their rules to bar those on the “permanently ineligible” list from consideration.
Both of these measures were clear “kick the can down the road” moves by these cowardly groups to keep them out of the decision-making process when evaluating the worthiness of the controversial Rose.

2012 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Commissioner Bud Selig should lift the ban, and allow consideration of Rose for the Hall of Fame to move forward
This weekend, the Baseball Hall of Fame will enshrine a handful of very deserving men into its hallowed halls, into the ranks of the game’s immortals. The simple fact is that Pete Rose deserves to be one of them. He should have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame years, if not decades ago. Any honest evaluation of his playing career, if that is all that you were judging, would show this to be true.
At the very least, it is long past time for the Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig, to lift the ban on Pete Rose.
A brief statement could accompany such a gesture, not assigning any innocence to Rose, but simply saying that the punishment had fit the crime, and was now long enough. The statement could include a stern warning regarding any future involvement of players, coaches, umpires, managers, and others intimately involved in the games from gambling on those games in any way while still actively involved in the sport.
Lift the ban, Commissioner Selig. It would be a tremendous parting gift to fans on your way out the door as you retire.
As for the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Veteran’s Committee, and any other entity that has been perpetuating their own withdrawal from the Rose situation, I would call on their own immediate repeal as soon as the Commissioner lifts that MLB ban.
Allow Pete Rose the full consideration by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America. Allow them to debate and vote on Rose, just as they do now with similarly controversial figures such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Torii Hunter Plays the Race Card


If you don’t know him very well, let me clue you in on Torii Hunter. He is the centerfielder for the Los Angeles Angels in Major League Baseball. He is one of the most outgoing, engaging, personable players that I have ever seen interviewed in the game. Oh, and he is African-American.

That last part normally wouldn’t matter a hill of beans to me. By the time that I was growing up in the 1970’s, the civil rights battles fought over the previous few decades had left me a sporting landscape to accept as normal and to view and enjoy as a young fan that included players of every race, ethnic background, and nationality.

But in an interview conducted a few weeks ago and released by USA Today on Wednesday as part of a series on the state of baseball today, Hunter revealed a lack of his own understanding on racial issues that is surprising considering his obvious intelligence and his usually keen insight.

In Part III of what is a 5-part ongoing series of articles this week titled “Efforts to develop black talent in USA insufficient”, Hunter opines that the public looks out at black faces playing in the game and incorrectly assumes that they are African-American when in fact they are Latino players. In his words “They’re not us, they’re imposters.”

Hunter then goes on to attempt to make his point by referencing a particular star player. Speaking of his former star teammate Vlad Guerrero, Hunter states “Is he a black player? I say “Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.”

Folks, on this particular issue, Torii Hunter is simply wrong in his thinking and view point. Have you ever seen Vlad Guerrero? The man’s skin color is as dark as the night sky. There is nothing at all wrong with that, of course. But let’s not trivialize this discussion by pointing out who is and is not ‘black’ when the issue is obvious.

Would Torii Hunter then accept an argument, following along with his line of thinking, that I am not ‘white’, but that I am Irish because the majority of my familial heritage is from that country? You mean to tell me that Dominicans can’t also be black? Does Hunter even know what ‘race’ is?

But it’s not just that Hunter makes one slight off-the-cuff remark that might be blown out of proportion. He goes on to explain in detail that he, and in his words the majority of African-American players, believe that baseball intentionally tries to use Latino players as an “imitator and pass them off as us.”

“It’s like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper.” In making comments such as this, and in actually thinking like this, Torii Hunter and any other player or fan who cares about the game who buys into this line of thinking is only doing the genuine issue a disservice.

The genuine issue is an apparent dearth of African-American players at the Major League level in today’s game. It has been noted by everyone involved in the game, from baseball writers to fans to team management to the Commissioner’s office that the percentage of African-American players has been in steady decline since the 1970’s.

When I was growing up, I was able to enjoy a large number of outstanding African-American players. Joe Morgan, Willie Stargell, Vida Blue, Fergie Jenkins, Lee Smith, Bill Madlock, Billy Williams, Dusty Baker, Gary Matthews, Dick Allen, George Foster, Dave Parker and many more. Heck, I was even lucky enough to get to watch Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, and Willie McCovey play, albeit at the tail end of their lengthy careers.

But to look around today, you almost need a microscope to find an African-American player on your home team active roster in most towns. Here in Philadelphia, we have been blessed with a rarity in having two starting, star-caliber African-American players in the lineup for the past few seasons in Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins.

When the Major Leagues first overcame the ‘color barrier’ with the arrival of Jackie Robinson, a wave of ex-Negro Leaguers and emerging African-American talent swelled their representative ranks to the point where, by 1983, a little more than 1 in every 4 Major Leaguers was African-American. By 2006, that number had slipped from more than 25% to just 8.4% of players at the highest level.

Now that is certainly a number that, on it’s face, would seem to indicate that something alarming has taken place. But has it really? Is Torii Hunter correct in his belief that baseball has a prejudice against African-American players? Hardly, and any fair examination of the issue would reveal that the problem is not as bad as it seems.

First of all, let’s see where those jobs have gone. A small percentage have gone to Asian players. The fact is that there was almost no Asian presence in Major League Baseball 2-3 decades ago and earlier. Today with the opening and expanding of international competition, approximately 2.5% of players are of Asian racial origins.

The actual percentage of ‘white’ players has stayed pretty much the same, even gone down slightly. The majority of the jobs lost to African-American players have gone to ethnically Latino players. But while Hunter’s accusation is that Major League Baseball has gone for the Latino players from other nations “because you can get them cheaper“, the fact is that is simply not the case.

In South American nations such as those he highlights in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic as well as in other Caribbean nations such as Cuba and Puerto Rico, baseball is king and it is played year round. Kids are born and raised on baseball diamonds of the genuine and makeshift variety. They talk, eat, and dream baseball. And again, they play it all year long thanks to the continuous warm weather.

Here in America it is a fact that among the vast majority of African-American youth, baseball is a distant third to basketball and football in popularity. In his commentary, Hunter states “Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have (agent) Scott Boras represent him, and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?”

Well, Torii, for one thing, you can’t find that kid from the South Side of Chicago playing baseball. Not for the most part. He is running the basketball courts indoors for the 9 months out of the year that Chicago is experiencing it’s non-baseball friendly cold weather. The rare player that is talented enough and is interested enough in the game to be good enough to attract pro baseball attention does attract that attention.

Black Americans make up approximately 13% of the population in our country today. If you want everything to be exactly proportional to race, then you need to increase the Major League Baseball talent level of their numbers by just a few percentage points. That is hardly alarming when one considers that white players of any ethnic background make up just about 30% of NBA players and an even lower percentage of NFL players.

There is no rule, and it should not be expected, that every single sport is going to have an exact proportional number of players to the overall population. There are tons of factors, from the better weather in the Caribbean to cultural traditions here in America to expanded scouting in those places and in places such as Japan and Korea that the African-American population in MLB has dropped.

Baseball has not ignored this drop in numbers, however. In fact, it has specifically targeted the African-American community with it’s founding of the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner-cities) program, a program that it markets aggressively in it’s television advertising.

Just last year, The Institute For Diversity And Ethics In Sport released a report titled “The 2009 Racial and Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball” in which it gave MLB a grade of ‘A’ for ‘Race’ and ‘B’ for ‘Gender’ as categories. The report noted that in 2009 the African-American player percentage increased for the first time since 1995.

The IDES report also stated that MLB began the 2009 season with 10 ‘managers of color’ at the helm of their on-field operations. The report stated that, led by Commissioner Bud Selig’s efforts, “MLB continues to have an outstanding record for Diversity Initiatives which include the third annual Civil Rights Game, Jackie Robinson Day and Roberto Clemente Day.”

The statistics do not lie. The percentage of African-American players in MLB is admittedly down over the past few decades. But people like Torii Hunter who resort to typical race-baiting comments whenever there is any appearance that black Americans might be getting slighted in some way do nothing but harm.

In fact, Torii Hunter and every single major African-American today who wants to see their racial population increase in the game would be better served in not pointing fingers elsewhere, but instead in getting out there on a regular basis in their community, directly inspiring with their presence and investing in that effort with a portion of the tens of millions of dollars that they are earning.

Major League Baseball and every other professional sport have one responsibility. That is to put the best, most entertaining product on the field, court, pitch, rink, or diamond that it possibly can. To suggest that any of them would ignore a source of potential talent is ludicrous. But then it has always been easier to point ones finger at others than to roll up your own sleeves and get to work, or to write your own check.

Sorry, Torii Hunter. You’re a good guy, and you’re usually a great ambassador for the sport of baseball. But this time you’re simply wrong. Leave the race-baiting comments to the Al Sharpton’s of the country, and get yourself and your fellow African-American players more directly involved in an organized, aggressive way within your communities if you want to have a real, positive impact.