Tonight’s reading assignment

Terrific column by ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant — so good he almost makes up for Rick Reilly — on this year’s Hall of Fame balloting. Much to recommend here, particularly this excerpt:

[B]ecause of the steroid era, the baseball writers are going to guess who deserves enshrinement based on who had big muscles or who had a suspicious career year. Thus, goes the thinking, the system must change. It is a disdainful mindset that doesn’t just miss the bull’s-eye, but the entire target altogether. It is the great MacGuffin of the game, and reveals a complete lack of respect for voters who for years have done the work, covered the games, and taken the privilege seriously.

The truth is that the writers are reduced to being a mop, left with cleaning up a colossal mess created by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for enormous profit. The fans also must take their share of responsibility simply because professional sports franchises respond only to loss of revenue. To the people watching, steroids were always someone else’s problem, not an issue to get in the way of the fun and games — until their guy was accused or their team wronged. The journalists whose job it was to hold the institution accountable failed, too, for too little reporting allowed a corrupt culture to flourish. The emerging Generation M, influenced by its Godfather, Bill James, and his capo, Billy Beane, is also deeply culpable for allowing their calculations to blissfully ignore steroids and, through that omission, attempting to legitimize the whole dishonest era (and themselves) by attempting to make the game revolve around only numbers. It is no surprise, then, that two of the Gen M standard bearers, power and on-base percentage kings Manny Ramirez and Jason Giambi (directly linked to Beane and James) were both disgraced by steroids.

What galls me about the stat geeks, outside of the smug uniformity, is their willingness to rationalize away fraud. The game deserves better than that.

Best winter in NL East? Could be the Mets

Sit on it, Philly!

Mets fans should be thrilled by the proposed R.A. Dickey to Toronto trade. New York will reportedly receive two former first round draft picks: catcher Travis d’Arnaud (.286 BA and .816 OPS in the minors) and pitcher Noah Snydergaard (13-8, 2.35 ERA, 1.085 WHIP)  – an impressive haul for a 38-year-old pitcher.

New York also kept its franchise player, David Wright, for $138 million over 8 years. It’s a risky deal, as Wright will be 37 when his contract expires, but considering some of the deals handed out this winter it’s not unreasonable.

They still have a LONG way to go, as evidenced by their projected Opening Day outfield of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdespin and Lucas Duda.

The Nats imported Denard Span and Dan Haren, discarding Edwin Jackson and either Rochey or Michael Morse. Call it even.

The Bravos hope to draw even before the season starts but as of now they’re on the wrong end of the Chipper and Bourn for B.J. Upton swap.

Philly is the NL version of the Yanks, aging and fading. They were able to snag a player the Braves wanted, Ben Revere, but he didn’t come cheap. Their new third baseman, Michael Young, is a middle class man’s Placido Polanco, which is another way of saying I’ll take my chances on Juan Francisco. They’re reportedly hot for Cody Ross, which is sort of like being hot for Marion Ross.

Then there’s Miami. Unfortunately for the 38 remaining Marlins fans, Jeffrey Loria did not trade himself. They have Giancarlo Stanton — for now, but don’t be surprised if Texas rescues him from south Florida.