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.

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6 Comments on Tonight’s reading assignment

  1. pepefreeus // December 16, 2012 at 2:12 am //

    Howard is a wonderful writer. His book on The Hammer is not to be missed.

    Don’t know if you guys have been keeping up with his reent statements but James has been particularly tiresome and cloying in his most recent whining about the poor, poor cheaters and their place in the game’s history.

    One might think after the way he embarrassed himself apologizing for a child molester he’d have sense enough to shut the fuck up for a while but I guess not.

  2. I’ll check that out Pepe.

  3. Jack Straw // December 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm //

    How can Beane be Bill James’ capo? James doesn’t run MLB. He doesn’t run the A’s. He has only that power granted him by a particular organization.

    And why is it the fans’ fault? We have been subjected to a series of charades by everyone from Congress to the courts to most members of the MLBPA. I am supposed to enjoy the sport, not police it.

    No, the problem is, and has been, Bud Selig. The office of the Commissioner was created in response to the Black Sox scandal. It exists PRECISELY TO DEAL WITH PROBLEMS LIKE THIS. Bud Selig has corrupted that which supposedly was incorruptible.

    Bud Selig is like the corrupt cop who provides information to the drug gangs for a cut of the profits, rather than busting them. In fact, he is EXACTLY LIKE a corrupt cop. No difference.

  4. pepefreeus // December 16, 2012 at 4:29 pm //

    I think Rob Neyer is more James’ capo than Beane.

  5. Minor quibbles, but Bryant is right on. Public suspended disbelief w/ McGwire charade, looking the other way as he exploited Maris fame.

    Also, corrupt cops have more integrity than the Used Car Salesman. I take a backseat to no one in loathing Selig.

  6. rankin' rob // December 18, 2012 at 10:40 am //

    Selig serves at the pleasure of the owners. He is doing their bidding. When you blame Bud, be sure to blame ownership.

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