Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still without contracts*. Andre Dawson didn’t sign with the Cubs until March 9 in 1987. Of course, that was due in part to collusion, a self-imposed, under-the-table salary cap orchestrated by Bud Selig and his cohorts to keep contracts down. Is that happening this year? Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t care if Harper and Machado end up playing in Japan or Mexico or Timbuktu. If this leads to another strike, as Adam Wainwright thinks it will, that’s fine.
I love baseball, but I don’t need baseball. There are plenty of other things to keep me busy. A bunch of whining millionaires (I’m talking about both owners and players) doesn’t sit well with me.
* I wrote this last night, and might be asleep when it actually posts. I probably won’t come back and update it even if a deal with the Phillies or Padres or Yankees or Chunichi Dragons is announced.
The Hall of Fame Class of 2019 will be announced on Tuesday, but thanks to Ryan Thibodaux‘s fantastic ballot tracker, we have a good idea of what the results will be. Tomorrow I will post cards for the new Famers after the announcement, but tonight let’s look at a few that are likely to fall short.
One who has a great deal of support from baseball fans is Larry Walker, who spent the bulk of his career with the Colorado Rockies. Walker’s 72.7 WAR makes him a viable candidate, but the voters have shut him out so far. He received more support last year than any prior, with 34.1% of the vote, and as of this writing, he is polling at 65.4%. He will need 167 more voters to check his name to reach the 75% threshold, and that’s not likely going to happen. Will 2020 be Walker’s year?
Tracy Jones was supposed to form one of the greatest outfields in the history of baseball with Kal Daniels and Eric Davis and usher in the era of the New Red Machine. That didn’t happen. Instead, Jones was sent to Montreal in 1988, then was traded to the Giants, then the Tigers, then the Mariners, and was out of the major leagues after the 1991 season.
Jones found new life on radio in the 21st century, but was let go from Cincinnati’s 700 WLW in 2017 after ten years as on-air host. His son, Hunter, is currently in the Nationals’ minor league system.
Comparing these cards side-by-side, I see that I messed up on the nameplate by not stretching the player name. I’m not overly concerned with it, though.
In his first year on the ballot, Vladimir Guerrero received 71.7% of the vote, missing induction by 15 votes. This year, there was no doubt that the Dominican-born great would be inducted. A nine-time All-Star, Guerrero became a star in Montreal, and a superstar in Anaheim, winning the 2004 AL MVP as he helped the Angels to the playoffs. He finished in the top ten in MVP voting five other times.
Time was running out for Tim Raines. In his tenth and final year on the BBWAA ballot, the National League’s answer to Rickey Henderson in the 1980s was finally given a place in Cooperstown. It has shocked me how little support the stars of the 1980s received. Some had to wait several years to get in (such as Raines’ teammate Andre Dawson), while others were never given their due by the BBWAA (like Lou Whitaker, who fell off the ballot after just one year). Some had to wait for the Veterans Committee to set things right. The 1980s have been disrespected, and that’s totally not tubular.
Pedro Martinez is the only Montreal Expos pitcher to win a Cy Young Award; he was immediately traded to the Red Sox for Carl Pavano and the infamous PTBNL. Bowie Kuhn would have had a field day with that one. Pedro won two more Cy Young Awards for Boston, on his way to 219 career wins and a 2.93 ERA. He led his league in ERA five times, and struck out 3154 batters in his 18-year career.
“The Hawk” was a superstar in Montreal, but nobody knew it. Coming to Chicago in 1987 and receiving daily, national exposure on WGN, though, opened everyone’s eyes. Andre Dawson smashed 49 home runs in the Friendly Confines on his way to the 1987 NL MVP award, though the Cubs spent the season in the cellar. In 21 years, Dawson went deep 438 times while hitting .279. The writers foolishly passed over him for eight years before finally giving him the honor he earned on his ninth ballot.
It bothers me how long it took the BBWAA to induct Gary Carter into the Hall of Fame. JAWS may not be a perfect system, but Jay Jaffe’s tool ranks Carter as the second best catcher of all-time behind Johnny Bench. Maybe the system underrates Yogi Berra a bit, but there is little debate that Carter is at least in the top 5 catchers of all-time. So why did it take the writers six ballot cycles to vote him in, and even then, just barely?
Growing Up Pedro
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2015
Following excellent books about Hank Aaron and Ted Williams, the latest subject of a Matt Tavares children’s baseball biography is new Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Tavares tells young readers the story of a young boy who grew up watching his brother Ramon Martinez pitch in the Dominican Republic, dreaming of playing together in the major leagues. The author and illustrator follows Pedro’s journey pitching with his brother in Los Angeles, to becoming the best pitcher in baseball in Montreal, to a World Championship in Boston.
Tavares is in top form as his illustrations help tell the story of one of the greatest pitchers of the past thirty years. The book is aimed toward 8-12 year olds, and the text is certainly written on that level, but the artwork can be appreciated by baseball fans of any age. Tavares’ illustrations perfectly depicts Pedro’s intensity.
Up, Up, & Away
by Jonah Keri
Random House Canada, 2014
It has been ten years since Montreal has fielded its own baseball team; following the 2004 season the Expos became the Washington Nationals. In the thirty-six years that the Expos existed, though, they boasted some big names, including two Hall of Famers (Gary Carter and Andre Dawson) and several other superstars (Tim Raines, Vladimir Guerrero, Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker). There is a lot of nostalgia for baseball in Montreal, despite pathetic attendance to games during the final seasons.
Much of that nostalgia is captured by author Jonah Keri in Up, Up, & Away. Keri begins by telling the history of how the game came to Montreal and the struggles of the first several years as an expansion club. Up, Up, & Away really gets good in the 1980s, though, as Keri begins to tell the story of the Expos through a young fan’s eyes, pleading the case for Raines as a should-be Hall of Famer, recounting the exciting pennant races (which the team never won, save 1981), and the devastating cancellation of the latter part of the 1994 season, in which Montreal seemed destined to win it all. Keri examines the reasons that Montreal lost the Expos, from poor leadership to poor publicity to a possible conspiracy by Major League Baseball.
The story of the Expos is disheartening. A team with so much promise, so much potential, that never prevails. Up, Up, & Away ends on a high note, reporting that a feasibility study showed Montreal’s economy could once again support a big league club. But even if a new team took up roots in the city, it could never replace the Expos in the hearts and minds of Montrealers.