Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Bowie and Verducci lead the Hall of Fame over the shark
It’s a good week for Mike Pagliarulo, Steve Balboni and Kevin Maas.
But it’s a bad week for baseball fans every where.
The reason: The Baseball Hall of Fame has jumped the shark.
Oh, I’m sure it will still be a glorious place to immerse oneself in baseball history. Cooperstown is a slice of heaven. The museum always will be a special place.
But I’m about ready to walk right past the part of the building with the plaques.
Two reasons: A guy they just voted in and a guy just selected to do the voting.
First, the newly configured Veteran Committee elected someone for the first time since the whole Bill Maseroski debacle. No players, mind you. But five executives and managers.
One of those earning a plaque was former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
Dating myself here, but remember that song on Sesame Street that went, “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong?”
Let’s see. Jackie Robinson, Walter Johnson, Tom Seaver and Bowie Kuhn.
Yup, you guessed it.
About the best thing you can say about Bowie was that he wasn’t the worst baseball commissioner. My buddy Will put it best: “Bowie’s ‘leadership’ resulted in two player strikes, a lockout and bad player-management relations for decades.”
Granted, it’s not like Kuhn allegedly encouraged owners to collude or exclude black players or even look the other way when certain players started looking like the Shrek balloon in the Macy’s parade, like some other commissioners might have done.
But 30 years after he was booted out of the job, you just don’t hear people walking around saying, “Bowie Kuhn, right man at the right time. Thank goodness he was at the helm in the turbulent 1970s.”
Plus, he resided over the era of polyester uniforms. He should have evoked the “best interests of baseball” clause the moment the first player stepped on the field with elastic instead of a belt.
About the best thing you can say about Kuhn being in Cooperstown is that there are actually less-deserving people in there. Like Phil Rizzutto.
This leads me to the second reason the Hall has gone shark-jumping. Expect to see many more undeserving Yankees getting votes. Tom Verducci has been invited to join the ranks of those casting ballots.
The Baseball Writers Association of America decided to add to its rolls some people who write for Web sites rather than just newspapers. There were 18 writers nominated and 16 were accepted. A dozen were former newspaper people like Peter Gammons, so this was pretty much bringing some alumni back into the fraternity.
Rob Neyer and Keith Law from ESPN were the two guys who were excluded. I think that’s wrong, but they can fend for themselves.
But Verducci, the Yankee-lovin’ columnist for Sports Illustrated, was one of the writers who gets a vote.
Somewhere, Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens is cheering.
I envision all kinds of problems. First, we’ll hear Verducci calling for the likes of Fritz Peterson, Bucky Dent and Fred “Chicken” Stanley to be restored to the ballot. And if that happens, we know they’ll get at least one vote.
Then, I suppose he’ll call for waiving the rule mandating a player wait five years until after he retires to be on the ballot --but just for Derek Jeter.
“Why make Derek wait? We all know he’s going in,” he might say.
Oh, who are we kidding. Verducci might start writing in Jeter’s name while he’s still active.
And Verducci already is showing his colors. He wrote a column this week advocating for Tim Raines to be enshrined. I support that, as Rock was one of the best players of the 1980s. I can overlook his short time in pinstripes at the very end of his career.
But in that column, guess the subject of the first three paragraphs? If yousaid "Derek Jeter" you are correct!
As Casey used to say, you can look it up.