The Toronto media had its first face-to-face meeting with R.A. Dickey as a Blue Jay in a packed-house news conference at Rogers Centre Tuesday.
A lot of the discussion was a repeat of his introductory conference call in December, but some new ground was covered too.
Among the new stuff was that Dickey and J.P. Arencibia played catch for the first time on Monday – they both live in Nashville — so it was relatively easy for them to get together. Dickey was impressed with Arencibia’s eagerness to learn how to catch the knuckleball, adding that in the past a couple of catchers have simply given up and walked away.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos did mention afterwards though that he doesn’t anticipate breaking up the Dickey-Josh Thole combo that has worked so well the past three years.
Dickey spoke about team chemistry, and believes the Blue Jays’ will be good. He said something that really resonated with me – that it’s important to not lend a sympathetic ear to a teammate who is griping about something or other, but to instead pull him back into the overall team concept, the "all 25 guys pulling in one direction" sort of thing.
It seems obvious, but often the whiners will find teammates who agree with them and then they tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on, and all of a sudden there’s a poisoned atmosphere in the room.
I’m not a huge believer in team chemistry, but very obviously good is better than bad.
Dickey made a very good impression, looking people in the eye when they spoke to him and when he answered their questions. He spoke well, without engaging in cliché-ridden "jock-speak" and touched on a wide range of subjects, including his planned trip to India with his two oldest daughters sometime over the next five weeks to work with Bombay Teen Challenge.
I’m looking forward to getting to know him better in spring training – pitchers and catchers have their first workout Feb. 13.
The bigger story — since we’d already "met" Dickey before, is the 2013 Hall of Fame Class. The results will be announced on Wednesday and those elected will have their induction ceremony on July 28th, the day after Tom Cheek’s family is presented with his posthumous Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence.
While there’s always controversy about who does or doesn’t get the nod from the esteemed voters (members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America with 10 or more years of standing), this year’s results will be especially noteworthy because of the first-time inclusion on the ballot of The Big Steroid 3 of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. Mike Piazza is a first-timer too, and though he’s never been implicated in any investigation, there have long been whispers about his potential use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs – as there have been more recently about Jeff Bagwell, who is on his third year on the ballot. Bagwell’s numbers are certainly Hall-worthy, but according to many writers, something about him just didn’t smell right, as it were.
Bagwell was named on 41.7 per cent of ballots cast in his first year, and 56 per cent last time around. Players need to be named on at least 75 per cent of ballots cast in order to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
The presence of Bonds, Clemens, Piazza and Sosa as first-timers on the ballot presents a conundrum for many Hall of Fame voters, but in my mind, it’s a false conundrum. It depends on how you see the Hall, I guess. I see it as a museum of the history of baseball. It’s right there in the name after all – The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
A museum is a place where objects of historical significance are exhibited, preserved and studied. It’s not supposed to be a place where only the more pleasant objects of historical significance are exhibited, preserved and studied. It’s not the National Baseball Happy Hall of Fame and Museum.
Like it or not, Barry Bonds may have been the greatest player in baseball history. Roger Clemens is among the greatest pitchers in baseball history. Mike Piazza is the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history. Sammy Sosa jumped a lot while hitting more than 600 home runs.
They played in a tainted era and there’s pretty strong proof that the Big 3, at least, cheated their way to a lot of their successes, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t accomplish what they did and it doesn’t mean that they weren’t far and away the best of a tainted lot.
The Hall of Fame is for baseball’s best players. If it were for baseball’s best players – so long as they kept their noses clean – then Ty Cobb wouldn’t be in there (he allegedly killed a guy), nor would most of the players elected in the past 30 years (amphetamines were huge in the game from the 1960s on, if not earlier, and are now banned).
Hank Aaron and Mike Schmidt are among those who have publically admitted needing the help of "greenies" to answer the bell for many games in their illustrious careers – with no public backlash at all. Gaylord Perry, who threw an illegal pitch to get almost all of his over 300 career wins, is a proud Hall of Famer.
Bonds and Clemens, at least, should absolutely be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and each should have a note on his Hall of Fame plaque that says "Implicated in the steroid scandal of the late 20th/early 21st Century" (or something along those lines).
The Hall of Fame does not exist to protect visitors from the things about which baseball would prefer not to talk about.
Also, don’t get me started on the "I won’t vote for a guy in his first year of eligibility, because that’s reserved for a special higher level of Hall of Famer."
There’s no note on a Hall of Famer’s plaque that says "elected in his first year of eligibility," nor is there a special wing in the Hall for such players. Either you’re a Hall of Famer or you’re not – no one gets any better at baseball after having been retired for five years.
Craig Biggio will likely get the nod from the voters this year, having achieved their magic number of 3,000 hits in his career and also having escaped the taint of the steroid scandal, since he was an undersized middle infielder.
Jack Morris very likely gets the call this year as well, in his penultimate year on the writers’ ballot (players can only be on the ballot for a maximum of 15 years). Morris was named on two-thirds of ballots cast last year and once you get that percentage of writers on your side, you’re more than likely getting in. I’m in the camp that Morris shouldn’t be in – he was a horse, no question, and an otherworldly competitor, but I don’t buy the "pitching to the score" nonsense and if Lonnie Smith knew how to run the bases then we wouldn’t be able to say that Morris pitched one of the greatest games in World Series history.
It’s also irksome, as a Blue Jays’ watcher that Dave Stieb was neck-and-neck with Morris throughout the decade of the 1980s and Stieb didn’t even get a sniff of consideration for Cooperstown, failing to be named on the requisite 5 per cent of ballots cast in his first year to remain on it going forward.
Here’s hoping that voters wise up and put Tim Raines in the Hall this year.
The second-greatest lead-off man of all-time has very, very comparable numbers to Tony Gwynn’s – except Gwynn got a bunch of singles over the shortstop’s head while Raines was walking instead. The former Expos great (and current Blue Jays’ minor-league baserunning and outfield instructor) is on the ballot for the sixth time, and was named on 48.7 per cent of ballots last year.
Voters are allowed to name up to 10 players on their ballots, but not many do. I don’t get to vote, but if I did, my ballot would look like this (in alphabetical order):
Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez (greatest DH of all-time), Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines and Larry Walker.
No Sosa and no Rafael Palmeiro? Nope. I know it seems hypocritical – and it may well be – but I have problems with "magic-number" benchmarks like 600 homers or 3,000 hits. Palmeiro seemed to me to be a bubble guy even before he got dinged and Sosa didn’t do enough outside his huge years for me.
Remember, Sosa’s OPS is almost 100 points lower than McGwire’s.
That’s not to say that future arguments and research might change my mind on those guys, but right now I don’t think they’re Hall of Famers.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the writers had to say. I’m thinking only Biggio and Morris get in this year, but I’m hopeful that Bonds will at least crack 50 per cent.