My friend Murray (brother to my friend Mike) had some good questions that I wanted to post. Here goes:
Here's a leading question: don't you think that baseball is doing more damage to Darryl Kile's "legacy" by putting him on the HOF ballot this season than it would by waiting? Kile will probably receive too few votes this year, which means he will be expunged from the ballot. If, however, the HOF waited five years, it would remind everybody of Kile's untimely death just as the fans have started to forget about him. By then, his kids would be old enough to understand the tributes, and it would be a nice way to remember one of the game's fallen infantrymen. I know the rule doesn't work this way. But it seems to me that it's another flubbed grounder by MLB.
I think six years of Thome is a lot in a non-DH league, especially for a team that has Pat "The Glove" Burrell and My Other Brother Giambi. But Thome is a great hitter, and it's always worthwhile to add great players.
Did you write anything about the demise of the STATS Major League Handbook? I tried to find the Baseball America article on the subject, but to no avail.
And then I said:
Darryl Kile: That's a good point. I think that it would serve Kile's legacy to a better advantage if they waited. However...
First, Rob Neyer has a good article today in which he does a great job with this issue. (Neyer seems to have woken up a bit with his last few articles. Maybe he is finally devoting himself to the ESPN gig instead of writing a book this month.) He notes that the 5-year rule does not apply to deceased players. Here are the (BBWAA) eligibility rules in their entirety:
3. Eligible Candidates - Candidates to be eligible must meet the following requirements:
A. A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a period beginning twenty (20) years before and ending five (5) years prior to election.
B. Player must have played in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in 3 (A).
Player shall have ceased to be an active player in the Major Leagues at least five (5) calendar years preceding the election but may be otherwise connected with baseball.
C. In case of the death of an active player or a player who has been retired for less than five (5) full years, a candidate who is otherwise eligible shall be eligible in the next regular election held at least six (6) months after the date of death or after the end of the five (5) year period, whichever occurs first.
D. Any player on Baseball's ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate.
They don't list the Veterans' Committee rules, probably because they haven't been re-written since the recent reorganization. Anyway, he was eligible. Neyer: "Ballots for the 2003 class are due December 31, and Kile died last June 22." So the reports that a special dispensation in the form of waiving the rules are false.
The question of whether or not he should have been placed on the ballot is a separate one. He is no worse than the Marke Davises and Rick Honeycutts that are in this year's class, and that will be likewise expunged from next year's ballot. So baseball would basically be bypassing its normal rules and procedures to wait the five years to honor Kile. It would be nice for his kids and may have been a nice way to extend his legacy. Having him on the ballot this year could be viewed as excessive.
However, the ballot is established by an appointed committee:
4. Method of Election
A. BBWAA Screening Committee - A Screening Committee consisting of baseball writers will be appointed by the BBWAA. This Screening Committee shall consist of six members, with two members to be elected at each Annual Meeting for a three-year term. The duty of the Screening Committee shall be to prepare a ballot listing in alphabetical order eligible candidates who (1) received a vote on a minimum of five percent (5%) of the ballots cast in the preceding election or (2) are eligible for the first time and are nominated by any two of the six members of the BBWAA Screening Committee.
B. An elector will vote for no more than ten (10) eligible candidates deemed worthy of election. Write-in votes are not permitted.
C. Any candidate receiving votes on seventy-five percent (75%) of the ballots cast shall be elected to membership in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The player still has to be picked by two of the six screening committee members, clearly not an onerous obstacle. I would prefer to have the powers-that-be in baseball be as unobtrusive as possible, so I am conflicted. I don't really mind that he is there. Neyer says, "It's obvious he's not going to be elected to the Hall of Fame, and so any votes that he does get will be taken from other, (probably) more deserving candidates." Come on, he won't affect the election. He may take votes from a player who otherwise would have had the requisite 5% to remain on the ballot, but Gary Carter doesn't have to worry about the Kile vote.
Thome: The Phillies have not signed a free agent this big since Pete Rose. Will he be a bust? No. Will he be worthy of the money and the contract length? Probably not. But neither was Rose. However, the Rose era brought three playoff appearances in five years, the Phillies' first World Series title, and according to "experts" I have spoken with, helped to create the demand for the trading card market that has existed ever since. 1980, Rose's second year with the Phils, was the crowning moment in Philadelphia sports with all four teams reaching the championship series in each of their respective sports. It was also the crowning moment in the Phils' only Golden Age (1973-87), not coincidentally roughly the Mike Schmidt era. Never mind that Rose could barely hit the ball out of the infield by the time the contract was done. The Phillies have had two winning seasons in the last 15 since. I know that the owners tabbed him to create fan interest for the new stadium, but if Thome can generate some winning seasons, he'll be worth every dime. You have to remember that this is the worst pre-Devil Ray franchise in baseball.
By the way, the Phils now remind me of the Oscar Gamble-era Yankees. They seem to have a half dozen DH's. Unfortunately, those players have to play the field. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Phils trade Giambi possibly for another inferior brother (is Chris Gwynn still available?) or some middle relief help and/or prospects.
STATS Major League Handbook: Neyer wrote something about this in October. I guess it's a sign of the times. A lot of the information contained therein is available for free online. It succeeded too well and was quickly marginalized I guess.
Actually, I just found the Neyer piece , and he claims that the Sporting News purchased STATS this year and killed the better baseball guide. I would think that if it made money TSN would have subsumed it in its yearly suite of baseball books. Maybe I'm too na´ve. I prefer the data in electronic format anyway. That is, as long as the data remain available via the net, which they should. I will miss Bill James' projections for next season. I always used them as predictors for rotisserie baseball (and always lost). Baseball America may not be covering because they don't want to give TSN the free press.
Murray has a excellent follow-up point: "I actually think it's more convenient to get that information out of a book, and the book also offered the important virtue of portability. It's easier to flip around in and read a book."
Oh, one last thing on Kile. Tommy Lasorda stepped down as manager due to medical reasons in the middle of 1996 and went into the Hall in 1997. I know that he was a manager and not a player and I know that he was selected by the Veterans' Committee, which has different rules, but my point is that a) he went in due to his managerial career, b) his managerial career ended on July 29, 1996 and he was selected for Cooperstown on March 5, 1997, and finally c) no one made a fuss about his not having to wait. I think that they are somewhat analogous. If Kile were a Hall of Famer (like Clemente), I would have no problem with him going in right away. I also tend to doubt, as Neyer claimed, that the writers would be easily swayed by a recently deceased candidate. I think they understand the importance of the vote, though they don't know the proper living players to vote for.