Don't look now, but baseball is right around the corner. Just nine days from now, the Cubs open their annual caravan with a kickoff lunch at Harry Caray's downtown. Two days later, the Cubs convention opens at the Chicago Hilton. We'll be there for all of that. Pitchers and catchers report for spring training _ and it's always fun to say those words _ in about six weeks.
Here are a few things to get us started, and we'll touch on the Hall of Fame down below:
--The Cubs still are looking for a starting pitcher, but nothing appears imminent as far as a trade or a free-agent signing goes. Either way, it could make for a lively fan session with the GM during the Saturday part of the convention program.
--I also don't expect any quick announcement on a successor to the late Ron Santo in the Cubs radio booth. There are a lot of candidates and two entities _ the Cubs and WGN radio _ as part of the process. The one candidate who jumped out at me during the past season was Keith Moreland, the former Cub. He’s done outstanding work, both on radio and TV while filling in during the past couple of seasons. I’m also personally partial to Dave Otto, the former Cubs pitcher and standout high school athlete at Elk Grove. I covered Dave when he was a prep basketball and baseball star for the Grenadiers.
--It’s been a subject on other blogs, so we’ll mention it here. The Cubs’ website lists 41 players on the 40-man roster. The Cubs aren’t alone in this; about a half-dozen teams are listing more than 40 on their 40, according to one rules-savvy baseball person I know. This seems to happen a lot during the holiday season, when the MLB offices slow down. I expect the Cubs and those other teams to list 40 later this week. That means, of course, the Cubs will have to take somebody off the roster. There are plenty of candidates for such a move.
--The Hall of Fame announces its BBWAA results Wednesday. Our previous blog covered that. I’ve also come across a couple of other takes on the Hall, one by Christina Kahrl at Baseball Prospectus and one by Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse. A hat-tip to TV pal Len Kasper for the AOL link. Ed is a longtime baseball writer and Hall voter whom I got to know when he covered the Diamondbacks. Christina is a BBWAA member but not yet a Hall voter. Here is her article, which touches on the Jeff Bagwell issue that came up on our blog:
She writes, in part: “What has been especially noxious this time around is the treatment of Jeff Bagwell from some quarters as he arrives on the ballot. What he has been subjected to is little better than character assassination, where even the lack of any actual evidence, any scintilla of contemporary complaint from the writers themselves, or the especially self-serving ‘he didn't rat on teammates to me’ tack is being held against him. This approach will be on the landscape for years to come, so you may as well gear up for the witch hunts to come, against Mike Piazza or Jim Thome and so many others, no doubt using criteria every bit as tenuous or fantastic.
“So, what to do? When the time comes I know that, if I wind up with the privilege, I'll be voting for a few flawed heroes from a flawed period. To me, that absence of perfection just makes the recent past that much more like the rest of the game's greater history, or any like any period from human history. This need to punish is not unlike the repeated calls to forgive Joe Jackson or Pete Rose, for they have less to do with the objects of their hate or affection than with how doing so makes the authors feel-avenged or merciful --when such is not really the responsibility of the voter. We can no more overlook an entire generation of ballplayers than, 60 years earlier, we could have chucked the responsibility to vote for players from before integration, because the game was not the way we would have wished it, then, or recently. Whatever its flaws, the game remains great; however flawed its heroes may or may not be, the responsibility is to reward its greatest.”
Ed Price has his own approach. He says he will not make his ballot public:
“…[T]he instructions to voters make it even harder: ‘Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played,’” Ed writes.
“Every voter has his own interpretation of those instructions. Mine says that cheating shows a lack of integrity, sportsmanship and character, and I believe that using performance-enhancing drugs is cheating.
“(If using steroids isn't cheating, why didn't players just shoot up in the open? Why has every player, at least initially, denied using PEDs, if they all didn't know it was cheating?)
“In a Twitter debate with my friend Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post, Mike tweeted: ‘I'd rather be wrong letting guilty in than keeping innocent out.’
“I disagree. This isn't a court of law. Innocent until proven guilty does not apply. I feel strongly enough about cheating that, in fact, I feel the opposite of Vaccaro; I prefer to err on the side of keeping the innocent out rather than letting cheaters in.”
Don’t expect these debates to end any time soon. More to come later in the week.