From The Cheap Seats
The Old Fart's Committee voted in Orlando Cepeda last week, which was greeted with much delight on ESPN and in the print media. He is an interesting case in that the argument concerning his place in the Hall of Fame revolved around his drug arrest. I used to think his story was an interesting movie idea, a national hero brought low and disgracing the family name. Because the focus became whether his imprisonment for drug smuggling some twenty years ago was a disqualifying factor, the question of his worthiness as a player became secondary, indeed, started to become assumed. I don't think his arrest, followed by an exemplary life subsequent to his release should have disqualified him. On the other hand, his career is clearly below HOF status. Yes, he had 1365 RBI, he won an MVP award, had several big seasons. Perhaps if he hadn't been injured, his career totals would've been better, but it's a fact of life. You can say "he might have been a Hall of Famer if he didn't get hurt", but it doesn't follow that therefore he is a Hall of Famer. He was a slugging first baseman who isn't in the top 100 in homers, who finished in the top 5 in his league in slugging average only four times, who only had 5 or 6 really good years. I don't think this was nearly enough of a career. As I said, I think the focus on his personal history didn't hurt Orlando, I think it actually helped him.
The real problem is the Committee themselves. They added Juan Marichal this year, and I'm sure that didn't hurt Cepeda any. There's a long history of cronyism there, dating back to Frankie Frisch and all his mediocre Giant and Cardinal teammates. This committee sees itself as less gatekeepers than welcome wagon. They don't schlep to those meetings to not vote people in. So we can look forward to everyone getting in, Dom Dimaggio, Gil Hodges, and everyone who ever comes close to getting elected.
For my money, the only 20th Century players I would think of putting in would be Bill Mazeroski and maybe Wes Ferrell. Maz belongs, in my opinion. People are always talking about how important defense is, but here's the greatest defensive second baseman of all time and he's not in. The biggest difference between him and Ozzie Smith is the era they played in, as Maz played in the worst hitting years of the lively ball era and in a park which robbed him of his power, which was his primary offensive weapon -- he hit 138 homers in his career, 2/3 of which were on the road. His defensive stats are awesome, I'm not going into any details, but I suggest you read Rob Neyer's column at ESPN.com for the numbers.
Au revoir, Expos: The lords of baseball appear ready to let the Expos head south, where they will be warmly greeted by a government subsidized stadium deal and hungry fans. The reluctance of the Quebec government to invest any money in the Expos is a large part of it, Claude Brochu's greed is another, but baseball's unwillingness to extend the arbitrary deadline for negotiations with the other partners and Brochu is indicative of other factors as well. Revenue sharing is nice in theory, but the richer clubs are getting testy about giving money to Montreal and watching the Expos just put it in their pockets, not for higher player salaries. The stronger the weaker franchises are, the more money in the till for everyone, players and owners alike. This is probably an illusion for the owners, but I'm confident it's one they are under. They also want to use this as a warning to local governments: give us stadium deals, tax subsidies, all the economic concessions we want or we'll move. Baseball has been incredibly stable the last thirty years, while NFL franchises have bounced around like a hyperactive two year-old. This move, if it happens, will serve as a warning shot to all the cities that currently have teams and have resisted ownership blackmail attempts.
I actually watched a soccer game this week. No, they didn't move the World Cup to March. I was looking at SportsCenter and they promoed a European Champions Quarterfinal match between Manchester United and Inter Milan. This intrigued me, as they are two teams I've actually heard of and they contain some players I've seen in the World Cup. Early on, Inter was in trouble, since they were playing at Manchester without Ronaldo, who I assume is normally their best player. One of the few Manchester guys I'd heard of was David Beckham, Mr. Posh Spice himself, last seen (by me, at least) being unfairly red-carded out of the World Cup. Considering it was raining, it appeared to be a well-played game, but Manchester got a 2-0 lead in the first half, which, considering this was soccer, took all the suspense out of the game. Now since this was the first of a home-and-home situation, the margin mattered, but since that would mean I'd be watching yet another soccer game, a commitment I certainly can't make, I couldn't get all that fired up about it. All in all, I've spent worse afternoons.
A quick look at the NCAA tournament: I love UConn, but not as much as I love Duke. I think College of Charleston, an experienced tournament team, 16th in both polls, 28-2 with 25 straight wins, including one over N. Carolina, got shafted. They clearly deserved a better seed than 8, with a date with Duke in the second round. All in all, Duke appears to have gotten a far tougher road than the number one seed in the tournament deserves.
More on this on Tuesday. Yes, Tuesday. I apologize for not writing as often as I promised, and I'll pick up the pace starting this week: sports on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Rob Neyer's Column at ESPN.COM