The Baseball Hall of Fame Needs…

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Jock Jones

Oh, there are readers out there who will finish off this sentence with “Nothing.  Keep it the way it is.  No Shoeless Joe, no Pete Rose.  No Mark McGwire.  Probably no Barry Bonds.  So be it.”

Then there is Reggie Jackson, who for a moment, in a recent interview for Sports Illustrated, made a case that the Hall is too broad in its acceptance.  Bert Blyleven, Jim Rice and others are not, in his opinion, Hall material.

What does Mr. October think about Ron Santo, lifetime .277 hitter, getting inducted posthumously this past weekend?  The way he was chugging out the damage control, Jax may now think that was just fine.

Ron Santo was Mr. Baseball in Chicago, first on the field, and later in the broadcast booth. He defined the game for millions of people.  So, yeah, one could argue, let him in.

Still.

Isn’t the Hall intended to be for the demi-god-like, the other-worldly-excellent, as demonstrated throughout the entire scope of the sport?

There are two ways to get into the Hall of Fame.  One, to be voted in by the Baseball Writers of America.  And two, the veterans committee gets anyone the writers may have overlooked.

Why is this back-up option needed?

Well, try this out:  no one has received 100% of the BBWAA votes on the first ballot.  No one.  In fact, Willie Mays, center fielder for the Giants and Mets in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, was a player many of the more knowledgeable followers of the game think of as the best to ever play the sport, certainly no lower than the top five, and an indisputable Hall candidate.

But guess what?  Mays ranks 14th in percentage of first ballot votes to get in the Hall of Fame.  This means an astonishing 23 of the 432 professional baseball writers eligible to vote that year said Mays did not belong in the Hall of Fame.  That alone should be proof that these writers did not belong in the BBWAA. You don’t vote for Mays, out you go.

Nope.  Can’t trust the writers alone, though a solid majority did get it right with Mays and a solid majority still does get it mostly right.

What complicates the current landscape are the accusations and, in some cases, the admissions of drug use.  Not the meth the players used, until recently, to get up for the games in the midst of a grueling season, not the LSD that Dock Ellis claims he was on when he pitched a no-hitter against San Diego, but the steroids and growth hormones.  These have been cited as demonstrating lack of integrity, lack of character, and poor sportsmanship.  These three qualities are supposed to be taken into account when voting a candidate into the Hall of Fame.

Like a lot of lofty ideals, these attributes are easier to find in the ideas we hold about players than in the actual people once we study their lives.

Ty Cobb is in the Hall.  Deserves to be, too, on the basis of his career.  Really, the guy had a .401 batting average through four seasons and .367 for his entire MLB career.  But read this piece by Larry Schwartz of ESPN about the Georgia Peach, as he was called, and then decide if Cobb demonstrated Integrity, Character, and Sportsmanship.

Pete Rose?  Did he possess worse character than Cobb?  Better integrity than Cobb?  Shoeless Joe Jackson?  Better?  Worse?  Do either of these alleged gamblers deserve to come off the ineligible list?

These are all debates that can help us work our way through a few pints at the local.

Then the Alleged Juiced Crew.  Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Clemens, McGwire… better or worse than Cobb?

Oh, but you may argue that Cobb was a product of his era, that the nastiness, the racism, were part of the times.  A mother who married at 12, who killed his father when the young ballplayer was a teen.  A victim of his era, you might argue.

So then drug-enhanced performances are not an integral part of our own era?  Is coffee a drug?  You say it’s legal.  OK.  What about your favorite local band?  Any of those players ever rip those killer Saturday night licks while maybe a little stoned?

Just saying…

So how about this.  We make the Hall tiered.  On the top level, we have the highest possible performances, combined with integrity and character and sportsmanship.  There would be a separate room for this group.  Most likely it would be a little room.

On the next level, great performances but with a taint in the character department.  Call it the Rogue’s Gallery.  Cobb is the first one to go in there.  A big, big room.

Then the next tier, maybe the Outlaws’ Room, we place those who knowingly and repeatedly flaunted contemporary laws, like, say they used substances that were outlawed at the time.  The Bambino goes in there.  After all, it is well-known that Babe Ruth loved his beer, and sorry, Yankees fans, but a lot of his career happened during Prohibition, so into the Outlaw Wing he goes.

I am afraid Hank Aaron and probably Mays belong in there, along with legions of other stars of their era who regularly used speed to compete in this marathon we call the baseball season.

Off of that room we have the Designer-Drug Annex.  This will house nearly all of the MVPs of the last ten years or so.  These are the players who used drugs designed to enhance their performances.

We need this Annex.  We cannot exclude a batter who used steroids and yet whose lifetime batting average was Hall-worthy.  Most likely he performed well against pitchers who were also likely juiced.  Do two players competing against each other, both of them on ‘roids, cancel out the advantage?  Probably.  So they need to be included because, at least with some of their accomplishments, the drugs gave them no edge.  It’s only fair.

The Gamblers’ Den would house the Pete Roses and the Shoeless Joe Jacksons.

This way, the Hall holds up its standards, and yet does not have to explain to a curious visitor from another culture why so many MVPs, so many players in the top 20 of all time home runs hit, are not honored.  Take your kids to the Hall and explain to them why many of the best players from their favorite team are not included, players they have seen you cheer fanatically when their three-run homers banished the hated rival.

Go with the tiers.  Redesign the Hall.  The room with the highest standards, that is, excellence of performance, combined with character, integrity, sportsmanship, that room will have some players we can all be proud of.  They deserve their special room.  And it will be the smallest.

That we do know.

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All-Star Quarrels, 2012 Edition

Ah, listen to those familiar sounds of America at play!

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Jock Jones

Kids splashing in the pool, their joyous laughter buoyant above waters turbulent with their elation that the first day of school is still weeks away; the occasional fizz-fizz-pop of firecrackers left over from the celebrations of Independence Day ignited to break the monotony of the dog days; the whirr of fishing line spooling off a reel, followed by the plop of lure or bait into a peaceful stream as the angler folk take their leisure…

And the whining and moaning of who deserves to be in the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game.  The sounds of summer!

Let us explore why this last is the only one of these not equated with the pleasure of the summer season.  In this writer’s opinion, it is because the whiners make a disturbing error as they rush to their conclusion as to who deserves to play in the mid-summer classic.

They argue that selection to one of the two teams is about quality.  Or, we might say, about quality only.  It is not.  It’s about the story.

Now, it is hard to imagine someone complaining that those selected to play in Tuesday night’s game do not deserve the honor.  The selection process is not that bad.

But is it not conspicuous that none of the National League’s four top-ranked pitchers in ERA made the team?

OK, let us agree to slight Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs with his National League-leading 1.99 ERA and his 1.01 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) on the basis of his lackluster record (4-3).   Then add the fact that he is the only one of the contenders with less than 90 innings.  Nice first half, Ryan, but, sorry, you don’t make the cut.

Next Ryan, that is, Vogelsong, of the San Francisco Giants, is second in ERA with a WHIP of 1.12.  James McDonald of the Pittsburgh Pirates at third, virtually the same ERA as Vogelsong (2.36/2.37) boasts a WHIP of .97.  Johnny Cuetto of the Cincinnati Reds is only a few ticks higher with his ERA (2.39) though his WHIP is the highest of any of the NL’s top four ERA pitchers.

But wait.  Shouldn’t that add to the cred?  Do we not prize above all else the pitcher who can retire a side with runners on base, with runners in scoring position?  A WHIP a bit high, but a low ERA?  Get that guy in the game.  Same argument could be made for selecting Vogelsong.

Last year, Ryan Vogelsong did make the All-Star team with numbers quite comparable to his stats at the break this year.  What happened?  What’s different?

His story.

So what, you say.  Big deal.  But check this out.  Last year he was the narrative of the guy who was unheralded for years, who kicked around the Bigs and went to Japan and generally performed for a  decade on the margin of respectability.  Then he figured some things out and became the poster boy for every struggling late bloomer.  This year?  He’s just another good pitcher on a contending team of mostly sharp starters, one of whom, Matt Cain, has been selected to start Tuesday night.

Why is Ryan Vogelsong’s story relevant?  Are we not told the All-Star Game is about the best American League players squaring off against the best from the National?

Should be.  Baseball, like all sports, should be as pure a meritocracy as we get.  Only… it is not.  There is more money to be made from the narrative of sport than from proof of superiority.  And money is what drives the machine.

Imagine that you are a broadcast executive and your fortunes rise and fall on the attention your presentations attract.  The more eyes watch the program, the better life is for you.

And more eyes will watch the All-Star Game if the narratives pull them in.

Take Kung-Fu Panda, the “cute” nickname for San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval.  The Panda was picked to start over David Wright, third baseman for the New York Mets.  Unlike the pitchers, the position player starters are selected by fan voting.  Sandoval, as Mets GM Sandy Alderson tweeted, has a cute nickname.  Alderson wondered why Giants fans did not just select a “ball dude” to play third base.  This implies that Sandoval plays the position no better than the non-ballplayers hired to catch or retrieve foul balls.  Alderson ruins his comment about the nickname with that ludicrous statement, but he does have a point.

Wright is, from pretty much every angle but the story, a better candidate to start the All Star Game than Sandoval.  But the latter has a story that will keep the eyes of the casual fan on the tube.  And with the kind of engagement that advertisers like in a viewer when they are pitching products to them.

Sandoval has struggled with a weight problem.  He has kept a sunny disposition throughout, most recently during a lengthy rehab for hand surgery.  His fan base loves him for these reasons, though were he not batting well, had he not made some highlight-reel plays, his story would not have carried him to start the All Star Game.  But he has a narrative and that will get eyes to stare at that screen.

Remember this when attempting to understand the curious nature of current sport:  The Money Flows as the Narrative Grows.  The competition to determine who is best is only there to support the narrative.  Sorry, purists, there just aren’t enough of you to satisfy that hypothetical broadcast executive.  That’s for the multitudes of casual fans and they do like their stories, cute names and all.

It’s the narrative.  Track any changes that dilute the essence of a sport and you will be led to decisions made by the broadcast executives (and advertisers) driving nervous systems to the barkers of the marketplace.  Sandy Alderson knows this.  He has profited mightily over the course of his life from this equation.  He ought to know he can’t have it both ways.

 

© All content copyright 2012 Serial Jones. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The Daily

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Miscellanea Jones

Once upon a time, when Yours Truly was a much smaller bit of miscellany, she became enchanted with the notion of keeping a diary.

And lo, one Christmas morning there it was, complete with lock and teeny-weeny key, and a page for each day of the year.  Every one of them.

Every single one.

Had Miss Miscellanea been a different sort of child, she may well have filled those pages calmly and diligently each day, with thoughts and reflections suitable to her age, and taking up exactly the same amount of space on the page, day after day.  But alas, she was not that kind of child.

Then, as now, she sometimes had a great deal to say, and at others very little at all, but the parameters provided by the diary would not allow for this.  And she was not — yet — the type of person who would feel comfortable (nay, rejoice!) in lining through an upcoming date to give herself more room to write (what if she needed that space for an unexpected excitement?  And of course going back to an earlier, unused page was unthinkable).

No, it was somehow important to her that each of those identically-sized pages bear a true report of that very day’s occurrences.  The result of this concern was page upon page of entries reading “Not much happened today,” generally penned in one sitting long after the fact.

On those occasions when she did, in fact, have something to air out, the intervening entries might be further reduced, to page upon page of “Ditto yesterday,” as though the many days between the few significant events would not have occurred at all without this token and ignoble acknowledgement.

The discovery of a “blank book,” a junior-high language arts assignment, was a revelation.  No dates!  Not even lines!  A beautifully bound, hardcover book, all ready to be filled, a line or a paragraph or several pages at a time, as current activity warranted.  A life-changing discovery.

Now, here we are, these many (many) years later, facing the digital approximation of those early volumes.  No longer tormented by a an indelibly dated page — and having given up her addiction to daily posts and the weird pleasure that derives from seeing all those hyperlinks lit up in the calendar archives — Misc. Jones celebrates the virtual return of the blank book.

Still, some days a great deal to say, others very little at all, but all offered in hopes that something will eventually emerge and take shape, free of constraints and that teeny-weeny key.

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Along Came Jones

Valued Guests:

As we have increased our efforts in seeking out more family members to assist with Serial Jones, a strange thing has happened.  There are Joneses everywhere.  It seems the world is overrun with Joneses.

And they have taken many forms.

Here’s another one now:

The Coasters, 1965

 

Sigh.

Love that Lanky Jones.  (Oh, to be a damsel.)  There’s a rumor afloat that we’ll someday have a visit here at Serial Jones, but we’ll believe that when we see it.

(Note to Self:  Whenever possible, prepare post BEFORE engaging in techno-hell.)

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Miscellanea Jones

More soon.  -MJ

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Stationary Times

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Urania Jones

Hello, duckies!  Urania here, stepping in for the nonce.

(And yes, somewhat unintentionally, having made a vague reference to offering a guest post sometime, a distinction apparently lost on the persistent Miscellanea.)

“Oh, just write anything,” she says.  “Anything at all.  You know, as long as it’s about astrology.  And not too complicated.  Or overwhelming.  But not too simplistic.  You know.”

Ah, yes.  The clear directive.

But we are undaunted.  As luck would have it, it’s a busy time (celestially speaking).  Here we are, just a few days past Summer Solstice, and  Saturn and Venus this week station direct.  Much to consider, much to elucidate.

We’ll start with the broadest of strokes, shall we?

With Solstice, we find ourselves at midsummer, though of course this is more commonly known to us as the start of the summer season.  As with the start of all seasons, the sun has entered a Cardinal sign, in this case the water sign of Cancer — moon-ruled, domestic and emotional.

As for those stations:  You are, perhaps, familiar with the concept of Mercury retrograde, and its attendant trials of communication breakdown, technological snafus and misunderstandings?

Mercury’s retrogrades are the most frequent, occurring on an average three times per year (next beginning July 14), but all of the planets, in fact, take on retrograde motion — that is, the appearance of going backward.  Saturn and Venus are just now returning to forward movement.

(It should be noted that neither the Sun nor the Moon retrogrades.  Nor are they planets, in astronomical terms, though from an astrological perspective they are seen as such.  Older and more poetic descriptions may refer to them as the lights.)

At the start and end of these retrograde periods, the planets appear to stop before reversing direction, a state known as a station.  In my observation, the station days can be the most challenging, as though the suspension of those planetary movements manifests as a similar loss of traction in earthly endeavors.

Saturn’s station today takes us out of a five-month stint of retrograde motion.  As Saturn represents the structure of our lives and our society, in retrograde it has provided a key opportunity to restructure and reconceive, the better to build on a stronger foundation now that forward movement has resumed.

The six-week retrograde of Venus has enabled us to revisit areas of artistic and relationship activities, and to reconsider habits of indulgence and even styles of dress.  Her direct motion on Wednesday will enable us to move forward with a fresh eye and a fresh approach.

(I should add that it is not generally a practice of mine to begin endeavors under such stationary energies.  It is only as a result of prolonged entreaties from The Editor that I offer this post, and only under the condition that it be regarded as preliminary.)

We hope soon to welcome to these pages the fine work of the incomparable Argento.  We are delighted with the prospect.

In fact — heaven knows — we can hardly wait.

 

 

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Meet the Joneses

Over the next few days, you may begin to see some strange things here at the mag.

Serial Jones is a family business, after all, and like many such businesses, extended family members are, on occasion, called in to help.  Being a magazine, a variety of content is what we’re after, and what better source of varied content than from our own crew of eccentrics?

We hope soon to welcome Urania Jones, astrologer extraordinaire, and dear Uncle Mercurio, with his host of unexpected treasures.

Cousin Jock has promised a sports article.  Kookie, our photography intern, can be rather unpredictable though she does from time to time manage to capture exactly what we need.

Lanky Jones is a busy, busy fellow but will stop in when he’s able.  Or so he claims.  We can’t ever be too sure.

As you can imagine, characters such as these have a way of attracting others, but we don’t mind.  You might say we have a jones for them.

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Miscellanea Jones

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Jonesing

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Miscellanea Jones

This hasn’t exactly gone as planned.

I was perfectly content, living quietly behind the scenes while The Author wrote and wrote, day after day.

Until one day the indefatigable SJ suggested that perhaps it was not entirely necessary to publish daily.  Or, more precisely, that we need not publish fiction daily.  In fact, he proposed that we take a break from publishing fiction at all.

Having gotten myself into a very happy habit of that very practice, this has caused me no little consternation.

The notion of Serial Jones being anything less than a daily publisher was not (at the time) acceptable.  (We have since come around.)  But nonfiction?

Life is change, as they say.  Thus our first year in publishing (we can’t believe it, either) concludes, Ourobouros-like, with a beginning.

With the help of a few newcomers, we welcome you to Serial Jones, the… um… magazine.  Or something like that.

For starters, let’s get some visuals.  Here’s your first peek:

 

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Serial Jones: World Headquarters

 

Who knows what awaits?

Welcome, again, to the ever-changing world of Serial Jones.

 

 

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