Monday, January 25, 2016

To DH Or Not To DH?

That is the question. For the National League anyway.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently said that NL owners are beginning to warm to the idea of making the designated hitter part of the rules of the road in their league, thus making it universal throughout MLB.

MLB has a new collective bargaining agreement with the players union to negotiate by the end of 2016, and it looks like the DH has a possibility to become part of the National League will be high on that agenda.

Now the debate begins.

Many fans like the traditional NL style of pitchers hitting, no matter how bad they look at the plate, and they always point to the fact that it adds more "strategy" to the game.

I'm generally a "traditionalist" when it comes to baseball, but I am all in favor of the NL getting the DH. Interleague play appears to be part of MLB for good now, and it makes sense to bring the NL on board with it. It's always been unfair to AL teams to have their DHs sit in NL parks, especially come World Series time.

And let's face it, who really wants to see pitchers hit? With rare exceptions, most are near automatic outs (guys like Madison Bumgarner come along very rarely). Everyone knows how entertaining Bartolo Colon is at the plate, but he is another rare exception. Pitchers have suffered devastating injuries on the bases recently. Remember what happened to Adam Wainwright last year, tearing his Achilles, or Yankee pitcher Chien Ming Wang getting hurt running to the plate many years ago in Houston? (His career was never the same.)

For years I have heard NL fans asking when the AL was going get rid of the DH return to "traditional baseball." That will never happen, as the players union would never approve it, as it would turn a full time job into a part time one. And in the baseball world, can you name me another league in the world that DOES NOT use a DH? The only league I know that doesn't use it is Japan's Central League. Just about every other professional league in Asia, Latin America, Europe and Australia uses it, not to mention all minor leagues, colleges and high schools.

So a better question to ask these NL fans is: when is your league going to adopt the DH?

We may now have an answer to that question, and it may well be 2017.

And it's about time.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Another Haunting Wide Left

Add another one to the litany of Minnesota Vikings tragedies.

So what does the Good Lord have against the Vikings? (At least no know-it-all, wiseass sportswriter has made up some kind of "curse" they are under. At least, not yet anyway.)

Blair Walsh missed a chip shot FG from 27 yards with 26 seconds left that would have given the Vikings their first postseason win since 2009, but it gave the Seattle Seahawks a 10-9 win.

Walsh simply shanked it to the left, and as soon as it left his foot it was going wide. (On NBC, Cris Collinsworth made a big deal that the laces on the ball were "in", but a close look at the video of Walsh's other field goals showed he made his second FG of the day, a 43-yarder that went right down the middle, had the laces "in." So please get off holder Jeff Locke's back, everyone.) It was later pointed out that Walsh planted his left foot too close to the ball, and that probably caused the shank.

Walsh was a standup guy afterwards, as he stood at his locker after the game and took the blame for the miss. He's a terrific kicker, as he led the NFL in field goals made with 34. He got a torrent of abuse on Twitter after the game from so-called "Vikings fans", which he doesn't deserve.

52,000 fans sat in below zero temperatures yesterday and saw another agonizing Vikings postseason loss. This brought back memories of 1998, and Gary Anderson's wide left in the NFC Championship game. He was perfect all season, and missed just one. THAT one. That loss to Atlanta is still the worst loss in franchise history. The Vikings had lost just once that year before the title game, and looked on the cusp to make history. They did, but for the wrong reasons.

Yesterday's loss left me with a similar feeling to when the Red Sox lost the 2003 ALCS to the Yankees on that home run by You Know Who. I went to Facebook and wrote this:

OK, Vikings. Let's trade for Curt Schilling, sign Keith Foulke, and win the whole f**king thing next year.

The Vikings had a season that few would have predicted they would have had. They won the NFC North on the final day from Green Bay with a tough, young defense. Adrian Peterson had an incredible bounce back year, winning the rushing title. Teddy Bridgewater continues to improve as a QB. I was hoping this would be a year they could possible sneak in as a Wild Card, but they did better than that. They are a team on the rise, and the future should only get brighter, as they move into a brand new ballpark. The Vikings played valiantly against what was a better team in Seattle, but not putting up any TDs and settling for field goals really hurt them in the end. But Walsh's 4th field goal could have erased all that. It didn't.

I've been a Vikings fan since 1972. I became a fan when Fran Tarkenton returned from the Giants, and loved the Purple People Eaters defense, playing in arctic conditions in December and January. I've been through the worst losses they've gone through. And I thought to myself last night, like I did after the Red Sox lost the 2003 ALCS, "do I still want to root for this team after everything they've put me though?"

The answer in both cases is: yes.

It's been 44 years now, it's too late to turn back now. I'm proud to be a fan of the Vikings, and will stick with them through thick and thin.

Just win the whole f**king thing next year. Please.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Mike and Junior To Cooperstown

It was no big surprise that both Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame yesterday.

Of the 440 votes cast, Griffey got all but three. He broke Tom Seaver's record for the highest percentage of all-time, with 99.3%. I'm sure the three who didn't vote for him have good reasons for not putting him down. (I wonder if any of them kept him off with the idea that he was such a lock to get in they kept him off so they could vote for someone else not getting enough support. This happened a few times last year, and there's a great way to avoid this. Make the number of candidates you can vote for unlimited.)

On social media yesterday, I saw more than one knucklehead suggesting that those three voters who left him be stripped of their voting privileges. Why? They did nothing wrong, and violated none of the voting bylaws. Almost no one gets 100% of the vote in any election, unless you are Kim Jong Un.

Mike Piazza received 83% of the vote, and becomes the second Mets player to enter the Hall.

Jeff Bagwell finished third, with 71.6%. He came up just 15 votes shoprt of enshrinement, should be elected next year. Tim Raines was next with 69.8%, and has an excellent chance next year as well.

Trevor Hoffman had a strong first ballot showing, getting 67.3% of the vote, and Curt Schilling was right behind him. His support grew by over 13%, and he finished at 52.3%.

The Steroid Boys, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both increased their totals by more than 7% over 2015, but still have a long way to go. They both have six years left on the ballot, but neither cracked the 50% margin.

Old Friend Nomar Garciaparra got only 8 votes, or 1.8% of the vote on his second go-round, so he will no longer be considered by the writers.

Here are the complete vote totals from Wikipedia.

Griffey and Piazza will be inducted at Cooperstown on July 24th.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

If I Had a Ballot

The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the results of the balloting tomorrow at 6 PM, and there are 32 candidates for induction this year.

I am a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and we get a vote every year as to who should go in at Cooperstown. On the actual ballot, the writers can vote for up to 10 candidates. (I think it should be unlimited, but that's another story.) Here are the ten I would vote for:

Ken Griffey Jr.
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Jeff Bagwell
Trevor Hoffman
Edgar Martinez
Curt Schilling
Alan Trammell
Lee Smith
Jeff Kent

Nope, no Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. It looks like their percentage this year will rise, as the ballots already made public seems to reflect that both will be around the 50% mark.

If I had an expanded ballot, I would have included both Mike Mussina and Larry Walker.

It looks like Griffey and Piazza are sure bets this year, based on the public ballots.

This is Nomar Garciaparra's second appearance on the ballot, and probably his last. He's gotten almost no public support, and it looks unlikely he'll get the 5% to continue next year. He barely survived last year, getting 5.5% of the vote. Like Don Mattingly, his career just flamed out too quickly, and that is a damn shame.