David Ortiz never once hit a homer off the Cincinnati Reds, yet still managed to waltz into the Baseball Hall of Fame last night as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. People who are elected into the Hall of Fame get to be called Hall of Famers, in case that repetitive first sentence didn’t tip you off to that fact.
Yes, despite a respectable yet pedestrian 8 for 26 career with a trio of doubles and an intentional walk against Reds pitching, Ortiz became the lone player off the 2022 ballot to be enshrined by the Baseball Writers Authority of Antarctica. In doing so, he garnered more votes than the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, and a handful of others, the Boston Red Sox legend pretty rightfully getting his due after winning a trio of titles in Beantown and swatting numerous monumental dingers along the way.
541 regular season dingers, to be exact, with another 17 to his credit in the postseason.
There has been much scuttlebutt about the BBWAA’s voting process this particular year. That Ortiz, who once tested positive for steroids during a 2003 round of testing that was supposed to remain confidential, cruised into the Hall on the first ballot while fellow alleged steroid users with comparably more brilliant individual careers languished on their tenth and final year on the ballot drew the ire from more than the usual pundits. Outright incongruity, East Coast Bias [TM], being buddy-buddy with the media, and the like have all been touted as reasons why the entirety of the voting and enshrinement process is flawed as all hell, all of which have varying (and often undeniable) importance.
I am neither a Small-Hall nor Big-Hall person at this juncture. The chicanery of the last 10 to 15 years of voting has instead just repeatedly proven to me that the Baseball Hall of Fame is just that - a room dedicated to whichever sect of former players, managers, and executives some media members deem famous. It has little to no tangible connection to which players were best, which ones peaked hardest, or which ones were most deserving. It’s become, for the worst, a popularity contest where far too many of the juries possess opinions that truly aren’t deserving of a second thought.
That one guy who tried publicly shaming us in his Enquirer column years back still has a vote, somehow. He voted for three players off the 2022 ballot - David Ortiz, Scott Rolen...and Omar Vizquel.
Barry Bonds put up as many bWAR in a four-year period as Vizquel did in his entire 24 year career.
Anyway, congrats to Big Papi on an honor I think he deserves to own, even if it came on an evening where the honor itself was once again tarnished by the continued smugness of far, far too many who control the process. There are still countless members of the BBWAA who strive to do right with the process, I’ll add, those who represent the organization in a way that was intended and who, largely, have made it their active life’s work to cover and study the game in incredible ways. Mostly, I feel quite sorry that they’re stuck in the same voting pool year after year with folks who barely watch the game, hardly enjoy the game, and feel so innately morally superior to those players on the field for whom they vote (or abstain).
In other fun news of baseball shooting itself in the foot while other sports thrive in its absence, the MLBPA met with MLB execs for a second consecutive day on Tuesday in an attempt to figure out this next Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the general consensus is that they did so in just about as poor faith as can be fathomed. Their unwillingness to budge on a league-minimum salary boost that already lags the inflation-adjusted level it should already be at showed how out of touch they are with the lowest-earners of the players, while the disconnect they showed in discussions about an arbitration-level bonus pool was downright laughable.
As ESPN’s Jeff Passan relayed, MLB offered less than 10% of the bonus-pool amount as the MLBPA suggested - a gap of some $95 million.
Labor talks are over. Here's what happened.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 25, 2022
- MLB agreed to accept parameters of a pre-arbitration bonus pool for top 30 WAR. MLBPA seeking $105M. League offered $10M.
- MLB offered minimum raise to $615K. MLBPA wants $775K.
- MLB withdrew offer to change arbitration structure
317 players were arbitration-eligible during 2021, as MLB Trade Rumors broke down in team by team fashion prior to last season. Obviously, to be one of the 30 highest WAR players from that group means being pretty damn elite against your peers, something that’s a high-hurdle to even becoming bonus-eligible. On top of that, the difference in WAR calculations between Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus often run wild, making it hard to pin that as the best determinant for who deserves bonuses as-is. Beyond that, it’s long been evident that teams and players already disagree wildly on baseline arbitration salaries, as they are often millions upon millions apart in their initial offers (with Jake Arrieta and the Cubs being nearly $5.5 million off in their 2016 talks being the first obvious one to jump into my head).
So, to shave all that down into 30 players divvying up just $10 million is a laughably low amount, the latest spotlight on MLB’s attempt to be both as frugal as possible and to cast as wide a gulf as possible with the players as can be. Given that gulf and their very obvious petulance in the face of a timeline here, I fear we’re going to get to punt spring training as we used to know it at a bare minimum, with the likelihood that the season’s start date gets missed a near certainty.
Finally, former Red Wladimir Balentien announced his retirement from baseball over the weekend, ending a career that saw him eventually land in Japan to sock all of the dingers that have ever been socked. He set a single-season record with 60 swats back in 2013 with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, doing so just four seasons removed from a somewhat promising 105 OPS+ year with the Reds. He would eventually pound 301 homers in NPB play across 11 seasons, and a hearty congratulations is deserved for a thorough career to My Wladdy Balentien.