Playing an emergency Hall of Fame edition of Nine Innings while wondering when Karim Garcia will be on the ballot …
1. This is a great day. Even though it’s 10 degrees outside, we’re talking baseball — and not just the best of baseball, but the best of the best. Pedro Martinez, who is on the short list of the most compelling and brilliant athletes ever to perform in Boston, is headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Given Pedro’s flair for — well, everything, but especially pitching and public speaking, the day of his enshrinement is already one of much anticipation. I’m not going to get worked up by those sports-radio turds racing to be the first to belly-flop into the punch bowl with their cheap and pathetic speculations. They are easily ignored and aren’t worthy of acknowledgment by name. And there is no reason whatsoever to be bummed about his less-than-expected vote total. Martinez was checked off on 91.9 percent of the ballots, still a strong number even if it means 49 people left him off. Some had a semi-justifiable reason for doing so, passing on voting for those most likely to be elected comfortably to spend their 10 allotted spots on worthy players in need of support. I don’t agree with that approach — just vote for the 10 best and be done with it — but I understand why some would. As for those morons who chose not to vote for him for some other reason? They had no effect. Pedro is going to the Hall of Fame, you and I are thrilled, and they’ll wake up tomorrow and still be morons.
2. Pedro’s interview on the MLB Network in the immediate aftermath of receiving the news was as entertaining as you’d expect. He was blunt (“Guess what, I did it clean”) and proud (“When I’m on the mound, I’m taller than anybody”) and cited a eclectic starting rotation of pitching influences — Nolan Ryan, the overlooked Mario Soto, the loony Joaquin Andujar, and Bret Saberhagen among them. It was reminder of how good he is on television — and how he should be on television more.
3. There’s no doubt that Pedro’s plaque will feature a Red Sox cap. And that’s how it should be since his performance here is arguably unmatched by any other pitcher over a seven-year stretch in baseball history. But under a different circumstance, I’d be all right with him going in as an Expo. That circumstance? A scenario in which Pedro, Randy Johnson, and Tim Raines were this year’s inductees. Trois Expos.
4. The election of four players is a good number, though I was holding a slight hope that there might be a couple more. From 2008-13, the BBWAA elected just seven players. We now have seven elected over the last two years, which should ease some of the backlog of worthy candidates on the ballot. Raines was one of several players who saw a jump in support — he was up to 55 percent this year after dipping to 46.1 percent last year — but I worry that the voters’ gradual awakening to his worthiness is an instance of too little, too late considering he has just two years left on the ballot.
5. It was cool to see Pedro give a shout-out to Edgar Martinez, whom he cited as the toughest hitter ever had to face. Martinez, the supreme designated hitter for the Mariners for 18 years, strikes me as someone who would benefit greatly from a binary ballot. I believe Martinez, who put up a .312/.418/.515 career slash line, belongs in Cooperstown, and yet I couldn’t squeeze him into one of the 10 spots on my hypothetical ballot this year. Pedro doesn’t do much by accident, and I suspect his acknowledgment of Edgar Martinez was his way of saying he deserves much more consideration that he is receiving.
6. Curt Schilling saw a double-digit uptick in support, from 29.2 percent last year to 39.2 percent this year. He’s trending in the right direction after slipping last year. He should make more progress next year on a ballot that includes only two presumed shoo-ins among the newcomers in Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman. But I have to say, it’s baffling to me that Schilling doesn’t get far more support. You know his credentials: Arguably the finest postseason pitcher of all-time, 3,116 strikeouts (15th all-time), best K/BB ratio of the modern era, and so on. And his most similar pitcher statistically? John Smoltz. Baffling.
7. I was just about to bitch about Darin Erstad — he of the famed grit, scrappiness, and career 93 adjusted OPS — receiving a vote, which is to say one vote too many given that there are so many legitimate candidates in need of support. And then:
“@KenTremendous: Darin Erstad got a Hall of Fame vote. To be fair, he was one of the greatest punters in MLB history.” Punters r people too.
— Darin Erstad (@Dstad17) January 6, 2015
So let’s put it this way. The writer who voted for Erstad is a moron. But that tweet is probably a clue about why he or she liked the guy.
8. Pleasantly surprised to see Nomar stay on the ballot with 5.5 percent of the vote. Thought he might get bumped after a year because of the depth of the ballot, and that wouldn’t have seemed right to anyone who remembers him at his best. His awesome peak, which of course ran parallel to Pedro’s while they were teammates on some truly enjoyable Red Sox teams, suggested Cooperstown may come calling someday. But it just didn’t last long enough.
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:
Smoltz compiled 213 wins in his career along with 154 saves. But I think we’d all agree that his two wins for the 2009 Red Sox are what really locked up his Hall of Fame case.