The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Thursday, August 09, 2001


Clearing the Bases

Episode I--in which a frazzled graphic designer cleans house on a bunch of topics...

• Three weeks ago, I (along with a few others around the web) examined Derek Jeter's struggles. Since then, he's been playing like the one in the catalog, hitting .429 (33/77), scoring 21 runs, and playing error-free shortstop. He's raised his batting average 20 points and his OPS 42 points. I'd like to think my column is responsible, but a more likely explanation is those batting tips I emailed him.

• On Monday, the day after its induction ceremony, the Hall of Fame announced sweeping changes on the way it elects members. For one thing, the Veterans Committee, a fifteen-member crew which has been the source of most of the questionable selections to Cooperstown, has been disbanded. It will be replaced by a new Veterans Committee consisting of all of the Hall's living members, the broadcasters in the Hall via the Frick Award, and the writers in the Hall via the Spink Award. The New committee will vote on players every other year starting in 2003, and umpires, managers, and executives every four years. Additionally, the candidacies of several players who slipped off the writers' ballot after failing to receive 5 percent of the vote will have their eligibility restored. This includes a couple of players I mentioned in my quick list a few days ago, Lou Whittaker and Ted Simmons (I did not realize that Simmons had suffered that fate when I made my list). I'm happy to see their candidacies revived, as I am for those of Bobby Grich, Dwight Evans, and several others. They may not all be worthy, but they are worthy of more than a single vote for consideration.

While the changes don't solve all of the problems with the Hall of Fame (then again, what would?), I do think these are steps in the right direction. The 15-man Veteran's Committee, while it righted some wrongs, has been guilty of admitting a number of substandard candidates over the course of its history. The small number of people wielding great power has made it possible for crony-ism to dictate who gets elected, and the lack of public accountability has shrouded some of the politicking that goes into those elections. The new system, whatever its flaws, will make it harder for a few men to wield so much power over who gets in, and making the voting results public will bring greater scrutiny to the process.

ESPN's Jayson Stark details the positives of the new system. Over at Baseball Primer, Eric Enders, a former researcher at the Hall of Fame library, weighs in with a more balanced look at the pros and cons of the new system. The Baseball Primer discussion of the topic has weighed in with spirited defenses of several candidacies, as well as the standards of what constitutes a Hall of Famer.

• Speaking of the Hall of Fame, Baseball Primer's Don Malcolm reports on an organization which is focusing on a more iconoclastic type of shrine, the Baseball Reliquary. The Reliquary (as in "a depository for relics") combines a collection of offbeat objects (a cigar smoked by Babe Ruth, a humanitarian award once given to Ty Cobb) with a shrine full of offbeat personalities. It is "dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its interaction with American culture by the preservation and exhibition of artifacts related to the National Pastime," according to its home page. This year's inductees into its Shrine of the Eternals were Satchel Paige, Jim Bouton, and Jimmy Piersall, and past inductees include Bill Veeck, Curt Flood, Marvin Miller, Pam Postema, Dock Ellis, and Moe Berg (the backup catcher turned WWII spy whose unusual life was thoroughly chronicled in The Catcher Was a Spy by Nicholas Dawidoff). I can get behind any organization that recognizes such a diverse and noteworthy collection of honorees as those--and what a reading list it would make!

According to Malcolm, who was in attendance at the induction dinner, Bouton spoke at length and to great delight at the ceremony. His address, as with the rest of the ceremony, will be available on videotape. Having met Bouton and conversed with him at length, I'm salivating at the opportunity to hear what he had to say about the state of the game.

• Speaking of Don Malcolm, another piece of his on the new series of stamps issued by the United States Post Office is worth a look. The series commemorates great ballparks, and includes Yankee Stadium, Ebbetts Field, Fenway Park, Tiger Stadium, Wrigley Field, the Polo Grounds, Shibe Park, Forbes Field, Crosley Field, and Comiskey Park. Don has scanned each of them in and enlarged them, providing descriptions of the details on each one. Worth it for the visuals alone.

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