Knicks fed up with ‘untradeable’ J.R. Smith

 

Knicks fed up with ‘untradeable’ J.R. Smith

By Fred Kerber

January 8, 2014 | 1:15pm

Maybe the Knicks’ J.R. Smith will try giving an opponent a hot foot next or using whoopee cushions.

One day after warning him about his unsportsmanlike conduct for untying an opponent’s shoelace at the foul line, the NBA Wednesday slammed Smith with a $50,000 fine for his repeated attempt at the silly prank.

And then Smith’s coach blistered him during his weekly radio spot, demanding Smith “grow up” and stop the nonsense.

“I don’t condone things that I know you shouldn’t do. No, I’m not happy about this. Because he was warned, he comes back and he makes the same mistake, and it’s not right,” coach Mike Woodson said on ESPN radio. “I’m going to address it [Thursday] when he comes in here for work, because it’s unacceptable. It really is. It’s unprofessional. … You just cannot do it.”

And despite a public apology on Twitter from Smith, the Knicks may have reached their breaking point. League and team sources maintain the Knicks would love to be rid of Smith, who cannot be traded until Jan. 15 under the league’s CBA.

“Untradeable,” was how one opposing executive views Smith.

Another exec, claiming he had no direct knowledge of Knick efforts to deal Smith, said, “The only thing they will get is a worse contract.”

And maybe an apology, which was what Smith tweeted:

The fine, another in a long list of penalties levied on the shooting guard by the league, was doled out “for recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct,” according to a release from Rod Thorn, NBA President, Basketball Operations.

The latest misstep by the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year Award winner came Tuesday in the first half of the Knicks’ 89-85 win over the Pistons when he reached for the shoelaces of Detroit’s Greg Monroe who stepped away avoiding any attempted prank. Whether Smith was joking in his reach or not was unclear.

What was clear was the disgust of Woodson. And the league.

“There’s no question he’s done a lot of things this year that has put him in a bad position and our team in a bad position,” Woodson said. “Somehow, we’ve got to clean that up. He was a big major part of what we did last season. There’s no doubt about that. We need him to be that J.R.

“This is unacceptable. It’s just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it’s got to stop.”

That episode came two days after Smith untied Shawn Marion’s shoelace in the Knicks’ 92-80 win in Dallas during a free-throw attempt. That prank, caught by Dallas TV, resulted in a warning from the league.

“After Smith was warned by the league office to refrain from further conduct of this nature, he attempted to repeat the action” Tuesday at the Garden, Thorn said in the statement.

Maybe he should go with knock-knock jokes because all of his other nonsense has not worked. Cue the history lesson music.

Two seasons ago, Smith was fined $25,000 for posting inappropriate pictures of woman on his Twitter account. He lost another $25,000 earlier this season for a Twitter war with Detroit’s Brandon Jennings who questioned the validity of Smith’s younger brother Chris making the Knicks’ roster. That fine came for “directing hostile and inappropriate language” on the social media spot. And Smith became the season with a five-game suspension — without pay — for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

Like a late night TV commercial, “Wait, there’s more…”

During last season’s playoffs, Smith was fined $5,000 for flopping against the Pacers, suspended one game for elbowing Boston’s Jason Terry. Smith was banned 10 games in 2006 for his part in an on-court fight. He was whacked seven games in 2009 after pleading guilty to a reckless driving rap. And the Nuggets suspended him three games in 2007 for his role in a Denver nightclub incident.

Woodson, who did not know of the league action when he addressed the local media in Greenburgh, sounded exasperated on radio and said teammates, himself, management can try to change the guard. But ultimately, Smith must change.

“At the end of the day, he’s got to grow up. And how come it can’t come from J.R. Smith?” Woodson said. “After a while, these things have got to stop. It’s just got to stop.”

So why did they resign Smith?  One answer: untitled Doofus Dolan.

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Should Tim Raines Be In The HOF?

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By – Jan 8th, 2014 at 1:00 pm

 

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With the big announcement having come and gone,  Tim Raines has missed the call after appearing on the ballot for the seventh time. As always in cases like this, we question ourselves. Is Tim Raines truly a Hall of Famer? If we base this on the first half of his career, it ‘s pretty obvious he would be, but unfortunately, the final half of his career saw a decline. However, his career numbers are still very impressive and very Hall of Fame-worthy.

Between 1982-1987, there wasn’t a better lead-off hitter in the game (besides Rickey Henderson of course). In that span, “Rock” Raines averaged 152 games, 184 hits, 10 home runs, 58 RBIs, 34 doubles, 110 runs, 72 stolen bases, and a slash line of .310/.397/.449. Wow. The back end of his career really hurt him. From 1988-2002 (his final season), he averaged just 106 games, 100 hits, 7 home runs, 43 RBIs, 15 doubles, 60 runs, 21 stolen bases, and a slash line of .282/.378/.408. Not very impressive at all. Although you can make the case that he was one of the most effective hitters in the game up until 1987, many writers will look at his career as a whole. We will do the same.

For the sake of argument I will use Barry Larkin to compare to. Many people including myself believe Larkin is a clear Hall of Famer. Both Raines and Larkin were both great lead-off hitters. Larkin had a little more power but Raines had the speed. Let’s dig deeper. In his career, Tim Raines averaged 109 games, 113 hits, 7 home runs, 43 RBIs, 19 doubles, 68 runs, 35 stolen bases, and a slash line of .294/.385/.425. Barry Larkin’s career numbers on the other hand stack up like this. He averaged 115 games, 123 hits, 10 home runs, 51 RBIs, 23 doubles, 70 runs, 20 stolen bases, and a slash line of .295/.371/.444.

When you compare the numbers, yes, Larkin was better but not by a landslide. Larkin leads Raines by an average of just 6 games, 10 hits, 3 home runs, 8 RBIs, 4 doubles and only 2 runs while Raines is ahead of Larkin by an average 15 stolen bases and put up a very similar slash line.  Barry Larkin has a slim edge on Raines and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2012, Larkin’s third year on the ballot.

As for Raines, he should be able to get in within the next few years and he should have no problem getting in before his fifteen-year limit is up. Let’s put it his way. Is Tim Raines truly a Hall of Famer? He certainly is, just more of a ninth, tenth, or eleventh-ballot Hall of Famer.

Why The Yankees Should Eye Players That Carry Draft Pick Compensation

January 8, 2014

Why The Yankees Should Eye Players That Carry Draft Pick Compensation

Despite signing Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury to long term deals, the Yankees are trying their very best to acquire young talent for the future. With relatively new spending restrictions on prospects for winning teams, the Yankees have tried to crack the limitations of the new CBA. This season they acquired three first round picks, landing Eric Jagielo, Ian Clarkin, and Aaron Judge, as well as a big bonus second rounder in Gosuke Katoh. The organization also signed another top prospect in Leonardo Molina, a center fielder that was ranked by Baseball America as the 5th best international prospect for 2013.

While 2013 proved successful in acquiring top young talent, the Yankees did so by allowing Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano to depart. The organization again lost Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson in 2013, but the team has already given up their three first round picks by signing McCann, Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. To limit the impact of losing out on prime picks in the 2014 Rule 4 draft, the organization plans to break the international bonus pool restrictions for the 2014 class. The Yankees want to spend somewhere between $12 million to $15 million in bonuses for international amateurs. While this will likely land them a huge chunk of the top tier of prospects, it will also trigger a 100% tax once they’re over their designated pool of around $2.5 million. It will also prevent them from giving away bonuses over $300,000 over the next two years. While this will help them acquire talent in 2014, they will limit themselves in the international market in 2015 and 2016.

But there is a way to keep acquiring young talent during these years. The current free agent market of major league players is still filled with players that will cost signing teams their best available non-protected draft pick. There is still plenty of offseason left for them to sign, but the pitching market is completely loaded with players like Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett, and Paul Maholm, while David Price and Jeff Samardzija remain on the trade block. With so many options, it seems inevitable that some of these pitchers will have to settle for one year deals and hope that the 2014-2015 offseason offers them a bigger opportunity. Likewise, the market for infielder Stephen Drew has shrunken to two reluctant teams in the Mets and Red Sox, who don’t seem keen on going past a one year deal. Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz likely have some longer contract interest, but both have reasons to rebuild their free agent value in 2014, as Cruz needs to reestablish himself after the PED suspension, and Morales could see better numbers in a more hitter friendly environment than Safeco Field.

Cruz, Drew, Jimenez, Morales, and Santana each remain on the market while costing interested teams their first non-protected draft pick. On short one or two year deals, Drew, Jimenez, and Santana make clear sense for the Yankees. If Brett Gardner is traded, Cruz could step into a corner outfield spot, while Alfonso Soriano and Beltran rotate as the DH and in the outfield. Morales would also makes some sense if Gardner were traded, as he could DH with Soriano and Beltran in the outfield. Some make more sense than others, but what’s clear is that the Yankees could take advantage of the CBA by acquiring any one of them.

For all five of these players, the Yankees would lose their next best draft pick in 2014. Their second round pick is next, obviously followed by their third round pick. By giving up later draft picks in 2014, the organization could take a gamble that these players once again earn qualifying offers after their short term deals are up, giving the Yankees first round compensation picks in the coming years. For instance, if the Yankees go on to sign Jimenez to a one year deal and Drew to a two year deal, the team would lose their second and third round picks in 2014, but could net first round picks in the 2015 and 2016 drafts. This would occur while the team is severely limited in their international bonuses, due to the overspending in 2014.

If the team does plan on spending big on the upcoming international free agent class, losing a second and third round pick in the same year isn’t too big of a deal. The potential first round picks they’d receive when they can’t do much in the 2015 and 2016 markets are big deals. We may see a few players like Gardner, David Robertson, and maybe Hiroki Kuroda net them more first round picks in 2015, but 2016 could be void of any young talent if the Yankees thoughtlessly spend without strategizing.

MADDUX, GLAVINE, THOMAS MAKE THE HALL

 

Braves pitchers, White Sox slugger make it on first ballot; Biggio falls just shy

By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com | 1/8/2014 6:21 P.M. ET

 

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NEW YORK — One of the most majestic induction classes in the history of the National Baseball Hall of Fame was set on Wednesday with the announcement that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were elected by eligible writers of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America the first time they were on the ballot, all of them by big margins.

On the ballot for the second time, Craig Biggio, who had 3,060 hits in 20 seasons, all with the Astros, did not get the necessary 75 percent, falling 0.2 percent shy of induction and missing by a scant two votes.

 

The newly elected trio will attend an 11 a.m. ET news conference on Thursday at the Waldorf Astoria New York that will be simulcast on MLB.com and MLB Network.

Also to be inducted in July are three of the greatest managers of all time — Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa — all selected by the Expansion Era Committee last month. They rank third, fourth and fifth in managerial victories in Major League history, each winning more than 2,000 games.

The Braves trio of Maddux, Glavine and Cox will be front and center in this, the 75th anniversary of the museum, during the ceremony behind the Clark Sports Center on July 27.

“It’s very humbling to go in with these guys,” said Maddux, who combined with Glavine to win 660 games. “It’s just icing on the cake. It’s going to be a special day and I’m going to be able to share it with special people.”

Thomas — who batted .301, hit 521 homers and amassed 1,704 RBIs in 19 seasons, 16 of them with the White Sox — is the first Hall of Famer to have played a majority of his games as a designated hitter. He appeared in 2,322 career games, with 1,351 coming as a DH and 971 at first base. Paul Molitor, who was elected in 2004, played more of his games as a DH than at any other position, but still just 44 percent of his total games played.

“This has been a stressful 48 hours. I am so excited that I’m in the Hall of Fame,” Thomas said. “This is something that I will have to sit back in the next three or four days and figure it out, because you can only dream so big, and this is as big as it gets for me. I’m a Georgia kid. Going in with Glavine, Maddux and Bobby Cox means a lot to me. The whole state of Georgia is going to be there, and I am just so blessed that I’ll be able to be there with these guys.”

2014 Hall of Fame Inductions

2014 Results

                                          The 2014 ballot featured 36 candidates, with 17 returnees and 19 newcomers.

Player (Years on ballot) Total Votes Percentage
Greg Maddux (1) 555 97.2
Tom Glavine (1) 525 91.9
Frank Thomas (1) 478 83.7
Craig Biggio (2) 427 74.8
Mike Piazza (2) 355 62.2
Jack Morris (15) 351 61.5
Jeff Bagwell (4) 310 54.3
Tim Raines (7) 263 46.1
Roger Clemens (2) 202 35.4
Barry Bonds (2) 198 34.7
Lee Smith (12) 171 29.9
Curt Schilling (2) 167 29.2
Edgar Martinez (5) 144 25.2
Alan Trammell (13) 119 20.8
Mike Mussina (1) 116 20.3
Jeff Kent (1) 87 15.2
Fred McGriff (8) 67 11.7
Mark McGwire (8) 63 11.0
Larry Walker (4) 58 10.2
Don Mattingly (14) 47 8.2
Sammy Sosa (2) 41 7.2
Rafael Palmeiro (4) 25 4.4
Moises Alou (1) 6 1.1
Hideo Nomo (1) 6 1.1
Luis Gonzalez (1) 5 0.9
Eric Gagne (1) 2 0.4
J.T. Snow (1) 2 0.4
Armando Benitez (1) 1 0.2
Jacque Jones (1) 1 0.2
Kenny Rogers (1) 1 0.2
Sean Casey (1) 0 0.0
Ray Durham (1) 0 0.0
Todd Jones (1) 0 0.0
Paul Lo Duca (1) 0 0.0
Richie Sexson (1) 0 0.0
Mike Timlin (1) 0 0.0

 

That means six living members are heading toward one of the grandest Induction Weekends, from July 26-27, in Cooperstown, N.Y. The results of this year’s BBWAA vote were in stark contrast to that of last year, when the writers didn’t elect anyone.

Maddux and Glavine, a pair of 300-game winners who pitched the bulk of their careers for the Braves, were the favorites, but the 571 voters outdid themselves by also adding Thomas and coming so close on Biggio. It was the first time since 1999 — when Robin Yount, Nolan Ryan and George Brett were elected — that the writers put three first-time eligibles into the Hall.

Maddux, who won 355 games, the eighth-highest figure in Major League history, had 97.2 percent of the vote, failing to appear on 16 of the 571 ballots cast.

Glavine, who won 305 games, fourth-most among left-handers, was at 91.9 percent, and Thomas finished at 83.7.

Jack Morris, who won 254 games during his 18-year big league career and World Series titles with the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays, didn’t make it in his 15th and final time on the writers’ ballot. He actually lost ground, falling to 61.5 percent from last year’s 67.7. Morris, who will be eligible for the Expansion Era Committee consideration in the fall of 2016, is only the second player in history to amass in excess of 60 percent of the vote at some point over his 15 years of eligibility and not make the Hall via the writers’ ballot. Gil Hodges is the other.

Maddux and Glavine are the only first-ballot pitchers to be elected together since Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson were part of the inaugural class of 1936 along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. They are the first living pair of 300-win pitchers to be elected in the same year and only the third pair in Hall of Fame history. The last starter to be elected by the BBWAA was Bert Blyleven in 2011, his 14th year of eligibility.

“It’s something I’m still trying to figure out how I feel,” Glavine said. “I’m just really humbled by the whole experience so far. I’m really excited about this whole process and this opportunity. I’m looking forward to it all. The opportunity to go in the Hall of Fame is one thing, but the opportunity to go in with two guys who were a very big part of my career means a lot to me.”

The Hall hasn’t inducted as many as six living baseball greats at the same time since 1971. Eleven were inducted in 1939, the year the red-brick museum opened its doors on Main Street, but they were from the first four classes, elected beginning in 1936. Last year, the three inductees elected by the Pre-Integration Committee — Yankees seminal owner Jacob Ruppert, catcher Deacon White and umpire Hank O’Day — were all deceased.

Maddux also pitched 10 seasons for the Cubs and had brief stays with the Padres and Dodgers at the end of his career. Glavine spent 17 seasons with the Braves and five with the Mets, for whom he won his 300th game. Cox managed Atlanta for 25 seasons and the Blue Jays for four, finishing with the Braves in 2010. John Smoltz, the third prong for a decade in that Atlanta rotation and who played 20 of his 21 seasons with the Braves, is slated to be on the ballot for the first time next year and has a very good chance of joining the trio.

“It was obvious with me and Glav, because we both retired at the same time and the managers go in in a different way,” said Maddux about the chances of being inducted at the same time as Glavine and Cox. “As soon as Bobby got in, I knew it had a chance of it being very special. He was there for half of my career and taught me so much about the game. It was a special honor for me to work under Bobby and play half of my career with Glav as well. The only thing that split it up is that Smoltzy played one more year.”

The July 26 awards ceremony at Doubleday Field stands to be formidable as well, with former catcher and longtime TV announcer Joe Garagiola Sr. receiving the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, longtime magazine writer Roger Angell selected by the BBWAA as the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for a career of meritorious baseball writing, and Rangers radio play-by-play man Eric Nadel earning the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting.

A year ago, when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza — players whose careers spanned baseball’s era of performance-enhancing drug use — made their initial appearances on the ballot, no one was elected by the writers for the first time since 1996, and only the second time since ’71.

Writers again rejected those players, with Piazza leading the pack at 62.2 percent, up from 58.7 percent last year. Clemens and Bonds had their percentages go down marginally to 35.4 and 34.7, respectively, but Sosa, who blasted 609 home runs and is the only player to have hit at least 60 homers in each of three seasons, slipped to 7.2 percent, barely remaining on the ballot.

Rafael Palmeiro, who failed a Major League Baseball-administered drug test in 2005, fell to 4.4 percent and was among 15 players to drop off the ballot. Palmeiro, with 569 homers and 3,020 hits, is one of only four players in history to amass both 500 homers and 3,000 hits. The other three are Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.

A player must draw at least five percent of the vote each year to remain on the ballot for a maximum of 15 years.

Bonds is the all-time leader with 762 homers in his career and 73 in a single season. Clemens had 354 wins, one fewer than Maddux, and Piazza hit 396 of his 427 homers as a catcher — the most of any player at that position in Major League history.

Maddux said Bonds was the toughest hitter he ever faced in his career, but hesitated to opine on his status. Thomas, always regarded as one of the clean players of the era, said he harbors no animosity.

“I don’t fault anyone, I don’t fault anyone for what they did,” Thomas said. “But I went about it the right way. It was more about my family teaching me the right things. When I look at their numbers, I go, “Wow!” but I think if I hadn’t been hurt for 3 1/2 years, my numbers would have been right up there with them.”

Biggio seems to be on a clear course toward a plaque. Of the 26 other retired players who amassed 3,000 or more hits, only two are not in the Hall, and both suffer from extenuating circumstances, Palmeiro having failed a drug test and Pete Rose, the all-time leader with 4,256 hits, is banned from baseball because of gambling and is not eligible to be included on Hall of Fame ballots.

In a statement, Biggio said he was disappointed to not get in, tying Nellie Fox in 1985 and Pie Traynor in 1947 for the smallest margin of missing election in balloting history. But history is on his side. Traynor was elected in 1948. Fox was in his last year on the ballot when he fell two votes shy and was subsequently elected by the Veterans Committee in 1997.

“Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas,” Biggio said. “Obviously, I’m disappointed to come that close. I feel for my family, the organization and the fans. Hopefully, next year.”

Biggio went from 68.2 percent in 2013 to 74.8 percent this year, right on the cusp.

“As surprised as I was last year that he didn’t get in, you almost feel heartbroken this year to be as close as he was,” Glavine said. “Craig was a tremendous competitor and had the respect of all of us who played against him. I think it’s just a matter of time before he’s in the Hall of Fame. I’m sure he’s disappointed today, having come so close, but I’m extremely confident that someday we’re going to watch him go through the same process.”

Hot Stove roundup: Tanaka suitors lining up

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The Dodgers have transformed into the financial powerhouse of the West, and up the Pacific Coast, the Mariners have flexed their muscles this offseason. Both figure to be serious players in the bidding for coveted Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, but could a couple of other clubs from the region also emerge as serious challengers?

The Angels will get involved, as MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes, and they could use the rotation upgrade. But with long-term deals for the likes of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton already in place, another large contract could push them past the luxury-tax threshold before even considering a potential extension for Mike Trout.

The D-backs would love to add Tanaka as they seek to unseat the Dodgers in the National League West. They intend to be serious players for his services, writes MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert, but like with the Angels, such a deal could prove to be “a financial stretch” in Arizona.

In other news from around the league on Tuesday:

Braves president John Schuerholz told Jim Bowden of Sirius/XM radio that his club is not a contender for Tanaka. Meanwhile, Tanaka will meet with the Cubs and White Sox this week, reports Luke Stuckmeyer of Comcast SportsNet. However, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin tweets that the White Sox aren’t currently “major players” in the bidding.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed his team’s offseason, addressing potential interest in Tanaka and former closer Ryan Madson, as well as a recently signed television deal worth a reported $2.5 billion.

The representatives for free-agent righty Ubaldo Jimenez are telling clubs that he expects a multiyear deal with an annual salary of at least $14 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network.

Reds righty Homer Bailey addressed his involvement in offseason trade rumors during an interview on MLB Network Radio on Sirius/XM.

One New York Post writer – out of nine – voted Don Mattingly for the Hall

 

One New York Post writer – out of nine – voted Don Mattingly for the Hall

Posted by el duque at 3:38 PM

If there ever was a definition of Reverse Homerism, well, here you go.
Nine NY Post writers voted this year for the Hall of Fame. Here are the vote totals from that august group:

Glavine: 9 Maddux: 9
Piazza: 8 Thomas: 8 Bonds: 7 Biggio: 6 Clemens: 6 Bagwell: 4 Morris: 4 Raines: 4 Schilling: 4 Mussina: 3 E. Martinez: 2 Kent: 1 Mattingly: 1 McGwire: 1 Palmeiro: 1 Sosa: 1 Walker: 1
I understand them honoring Glavine, Maddox, et al. But it’s both revealing and sad that New York writers would value Curt Schilling more than Mike Mussina, or Edgar Martinez (who never played in the field) above the likes of Donnie Baseball.
It’s the reason Roger Maris isn’t in the hall. It’s why Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, and Bernie Williams will never make it. New York writers feel compelled to downplay the value of New York players. They don’t want to be accused of favoring the home team. They think the Yankees get too much attention, so they self-regulate. And if your own beat writers don’t support you…

It is National Judgment Day among America’s scions of morality, the sentries who keep impurities out of the Hall of Fame

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It is National Judgment Day among America’s scions of morality, the sentries who keep impurities out of the Hall of Fame

Posted by el duque at 8:26 AM

Cotton Mather was a punk. Those creampuffs who sent the Salem witches to the gallows, or the cranberry bogs, or whatever – they were K-mart cheapos when it comes to indignation. To be a true moral superstar, you must write about sports. And today is National Judgment Day: When the professional Gammonites of America elect their human beacons of super-purified morality to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Nothing against Greg Maddox and Tom Glavine, et al. Bravo to them. But more than likely, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire – and in the future Alex Rodriguez – will never see a Cooperstown plaque during their lives. After they are dead, a generation will look back on the morality cops who singled them out (as opposed to all those who were not caught) – and they will be elected. Their grandsons and granddaughters will accept the awards. We might not be alive. But it will happen. Because everybody knows they weren’t created in a lab like Captain America. What separates them from many others was getting caught. I think history will judge them more kindly.

Which brings us back to Jan. 8, 2014: America’s Day of Moral Indignation… The day the sportswriters’ votes are announced.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a beat writer in New York or the featured columnist in Kalamazoo: Become a Gammonite, and in the Hall of Fame vote, morality flows from your exalted lips like recycled sewerage from a theme park waterfall.

I’ve written in the past about why some sportswriters turned into overbearing morality thugs on the matter of A-Rod. And let me stress that not every writer goes this route. Some close friends write sports. Some great people write sports. But again, I wrote news for more than 30 years, and here are my best reasons why some Gammonites become pig-headed slop-slingers.

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1. Arrested Development. In fifth grade, every baseball nut who can finish a sentence wants to be a big time sportswriter someday. Most grow out of it. They end up covering politics or culture – or – if they’re working in today’s markets, celebrities. Something keeps sportswriters from abandoning that original childhood dream. And some, at basic levels, maintain an element of childishness in everything they write. They call people names. They never think in shades: just winners and losers, villains and heroes. Worst of all, they fall down to authority figures. They automatically follow any old white guy who sits behind the big desk. It’s like a flashback trip to the Principal’s office.

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2. The one-stop shop. If you cover politics or war, or just profile one person, the complexities are overwhelming. You can never do enough interviews. The stresses of uncertainty never leave your belly. You’re always wondering, Did I get it right? Sportswriters don’t face this as often. The game is played, the stats are compiled – (actually, supplied) – and the players are trotted out to be interviewed. (It is part of their job.) Everything is laid out. Most writers almost never have to stand on a stranger’s doorstep and talk somebody who hates the media into an interview. In every other form of journalism, writers make a million decisions on what and whom to believe. The sportswriter can report the score and what the jocks said in their underwear, and his job is done. The real mission is to sound wittier than they do. (And that’s a low, low bar.)

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3. The press box. If you’re profiling a junkie’s scorched life in a housing project, odds are, no other journalist in the world is competing for your story. You are on your own. But sportswriters sit together in a press box, chewing fat for hours, in a place where civilians are not allowed. They compare notes about good guys, bad guys, managers and the free buffet. Most importantly, they can get a sense what everybody else will write tomorrow. There is a huge pack mentality here, a need to run with the herd. It’s not their fault, but it’s almost impossible to avoid.

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4. The economic disparity. Most beat writers have a nice middle class gig going. But they must cover pro athletes who drive cars worth more than they’ll make in a year – and some jocks can’t even speak coherently. It aint right! There is a class thing here. There is a youth thing here. There is a race thing here. Yeah, that’s a touchy subject, and writers are no better or worse than the rest of us. But that economic rift between jocks and writers shows up in every story about A-Rod, or LeBron, or anybody who makes too much money – which is everybody in sports but sportswriters. It’s always there, whether they acknowledge it or not.

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5. The folly of humanity. Keep this in mind: Half the people you meet in life will be of below average intelligence. Sportswriters are no exception. Nobody notices an idiot taxi driver. A stupid sportswriter – woah – that’s hard to ignore. The dumber they are, the more fervent they will be in their sense of righteousness.

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6. The access. If a writer’s phone calls are being returned, he or she has an incredible advantage over the competition. When in doubt, you can quote the GM or the owner, anonymously, and never go wrong. Thus, Selig and his minions took batting practice on A-Rod for most of last year, until his legal team fought back and recruited their own mouthpieces. When writers quote anonymous sources, can they really act so oblivious to the reasons why those sources would be inclined to lie? Well, if they do, the guy might not return their calls. And they’re in trouble.

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So today, we learn who they liked, and who they didn’t like. And someday, after we’re all in the ground, Bonds and Clemens will get their day in the sun. I hope their grandchildren can write the perfect words. Writing is an art, you know.

DIAMONDBACKS PREPARE FOR RUN AT TANAKA

 

 

D-backs prepare for serious run at Tanaka

Team has made coveted Japanese right-hander its top Hot Stove priority

By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com | 1/7/2014 1:46 P.M. ET

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PHOENIX — The first few weeks of the New Year for the D-backs figure to involve a lot of Masahiro Tanaka.

By now everyone is familiar with Tanaka. The 25-year-old right-hander went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles last year. He was recently posted by the Eagles after months of speculation.

The D-backs covet Tanaka, like most of baseball.

While Arizona has been able to find the power hitter and back-end bullpen arm it desired heading into the winter, the one thing still left on general manager Kevin Towers’ to-do list is to land a frontline starting pitcher.

The D-backs have interest in free-agent right-hander Matt Garza, but Towers is on record saying he is unlikely to go longer than three years on a contract for any pitcher on the market not named Tanaka. Given that Garza does not have Draft compensation tied to his signing, he figures to command multiple offers of more than three years.

Other top pitchers on the market — Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez — do not seem to tempt the D-backs as much. Should the D-backs sign one of those players, they would relinquish their first-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.

Unless a trade emerges between now and the start of Spring Training, that leaves Tanaka as the lone path to a frontline starter.

The D-backs have made it clear to Tanaka’s agent, Casey Close, that they are willing to post the $20 million posting fee required to place a bid for Tanaka, and that they should be considered serious players for him.

There’s no telling what kind of contract it will take to sign Tanaka, but it figures to be massive. In addition to the posting fee, the speculation is that a team will need to offer a contract of at least $100 million to land the pitcher.

Are the D-backs willing to spend upwards of $120 million?

The answer is that they might be, but it would be a financial stretch for the organization and might require them to trim some salary to make it work.

The D-backs seem to realize that their chances of bidding more money than any of the financial heavyweights in the game are not good. Their hope, though, is that their offer will be competitive financially, allowing them to sit down with Tanaka and make their case for why he might prefer pitching in Arizona.

If the D-backs are not able to sign Tanaka or make a deal for a starter, they will enter the spring with a rotation of Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy.

Randall Delgado would be the leader for the No. 5 spot, with 2011 first-round Draft pick Archie Bradley expected to make a push. Bradley is ranked as the second-best pitching prospect by MLB.com.

Mattingly, Dodgers agree on contract extension

 

Mattingly, Dodgers agree on contract extension

After taking team to NLCS, manager gets new deal through 2016 season

By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com | 1/7/2014 5:33 P.M. ET

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Don Mattingly’s status as manager of the Dodgers — a hot topic that was rooted in last winter’s spending spree, reached a head amid a rough start to 2013 and spilled into the offseason despite a drastic turnaround — has finally been solidified.

On Tuesday, Mattingly and the Dodgers agreed to a contract extension that replaces his 2014 option with a three-year deal to keep him in Los Angeles through the 2016 season, a source confirmed to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick.

The Dodgers haven’t commented on the deal, but Mattingly himself might Wednesday, during media day for the team’s Winter Development Program. The two sides had been in talks about an extension for most of the offseason, and the timing of the deal avoids a repeat of Oct. 21.

That day, Mattingly addressed the media in a nationally televised, season-ending press conference that quickly turned awkward when the 52-year-old skipper — with general manager Ned Colletti by his side — expressed discontent over his then-uncertain contract.

Mattingly was one year removed from an offseason in which the Dodgers declined to guarantee his 2014 option and he didn’t want to go through another season with a potentially expiring deal. He heard all the rumors about his seemingly inevitable dismissal as the Dodgers navigated through all of June in last place, guided his star-laden team through the greatest in-season comeback in franchise history and was assured another season only because his option automatically vested by advancing to the National League Championship Series.

The last thing he wanted was another season as the proverbial lame duck, and he let his feelings be known.

“It puts me in a spot where everything I do is questioned, because I’m basically trying out, auditioning to say, ‘Can you manage a team or not manage?'” Mattingly said then. “It’s a tough spot. To me, it gets to that point where three years in, you either know or you don’t.”

The following day, Mattingly’s bench coach, Trey Hillman, was dismissed. But by the time the Owners’ Meetings came around in early November, the two sides had seemed to work out their differences and confirmed that extension talks were ongoing, with Colletti telling reporters: “We’re all supporters of Donnie. I’m a fan personally as well as professionally. He has the attributes to be a long-term manager.”

Now, at last, he is.

Mattingly is 260-225 in three seasons with the Dodgers since taking over for Joe Torre. Last year, he took them from 12 games below .500 on June 21 to 28 games over by Sept. 23. They finished 92-70, claimed the NL West title — their first in four years — by 11 games and played on until the Cardinals eliminated them in Game 6 of the NLCS.

For that, Mattingly finished second to Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle for the NL Manager of the Year Award.

And now, after more than a year of incessant speculation, he finally has some job security.

Greg Maddux won’t be unanimous pick for Hall of Fame

Greg Maddux won’t be unanimous pick for Hall of Fame

David Brown

By                                  13 hours ago                             Big League Stew
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 Sports and Baseball fans are getting sick of foofuses like Gurnick.

Greg Maddux (left) and Hall of Fame voter Ken Gurnick. (Getty)

 

Greg Maddux won’t be the first unanimous Hall of Fame selection after all. At least one voter didn’t put him on a ballot for the 2014 class. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, who covers the Los Angeles Dodgers, voted only for Jack Morris.

The Hall of Fame announcement comes Wednesday, but voters have been making their choices public periodically. Maddux had been tracking at 100 percent, according to the count at the Baseball Think Factory. Maddux might not be the best pitcher ever (although it’s reasonable to think so) but he would seem like a natural unanimous pick, which has never happened in history. Nope. Here’s Gurnick’s reasoning for going against the crowd on Maddux:

 

Morris

Morris has flaws — a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for more than a decade of ace performance that included three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Players votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.

“The period of PED use,” he writes. As if players don’t use PEDs anymore, or didn’t when Morris pitched, from 1977-1994. Among Morris’ contemporaries: Jose Canseco, an admitted PED user. Of course, Maddux also played in Morris’ time. Gurnick’s reasoning is beyond flawed. Gurnick’s opinion simply makes no sense — and we’re not even getting into the details of performance-enhancing amphetamines, which were rampant from the 1960s going forward. If steroids are cheating, so are amphetamines, which are now banned (without a prescription) by MLB.

Voting for nobody because of PEDs would be one thing, but voting for Morris — a particularly divisive case because of his “meh” results when compared to pitchers like Maddux — makes Gurnick look like a troll, out only to antagonize.

Because he works for MLB.com, Gurnick is not a current member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the voting body responsible for electing most of the former players in the Hall. (MLB.com reporters, among others, are excluded from the BBWAA.) But Gurnick had a BBWAA card for at least 10 years before, which gives him lifetime voting privileges for the Hall of Fame. That’s a shame.

UPDATE: Gurnick told MLB Network Radio that he won’t be voting in future elections for the Hall of Fame.

So, it turns out that Chipper Jones was right. Somebody did something dumb and omitted Maddux from a ballot. But it wasn’t so Maddux wouldn’t be “unanimous.” It, apparently, was to send a message to PED users. Gurnick simply missed the mark.

Maddux is still a safe bet to make the Hall — 75 percent is the threshold for admittance — and he might even eclipse Tom Seaver’s record percentage. One stained ballot can’t stop either.