2011: Dickens Flummoxed

When Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola called the 1986 World Series for NBC television, their recurring theme harked to Dickens: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Baseball’s 2011 season–during which it seemed New York, perhaps inexplicably, was anxious to think of anything but the silver anniversary of those rapacious Mets—was much like that. Beginning with the worst of times—the unconsionable beating of a San Francisco Giants fan in the parking lot of a security-challenged Dodger Stadium; the tragic falling death of a Texas Rangers fan trying to spear a ball for his little son tossed by Josh Hamilton. Concluding with the best, or at least the most surrealistic of times—the final day of the regular season, right down to Evan Longoria’s walkoff home run; and, the final two games of the World Series, where Game Six itself was the worst of times shoved to the best when the St. Louis Cardinals recovered from two down-to-their-last-strike moments to win on . . . a walkoff home run.

The Hall of Fame Ballot: The Holdovers

Yesterday I had a look at the freshman class on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. Today I have a look at the holdovers from last year, several of whom are making only their second appearances on the ballot, at least one of whom should have been elected on his first try last year, and at least one of whom is being kept out of the Hall of Fame somewhat unfairly. I’ll begin with that man, for all the good it will do.

THE SAD CASE OF RAFAEL PALMEIRO

The Hall of Fame Ballot: Freshman Class

Concerning this year’s Hall of Fame ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America, it’s probably one of the weaker freshman ballots of recent times. Only one of the candidates shakes out as anywhere near even a borderline Hall of Famer, and he may not be that likely to cross the border just yet, if at all. Let’s look at this year’s ballot in earnest, beginning with the new kids on the block . . .

He never messed with Mr. In-Between, alas . . .

Braun, with Brains

As regards the Ryan Braun hoopla, a thought or three:

1) There remains a presumption of innocence in law, in regulation, and in plain fact, if not necessarily in the proverbial court of public opinion. And public opinion’s consistency is, and has usually been, only slightly more reliable than the consistency of the average public office holder.

2) Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, stresses that baseball’s stringent enough drug testing policies were designed in part to prevent a rush to judgment. Never mind that it will do nothing of the sort in actual fact, considering that rushing to judgment is precisely what enough professional baseball analysts and elements of public opinion are doing.

Pujols on the Side of the Angels

The Hilton Anatole hotel in Dallas has been there before. That’s where Alex Rodriguez accepted $250 million of then-Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks’s misspent money, once upon a time. Hicks had a club three-to-thirteen-deep in pitching woes, and he decided the most surefire way of plugging up the leaking runs was to commit the near-equivalent of a solid pitching staff to . . . a shortstop.

Hasta la Vista, Jose . . .

Before you arrange the necktie parties for the parties involved, let’s make one thing absolutely incontrovertible: When all was said, and too much was done or undone, depending upon your point of view, the New York Mets had little enough choice but to think about letting Jose Reyes go. Especially if they weren’t going to quit kidding themselves and swap him at the midsummer nonwaiver trade deadline for something better than a third-round draft pick at best.

The Team to Be Named Later and Other Swings

. . . so let’s catch up on our reading a little bit, with the promise that I will have a few things to say about several of the following matters in the days to come:

* Essentially, the hapless Houston Astros were named as the team to be named later in the deal that sent the Milwaukee Brewers to the National League, with the Astros beginning American League play in 2013 as a condition for approving Jim Crane as the team’s new owner. We hope you can figure out a way to enjoy fifteen-team leagues, two more wild cards, and perhaps interleague play from Opening Day until the final regular season day. I’m not necessarily sure I can, even though I think Jayson Stark had a point when he wrote that among the scheduling headaches won’t be what he calls “trying to fit more postseason baseball into an already-overstuffed schedule.”