“What a long, strange trip it’s been,” sang the Grateful Dead once upon a time. Baseball’s 2013 was much like that, including a few hallucinations and several surrealities. The fact that some might have wished some of the hallucinations were real may be beside the point entirely, even as other might have wished some of what was real was merely a hallucination.
During last week’s winter meetings, a young fan posed for a photograph with Mark Prior. Assorted reports describe Prior as resembling the front office type he’s about to become by most accounts with his hometown San Diego Padres. Prior himself spoke like one after finally announcing the retirement that seemed just a pitch away for too many seasons. “My shoulder’s shot,” he said. “As much as I love to play, the writing was kind of on the wall.”
Baseball’s offseason is many things, and dull is rarely one of them, but this offseason’s winter meetings among the major league organisations could have been smothered by the activity that preceded it. Could have been—particularly in light of the Yankees’ doings in signing Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury while letting Robinson Cano chase the dollars they weren’t quite willing to show—but weren’t. There are various takes floating about regarding the doings and undoings; here, for whatever they’re worth, are mine:
Furman Bisher was one of the writers beaten out by Roger Angell for the next J.G. Taylor Spink Award. The late Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist has received his defense from colleague and friend Jeff Schultz. And while you can hardly fault Schultz for standing by his man, there are little perspectives to be considered.
Roger Angell at 93 still reports to The New Yorker every day to read fiction for the magazine and, here and there, write yet another one of his symphonic essays from the diamonds and the stands. Next summer, he’s going to make a trip to Cooperstown as an honoured guest.
Roy Halladay’s line ended today when he signed a one-day deal with his original club, the Blue Jays, and retired after sixteen seasons worth of a prospective Hall of Fame career. Two seasons worth of shoulder issues told him it was time enough to go.
On a day the news broke that Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, and Bobby Cox were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Expansion Era Committee, and Marvin Miller was snubbed yet again, Halladay’s retirement kicked the winter meetings in Florida off with a jolt only slightly smaller than the one that sent him to surgery after a second straight battering in May.
There was a little is-he-is-or-is-he-ain’t talk early but that dissipated soon enough to affirm. Robinson Cano is going to Seattle. If nothing else, Washington state’s lack of an income tax makes his ten years and $240 million an even nicer payday than it would have been if the Yankees had been willing to go above and beyond their $170 million to keep the second baseman.
The Red Sox aren’t exactly standing pat even if they were willing to let Jacoby Ellsbury think about signing elsewhere, even with the Yankees. They’ve landed A.J. Pierzynski for a year at $8.25 million, and the 37-year-old catcher says he turned down a number of offers, some for multiple seasons, to sign with the Red Sox because they offer the best chance he’s got at this point to win a second World Series ring.
So the Yankees agreed to longtime Red Sox fixture Jacoby Ellsbury for seven years and $153 million, barely a week after getting longtime Braves catcher Brian McCann to agree on five years and $85 million. And the Red Sox agree it was time for their plus center fielder who often took the proverbial bum rap to go. How many of us are willing to agree in hand that Ellbury himself had reason to believe, earlier and more often, that his first dip into the free agency pool would be the time for him to go, too?
Well, now. A Baseball Writers Association of America member with Hall of Fame voting privileges elected to sell this year’s privilege to Deadspin.com. Meaning that said writer’s going to fill out his ballot based on the tally from Deadspin respondents.
The theory behind the curious move, of course, is to show up what seems an increasingly absurd vote process in which the ten-name limit hamstrings the voting writers. And, in last year’s case, leaves no player elected to the Hall of Fame despite several who deserved to be.