I’m pleading parental prerogative in congratulating Vladimir Guerrero first among four new Hall of Famers. Nothing at all against Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, and Jim Thome, all of whom I have argued before deserve the honour. But Vlad the Impaler was my son, Bryan’s, hero growing up.
You may or may not remember this, but the first time baseball heard of Jeffrey Loria in earnest, it had to do with the Orioles, in the early to mid 1990s, when then-owner Eli Jacobs decided he had no choice but to sell the team in order to raise cash. John Helyar in The Lords of The Realm told the unlikely story, worth revisiting in light of the news that Loria wants to sell the Marlins and stands to make billions from the sale, as if to prove failure is profit.
Normally, annually, I give a run down on the Hall of Fame ballot newcomers and holdovers separately, but it isn’t every year Vladimir Guerrero makes his debut on the ballot. But it isn’t every year that a newcomer looks like an obvious, no-questions-asked Hall of Famer in spite of his flaws. And, despite the likelihood that he may not make it first ballot because what’s with or ahead of him looks just that good.
The Atlanta Braves put paid to Chipper Jones’s singular career Friday night. They retired his uniform number, provoking a classically Jonesian reaction. (I played baseball. I haven’t cured cancer or anything.) So far as retired numbers go, Jones is in company very illustrious. His perfect 10 joins such Braves giants as Hank Aaron (44), Warren Spahn (21), Eddie Mathews (41), Phil Niekro (35), Greg Maddux (31), Dale Murphy (3), Tom Glavine (47), John Smoltz (29), and longtime manager Bobby Cox (6).
We didn’t expect, we merely hoped, that one way or the other Gary Carter would conquer the enemy that finally took him down Wednesday. Knowing Carter, perhaps one of the better things we can think of his death at 57 is that at least he was granted that one final Valentine’s Day, to spend with the wife he loved proudly over thirty-seven years of marriage.
It still takes a big man to say he thinks he stuck the needle into the wrong vein.
Jeff Pearlman, the Sports Illustrated writer who seems never to have met a controversial athlete he couldn’t analyse nigh unto death, is proving himself a very big man these days. The news that Gary Carter’s brain cancer has taken a far more grave turn, news his daughter (Kimmy Bloemers, Palm Beach Atlantic’s softball coach, where her father is baseball coach) disclosed several days ago, has prompted the author of The Bad Guys Won, his remarkable retrospective study of the 1986 Mets, to issue a prose prayer with a mea culpa tucked inside: