Surprise! The writers got it right

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Surprise! The writers got it right

Mike from Attleboro -- the leading contributor to Michael Felger's old mailbag and one of Felger's favorite callers to his radio show -- is now contributing occasional pieces to CSNNE.com. Today he gives his take on the Hall of Fame voting.

When the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballots were distributed last month, for the first time ever, the names Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens had check boxes next to them. Finally, after about a decade of hypothetical sports talk posturing, hyperbole and speculation, the Baseball Writers Association of America was forced to look the Steroid Era of baseball square in the eyes and make a decision: Will the continued hysteria around PEDs keep two of the generations most iconic players out of the Hall of Fame? Or will the BBWAA continue the Three Blind Mice routine they perfected as they traded accountability for access while covering these players?

Today the inductees were made public and the results were straight from Brewsters Millions: None of the above, which is more than appropriate considering Monty Brewster could have pitched for the Yankees instead of renting them to play the Hackensack Bulls if he spent some of that 30 million inheritance on Deca and HGH.

Personally, Im just stunned because I think these self-important windbags accidentally got it right. They kept the steroid cheats out of the Hall.

Ill freely admit that when the ballots were distributed I wasnt holding out much hope. These sanctimonious keyboard debutants cant agree on the value of defense, postseason play, sabermetrics, or the impact of longevity as they relate to Hall of Fame voting, so what would make anyone think that there would be some hard and fast consistent guidelines regarding the steroid era?

Luckily for fans, most of the BBWAA chose to treat the steroid question just like any other stat or quantitative metric these self-important sorority sisters bandy about to enshrine players. It was put in to context randomly, politically and non-scientifcally, except in cases where its simply too enormous to ignore. As a result, Bonds, Clemens and Sosa will have to compete with Pete Rose for table space if they want to hold court in Cooperstown this year.

Ultimately the sanctity of the Hall of Fame was protected because the steroid era coming home to roost on Hall of Fame ballots simply gave the BBWAA another chance to do what they do best: Climb to their lofty perch on the moral high ground they used to triage out statistically worthy players like Dick Allen and Albert Belle and arbitrarily decide who should and shouldnt make it based on gut feeling alone. They all do it, even the best of them.

Take one of the greatest sports writers this country has ever seen, Bob Ryan.

In 2006 Ryan wrote a column about Belle that compared him favorably from a stats perspective to Jim Rice, Tony Perez and others, and then went on to make the argument that Belle's surly demeanor and aggressive behavior was so detrimental, it actually countered his numerical qualifications for the Hall of Fame. And that isnt even including the steroid speculation that should rightly accompany Belles career. Imagine if he liked fried chicken?!?

If Bob Ryan can go on record and exclude Albert Belle from enshrinement simply because he was a superhumanly truculent jerk in the clubhouse, then suspicion of PED use alone is more than enough to keep someone like Jeff Bagwell, who is only tangentially linked to PEDs, from the Hall. To me, Bagwell looked like a steroid guy, used Andro, trained like a body builder and was buddies with Ken Cammenitti. Is that enough prove that hes guilty of PED use? Nope. Is it enough for me to suspect that hes a sauced-up Dale Murphy, minus one MVP and four Gold Gloves? Yup. No Hall for you, Beefy.

I hope that BBWAA members now realize that no due process whatsoever is owed to these players in regards to steroids. Nobody is trying to change history and pull off the Back to the Future revisionist crusade in a uniformly dirty sport that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency unleashed against Lance Armstrong. The results of baseball games, championships and records are and should be untouchable. All that is in play with Hall Of Fame voting is a players qualifications for a significant post career superlative.

So please, Knights of the Press Pass, continue to make the players wait. If Jim Rice, Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris can languish on the ballot for years as the BBWAA debate their statistical qualifications, then a steroid era player can cool his heels in Cooperstowns greenroom as we wait and see if Brian McNamee has any more vintage soda cans in his possession. If Bob Costas and Mike Lupica want to routinely act like sports journalisms version of Moses, reminding the masses of their commandments, then the very least the BBWAA can do is keep Bonds, Clemens and Sosa in Hall of Fame purgatory for the full fifteen years.

You say this isnt fair? I say too bad. Baseball players and their union had multiple chances to adopt testing and instead they chose to protect cheaters who profited financially from using an illegal substance until congress forced their hand. Quite frankly, they are lucky that they only judgment they are being subjected to is a glorified popularity vote, so spare me your misplaced outrage.

By fighting testing at every opportunity, the players and their union surrendered the right of final judgment to people that cant agree on things like Edgar Martinez being in Hall of Fame because hes a DH or that a Pitcher shouldnt win an MVP because they dont play every day. They should be neither shocked nor dismayed that a players confirmed or suspected steroid use is debated with the same levels of non-uniformity?

Today, an era of baseball players that escaped judgment at the hands of anti-doping science, law enforcement and the MLBs Commissioners office is now being held accountable by a power they can never hope to defeat: the comedic inconsistency and indomitable self-righteousness of the BBWAA.

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.