The votes have been tallied and we have three new players about to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. They are:
- Jeff Bagwell
- Tim Raines
- Ivan Rodriguez
If you go by the numbers, these guys all belong in the Hall of Fame and the fact that Raines was elected in his 10th – and final – year of eligibility on the baseball writers’ ballot makes me wonder what took them so long. There have been rumors/suspicions/suggestions that some of Bagwell’s stats were “chemically enhanced” and more than a few folks have offered up those circumstances as the basis for his delayed entry. Please note that there has never been any solid evidence in Bagwell’s case – but rumors were sufficient in previous years. Likewise, there had been similar hints/winks of the eye/whatevers regarding Pudge Rodriguez’ stats and “the juice”. Once again, there was never any proof – – and yet, Rodriguez was inducted in his first year of eligibility.
The election process for the Hall of Fame is imperfect to be sure but I do not think the idea of membership in the Hall of Fame is sufficiently important to spend the time and energy to cure the imperfections. The current process works well enough so leave it alone.
Having said that let me juxtapose two players’ career stats for you and then pose a fundamental question:
Player A: He played 17 years in MLB. His career batting average was .260; his career OBP was .299 and his career slugging average was.367. He averaged 22 home runs and 64 RBIs per season. He was on the All-Star Team 7 times.
Player B: He played 17 years in MLB. His career batting average was .290; his career OBP was .356 and his career slugging average was .500. He averaged 27 home runs and 107 RBIs per season. He was on the All-Star Team 5 times and he was the MVP 1 time.
As you have probably guessed by now, Player A is in the Hall of Fame and Player B is not. In fact, Player B only got about 15% of the votes this time around meaning he is nowhere near the 75% level needed for election to the Hall of Fame. Making the comparison even more interesting is the fact that Player A and Player B played the same position for the vast majority of their 17-year careers.
Player A is Bill Mazeroski; Player B is Jeff Kent. If you “go by the numbers”, I do not understand how Mazeroski can be in the Hall of Fame and Kent be at 15% in the voting. Does that make a lot of sense to you?
It may be difficult to untangle the jejune thought processes of the Baseball Hall of Fame voters but I doubt that it will be difficult to understand the motivation behind the announcement I want to discuss now. FIFA announced about a week ago that it was going to expand the World Cup Tournament from 32 teams to 48 teams. The underlying motivation is:
- More Money
Instead of breaking a 32-team field into 8 groups of 4 teams and advancing the top 2 teams from each group to a 16-team knockout round, here is the proposed new format:
- There will be 16 groups of 3 teams; they will play one another and the top 2 teams in each group will move on.
- That will put 32 teams into a knockout round and the survivor of that knockout round will be the World Cup champion.
The idea is to implement this new format for the 2026 tournament and to leave the current format in place for 2018 and 2022. You may wonder why – if I am correct and added revenue is the motivation behind all of this – why FIFA would postpone implementation. I cannot answer that definitively because I am not part of the FIFA “inner circle” but perhaps it has to do with the activities underway to provide “quarters and rations” for 32 teams at the tournaments in 2018 and 2022 and expansion of the field would be an organizational problem for the host countries that have things underway already.
Bob Molinaro had this comment regarding the expansion of the World Cup field in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Futbol folly: In announcing the generally unpopular decision to increase the field at the 2026 World Cup from 32 to 48 teams, a FIFA official said expansion would give 16 more countries a ‘chance to dream.’ It also invites a lot more bad games. FIFA? It’s only dreaming of the additional $1 billion the inflated tournament will pump into its coffers.”
He is absolutely right about the additional “bad games”. In order to get into the World Cup Tournament, teams play in qualifying rounds in their geographical sections of the world. The only team that gets a “BYE” into the tournament is the host country. That means in the current system, 31 of the 32 entries are there because they finished high enough in their geographic region to get an invitation; those 31 teams earned their way in.
Presumably, the same rules will apply to the 48-team field which can only mean that there will be 16 teams added to the field that would not have been deemed “good enough” to be in the Tournament with only 32 entries. In competitive terms, that is not going to help; there are already more than a few non-competitive games in a 32-team field; imagine what will happen when a team like Germany or Spain or Brazil or Argentina gets to play “Team Number 48”.
Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about another sporting decision that was made for “financially-driven reasons”:
“The San Diego Chargers are leaving for Los Angeles. Seldom has the nickname ‘Bolts’ been more fitting.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………