Friday, March 05, 2021

January 23, 2021  Like many baseball writers, C. Trent Rosecrans viewed the Hall of Fame vote as a labor of love. The ballot would arrive around the end of November, and it would keep him occupied for much of December. He’d write down his research on players in a notebook and feel butterflies when putting his ballot in the mail.

Then it was time for his most recent vote, and the whole process felt quite different.

“That ballot sat out unopened until after Christmas because I knew what was in it,” Rosecrans said. “And it wasn’t something I enjoyed.”

The results of the 2021 vote will be announced Tuesday, and Rosecrans wasn’t alone in finding the task particularly agonizing this time around. With Curt Schilling’s candidacy now front and center — and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens still on the ballot as well — voters have had to consider how much a player’s off-field behavior should affect his Hall of Fame chances.

For years, suspicions of performance-enhancing drug use have played a significant role in the voting. Now, some writers are reassessing other concerns about some of the game’s biggest stars — from Schilling’s incendiary social media presence to domestic violence allegations against Bonds and others.

Ken Rosenthal, Rosecrans’ colleague with The Athletic, began a recent column this way: “I hate my Hall of Fame ballot. It might be my last.”

The top returning vote-getter on this year’s ballot is Schilling, who a year ago came within 20 votes of being elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. His support now seems to have stalled.

As of early Saturday, Schilling had received 75.3% approval on ballots tallied at Ryan Thibodaux’s tracker, but that pace probably isn’t good enough. A player needs 75% for induction — and in the past, Schilling has fared far worse on private, unreleased ballots that aren’t part of Thibodaux’s tracker.

Schilling has turned off voters with his post-career behavior. ESPN suspended him from the Little League World Series a few years ago over a tweet in which he compared Muslim extremists to Nazi-era Germans. He was later fired by the network for Facebook comments about transgender people.

On Jan. 6, the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, he said the following in a message on his Twitter account:

 “You cowards sat on your hands, did nothing while liberal trash looted rioted and burned for Air Jordan’s and big screens, sit back .... and watch folks start a confrontation for (expletive) that matters like rights, democracy and the end of govt corruption.”

That tweet was a few days after Hall of Fame ballots were due, but Rosecrans had already decided not to support Schilling — even though he’d voted for him in the past.

“It would have been much easier for me to stick where I was and to check that box like I have every other time I’ve voted, but I just don’t know if I would have been true to myself,” said Rosecrans, the BBWAA’s president. “Had I done that, I may have felt better where I put it on that day? I don’t know if I would have felt better on January 6th.”

Bonds and Clemens are polling just behind Schilling on Thibodaux’s tracker, but their candidacies now face the scrutiny that goes beyond longstanding suspicion of PED use. Multiple players on this year’s ballot have been accused of domestic violence, and Bonds is one of them. In 1995, his ex-wife testified during divorce proceedings that he beat and kicked her. Bonds said he never physically abused her but once kicked her after she kicked him.

In 2008, the New York Daily News reported that Clemens had a decade-long relationship with country singer Mindy McCready that began when she was 15 and he was a star for the Boston Red Sox. Clemens apologized for unspecified mistakes in his personal life and denied having an affair with a 15-year-old. McCready later told, “Inside Edition” she met Clemens when she was 16 and that the relationship didn’t turn sexual until several years later.

Rosenthal acknowledged the domestic abuse allegations that have been made against Bonds, Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel, as well as the questions about Clemens and McCready. He ended up voting for those four players along with Schilling, and his 10-man ballot also included Todd Helton, who in recent years pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and served 48 hours in jail.

Rosenthal called it his “sick-to-my-stomach ballot” and said he’s reevaluating whether he wants to vote at all in the future.

Last January, ESPN’s Christina Kahrl said she’d looked at the questions surrounding Clemens and McCready. “Should he ultimately get elected, it will have to be without my support,” she wrote then.

Rosecrans acknowledges he could be accused of inconsistency after voting against Schilling but in favor of people like Bonds and Jones. His main concern is the platform a Hall inductee receives — the ceremony and the speech, for example.

“We have seen what Curt Schilling does with a platform, and it has been chilling,” Rosecrans said.

At a time when social justice movements are pushing for a broader reckoning on sexual misconduct and racial inequality, the BBWAA recently voted overwhelmingly to remove the name and imprint of former Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis from MVP plaques. Landis became commissioner in 1920, and there were no Black players in the majors during his more than two decades in charge.

The Hall of Fame, meanwhile, has sought to clarify the role of its plaque gallery and its museum. The plaques recognize members’ baseball accomplishments, while the rest of the museum might address other aspects of their careers.

For example, Cap Anson’s plaque describes him as the greatest hitter and greatest National League player-manager of the 19th century, but language exploring his role in baseball’s segregation has been installed in the museum’s “Ideals and Injustices” exhibit.

“Given the importance of racial issues in the summer of 2020, our board decided we needed to tell a fuller story and explore issues surrounding race that involved several of our members,” Hall spokesman Jon Shestakofsky said. “With our baseball-focused mission, we are cautious about getting into other issues, given the fact that once you go down that path, reasonable people will disagree about what is and is not relevant and worthy of display in a baseball museum.”

So it remains up to the voters to decide how they’ll weigh off-field issues when evaluating Hall of Fame candidates. The Hall instructs voters to take into account “the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Clearly, there’s room to consider a player’s off-field conduct.

But the Hall is still primarily a baseball honor. Right now, the sport’s career leaders in home runs (Bonds) and hits (Pete Rose) are not enshrined. Neither is Clemens, with his seven Cy Young Awards, or Schilling, with his dazzling postseason resume.

If too many of the top players are left out — particularly if it’s for non-baseball reasons — could the Hall lose credibility as a baseball shrine?

Lynn Henning, a former columnist for the Detroit News, understands what makes some of these candidates objectionable — but he doesn’t think the Hall of Fame vote is the right forum for holding them accountable.

“I believe there is a separate realm in which we can and must discuss all of those points, but I don’t think it should be adjudicated on a Hall of Fame ballot,” Henning said.


February 28, 2021    NEW YORK (AP) — When drained of glamour, what’s left of the Golden Globes? That’s one of the biggest questions heading into the 78th annual awards on Sunday night. The show, postponed two months from its usual early-January perch, will have little of what makes the Globes one of the frothiest and glitziest events of the year. Due to the pandemic, there will be no parade of stars down the red carpet outside the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. Its hosts, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be on different sides of the country.

February 26, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — Most playwrights who dip their toes into musical theater for the first time go small. Not Katori Hall: Her first assignment was to capture the life of a musical giant — Tina Turner. “I’m not really scared of much, which is probably why I felt like ‘Oh yeah, I’ll try this. I’ll take Tina Turner, one of the biggest icons in the world, and attempt to retell her story in this musical form,’” Hall says, laughing. “I had no qualms whatsoever.” That fearlessness has led to Hall’s first Tony nominations, as a producer and book writer for “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical.” At the awards show, it will compete against “Jagged Little Pill” and “Moulin Rouge! The Musical!” for Broadway’s best new musical crown.

February 26, 2021   NEW YORK (AP) — Netflix on Friday released a study it commissioned from top academic researchers that shows the streaming giant is outpacing much of the film industry in the inclusivity of its original films and television series. For years, academic studies have sought to capture inequalities in Hollywood and to hold studios accountable for making film and television that doesn’t reflect American demographics. Those studies have generally relied on box-office or ratings data, often leaving out streaming platforms. Netflix is trying a different route with both more transparency and more company control. The streamer commissioned the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative to analyze its 2018 and 2019 original, live-action films and series, and presented the results to members of the press Thursday in a video presentation. The results were, as Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder and director Stacy L. Smith noted, far more positive than most Annenberg reports, which have typically found only slow, sporadic improvement in the most popular films.


February 26, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — Four hours of morning television is a lot of time to fill, but new Black News Channel hosts Mike Hill and Sharon Reed don’t expect to run out of things to say. Their new program, which debuts Monday at 6 a.m. Eastern, is the centerpiece of Black News Channel’s relaunch to emphasize commentary and a more analytical approach to the news. Nearly invisible when it debuted last year, BNC is methodically becoming more available to viewers. “This is when I need my voice to be heard and I want my voice to be heard,” said Hill, who has worked at Fox Sports and ESPN. “So much is happening in our country.”

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February 28, 2021  WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two. Health experts are anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations, as they race against a virus that already has killed more than 510,000 people in the U.S. and is mutating in increasingly worrisome ways. The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

February 28, 2021  WASHINGTON (AP) — Looking beyond the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, President Joe Biden and lawmakers are laying the groundwork for another top legislative priority — a long-sought boost to the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure that could run into Republican resistance to a hefty price tag. Biden and his team have begun discussions on the possible outlines of an infrastructure package with members of Congress, particularly mindful that Texas’ recent struggles with power outages and water shortages after a brutal winter storm present an opportunity for agreement on sustained spending on infrastructure.

February 26, 2021    WASHINGTON (AP) — On a cold, gray February afternoon, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stepped out of the West Wing wrapped in a puffy black parka and clutching a folder of documents, seemingly oblivious to the Washington custom of having an aide schlep the paperwork. Viewed as an outsider to partisan politics, she now has a place in President Joe Biden’s inner sanctum, a Ph.D. economist who does the reading, knows the numbers and treats her staff as peers rather than underlings. Yellen, entourage in tow, had been at the White House to strategize about how to push through Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan -- a package that could determine how quickly the U.S. economy heals, how the Democrats fare in the midterm elections and just how much Americans can trust the government to solve the nation’s toughest problems.

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