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Will Burnett really go out on top? And modest proposals on the Hall vote


SOUTH HILLS – You probably caught Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage telling 93.7 FM The Fan the other day that it is his opinion AJ Burnett will retire. And that’s likely a consensus opinion as Burnett said he might retire, and no one has heard much of anything from Burnett all offseason.  Again, this is what Searage had to say:

“I’m on that percentage point where he’s not going to come back,” Searage said. “I’ve got to prepare the pitching with no A.J, so that’s the route I’m going right now. If he does come back, alright. But right now, I’m leaning that way, where he’s going to retire.


But Searage added:


“There isn’t any information on A.J. We’re still waiting.”


I had always doubted Burnett’s intent to retire. After all there’s so much cash in the game and he led the NL in groundball and strikeout rate last season. It’s not like this is a 37-year-old showing much decline.


But as Rob Neyer noted, Burnett wouldn‘t be the first elite-level pitcher to go out on top. And Burnett has made $120,771,500 in his career. He doesn’t have to pitch again and his great, great, great grandchildren will still live quite comfortably. Still, I thought his 2013 performance and the 2013-14 market prices would compel him to return and perhaps with a club other than the Pirates. The Orioles and Phillies also have interest.  But if he does retire he’ll join Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling as rare pitchers in recent memory to retire at near elite levels.


The clock is ticking on a decision though as we’re about a month from pitchers and catchers reporting — unless Burnett comes up with a creative plan to join a team in midseason.




I’ m not a Hall of Fame Voter. To become a voter you require 10 years of consecutive BBWAA membership, and I’m not close. To become a BBWAA member you typically have to cover a large volume of games every year. Broadcasters and most bloggers are not eligible, meaning the vast majority of the pool is current and former newspapermen. (And remember, this is not the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame. The BBWAA has been asked to be the gatekeeper by the Hall of Fame board.)


Despite all the noise and sound and fury, it’s important to remember baseball’s Hall of Fame – as imperfect as it might be – is regarded as the best in the sport and for the most part the BBWAA has been an excellent gatekeeper. But the goal of the Hall and the BBWAA should be to not only keep it that way but to improve the process.


*One simple solution is to remove the arbitrary limit of 10 player votes per ballot. Due to the PED era and PED suspicions, we’ve seen a backlog of candidates, who by numbers alone would be Hall locks. It’s interesting that a 3,000-hit, 500-home run player in  fell off the ballot with 4.4 percent of the vote in Rafael Palmeiro. A very deserving player, Craig Biggio, fell two votes short. To me, anyways, there should be a simple litmus test: you’re either a Hall of Famer or you’re not. In many years 10 slots might not be necessary, but in this environment they are necessary.


*Broaden AND shrink the electorate. The mediums for writing about baseball have changed dramatically over the decade. I write for a newspaper and its Web site as is the case with the majority of BBWAA writers but there’s a large number of very smart baseball analysts that do not. They blog or write online only about baseball for a living. Now some blog/Web writers have been granted BBWAA membership  but writers like Ken Rosenthal suggest the 10-year limit should be lessened to get more of these voices – many sabermetrically inclined – into the voting pool. While there should be strict standards, I think that’s a sound position from one of the heavyweight BBWAA voices. Also, if a voter is no longer covering the game/or paying strict attention to the game a Hall vote shouldn’t be a lifetime right.


*All ballots should be made public just as the MVP and Cy Young voting is. The more transparency the better. You can find all the public ballots here.


I don’t think a change of the guidelines or criteria – that performance, character and sportsmanship – needs to be addressed. There’s still something to be said for the gridlock this creates (think about how good you have to be to get the new school and old school to vote for you) and the debate it stirs. And for the most part, the BBWAA has gotten it right over the eight decades the Hall has been in existence.


With that I think we’ve all reached our threshold of Hall talk. Back to on-the-field chatter on Monday.

– TS



  1. piratemike says:

    On the surface it sounds reasonable to require on open vote.
    Why not, if you believe your vote is fair and you believe what you are voting for.
    The problem is in this society with 24hr sports and news plus all the other social media there can be such a backlash by one group or another that a persons career, the way this person makes a living can be ruined by a organized campaign if that person votes what they believe is the wrong way.
    How long would it take, if say a group said that a writer is racist or homophobic because he didn’t vote for somebody. I understand that a true racist or homophobe can hide in anonymity but the greater harm is done by groups who can use your vote to pressure or blackmail that person to vote a certain way. That is why our political votes are done by secret ballets.

  2. piratemike says:

    Myself, I would like to see a separate hall called the” Hall of Greatness ” or whatever name you want to call it because I believe the HOF has already been compromised and now some people believe it is or is partially at least ….. a museum.
    Let the current hall be what the name implies The Hall of ” FAME ” let the famous and infamous in… the Roses and Bonds and Shoeless Joe .
    BUT….. let only the truly great into the ” Hall of Greatness”
    I have my short list and I am sure there would be heated debates in the future about who should go in but there should be strict guidelines and maybe a longer waiting period while in the meantime that person could be let into the HOF while it is decided if that person is qualified for the… HOG… ( I’m suddenly overcome with a desire to change that name).

  3. Jim S. says:

    One thing I believe they should do is clean up some of the issues with who gets to vote. No one should get to vote in perpetuity, particularly if they abuse the process. Lebatard is gone, as he should be. The guy who voted for Nomo, and only Nomo should lose his privileges immediately. The guy who only picks 3 people at most because he says he doesn’t want the ceremony to run too long – he’s gone as well. If you make a farce of the process, you are gone immediately. Anyone who chooses Jacques Jones should be stripped of privileges as well. Actually, though, guys like that should never make the ballot.

    I think everyone should be up for review periodically – maybe every 5 years – and in at least one of those random years, your vote should be open, but you should not know which year beforehand. I can see why some guys who don’t cover baseball any longer should still get to vote. We need guys voting who saw players from 30 years ago even if they have retired from writing. But, all of the voters should have to profess a desire to vote and do so with integrity. I don’t know exactly how to accomplish that, but it sounded to me like Lebatard didn’t even think he should have a vote. I bet if they actually contacted everyone, a bunch of guys would willingly drop out. Maybe ask them to sign something to that effect when they turn in their ballot?

    Finally, maybe they should get a range of 10-15 choices for a few years to clear up some of the backlog. I don’t know if that would help for sure, though. Travis should not have to wait 10 years for his ballot. In fact, I should get one … just because.

    I really have no idea what is going on with AJ. I have waffled so much on this issue the past couple of months. My best guess right now is that he is legitimately torn about whether to play or not. I think he is talking only with Baltimore and Pittsburgh, for the most part, because those are the only 2 teams he would consider for family proximity (Baltimore) and loyalty (Bucs) reasons. It does not appear to me that he is out there talking to 15 teams in an effort to drive up the offers from those 2 teams. A lot of guys would be doing that. He may want more money than those 2 teams are offering, but he doesn’t seem to be playing games.

    Maybe he could be enticed to pitch if the Bucs allow him to spend some off-time between starts at home, and if he could maybe do a short spring training in May and join the team in June. I’d be ok with that special deal for a veteran like him, and it would keep him fresh into October. It did for Frankie last year. I don’t know whether the Bucs would go for those ideas, but it might be worth a shot.

  4. Steelkings says:

    @ Pirate Mike
    Barry Bonds was truly great. That is the problem. The only things wrong with him is that he is a jerk and he had the arm of a girl and the suspicion of steroids. Other than that he was a beast at the plate. Steroids have nothing to do with swing and miss. You couldn’t strike out that guy on the outside corner. You couldn’t jamb him. If you left it up a little, he would hit it out of the ball park. Steroids don’t make the ball and bat any less round. Now personally I dont think its the steroids that keep him out of the hall. Its the fact that he beat his wife and he was an intolerable jerk to those who have the power to vote him in.

    @ Jim
    There need to be rules. Time off between starts at home? Short spring training in May and join the team in June? No way. Either you want to play or you don’t. I don’t want someone who doesn’t know if they want to be there or not. Here’s the way I see it. If AJ walks up in May and says I wanna pitch, he’d better be ready to do it for the league minimum.

  5. Ghost says:

    Actually, steroids DO have much to do with “swing and miss.” In addition to increasing bat speed and explosiveness, steroids can significantly increase your intensity and focus. They’ve found their way into the executive suites of highly competitive corporate climbers. And I even remember reading in the 90’s about a snooker champion being disqualified for taking anabolic steroids to help his concentration. Tried looking it up; instead found a billiards body with an entire protocol for anti-doping testing.

    Bonds would have been pretty darn good without cheating. But he only became Barry Bonds of the record books by cheating. Big time.

  6. Ghost says:

    Some excellent points, Jim. Especially like the idea of giving the automatic heave-ho to those clowns who vote for one, and only one, player. One such clown with this year only voted for Jack Morris. Jack Morris is a border line case — you could argue either way on him and I’d have no beef. But ONLY Jack Morris? In the year we had Greg Maddux, to name just one other? Said clown needs to be stripped of his privilege to vote — a privilege and honor he is defiling with some wild-hair agenda he’s come up with.

  7. Ghost says:

    Agree. (Posted so in a comment but it ended up further below.)

  8. steelkings says:

    Really? There is a list a mile long of Known steroid users in the MLB

    None of those guys….NONE,,,,,have stats anywhere near Bonds. The strike out to walk stats? McGuire doesnt have them. Palmeiro doesn’t have them. Sosa doesn’t have them…….

    ***steroids can significantly increase your intensity and focus***

    Not steroids…Thats Adderall…You know…greenies…the drug Hank Aaron used daily to withstand the grind.

    Mr Steroids himself, Jose Conseco wants to know why his brother, who was genetically the same guy, using the same chemicals as Jose, couldn’t make it in baseball.

    Its amazing to me that people morn the fact that Biggio fell 2 votes short. Biggio was a suspected user. Why biggio and not Bonds?

    You know what? 9 players were suspended in 2013 for using banned PED’s. 8 players in 2012…Purhaps we should have two halls like Pirate-mike suggested. We should call one the Hall of Fame and the Other the Hall of Better Cheaters, for those who dont get caught.

  9. Ghost says:

    That’s the tragedy of Barry Bonds. He would have had over 500 home runs, all gold gloves and a legit HOF career if only he hadn’t gone down the path that seduced so many others over the past two decades. But my statement that he only set those all-time records of home runs, walk-per-season, etc. stands.
    As for, “Not steroids” (regarding whether steroids increase ability to focus), sorry but you’re misinformed here. Ask somebody in your local gym what they do; you’ll be told that that mental boost and edge steroids provides is just as big, if not bigger than the physiological boost.

    Now, I share your sense of outrage / lack of fairness over all the other players we suspect — sometimes even KNOW — used PED’s, yet seem to get a pass. I can’t say about Biggio, because there’s never been a sliver of evidence against him (though, of course, I do wonder like all the rest). But take, for example, the lionization of David Ortiz — it’s outrageous! We KNOW he’s a PED-cheater, yet we ignore it, we ignore that his PED’s helped the BoSox win two of their three recent championships, and we shower him and the Sox with love. Bonds was made a bogey-man because he made the mistake of not suffering fools well in front of the media.

  10. piratemike says:

    Steelkings has won me over. Let’s make it mandatory for players to take PEDS.
    But I think some minor adjustments should be made.
    First ball fields are going to have to be larger.
    The mound should be moved back to where 2b is and all the other positions on the infield would have to be moved correspondently.
    Outfield walls will have to be moved back to a minimum of 500 feet.
    Obviously steroids are a healthy supplement so lets get our kids started right by adding it to babies formulas and to the kids school lunches so they can all grow up healthy.

  11. piratemike says:

    I have said this before, I equate it to the criminal justice system.
    Not every criminal is caught, so does that mean that nobody should ever be convicted because there are known criminals walking around free and it wouldn’t be fair to send someone to prison if others are not?
    Maybe there are PED users who for what ever reason has got away with it, does that mean they should drop all their standards and allow the practice to go on or should they keep increasing the penalties until it is no longer worth it.
    There is a reason why PEDs are banned and it isn’t just because MLB doesn’t want anybody to be too good.
    MLB loved it when all those guys were mashing and the fans were showing up to watch somebody hitting 70 homers.

  12. Steelkings says:

    If you think for a moment that major League baseball doesn’t want players to take PED’s, you’d be dead wrong. C’mon man! 8 guys in the bigs get busted a year. Every year. And that doesn’t include AAA, or AA of low A. Or college baseball for that matter. How do you know what guys do in the Dominican? You don’t.
    MLB doesn’t want a watered down version of there product. When baseball was “PURE”, there was only 20 teams in the league. Then 24 and now 30 teams. MLB wants those guys to come in big, promising and strong. And when they catch them they will give them a 25 game suspension. And then 50 games. And then 100 games. And then a lifetime ban for which you can file for reinstatement for after 1 year. None of that says anything about…”we dont want you here!”
    Want evidence? Ok.
    Medical Miracle, bowling ball shaped, with so many miles on his arm he has a tatoo that says “Goodyear” down it, Bartolo Colon signs a two year 20 million dollar contract coming off a 50 game PED suspension.
    Eh, Jhonny Peralta, wily shortstop who went from a back of the order guy in Cleveland to a middle of the order guy in Detroit gets a 4 year 52 Million dollar contract directly after serving a 50 game PED suspension.
    The point is, owners want guys who will turn the turnstiles. MLB wants what the owners want. If that wasn’t true then if you got caught, it would be Bye Bye. But its not.
    This is a business. The neighbors of the Miami Bio-genesis clinic said Celebs and players from all sort of different sports were going in and out of that place all the time. And I’m supposed to believe MLB didn’t know about that?
    C’Mon Man!
    The NFL’s stance on Bio-Genesis?….”What Bio-genesis?” C’mon Man!

    MLB to players: “Please pass this bowl of PEDs and you will get paid. But you cant be in the hall of fame”

  13. NMR says:

    “*All ballots should be made public just as the MVP and Cy Young voting is. The more transparency the better. You can find all the public ballots here.”

    Amen, Travis.


  14. The Gunner says:


    Your plan with AJ sounds like he’d be receiving a lot of preferential treatment. In my workplace, my co-workers & I usually loath the recipients of preferential treatment & dissension starts. The Pirate clubhouse cannot afford this to happen.

    It is time to “let go” of the thought of AJ being a Bucco in 2014 – it’s that simple!

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