Cooperstown Welcomes La Russa, Rest Of 2014 Hall Of Famers
ARUN RATH, HOST:
It's summertime. And in the USA, that means baseball season. When I think baseball, I think hotdogs, Cracker Jack and Mike Pesca. Maybe that's strange, but I'm in luck because joining me right now is Mike Pesca, host of the podcast The Gist from Slate.com. Hi, Mike.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: That was nice. Next time I'd like you to say when I think Mike Pesca, I think Cracker Jack (Laughing). And the prize therein.
RATH: Well, you're the prize today.
PESCA: Arun, I'm kvelled.
RATH: So big day in Cooperstown, New York. This year's Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Who's on deck to receive the honors this year?
PESCA: It's quite a class. It's 3 first-ballot Hall of Famers, which hasn't happened in many, many years. Greg Maddux, Tom Galvine - the best pitchers of their era - 300 game winners. And Frank Thomas, The Big Hurt. You know, just an excellent, excellent player. So the players alone would be one of the highest class of class. And then you have the managers who are going in - Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa. So that's like a third of an all-star team right there - an all-time, all-star team. Amazing players and managers.
RATH: Wow. But, you know, this is not business as usual. The rules of the game have changed. Well, I mean, the rules of the Baseball Hall of Fame have changed. But what do I need to know about what's different this year?
PESCA: Well, just yesterday they announced that they were going to tweak the process. And it used to be that players could be on the ballot for 15 years. And now the change is that players will drop off the ballot in 10 years. That doesn't mean - players after they don't get the requisite 75 percent of the vote of the Baseball Writers' Association, it doesn't mean that's it, they're out of the Hall. Then they go to what's commonly called the Veterans Committee. So on practical terms what this does is - well, if you ask the baseball writers, or at least those who make the rules - and it's not actually a vote of all the writers who make the rules - but they would say that it just stops dragging out the process. And you have guys who are on the ballot for so long and it's really so unfair for them to almost make it. Although, if you ask a guy like Bert Blyleven who was on the ballot for 14 years before he made it, he'd say hey, I like the process. I don't know how that works by the way, that a player starts off with like 40 percent of the vote and then winds up with 76, unless it's like a sign or a sculpture in the town park that starts off as an eyesore and then after a while it's like oh yeah, we like this guy. But in practical terms, the reason that they're doing this is - well, the reasons are many but what a consequence will probably be - that the players like Clemens and Bonds who were stained by the steroid era will not get in easily, will not get in by a vote of the writers because it's thought that writers will forgive or younger writers will come on and they'll just look at those guys' numbers. And the older writers have more against those guys. They covered those guys. They felt lied to by those guys. You can make the case that the older writers maybe felt that they missed the story and they're working out their issues. That happens, you know. So it will probably be harder for some of the steroid guys to get in with a vote of the writer. Maybe the Veterans Committee will let them in someday.
RATH: Well, what about alienating, if not younger writers, younger fans who might like to vote on those guys?
PESCA: Yeah. I mean that is true. I think that the big thing is that baseball is really a nostalgic game. And nostalgia is, you know, a deference to the past that wasn't always there. And one thing that we are seeing this - one way that we're seeing this is that baseball is the timeless game. But the timelessness of baseball actually can be the thing that cuts its throat. I mean, we have this specter of four hour, nine inning games. I mean, these are baseball games. This is not the Ring cycle. And because the game is so slow that, I think, is what is alienating fans, although, there is now an interesting new set of rules for a minor league - the Atlantic League. And they are going to try to speed up the game. Now, some of the rules are already on the books, right? You know, major league baseball umpires are supposed to make the pitcher's pitch at a certain amount of time, and that's never enforced. But there are some other rules that are new, like when catchers get on base they'll immediately be replaced by a pinch runner. And here's a good one - no all those trips to the mound. Three kinds of timeout. So a catcher can't visit a pitcher, catcher visit a pitcher. That slows down the game. And maybe what happens in the Atlantic League will, you know, at least train these younger players who when they get to the Major Leagues, they'll be faster. Or maybe the Major Leagues will adopt some of these new rules.
RATH: Do you think people will be upset about this or does everybody want faster baseball? Like the fans of Wagnerian, slow.
PESCA: Yeah. It's so funny because if you really plumb the depths of the issue, even though baseball fans love the fact that it is the game without a clock, everyone thinks it's slow, even the players who slow down the game. I've talked to David Wright about this - steps out, adjusts his glove every time. Even he would like the game to be faster. I don't know why he doesn't just not adjust his gloves, but he doesn't.
RATH: Well, we do have a clock here. And sadly, we're out of time. Mike Pesca of Slate.com and The Gist podcast. Thanks as always.
PESCA: Fat lady has sung. You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.