Johnny Cigar is pleased to welcome our first guest columnist of 2016, and it’s a great one. Jeff Rude, winner of numerous national writing awards, has covered the PGA Tour for 30 years, most notably for Golfweek in 1995-14. Here’s his column:
By Jeff Rude
Everybody seems to be into trends these days. You can’t turn around without someone throwing a trend at you.
“What’s Trending” is a television show and a website. We have Google trending and Facebook trending and Twitter trending and YouTube trending. We could keep going because, well, “trending” is a trend.
And now, in the last news cycle, we perhaps have trending as it relates to Baseball Hall of Fame voting. That notion was hardly lost on the likes of Hall of Fame pitchers John Smoltz and Tom Glavine and two-time World Series champion manager Terry Francona as they weighed in on the increased vote percentages Wednesday for home run king Barry Bonds and 354-game winner Roger Clemens.
“All the conversation is about a trend toward guys who might be connected to PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs) getting an increase,” Smoltz said Thursday during a news conference promoting the Jan. 14-16 Diamond Resorts Invitational for 70-plus sports and entertainment celebrities. “That seems to be the watch.”
Primary headlines focused on the two worthy men voted in: Ken Griffey Jr. with 99.3 percent of the 440 ballots cat, the highest percentage ever, and Mike Piazza (83 percent). But Clemens (45.2) and Bonds (44.3), both up from about 37 percent in their fourth year on the ballot, drew considerable attention even though they ended up a far cry from the 75 percent needed for induction.
“There are some confusing situations and trends,” said Smoltz, an MLB Network analyst who, like former Atlanta Braves teammate Glavine, expressed surprise and dismay that former closer Billy Wagner got only 10.5 percent.
For certain, Clemens and Bonds remain in PED purgatory, and voting, as Smoltz said, can be a “slippery slope” for baseball writers.
“No one is denying how good they were,” said Smoltz, inducted into the Hall last year. “The question is how authentic and real their numbers are. You can’t water down the truth. You’re either 100 percent committed they are hall of famers or you aren’t.”
Glavine, enshrined in 2014, said he would be “fine” and “not surprised” whether those two were inducted someday or not. “They’re trending in the right direction,” said Glavine, a 10-time all-star and two-time Cy Young winner. “I don’t know if guys voting are softening their stance. I guess (the voting) suggests that.” He went on to add that the Hall should value integrity.
Francona, the Cleveland Indians manager, seconded the importance of integrity in a game that suffered a PED scandal.
“As an industry, we’re guilty of putting our heads in the sand and we’re paying for that now,” said Francona, who managed Boston to two world titles last decade. “It’s made things unfair for a lot of people, even the writers. I wouldn’t want to be a voter. It’s tough when you’re asked to be judge and jury.”
That said, he offered a solution. “Let the writers vote for what (the players) die on the field and then let the fans decide what they feel about it,” he said.
Smoltz, Glavine and Francona plus Clemens will be among those playing in the inaugural, 54-hole Diamond Resorts Invitational that will be nationally televised by Golf Channel next week at the Golden Bear Club in Windermere, Fla. Others competing for $500,000 in prize money include current major leaguers Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Justin Verlander and Brian McCann and former star athletes Jerry Rice, Marcus Allen, Richard Dent, Mark Rypien, Greg Maddux, Johnny Damon, Reggie Jackson, Roger Clemens, Gaylord Perry, Eric Dickerson, Sterling Sharpe, Joe Theismann and Brian Urlacher and entertainers Larry The Cable Guy and Jake Owen.
About Jeff Rude:
|Jeff Rude has been a senior writer at Golfweek since 1995 covering the PGA Tour. He has won numerous national writing awards, including several firsts in the Golf Writers Association of America contest. His “Hate to Be Rude” weekly video on Golfweek.com is among the site’s most popular and he is a regular on the Golf Channel’s “Grey Goose 19th Hole.” Rude is an Evans Scholar from Waukegan, Ill., and graduated from the University of Missouri in 1976. He caddied the PGA Tour while in college and later worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dallas Morning News and Chicago Sun-Times.|