The International Olympic Committee, citing its bidding rules, has put the kibosh on a proposed televised debate among the five cities bidding for the 2012 Games. Officials from Paris, London, Madrid, Moscow and New York had agreed to take part in the debate organized by BBC World, but the IOC, which had been going along, pulled the plug this week in a letter to the BBC.
The rule in question reads: "No form of audiovisual debate between one or several cities organized by a press organization will be accepted."
Dang! Got 'em on a technicality.
The BBC thought it would get around the rule by not having a debate, per se, but by having officials from the candidate cities separately answer questions from a journalist without addressing each other. The IOC reportedly got hinky when the event came to be described routinely in media reports as "a presidential-style debate."
The official Salon dictionary -- Webster's New World College Fourth -- makes no mention of direct address as a requirement to call something a debate. The first definition is "to discuss opposing reasons; argue" and the second is "to take part in a formal discussion or a contest in which opposing sides of a question are argued." Pretty clear that's what was going to go on, though it also should be noted that the BBC probably doesn't use a dictionary with "New World" in its title. Still.
I think the debate, which had been planned for Jan. 27 in Turin, Italy, would have been cool. It would have aired on BBC World Jan. 29. I was looking forward to New York citing the success of such American Olympics as the '84 Games in Los Angeles or '96 in Atlanta, and the Madrid guy saying, "Señor, you're no Atlanta," or maybe Paris asking Moscow, "Where's the boeuf?"
Who cares where the 2012 Olympics are going to be? I would have tuned in just to see if the Paris guy told the London guy that his mother was a hamster and his father smelled of elderberries.
The BBC says it's still negotiating with the Olympic Committee and will work on a show in which the five bid leaders are interviewed separately.
It's hard to figure why the IOC wouldn't jump at the chance at a worldwide TV broadcast to highlight the idea that five of the world's greatest cities are vying to host the Olympics, especially since the last time the bidding process made news was the Salt Lake City bribery scandal. The IOC's reported objection to the five bid leaders appearing in the same room just seems silly. What's the ethical problem with that? In fact, what's the ethical problem with a straight-up debate?
The Olympic bid process is known, to the extent it's known at all, as one of back-room deals, bribery and general corruption. There's one cure for all of that -- more light, more light. TV cameras come with bright lights.
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Boggs, Sandberg ... Blyleven? Abbott?! [PERMALINK]
Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg were voted in to the baseball Hall of Fame last week. Bruce Sutter was the closest player who didn't make it, getting 344 of the 387 votes -- 75 percent -- needed out of the 516 cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America. After that came Jim Rice (59.5 percent), Goose Gossage (55.2), Andre Dawson (52.3) and Bert Blyleven (40.9).
For what it's worth, I think Rice and Dawson are the very definition of borderline Hall of Famers about whom I'd vote no, but wouldn't be too offended if they got in. If I had to put one or the other in, I'd take Dawson. Gossage and Blyleven should be slam-dunk Hall of Famers, in my opinion.
Gossage was dominant for the better part of two decades and hasn't been voted in because the voters can't figure out what to do with modern short relief pitchers. To their credit, they've resisted the temptation to vote in Lee Smith (38.8 percent), who belongs in the Hall of Whatever the Thing Right Below Fame Is. Sutter was briefly dominant, but didn't pitch at a high level for long enough. He broke in at 23, only had one good year after turning 30 and was essentially finished at 32.
Everyone even remotely comparable to Blyleven is in, and the only reason he isn't is because of his low -- by which I mean "low" -- win total, 287, which is only 25th all time. The knock on Blyleven is that he didn't win enough games or have a high enough winning percentage, but that's nonsense. He pitched for a lot of mediocre or worse teams and got lousy run support.
Google Blyleven's name to find plenty of arguments for his enshrinement, but one argument I've never seen is about losses. One of baseball's more intriguing truisms is that you have to be a pretty good pitcher to lose a lot of games, because somebody keeps giving you the ball, a clue that the losing isn't all or even mostly your fault. Blyleven lost 250 games, which is 10th all time. Everyone in the top 15 in career losses is in the Hall of Fame except Blyleven, Bobby Mathews and Jack Powell.
Mathews pitched in the 19th century and posted records like 29-38. He was playing a different game. Powell, who started out in the late 1890s, was a pretty good pitcher who spent most of his career with the St. Louis Browns, including back-to-back years when they lost 107 games, the equivalent to 113 losses today. The rest of the top 15 in career losses is a Cooperstown roll call, even if there's one or two names you might not recognize: Young, Galvin, Ryan, Johnson, Niekro, Perry, Sutton, Rixey, Roberts, Spahn, Carlton, Wynn. Hall of Famers all.
But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the guys who didn't come close. The rest of the players who got the 5 percent needed to stay on the ballot, but won't ever get in barring some huge publicity campaign on their behalf changing attitudes about them completely, were Jack Morris (33.3 percent), Tommy John (23.8), Steve Garvey (20.5), Alan Trammell (16.9), Dave Parker (12.6), Don Mattingly (11.4), Dave Concepcion (10.7), Dale Murphy (10.5) and Willie McGee (5.0).
Then there are the guys who will fall off the ballot because they didn't get as much as 5 percent. They're the ones I'm wondering about. Jim Abbott got 13 votes, half as many as McGee. McGee was a terrific ballplayer, though not a Hall of Famer. Abbott was a great story -- he was born without a right hand -- but not a great pitcher.
The odd undeserving player gets a vote or two because a writer somewhere thinks kindly of him and, allowed to vote for up to 10, gives him a meaningless check mark as a gesture, knowing the guy will never appear on the ballot again. That might explain the single votes for Tony Phillips and Terry Steinbach or the two votes each for Jeff Montgomery and Tom Candiotti. I think Chili Davis got three votes, deservedly, just for being named Chili.
But does one out of every 39 BBWAA members really think Jim Abbott belongs in the Hall of Fame because he only had one hand? It couldn't have been because of his two good years and one decent one, his 87 wins or his 4.25 lifetime ERA. According to Baseball Reference, the three most comparable pitchers to Abbott were Jim Deshaies, Steve Trout and Steve "You've Never Heard of Me But I Pitched for the Indians, Rangers, Blue Jays and Braves From '65 to '77" Hargan.
The others who got votes were Darryl Strawberry with six and Jack McDowell with four. I doubt either of these guys benefited from anyone thinking kindly about them so there must be Hall of Fame voters out there who think they qualify.
I like arguing about it over beers but I don't care that much whether borderline Hall of Famers get in or don't, or if no-way guys get a few votes. But I still have to wonder what sport some of those voters have been watching over the last few decades.
Previous column: Randy Johnson, Randy Moss
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