Among my group of high school friends we have this joke where we say, “I don’t know how you do it, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…not funny.” It’s something like that anyway, and the baseball writers have given me a similar feeling. I don’t know how they do it, but every year they make the voting process a bigger clusterhump than it was the year before. What happened this year, with no players getting elected (steroid users or not) left me disappointed and ready to start ignoring the Baseball Hall of Fame completely. I never wanted to get to this point.
I used to appreciate the exclusive nature of the “Hall.” While you could debate the criteria of other Halls of Fame, it was always known that Cooperstown was only for the true greats. Sure, a player or two might slip through the cracks (thank you Veterans Committee), but for the most part very good was left on the outside and the plaques were given to deserving players. Part of the reason for this, I believe, is baseball association with measurable numbers. The benchmarks, 300 wins, 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, in a way they made voting easier.
But in recent years we’ve undergone two major changes. First, the numbers that we value have shifted. A win is now considered by many to be one of the worst measures of a pitcher. And, working in concert with that is the inflated statistics of the steroid era. The historic benchmarks were made less significant by 60 home run seasons, etc. So voters are now left more to their own devices. They formulate their own criteria, judge how much they want to weigh the “morality” clause and voting has become a complete mess.
I honestly don’t even know how to fix to the process at this point. Current Hall of Famers can’t vote because all I have to do is point to the work of the veteran’s committee to shoot down that notion. Some Hall of Famers would care too much who joins them, and others would not care enough.
What really needs to happen is the voters need to re-earn their right to vote. You know how some people think you should re-take your driver’s test when you hit a certain age? We need that type of process for the voters, because some are taking their role too seriously. Some, like whoever voted for Aaron Sele this year, are not taking it seriously enough. And others still are using the wrong criteria.
Baseball really needs to take back control of their Hall of Fame as well. It is baseball who doesn’t allow the writers to elect Pete Rose. Rose is banned, and so the writers couldn’t vote him in even if they wanted to. Rose, incidentally, would probably do better in the vote than Bonds and Clemens. But, the point is, writers have taken it upon themselves to decide who is eligible and who isn’t, and that shouldn’t be the case. Baseball was played from 1988-2004. Certain players were the best of that era, but it appears the majority of them will never make the Hall of Fame.
What I guess is most troubling is that the solution appears so simple, there is a logical way to go about this, isn’t there? Not all steroid users were created equal. The problem comes from the writers who will never vote for anyone who was even associated with PEDs. Too much respect for the game, they’ll say. They don’t want things to be tarnished. Never tarnished. Every major sport in the country is tarnished beyond recognition. If it’s not PEDs, it’s racial inequality, class discrimination, rampant cocaine use, crooked officials, the list goes on and on. For some reason, the baseball writers have latched onto the steroid issue as where they want to make their last stand.
I think the reason for this is many of them probably feel embarrassed by their myth making. If you go read columns about Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 it was all Paul Bunyan references and glowing, poetic descriptions of forearm size. They took these players and made them bigger than the PEDs ever could and when the truth started to come out, I think there was a sense of, how did no one see this? Were the writers accomplices? Did they watch guys inject each other and then go write another 500 words on “country strength?”
So I think many writers just want to make sure there is no egg left on their face. I didn’t stand for any of this, and I’m going to prove it by not voting for anyone! Of course, this is an incredibly narcissistic opinion. Another trait common to the BBWAA. They fail to realize that the average fan doesn’t care about their past work, or their role in the steroid era, they just want a Hall of Fame they can understand and not the tragic mess it has become.
An Approximation of How You Should Vote if You had a Brain:
Craig Biggio: YES (68.2% this year)
Biggio had 3,060 hits and that’s his best number. But, he also had over 400 steals, won 4 gold gloves and even hit 290 homers. It appears Biggio will eventually get in, probably next year, so we won’t make too big a deal of his being left out.
Jack Morris: NO (67.7% this year)
Morris is another guy is probably going to eventually get in, but his plight is a nod to what used to be wrong with Hall of Fame voting–guys slowly changing their mind. Morris is hurt by his last two years, during which he threw a pretty terrible 300 innings, but he was excellent in the post-season. If you want to put him in, OK, but he’d be in the bottom 10% of pitchers enshrined.
Jeff Bagwell: YES (59.6% this year)
Bagwell came up just short of 500 homers and his numbers don’t look that impressive compared to some of his peers, but the advanced metrics all love Bagwell and he was a better all around player than you might remember. A .297 career hitter with over 200 steals.
Mike Piazza: YES (57.8% this year)
Piazza’s numbers as a catcher can’t be ignored. He was terrible defensively, but aside from the few very elite catchers, his offensive stats dwarf most HOF catchers.
Tim Raines: NO (52.2% this year)
Raines is so very close. His case is made mostly by advanced stats. His WAR and other numbers paint his career in a much better light than traditional counting stats, though Raines did have 800 steals and scored over 1,500 runs. You could probably convince me to change my mind on Raines with a compelling argument.
Curt Schilling: YES (38.8% this year)
Schilling represents a lot of what went wrong this year. He got more votes than Clemens and Bonds, but is still way short partially because he won only 216 games. So, sometimes the old benchmarks matter, sometimes they don’t. Schilling was a better regular season and post-season pitcher (11-2 2.23 ERA) than Jack Morris so if Morris is getting in eventually, so will Schill. Didn’t play on many good teams until he was in his mid-30s, over 3,000 strikeouts, he’s in–just don’t invest in his video game company.
Roger Clemens: YES: (37.6% this year)
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of jump Clemens gets in year two. That has been something that the steroid guys haven’t gotten. Jack Morris started at 30 percent, now he’s up to almost 70. If Clemens doesn’t get a big bump in 2014, he likely won’t get in. Same could be said for Bonds. Clemens won 7 Cy Young awards, 3 before you could suspect him of PEDs and a MVP during that stretch as well. Even if you think everything after Boston was a total fraud, you’re talking about a guy who would have had 250+ wins, 3,500 Ks, 3 Cy Youngs and an MVP.
Barry Bonds: YES (36.2% this year)
If you go by just the numbers, Bonds is one of the three best hitters ever. His three top comps on baseball reference are Ruth, Mays and Aaron. Ok, then. He probably should have won 4 straight MVPs from ’89 to ’92, as it was he won three (Terry Pendleton??? bahhaha) and ended up with seven total. He hit 70 homers, was once walked 232 times in a season and once had a 30HR/50 steal season. He was a Gold Glove outfielder and if he pulled a Sandy Koufax and retired in 1999, he’d probably be in the Hall of Fame.
Other No’s: Dale Murphy, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa.
Too short a prime for Murphy, too much DH for Martinez, tough road for closers, Trammell is Hall of Very Good and McGwire and Sosa were 1-trick PED machines.
Other Yes (My Aaron Sele Vote): Larry Walker
Coors Field will probably keep Walker out, but his inflated home/road splits obscure the fact that he did everything well. He was an elite RF, ran the bases beautifully and is another advanced metric darling. Three straight years hit .366, .363, .379. Pretty sure some of those games were on the road. Seven gold gloves, 3 batting titles, MVP.