Slow time for Royals news, so why not have some fun, cast a wider net, and stumble head-first into what is certain to be the first baseball controversy of 2015. How about a hypothetical baseball Hall of Fame ballot?
First, a pseudo disclaimer: I really enjoy the Hall of Fame. I enjoy the debates. I absolutely love the history. It’s an imperfect institution, but that’s OK. Most institutions are.
Not all writers fall into the above paragraph. That wouldn’t be fair. Perhaps there’s a lesson there. Beware those who throw everyone from the same profession – or same era – into a one-size-fits-all container. That’s dangerous business. For every crank who votes for three or four players on what is an absolutely loaded ballot, there is a different kind of writer who is thoughtful and thorough. Oops. My bias is showing.
And that’s the rub with the Hall of Fame. You may have someone who claims to be impartial and/or fair and thoughtful about the process, but failing a definitive standard for election, it’s really up to an individual voter and their baseball worldview on how they ultimately cast their ballot. By virtue of said ballot, voters have an opinion and it’s their right to interpret the rules for use of that ballot however they deem fair. I may disagree with some, but it’s their right. The process doesn’t always provide for the result I think is right, but so what? That’s life.
It’s a fun diversion for a baseball fan at this time of the year. If you haven’t discovered Ryan Thibs HoF Tracker, I encourage you to take a few minutes and geek out. It’s fun stuff. Same for Repoz’s HoF Collecting Gizmo at Baseball Think Factory.
I’m of the opinion that the right players will eventually be enshrined. It may not be a pleasant process for everyone involved, and it may take a few years, but I truly believe that when the dust settles on this era, a number of “tainted” players will be in the Hall. Having said that, the limit of voting for 10 players is kind of silly. It leads to some strategic ballots where some writers will leave off a player like Pedro Martinez because someone else needs his vote. That really shouldn’t be happening. If there are 14 players on the ballot a particular writer feels are Hall of Fame worthy, then that writer should be allowed to vote for all of them.
The new rule where players are on the ballot for only 10 years is an embarrassment to the Hall. It reeks of manipulation – a desire by the Hall to remove what may be an unsavory name or two now five years earlier. From what I can tell, some of the newer writers seem a bit more forgiving to the steroid era (Again, some of the writers. It’s dangerous to make a general statement about an entire, diverse group of people.) and this is the way for the powers of the Hall to push some of the steroid era players off the ballot before the younger writers become eligible to vote. Unfortunate.
Having said this, I’m hopeful at least five and maybe six will make the Hall this year. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are locks. The first three are newcomers and Biggio missed last year by two votes. From the holdovers, it looks like Mike Piazza has a good chance. Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are the outsiders. It would be excellent if one of them could get in, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
For some self-important bluster of my own, here’s my ballot:
By the Tango HoF Index, my ballot scores a 100. So that’s special. Promise I only checked my score after I filled out my pseudo-ballot.
If I expanded by “ballot,” it would include Larry Walker, Curt Schilling and John Smoltz. Probably Gary Sheffield. And Edgar Martinez. Oof. There are a bunch of great players on this ballot. As I said at the top of the post, I don’t begrudge writers their thought process for their selection. I agree with some, disagree with others. That’s fine. Having said that, a ballot without checkmarks for the full slate of 10 is something I’ll have an issue with this year. Tons of quality. I could’ve checked 15 names for crying out loud. And that doesn’t even include Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jeff Kent, all of whom should be debated for inclusion.
The good news is, the logjam should ease a bit next year. Of the new candidates, only Ken Griffey, Jr. is a lock. Maybe then guys like Raines, Mussina and Schilling will get their due.
An imperfect system for an imperfect institution.
You can probably tell from my ballot where I stand on the so-called steroid era. It happened. Everyone looked the other way. Everyone. Some used. Some didn’t. We will never fully know who used and we will never fully know how it helped. The current process simply exposes the portion of the electorate who choses to act as judge, jury and some sort of moral compass for this era. The numbers are what the numbers are. They are right there on Baseball Reference. And until someone has some sort of proof that those numbers are invalid for one reason or another, those numbers are fact. It’s what we use to judge. Not speculation. When it comes to the Hall and my hypothetical ballot, I’ll stick to the facts.
It’s probably naive to think that this will sort itself out on it’s own. It’s probably also naive to think the veteran’s committee will right some of the wrongs. I love the Hall of Fame because I love baseball. I hope in the next couple of years, they can get their act together and enshrine some of the greatest players of the most recent generation.