“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
– The Baseball Hall of Fame instructions to the BBWAA
With each passing year, I’m having an increasingly difficult time taking the Baseball Hall of Fame voting seriously. And with each year, there’s yet another writer who reveals selections that turn out to be either greatly disappointing – or highly disturbing.
This year’s voting results will be announced next week. Just in time for the full moon.
And in the run-up to the election, more and more writers are expressing their deep discomfort with the voting process. Some have publicly recorded their dissatisfaction with the choices, others have admitted they will not vote and a growing faction is now claiming that this will be their last year voting.
Because deep down inside, their moral compasses are speaking up. Many of these writers are grappling with trying to balance the statistical part of the game with the other 4 qualifications required for consideration.
Meanwhile, other voters claim that skills and stats are really the only factors that count despite the written instructions given to them.
Once again, there are the maximum number of candidates writers may select – 10. Out of the top 13 players on the master list, only 3 of them – Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen and Billy Wagner – appear to possess undisputable qualities of “integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions.”
Seven of the others are tied to PEDs. One of those, along with 2 other players, are tied to substantial allegations of domestic abuse. One of those connected to PEDs also had an affair with a minor (a criminal act) while he was married with children. Another candidate had multiple drunk driving arrests.
And the last man comprising this group of 13? Inappropriate and often offensive comments made.
But it’s not the writers who have a hard time casting their votes that bothers me. It’s the ones who chose to ignore indisputable evidence and multiple clues and vote for these questionable players anyway.
Evidence they choose to ignore. Evidence that they choose to ignore the character and integrity clauses completely.
And their rationale is based upon the claim that those players weren’t officially “caught.” They ignore the names listed in the Mitchell Report, the testimony given in court and the BALCO evidence. Even the dramatic change in physique by players who grew heads the size of pumpkins and changed body size to unrecognizable forms. Or the ageing players who suddenly and inexplicitly had significant career resurgences by posting the best numbers of their lives as they entered their mid-to-late 30’s.
Heck, according to them, Alex Rodriquez is clean because he didn’t officially test positive. They ignore the facts surrounding the Biogenisis scandal and thousands of pages of proof.
You don’t have to be Sherlock to see how some players evaded the rules put into place.
Some of these same journalists will also claim that certain players are worthy of induction because “they had already put up great numbers before they started taking PEDs.” They also seem to have forgotten about those pesky character and integrity clauses.
People with those qualities don’t cheat or commit illegal acts.
Yet still other writers within this group have stated that there are others in the Hall who took PEDs so why not allow the others in? As everyone’s mother has said “Just because they did it, doesn’t make it right.”
And finally, a few uneducated journalists have stated that many within the Hall took “greenies” or amphetamines and equating them with PEDs. Hardly the same. The former contributed temporary energy and alertness. The latter has the capability to dramatically change the body physically – building muscle mass, improving the respiratory system, increasing fast-twitch reflexes, power and speed as well as improving vision and hand-eye coordination.
The late, great Joe Morgan is rolling over in his grave. He was the voice of the Hall of Fame players in his public statements about how PED-related players should never be voted in. It was revealed that those currently in the Hall feel very strongly about keeping them out. Because it goes against the integrity and character clauses. And it insults those who got in without having to resort to cheating. Artificially-inflated stats also diminish and skew the accomplishments of those players who played by the rules.
Just as troubling is the revisionist theory being used as a excuse for voting in modern-day players of dubious character. They point to players from 75-100 years ago being guilty of what is considered today to be inappropriate actions, ignoring the fact that way back when, those actions were, for the most part, acceptable within mainstream society. These writers argue that “if those players were elected back then, today’s players who do not possess great character should be allowed in because there are already scoundrels in the Hall.” They are applying today’s societal standards to actions completed many decades ago.
But the biggest concern in the voting process has to do with freedom of speech. You know who I’m talking about.
We all know that certain players, because of their personalities or ugly behavior towards the media, were eliminated from election because of writers’ personal biases. Just look at Jack Morris’s long slog into the Hall. Or Lou Whitaker, who spent only 1 year on the ballot and is still waiting.
I think we can all agree that Schilling’s statements have often been abhorrent and troubling. But also made a full decade after he left the game. Writers are attempting to punish him for his life after baseball. They are ignoring the rules that clearly state that only those years playing baseball are to be considered.
No matter how you feel about Schilling, trying to deny someone a seat at the table for exercising his right to free speech is the worst act of all. It goes against the grain upon which this country was founded and sets a dangerous precedent that we are seeing in all too many other facets of life these days.
So what are the common denominators that we are seeing here as the BBWAA determines who gets into the Hall of Fame?
Rules are being applied differently depending upon the candidate.
Goalposts are being changed and moved.
Inconsistencies in the decision-making process are being accepted and embraced. Apples and oranges are being equated as the same thing.
Logic and a consistent way of presenting information is absent.
And many don’t seem to mind.
Many of these writers are trying to change the rules so that they suit them. Never mind the established rules. Never mind that these people do not hold a decision-making seat or even sit on a committee that would consider such things. We’ve now got unelected and self-appointed individuals who are trying to circumvent the rules and impose their beliefs on others without a democratic system in place.
For me, there is only 1 way to resolve this mess of a voting system.
Take the vote away from the BBWAA. Afterall, the arrangement for them to do the voting was not based upon qualifications, but on generating publicity for them combined with how news was disseminated back in the early ‘30’s. Times have clearly changed.
So who should take over the voting?
Players and managers. Who better than those who worked and played against you and spent much quality time with you instead of those who were removed from that interaction? Worse yet, those who never knew the individual candidate at all or passed judgment based upon a couple of interviews?
Would you want a stranger passing judgment on you for an important life moment? Of course not.
In a recent MLB tv show that documented the lives of the 7 Hall of Famers we lost this past year, the closing statements were saved for the most special of them. An ending that is based upon character. The narrator said this about him:
“He was welcomed into Cooperstown as a first ballot Hall of Famer. He epitomized what a Hall of Famer is. He was respected and loved by everybody….He was the most perfect gentleman.”
Who is that man?
He should be standard-bearer of who gets elected to the Hall.
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