Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Hall of a situation

Yes, it was headline-worthy that not one candidate was elected to the Hall of Fame ... but really, was it that big of a surprise?

Even if any of the Royd Boyz do eventually get in, it is not the least bit shocking they were denied on their initial year as candidates. I specifically said I wasn't going to give the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens the special honor of being first-ballot HoFers, and I'm sure dozens (if not hundreds) of my fellow voters felt that way, too.

Craig Biggio also didn't quite make it on the first ballot, but he has an excellent chance next year because there are many, many BBWAA voters who save first-ballot HoF status for only the best of the best.

Other observations:

-- I knew Sammy Sosa wouldn't come close to getting in but I was surprised he received fewer votes than Mark McGwire did. While those two will be linked forever in baseball history, Sosa finished with better numbers and also had more skills than McGwire did.

-- Again, I'm not stunned that Jeff Bagwell didn't get in, but I did think he would get more votes. I was relieved he didn't miss by one, because I already am second-guessing my decision to leave him off my ballot.

-- Don Mattingly received enough votes to stay on the ballot for next year but Bernie Williams didn't. There is zero doubt in my mind that Williams was the better, more important Yankee.

-- Lots of get-a-lifers -- yahoos who spend a good chunk of their time obsessing about the HoF -- said only idiots would refuse to put the Royd Boyz in the Hall on the first ballot while stating we very well might vote for Bonds and Clemens in future years. Well, here's what another first-ballot candidate, Curt Schilling, told ESPN:

"I think it's fitting. If there ever were a ballot or a year to make a statement about what we didn't do as players, this is it."

Schilling went on to say that even players who weren't juicers were complicit in the Steroid Era and deserved to be denied Hall entry. And he went out of the way to include himself among the guilty.

Schilling, who finished just ahead of Bonds and Clemens, got my vote. And now I feel even better about it.

-- Sad to see two guys drop off the ballot: Dale Murphy couldn't get anywhere near enough votes during  his 15 years of eligibility but truly embodied all the great things in sports; and Kenny Lofton, a fine player during his prime who almost surely deserved more than one year as a candidate (he didn't get the required 5 percent of the vote).

-- I sure as heck hope that the one writer who checked the box next to Aaron Sele's name did so as a protest vote.


  1. I really do like the way the Baseball HOF voting is run. It's much better than the way the Pro Football HOF does it. There shouldn't be a quota system where you force a minimum and maximum limit. Some years there just aren't enough candidates, and others there is an abundance.

    That being said, I'm not keen on the mythical status that people have afforded the HOF. I read an article by Jayson Stark yesterday, and he made a good point that the HOF is at its heart a museum of baseball history. I think it's important to remember that the BBWAA is simply a group of people expressing their opinions. Otherwise, how could one explain why some players like Bert Blyleven slowly crept up the voting list until they made it?

    I know you and I have talked about this before, Mike, and I don't know that there's another group to make the determination of who gets in. But at the end of the day, like the MVP and other awards, HOF entry comes down to winning an opinion poll. It may be as objective an opinion poll as possible, but it's still an opinion poll. Yet look at the importance we give it. (That's more a gripe against fans in general, not the writers. And, yeah, there's just a touch of hypocrisy in me taking the time to write about it! ;) )

    I'm also not crazy about the "it's not the Hall of 'Good'" argument either. If we're going to use the name of the hall to keep people out, does it really make sense to ignore the name when it comes to electing members? It isn't the Hall of Good, the Hall of Great, the Hall of Legends, or the Hall of The Best Baseball Players. It's the Hall of "Fame", which implies that it should be for famous people associated with baseball. Under that criteria, there's no justification for keeping out famous baseball players like Bonds and Clemens. (Given pop culture's movement to associate fame with public attention, I think in the historical context the name of the institution should probably be the Hall of Renown.)

    To be continued (character limit)

  2. As long as I'm on my soapbox, I'll point out my personal preference is not to compare players across eras. I realize baseball uses its historical consistency as a point of pride. But despite efforts to keep the game identical to what it was a century ago, it isn't. Some eras produced lower offensive numbers than others. Some eras were less about the defense. It's the nature of people to try to find an edge, and I'm not talking necessarily about steroids. Improved understanding about human physiology and nutrition have led to athletes who have grown bigger, faster, and stronger. Improved analysis techniques have led to changes in the way the game is played and managed. All of this in turn has led to people finding many (legal) ways of gaining edges over their competitors. And as a result, MLB has instituted some rule changes over the years to try to return the game to its historical balance. But it's not perfect.

    I think you can make the assumption that any given period in baseball history will produce a small percentage of elite players. That percentage may vary, meaning that one era may have had more or fewer elite players than another. But I think it makes the most sense to compare players against their contemporaries, not history. Should it matter that Dale Murphy didn't get X number of home runs when compared to everyone? I think that number only matters when compared to the players he played against because they faced the same competition. It's not a perfect solution, but the players can only play against the competition they face, not the competition their predecessors faced.

    I will say that by a long shot the BBWAA get it right more often than they get it wrong. We may argue about it, but players like Ron Santo, Blyleven, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy all probably got what their careers merited. None were the best at what they did, but they were better than the vast majority of their peers. And as a result they've all flirted with entry to the Hall. Someone has the be the worst player in the Hall just as someone has to be the best player never elected.

    1. As always, Drew, a reasonable, thoughtful expression of your viewpoint.

      I'm all ears whenever anybody wants to come up with a different system. The only time I get defensive is when one suggests we're a bunch of fossils who no longer follow baseball. I still follow it very closely, and I'm sure that I followed it closer than 99.9 percent of the population during the years all of these candidates played. Maybe 10 or 15 years from now, when I've been out of the loop for awhile, I will no longer be qualified to vote. I'm not saying that will be the case, but maybe it will be. At that time, I will recuse myself.

      Take care, my friend.

  3. again a great your stuff and i am in no position to comment on your actual vote because heh you are the least you make it stats can be so blah and really hall of fames only matter if you care...deeply...have you been to cooperstown...or any of the other halls...

  4. Mike,

    While I disagre with your decision to leave Bonds and Clemens off your ballot, I appreciate and agree with your points in this post. A few thoughts for a BBWAA member to consider:

    1. Do you think it's a good idea to lift the maximum number of players one can vote for in light of the steroid era? The ballot limits will likely cost guys like Morris, Schilling, and Raines in the coming years, or force writers to make unfair choices (i.e., "I think Schilling/Mussina were better pitchers than Morris, but next year is his last chance, so I have to vote for him.")

    2. Do you think the threshhold for induction should be different in some way? Perhaps a slightly lower percentage (say 70%, or 2/3rds) since everyone who's ever reached that got in later anyway?

    3. Should all the votes be public? I like transperancy, and this isn't picking the President or anything.

    4. Should the voting bloc be expanded to include more people? I don't like the idea of including execs or players due to a conflct of interest. But I see some merit to the arguments that national broadcasters (Costas) baseball bloggers with national platforms (Neyer), etc. have the expertise and requisite passion to help make an even better electorate. That's the Hall's choice to make, I guess, but it would be on merit a good thing.

  5. I like the system the way it is now. There are about 600 voters from a nice cross-section of the country and with varying degrees of experience.

    I'd have no problem to opening it up as you suggest in your fourth point, but if I'm not mistaken some Internet types already are being allowed into the BBWAA and, after 10 consecutive years, they will gain Hall voting rights. (I'm not 100 percent sure about that, but I think it's the case.) Qualified broadcasters, etc., would be fine, although it is a slippery slope to define "qualified."

    The threshold is fine at 75 percent but I'd have no problem changing it. 70 percent still wouldn't have gotten anybody in this year.

    I always make my vote public but I can understand why some of my colleagues don't want to subject themselves to being harrassed by anonymous folks who aren't as reasonable as you.

    Thanks for reading.