Today is the day in which members of the Baseball Writers Association of America see the culmination of their ballots take place, and the world finds out exactly who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown over the summer. A day that should reside as a celebration for the career achievements of the chosen has quickly turned into a mockery thanks to a few converging factors. While it isn’t fair to place blame solely in one direction, their is plenty to go around.
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Nearly every year sees some level of controversy and outrage when the dust settles, but none may be more apparent than what we are about to experience in 2015. With the first real big wave of players who were linked to performance enhancing drugs, the BBWAA members take on a whole new role. Before the results are unveiled at 1pm central time this afternoon, it may be best to prepare for the worst.
So with that said, what exactly is wrong with the process you ask? That question is loaded, as there may in fact be more broken than not, but the keys below are those in which I have the biggest problems.
Starting with the largest issue facing voting members this year, voting players into the Hall of Fame has become an issue of morality. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens all reside as large names on this year’s ballot. Both Bonds and Clemens should be sure fire Hall of Fame inductees, the problem is they are not going to be.
Major League Baseball and Bud Selig decided that players such as those named above were an asset to their brand. The long home runs and the dominating pitching performances put more fans than ever into the seats. The game experienced rampant changes throughout the steroid era, and at the time, the game decided it was worth it. As we sit today, a collection of journalists and industry members are going to tell us differently.
Despite baseball failing to condemn those cheating the game at the time, voting members of the BBWAA are going to play moral police, and suggest that despite their otherwordly talent, guys like Bonds and Clemens have no place in the sanctimonious Hall of Fame. Whether or not they are right probably doesn’t matter, but policing an issue that the game failed to do so, doesn’t seem like the standard that ought to be set. After all, baseball has transformed many times over the years, the dead ball era, drugs, and times when certain races weren’t allowed in the game all influence statistical outputs differently.
No matter how you feel about them as people, guys like Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens played the game of baseball at a Hall of Fame level whether they were cheating or weren’t. There’s no doubt they belong, and policing them now is a disservice to what has already taken place.
Although the voting rules for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame were established decades ago, they still reside intact. Arguably one of the most glaring mistakes is that of allowing BBWAA members to only select 10 players. With many more worthy of induction, including all who qualify should be at the voters discretion.
Local writer Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, took an interesting approach to circumventing the 10 player limit. As he notes, leaving off likely first ballot locks like Pedro and Randy is something he had to do.
His message wasn’t one of them not being deserving, but instead knowing that the 75% needed for induction would be reached with or without his vote. By giving an extra vote to Alan Trammell and Larry Walker, two more deserving candidates were done justice.
The practice makes a lot of sense on paper, the unfortunate situation is that it relies on the collective understanding of his BBWAA peers. With certain members voting for less than 10 players, the Hall of Fame candidates are unfairly snubbed in the long run; we all lose this way.
Sure, this theme may be a bit harsh, but hear me out as I believe it’s fair. Looking at the Hall of Fame ballot, members of the BBWAA don’t simply see names or careers. The stark reality is that many of these voting members also have relationships with guys on the ballot. Looking at who they are voting for can turn into a popularity contest, rather than one based on merit.
As he was defending his own ballot last night, Pedro Gomez brought up a handful of rather sickening points.
In referencing why he wouldn’t be voting Bonds in due to his cheating, Gomez responded:
Again, this goes back to the morality issue, but although baseball didn’t police these players, Pedro Gomez has taken it upon himself to do so. Suggesting a fatherly principle in reference to who is amongst the elite baseball players of all time seems out of place.
A further incident occurred when Gomez essentially admitted to abusing the way in which his ballot was used:
In the above tweet, Gomez is referencing his vote for Bill Mueller. Rather than vote in a deserving candidate, Gomez wasted a vote on a player who didn’t belong in the inclusive Hall of Fame, because of liking him as a person. Suggesting that the ballot can be altered by relationships and popularity is no worse than Dan Le Batard giving his ballot to Deadspin a year ago.
Thanks to the age of the internet, many fans and those around the game who don’t find themselves included amongst the BBWAA, are privileged to see ballots revealed. Certain voting members have made a practice of putting their completed Hall of Fame ballots on outlets such as Twitter, for discussion to take place. Unfortunately, it seems that at some points, it may be little more than an edgy attempt at publicity.
By leaving off certain members, the voter stands to benefit from the discussion brought up around their ballot. By arguing in favor of those voted in, and against those left off, they are now publicly defending something that was never forced to go public.
In closing, you would be hard pressed to find many around the game who don’t feel the current Hall of Fame voting system is broken. LaVelle E. Neal, local journalist and President of the BBWAA has a significant stain that has been placed on the process in recent years, and it may be time he works to do something about it.
When the dust settles and we are made aware of those inducted later today, remember that those snubbed feel many of the same frustrations that you the fan do as well.
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