We all saw it coming. We all knew that this time, the Hall of Fame debates would reach new lows. The arguments more polarized, the agendas more transparent, the reasoning more specious. The collective baseball mind prepared itself for the worst and was not disappointed.
The Hall of Fame debate which closed 2012 was ugly, tiring, and everything that’s wrong with the entire process for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Take a bow, BBWAA, you really outdid yourself this time.
We’ve seen them all. Blank ballots, unsent ballots, rended garments, gnashed teeth, armchair medical diagnosis and guilt by association. Writers of all stripe and relative level of credibility trotted out whichever excuse they saw fit for their particular agenda.
There are a few, proud BBWAA members who recognize they are not the judge, jury, and executioner. They are only supposed to be the judge of a player’s Hall of Fame merit. Is Player X good enough – yes or no? Instead we have writers hiding behind character clauses to mete out punishment for their own sins, turning a blind eye on “an ugly chapter” of the game when it was, you know, going on right beneath their collective noses.
Baseball Think Factory reads and logs all the published ballots, with current polling suggesting maybe no player will be voted in this year. Craig Biggio, who by virtue of his pedestrian home run totals, we know TOTALLY NEVER took performance enhancing drugs – shows up on the most ballots thus far.
There is guilt on all sides of this debate. Thanks to the misplaced love and affection for Jack Morris by a certain (vocal) section of the Association, more is written about his shortcomings as a pitcher rather than the relative strengths of his long career. Jack Morris doesn’t deserve to get into the Hall of Fame but he doesn’t deserve outright mockery, either.
It is officially the worst time of the year for baseball fans, specifically those who want to love the Hall of Fame. Those who wish to see the most deserving players honored for what they did on the field, not feted for the ability to make nice with the media or those who pitched really well that one time.
It doesn’t need to be that complicated or cryptic. Among the eligible players, who are the best of the best? Who is most deserving? The official Getting Blanked ballot (Drew edition) would look like this, were such a thing to exist:
This is only six names, as these six players jump off the page as Hall of Fame players to my untrained eye. The cases for Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, and even Larry Walker are strong enough that, if pushed, I would add them to my imaginary ballot and feel no guilt. As Jay Jaffe explains in his JAWS post today, short ballots muddy the waters and can be problematic, so I’ll extend my ballot to ten and include those four extra men.
Simply put, there is no Hall of Fame without Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds. Two players who built Hall-worthy resumes before anecdotal evidence fingered them as drug users, if you consider that a deal-breaker.
This isn’t going to go away. Until Bonds and Clemens are elected, until the Hall agrees to overhaul their selection process and the BBWAA takes the vote away from those who do not/do not deserve it, the December ritual will continue. And we’re all worse for it. We can attempt ignoring the bleating calls for justice and/or defaming of baseball legends but the chorus grows louder every year.
There isn’t an easy solution. Changing the selection process or closing some of the “character” loopholes will help but any progressive steps to improve the current state of affairs is unlikely, considering the glacial bodies involved.
So we’re stuck. Stuck caring or stuck lamenting, I don’t know which is worse at this point. Rarely does something so trivial raise such ire but…the Hall of Fame means something to a great number of people. It means a lot. Which is why the writers, rightly or wrongly, try to do right by the Hall.
Unfortunately, an issue as delicate or complex as this one isn’t solved with loud political statements or broad generalizations. It is just baseball and it is just a museum. Let it be what it is: a celebration of the game and all who played it. The greats and the cheats alike. Nice guys are nice and all but…great players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be remember longer than nice guys like Dale Murphy. They don’t need the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame needs them.