No matter how ugly this Hall of Fame nonsense gets this year, remember how much worse it could be. The writers, as a collective, show glimpses of progress year after year. All the hectoring and teachable moments provided by noble anal retentives the world over helped usher in a much better time for baseball awards and recognition.
For current baseball writers, that is. The current batch of battle-hardened ball scribes and leather-assed beat writers have little choice but to re-examine how and why they vote and what their readers value on the field. They interact with readers fans on a daily basis.
Sadly, not all Hall of Fame voters are actively covering baseball every day. Or even every other day. The BBWAA sends out a lot of ballots, many of which nestle deep into the mailbox of quasi-retired writers who haven’t been to a press box since the advent of the Internet.
Their vote counts all the same. They are the embittered gamer scribblers from a bygone era, with an increasing gulf between their fading memories of the way the game was when they covered it and the realities of the modern baseball landscape.
It might be difficult to begrudge Ken Rosenthal for his choice to exclude Bonds and Clemens as he is, quite literally, in the trenches every single day. He graduated from the beat writer ranks to become a heralded national columnist and breaker of each and every trade or signing.
The good men of GolfersWest.com did not graduate to such lofty heights. Maybe the life of a trade hound isn’t for them, it certainly isn’t for everyone. But these three esteemed men moved on from the baseball beat to found a site about golf on the West Coast. Not a bad retirement hobby from men lucky enough to spend their careers doing something they love.
Mixed in among their PGA predictions and top five courses for every region up and down the Gold Coast, they dabble in other sports from time to time. Which is where, suddenly, their Hall of Fame ballots appear. Out of nowhere, these three writers offer their takes on who gains entrance to the Baseball Hall of Fame, as is their eternal right.
With headlines like It’s Not the Hall of Shame, Just say no to drugs, and Tossing a no-no to PED Guys, it is good to see these writers don’t have an agenda when it comes to their votes. This line from “no-no” sums up their collective feelings: “The Mitchell Report provides enough evidence to show that most of these first-time HOF candidates were cheaters.” Welp. Glad that’s settled.
These men are entitled to their opinion, I suppose. It seems silly that their opinion helps inform the Hall of Fame entry process. They aren’t baseball writers any more and haven’t been for years. Dave Studeman offers a compelling argument for blowing up the entire selection process, citing his own love of the Hall and what it claims to represent.
Changing the electorate is only the first step in overhauling the process. It is important to remember that, for all the bluster, the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is not a money-making enterprise. They continually show on-paper losses in the millions of dollars. Perhaps continuing down the current path towards irrelevance isn’t the best plan of action?
Many of Studeman’s ideas are sound. Change is badly needed. These writers are the symptom of the disease – not for their opinions but for their weight given to their voice. If a more focussed effort to streamline the voting process means ballots like that of Dave Perkins, formerly of the Toronto Star, fall by the wayside – that is a unfortunate casualty of process. Process which is badly overdue.