URL Weaver: Hall Talkin’

The Hall of Fame maelstrom of petulance has come and gone for another year. By electing no one, the BBWAA didn’t really address the problems and conflicts confronting their electorate – many of whom hemmed and hawed and voiced their collective angst over trying to make clear-minded decisions on an issue as complex (?) as this year’s Hall vote.

One has to wonder if the more entrenched members, the honorary voters who expressed a burning desire to see cheaters punished, are happy with this outcome. If the self-appointed guardians of the hallowed Halls can slap one and other on the back over a job well done. Judging by some of the columns published in the wake of yesterday’s shutout, that doesn’t seem like the case.

Ken Rosenthal, who made some eyebrow-raising comments on the MLB Network yesterday (possibly attributed to creating 3+ hours of live TV with nothing to talk about), says electing nobody to the Hall is no great travesty.

This is a one-year aberration, largely attributable to the ambivalence of many voters, including myself, about candidates who were linked to steroids. But next year, there will be so many inductees, I fully expect to hear complaints that too many are entering the Hall.

In a way, I hope Rosenthal is right. I hope voters chose to “take a stand” against Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds this year but plan on coming to their senses when next year’s ballots are sent out.

Jonah Keri of Grantland calls for change in the voting process, but also believes the deserving players will, by and large, get in before their eligibility is up.

As bad as this shutout looks right now, it likely won’t happen again for a long time. The voting populace will get smarter as new blood filters in and others leave the voting ranks, whether through natural attrition or expulsion for no longer covering the game. It might seem preposterous that Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell and Curt Schilling and Tim Raines aren’t already in, leaving aside more polarizing candidates like Bonds and Clemens. But in time, I do think the vast majority of worthy candidates will get their due, sooner or later. Even the ones who are keeping voters up at night right now.

I tend to agree. The standard voting curves sort of go out the window next year. If Bonds and Clemens do not see a massive surge in support in 2014, they might be in trouble. Waiting and seeing how the voters react is probably the right call at this time.

Jayson Stark of ESPN spits hot fire over the skewed priorities of the Hall voters, wondering who and what they’re attempting to protect in an impassioned screed.

Do we really want a Hall of Fame that basically tries to pretend that none of those men ever played baseball? That none of that happened? Or that none of that should have happened?

Hey, here’s a bulletin for you: It happened.

The ’90s happened. The first few years of the 21st century happened. I saw it with my very own eyeballs. So did you.

It all happened, on the lush green fields of North America, as crowds roared and cash registers rung. It … all … happened.

And how did it happen? The sport let it happen. That’s how.

Hard to argue with this excerpt of Stark’s greater points as well. Too many attempts at retroactive justice, too many writers attempting to re-write history they helped write in the first place. The same men who ignored Jack Morris for award recognition during his playing career and even Hall of Fame votes over the first ten years of his eligibility now express disbelief that his all-time great gets so little respect.

Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley is not a BBWAA voter (yet) but the lifelong Phillies fan writes with incredible passion about a night in which he witnessed Barry Bonds do what only Barry Bonds could do before debunking the myth that Hall entry validates the career of a player like Barry Bonds.

The Hall of Fame is not the Ministry of Truth. The emotions you felt watching these players — the excitement, the frustration, the joy — was real, and an organization of self-indulgent sportswriters will never have agency over that.

This sentiment expressed here at Getting Blanked and DJF more than once in the recent past. Honoring the players with a bust and sunny weekend ceremony is nice and all but the stuff on the field is what we remember. It is what we care about.

If there is one takeaway from this Hall nonsense, it is that people do care. Lots of people. Whether or not they agree on the terms and values and character clauses, more people care about the baseball Hall of Fame than any of the other major North American sports. The Hall in Cooperstown matters to a great number of people – all of whom love baseball. Not a bad problem to have, in the end.

And the rest

Just a single palate cleanser link – Angels GM Jerry Dipoto writers a thoughtful letter in response to a fan, assuring the nervous Angels supporter that Mike Trout isn’t going anywhere for a long while. When Dipoto welcomes the letter writer “to the club of those who love the great game of baseball” it is important to remember that so many in the game are in it for that very reason.

Guys like Dipoto could probably make just as much money with one-third the headaches in another business. But and so many like him sought a career — a life — in baseball because they couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

It is that love and passion that fuels these increasingly acrimonious Hall of Fame debates every year. Something we all would do well to remember in the middle of the name-calling and number-crunching and character-impugning.

We all want the same thing in the end: for Murray Chass to just shut the fuck up already.

Comments (6)

  1. I think there’s a distinction to be drawn between Ken Rosenthal’s reasons for not voting for Bonds and Clemens, and the torch and pitchfork crew who just want to burn the cheats. Rosenthal’s logic is very similar to Jason Stark’s. To vote in Bonds and Clemens right now would be to pretend that the steroid era didn’t happen. It did happen, and great as those players undoubtedly were, there’s something to be said for the fact that they aren’t going to be treated just like any other automatic first year hall of famers.

    The Hall of Fame vote just reflects the reality of the situation. People who follow baseball – even those who follow it closely – are completely divided over the fallout from the steroid era. The hall vote only allows entry to those who have almost unanimous support. The steroid era was a big deal, is it really logical to expect the Hall of Fame voters to behave like it never happened? I think it’s ok to be ambivalent, and it’s ok to ultimately say ‘maybe, but not this year’. It’s even ok to be illogical and contradictory and inconsistent.

    In many ways the point of the steroid era is that it took away certainty from baseball. Certainty about ‘real numbers’ ‘untainted’ by ‘cheats’, certainty from our lazy assumptions about the importance of character in athletic performance and a whole lot of archaic baloney about baseball that never existed on the field. It left us with uncertainty and ambivalence, in the light of which, the Hall vote is entirely appropriate.

  2. ps: This is a pallet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallet

    This is a palate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palate

    Not that most pallets couldn’t do with a good clean and all.

  3. I believe the line is drawn in 2005, when baseball first instituted testing. Now we can split hairs about whether MLB or the PA were more at fault for a lack of a testing program, or looking away while this went on (I believe they are equally responsible). I think my point about no testing before 2005 so we don’t know who actually did it and maybe Rickey, Vlad, Frank Thomas, etc actually did and were just never caught and the whole Mitchell Report was a bullshit PR move things have all been repeated to death by everyone at GB and DJF, and we all get that. I think most of us here, writers and commenters, share that general viewpoint.

    So for me, if I had a vote, the line would be crossed if you failed a test. And with that line, if I had a vote, it would be very difficult, if not impossible for me to vote for Rafael Palmeiro or Manny Ramirez, two Hall of Fame baseball players who were caught. And it pains me to say that because I LOVED Manny, in spite of his playing for the Red Sox and having the brain of a 5 year old. I always defended him with stories that I’d read about his intense video preparation and dedication to hitting, which no one talked about because he peed inside the Green Monster. And then he tested positive twice. And Palmeiro was also caught, and it ended his career.

    I’m just glad I don’t have a vote.

  4. We had had tainted period in baseball, not just because of steroid use but also of very poor reporting. I clearly recall that the great answer from journalists over the increasing homerun rate was that the ball was being juiced. Money was spent testing the ball and dragging the ball manufacturers good names through the mud when we now know that many of these reporters knew or suspected what was really happening.
    Should “cheaters” be elected to the hall? That’s not my call. But I do think that we should be questioning why some of these reporters who worked during the steroid era and were either complicate or too stupid to know what was going should be going to Cooperstown.
    It was a tainted era for players and for reporting.

  5. The problem with the argument made by Stark, and others, is that it’s preposterous and illogical. It basically says “Hey, BBWAA, MLB, and HOF, you didn’t do enough to stop the steroid era from happening in the first place, so now you have live with that mistake and are not allowed to make any efforts to repair it.” Regardless of whether or not baseball collectively rode the PED-fed gravy train to wild popularity is irrelevant.

    Humans make mistakes. They also have the capacity to fix said mistakes, or at least do better going forward. That’s what the voting members of the BBWAA should be doing. They can’t fix the problems of the past as there is NO mechanism for getting Ty Cobb booted for being a bigot, or Mike Schmidt booted for using Greenies. But they can do a better job going forward.

    If you don’t think the BBWAA has the integrity or wherewithal to complete that task, that’s another matter all together.

  6. I’m sure the veterans’ committee will find another non-worthy guy like Phil Rizzuto to put in.

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