The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York is a wonderful museum and cherished time capsule of the grand old game. The story of baseball is told inside those hallowed halls, with keepsakes and mementos from time immemorial.
Telling the story of baseball seems, to me, like the real purpose of the Hall of Fame. The enshrinement process exists as an extension of the same ideal: these are the great players without whom the game would not be the same.
Over time, of course, the idea of baseball’s Hall of Fame came to mean different things to those who provide entry to the game’s greatest individual honor, the Baseball Writers Association of America.
The simplistic criteria used as the basis of judgment for Hall of Fame eligibility shifted in recent years, as many fans and writers took up the causes of overlooked but otherwise worthy candidates. Careers and statistics were scrutinized in different ways in attempt to put achievement into context.
This shift in priorities reshaped the Hall of Fame debate, especially as the cloud of drug use and steroids settled over the proceedings. Former clear cut Hall of Famers were cast aside, while other players received additional support as their eligibility waned.
The result, after five or ten contentious years, is a mess. The 2014 Hall of Fame ballot is a disaster after years of special pleading (“he’s a Hall of Famer but NOT a first ballot guy”) and steroid suspicion culminated with no players receiving sufficient support to enter the Hall last January. Two of the greatest players in the history of the game did not garner enough votes last year, so we end up with gridlock that would make Mexico City blush.
The best way to start the healing process? Send an extra large contingent this season. With “messages sent” and so many excellent players on this year’s ballot, there is a great opportunity to both elect deserving players and cut a lot of dead wood from the bottom of the ballot. Maybe a few casualties on either side but all hope is not lost.
The full ballot is found here but this is how I would vote, had I the honor.
- Barry Bonds
- Roger Clemens
- Greg Maddux
- Frank Thomas
- Mike Piazza
- Curt Schilling
- Mike Mussina
- Alan Trammell
- Tim Raines
- Mark McGwire
There is room for debate on a few of these names but all ten men have tremendous Hall of Fame cases. All ten names on this list could well be lined on a humid afternoon in July, celebrating their careers with their peers – baseball’s true elite.
It won’t work like that, of course. But it should. The list of deserving players only gets longer as the years go by. The also-rans and stat compilers will fall by the wayside as the men who shaped the game for a generation step forward to receive their final acknowledgement.
Baseball’s story since the last work stoppage in 1995 cannot be told without Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza or Tim Raines. Hopefully the BBWAA stops trying to scrub the parts they don’t like from the annals of the game and let history speak for itself.