The Baseball Hall of Fame announcement comes, mercifully, tomorrow. The Hall of Fame gets discussed ad nauseum during this slowest time on the baseball calendar. It’s all push and pull and outage cycle and groupthink and, more than anything, it’s tiring.
After last year’s solemn silence on announcement day, this year looks like a lock for at two inductees. The oft-reference Baseball Think Factory HoF vote collecting gizmo has four players getting in, but the diligent work of ballot tabulating only counts those publicly available before the official announcement.
This ignores the lunatic fringe – the former writers who maintain their right to select players for the Hall of Fame in perpetuity. Those long retired from the beat grind and those moved on to other challenges in life.
It isn’t that the game passed them by and their insights are valuable…it’s just that a few voices opt for volume instead of insight. For grandstanding instead of celebration. For pointing fingers instead of clapping hands. It’s a damn shame and does all baseball fans a disservice.
MLB.com does not permit its writers to vote for postseason awards/the BBWAA does not permit MLB.com writers into their fun club. Many writers in the Dot Com’s employ already have Hall of Fame voting rights from previous roles at other outlets. Their collective ballots went up on MLB.com today and reveiled some unbelievable results. Most notably – a ballot with only Jack Morris‘ name checked. No Greg Maddux, the first publicly-available voter not to cast a vote for Maddux. No Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. No Frank Thomas. No nothing. Just Morris.
"Your HOF ballot is the very definition of insanity, but we appreciate you sharing it with us."
— Matthew Callan (@scratchbomb) January 7, 2014
The voter, the current Dodgers beat writer, claimed he will not vote for a single player from the steroid era. His steroid era. An era that seems to begin and end at his whim, as it doesn’t seem applicable to real life.
But there is plenty of crazy below the fold, where the one-man ballot steals all the attention. A writer, surely with his tongue firmly in his cheek, ticks the box beside Rafael Palmeiro‘s name with this poetic justification “Palmeiro was a consistent marvel long before he was caught doping.” This man (who is, as far as I can tell, not a doctor) does not cast a vote for Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens.
Luckily, it all ends tomorrow. There will be career retrospectives written in earnest and a fresh round of backslapping that, finally, a few good names slipped through the morality police standing shoulder-to-shoulder in full riot gear.
It isn’t about ensuring Greg Maddux goes in unanimously or keeping Jack Morris out or any other opaque agendas. Righteous takedowns of preening morality truthers are just as self-aggrandizing as an authority-worshiping greybeard jutting out his chin, pointing a finger at Barry Bonds and saying “no” in his best big boy voice.
Fisking a flimsy piece of one-sentence opinion spew is as much about the #brand of the “edgy” author as the pieces they decry. It’s a cycle – pick a side and stake out some ground. Don’t like the way some far-flung writer uses his ballot? Use your bully pulpit and tear him down to size. The infinite internet feedback loop – now with more outrage!
All anyone can really hope for from a Hall of Fame voter is the truth. Putting Jack Morris’ name down isn’t about baseball or trying to do right by the game so many people love, it’s about yourself. Just as impassioned support of a specific player’s cause isn’t the same as rushing around trying to ensure things are done correctly at all times.
Just tell the truth. Do your audience (or former audience) the courtesy of representing your time spent in the press box accurately. As the saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. Tell us what you saw when you watched 10 years worth of baseball games. Not what you thought you saw or you wish you didn’t see. Which players do you remember best? Why? That’s it. Tell us. Tell their story. So long as your honest and believe what you write, you should escape the wrath of the know-it-alls and their hot take patrol.
We aren’t there yet, sadly. Instead it’s the current mess. The sort of mess we all write about two or three or ten times a year. One day it will go away. One day the ballot will clear and the rot will fall away and the Hall of Fame industrial complex will fall. Not yet. But soon. A modest goal, one we can achieve, I think. I hope.