Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writers or moral authorities? The 2013 Hall of Fame vote

We all expected this to happen; it was a foregone conclusion.

So why are many of us so upset?

With Wednesday's Hall of Fame vote, both baseball fans and players alike have been done a great disservice and have had our opinions insulted-- cast aside like the rights of criminals.

As a society, more and more it seems as though the will of the people is discounted and disregarded. You see it in our Federal and State governments. You see it through lockouts in our major sports leagues. It makes you wonder exactly who these people are that are making decisions for us.

Who exactly has been put in charge of deciding what constitutes a hall of fame baseball player, and why do they have so much power?

The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) chooses Cy Youngs, MVPs, ROYs, Managers of the Year, and elects players into the Hall of Fame. Although its constitution is long and written in semi-legalese, it basically says that any legitimate publication that covers 75% of a team's games (or nationally) can have a whole bunch of guys eligible to vote. For instance:

"(A) paper shall be entitled to membership in the Association for one sports editor, all full-time general sports columnists who regularly cover baseball, and as many reporters as are primarily assigned to cover baseball."
In addition, statisticians who supply newspapers with baseball stats and foreign language reporters (like Japanese journalists) are eligible for membership. Furthermore, "honorary members" are eligible to vote if they've put in 10 years of membership, even if they're retired or cover tiddlywinks tournaments in the Anchorage Unified School District for a living these days.

There are all walks of life included in this voting process-- from Peter Gammons to Yasushi Kikuchi of the Kyodo News (who voted for Bernie Williams), to some guy named Ken Lechtanski from the Brockton Enterprise


The long and short of it is that there are far too many individuals voting on these prestigious awards, and the system is deeply flawed.

I am not an advocate of letting every decent baseball player into the Hall-- be certain of that. However, I am a proponent of reflecting the overall impact and completeness of a player's career in the HOF vote.

There is too much subjectivity involved in this vote for it to be considered legitimate.

Legitimacy is a Pandora's Box-like concept, especially when considering this year's crop of former stars is tainted-- either rightly or wrongly.

The biggest problem I have with this current system, is that too many of these writers have decided to play baseball god. People like Jon Heyman, who I greatly respect as a writer and newsbreaker, have decided to braise in their own self-righteousness and self-appointed moral authority.

If Jon Heyman and Ken Rosenthal choose not to vote for two media abusers like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, I would like to know the reason. Surely it couldn't have been the 7 MVPs and 7 Cy Youngs.

To me, assumed steroid use that was never proven in a court of law, or by the Commissioner of Baseball is not good enough a reason. It's just not.

Bonds and Clemens aside, how do you not vote for Craig Biggio? Mike Piazza?

As a Giants fan, you know I hated the Pizza Man. He's a dirty Dodger and a gross Met and will always be that to me. But as a baseball fan? He and Biggio are two first ballot HOF'ers.

Were they as good as Babe Ruth or Willie Mays? No. Few were.

Riddle me this. Is a guy that primarily played the game's most difficult position and smacked 427 homers along with a career .308 average not valid enough to be considered one of the greatest players ever? If Piazza's numbers and lack of ties to steroid controversy preclude him from being voted for on a ballot full of surly polarizers, then it's time to eliminate some of the subjectivity from this voting process.

The same argument can be made for guys like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Curt Schilling.

It's simply ludicrous to me that the best players of the '90s and 2000s are being railroaded by a bunch of grandstanding writers, whose admission into the BBWAA may or may not be deserved. To this lover of baseball, it is simply appalling.

The most upsetting part about this farcical voting process, is that the aforementioned group of god-playing scribes has basically told you, and has told me, that our opinions don't matter.

It doesn't matter that Astros fans would love to see their two beloved Killer B's in Cooperstown. It doesn't matter how much joy Bonds brought to the fans of San Francisco or how much he dominated the sport. It doesn't matter that suffering Red Sox fans got to enjoy the taste of victory in the form of Curt Schilling's bloody sock.

We were told today by the vast majority of baseball writers that our beloved sport's superstars of yesteryear were of too ill repute to be enshrined alongside spitballers like Gaylord Perry, spikes-up racists like Ty Cobb, and all the guys who dropped a few amphetamine pills into their clubhouse coffee pot between games of an August doubleheader.

We were told that guys like Bonds created an uneven playing field by allegedly using PEDs-- something that wasn't even illegal in MLB until 3 years ago. What about when Bonds faced Kevin Brown or Jason Grimsley? Was that uneven?

What has happened to baseball in this respect is sad. Bud Selig failed to do his job by wearing blinders and pleaded ignorance when it all came to a head. He is the one who presided over this "tainted" era, from 1992 until now, and his failures have led us to this upsetting moment in 2013.

At some point, this vote needs to be returned to some semblance of objectivity, and a new voting system must be implemented-- something similar to MVP or Cy Young voting.

The rank-choice system of voting that chooses annual award winners, should be used for HOF votes, and whomever is on the ballot should receive a point-valued ranking that will be tallied at the end.

I also believe that BBWAA voters should be instructed to vote solely on career statistics and general impact on the game. Personal vendettas and biases need to be checked at the door. It was a fair playing field because too many in the game were all doing the same thing in an attempt to gain an edge.

I believe that as fans, we feel cast aside by this vote, and that some of the best players in the history of the game have been railroaded. Many of these players didn't help their cases by making poor choices and defiantly denying them publicly. It is time to just accept what happened in the "Steroid Era" and chalk it up to a learning experience.


To see the ballots of those BBWAA members that made their votes public, click here

If you're wondering how Bay Area writers treated Bonds in this election (not all writers disclosed)...


Ray Ratto, CSN Bay Area, KNBR
Andy Baggarly, CSN Bay Area
Hank Schulman, San Francisco Chronicle
Carl Steward, San Jose Mercury News
Marcos Breton, Sacramento Bee
Mike Lefkow, Contra Costa Times
Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News


Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle
Susan Slusser, San Francisco Chronicle
Chris Haft, (Giants)
Paul Gutierrez, Honorary (CSN Bay Area)
Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News


  1. Good article. The HoF posturing is offensive. It is a shame that I like baseball so much because I hate the politics and jerkbags managing the game at the top levels.

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