Friday, January 04, 2013

Hall of Fame Something

I feel like I need to write something about the upcoming announcement of the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, but frankly, I'm struggling with what to talk about. Certainly enough has been said about PED issues, the character clause and the self-important and, in some cases, under-qualified "gatekeepers" of the Hall. So, I'm going to try to steer away from that subject.

I submitted my unofficial ballot as part of the Baseball Blogger's Alliance (BBBA) voting process. I probably should explain my choices, but it's hard to without getting into the aforementioned subjects. So, I'm going to go a slightly different direction and just see where it takes me.

That route is to predict that no one will be elected to the Hall of Fame this year, except for the three inductees (all of whom have been dead for three-quarters of a century) voted in by the Pre-Integration Era Committee: Deacon White, Jacob Ruppert and Hank O'Day. Honestly, as sad as this is to say, that's kind of what I'm rooting for to happen.

I love the Hall of Fame, despite the fact it's on the verge of becoming increasingly irrelevant. I've read many other writers who've said this before, but I just can't help but care about it. That's why I'll actually be happy, admittedly in a strange sort of way, if no one is elected by the writers this year. Of course, this is because I'm hoping that the lack of any kind of a drawing card to bring people to Cooperstown in late July will somehow effect some kind of change.

In the very least, this change has to come in the form of removing the limit on the number of players writers are allowed to vote for. Because if players as good as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and, in the future, Frank Thomas, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez and Ivan Rodriguez continue to linger on the ballot, they will stand in the way of other worthy candidates as the battle rages on between PED blackballers and those who vote based strictly on performance.

Don't get me wrong. If I realistically thought Tim Raines—who I wrote about for this year's version of Baseball: Past and Present's 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame—might get in this year, I'd certainly be pulling for that outcome. Otherwise, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell can wait. Their day will most certainly come in the next few years.

The BBBA's new President made the interesting decision to not place a limit on the number of candidates we could vote for in this year's mock election. Obviously, I'm in favor of this decision, although the one downside is it does not mimic the BBWAA's process, which I believe was the original intention of our vote. Still, I think it will serve as an interesting experiment to get an idea of how the process might play out if the voting restrictions are lifted.

Finally, here's who I voted for (in order of how deserving I feel they are): Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Kenny Lofton, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro. Of course, if I had to limit to 10, Lofton, McGwire and Palmeiro would be the odd men out.

This also means I voted no on Sammy Sosa, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Bernie Williams, Don Mattingly, David Wells, Jack Morris and Lee Smith. Although the latter two have received pretty good support in the real voting process (and Morris, along with Biggio, has the best chance of actually getting in), the only omission I feel I have to justify is Sosa.

Despite the 600+ home runs, Sosa really only had a run of 10 good years, only a few of which were actually great. Because he was basically a one-dimensional player, the rest of his career rates as below average. If he was merely above average outside of his peak, I might be singing a different tune.

In the past, I've voted no on Palmeiro and McGwire, but I've changed my mind this year, although the lack of a voting limit is what allows me to do so. My basic explanation is I used to be a PED discounter, at least to the extent I previously decided not to give the benefit of the doubt to such players.

Frankly, I don't think it's anyone's place to decide to punish these players beyond Major League Baseball's collectively bargained policy. That is, since there is a disciplinary system for such violations in place, and unless the punishment goes so far as to ban a player for life, who is anyone else to decide to punish them further? As far as what happened prior to MLB's policy being in place, those "indiscretions" involved breaking the law, not the rules of the game. There's a more established system in place for dealing with lawbreakers, so that doesn't need to be dealt with in the Hall of Fame election process.

I've got more to say on the subject, but I'll leave it at that...for now.

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