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  • Hall of Fame Flap Brewing?

    Almost two weeks ago, I posted my take on this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. I listed the 10 players I would have voted for and then I predicted that none of the players on this year’s ballot would garner the necessary 75% support to be elected to the Hall by the actual voting members of the BBWAA this year.


    I thought, at the time I wrote my piece, that my prediction that nobody would be elected this year would be a “fringe” prediction. I’d seen some people predict Biggio would be a first ballot HOFer and others thought Piazza might have a shot or that Morris might finally get elected.
    (This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com.)

    But since I posted my opinion, I’ve noticed that a lot of people… including a significant number of voting members of the BBWAA… are likewise predicting that nobody will be elected. What’s getting a lot of attention, in light of those predictions, is the anticipated public reaction, should the BBWAA voters indeed throw a shutout.

    [Editors note: Indeed, none were selected.]

    I guess that hasn’t happened in something like 15 years or more, so I suppose it is a bigger deal than I thought it would be. But really, I can’t believe people should be all that surprised, considering the combination of:

    • An unusually large ballot.
    • A significant number of big name players eligible for the first time, almost all of which carry the yoke of suspected or confirmed PED usage.
    • Few carry-over players from last year that have slam-dunk HOF credentials, even absent PED suspicions.


    The bottom line is that if you want to try to make a case for NOT voting for them, you could do so for every player on the ballot, without even having to resort to the silly, “I won’t vote for anyone his first year of eligbility,” thing. That being the case, why should anyone be surprised if more than 25% of the voters do, in fact, choose to make a case for not voting for each player?

    Some people, though, think the result would be a travesty. Other than the Hall, itself, which could see attendance at the annual induction ceremony dwindle to an all-time low, since none of the inductees by the Veterans Committee are even still alive (should be a short ceremony, eh?), I’m not sure why anyone should really mind.

    I’ve read articles making the case that a shutout would indicate the process is broken… that the voters must be allowed to vote for more than 10 players. I disagree. If anything, I think it indicates that the process is working the way the Hall has always seemed to want it to work. They’ve liked that it’s a tough admission ticket in to that club.

    As I’ve written in the past, I don’t like the idea that many voting members of the BBWAA have chosen to designate themselves as the morality policy for potential HOF ballplayers. I just don’t think that they, as a group, are in any way morally superior to the players they’re sitting in judgment of.

    But, unless the rules change would be to clarify to voters that they must not hold suspected PED use against a player and instead must vote purely on his talent between the lines, changing the rules won't stop voters from exercising their right to stick it to Barry Bonds.

    No, letting the voters vote for more players will just make it easier for the borderline players to get elected. It would also make it much easier to get the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot for another year. Over time, I think we’d see ballots with 50-60 names on it. Is that really what they want? I hope not.

    Look, I believe Jack Morris is worthy. I believe Tim Raines is, too. I also am aware that with the high quality players scheduled to be added to the ballot in the next couple of years, it could very well mean those and other players I think are worthy will not ultimately be elected. That’s unfortunate.

    It’s also the way it’s supposed to work.

    The nervous nellies who would have us believe that we’ll have more years, in the future, where nobody is elected than we have when the writers do elect someone are just plain over-reacting. I know… sports writers over-reacting… hard to believe, isn’t it? But the rules changes being advocated would, I believe, be an over-reaction that would make the decision to give the league that wins the All-Star Game the home field advantage in the World Series seem thoughtfully well-measured, by comparison.

    Next year, we’ll see Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine added to the ballot. If we go through the process with those guys eligible, not to mention holdovers like Morris, Raines, Biggio and Piazza, and we still don’t see anyone elected, I’ll be shocked. Not gonna happen. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see three players elected in next year’s class.

    If the Hall did change the rules to allow voters to vote for, say, 15 players, you might see twice that many elected… maybe more. I’m a “big Hall” guy, but even I have limits and I don’t want to see Baseball’s HOF start to look like the NFL’s, where half a dozen or more players get elected every year.

    But that’s exactly what is likely to happen if you let voters check 15 boxes. How many writers would NOT consider Maddux, Thomas and Glavine among the 15 most worthy players? How many would take advantage of the relaxed standard to vote for Morris, Raines, McGriff, Martinez, or any of the other borderline players?

    Relaxing the voting rules to allow voters to put a check mark beside more than 10 players would be a stupid thing to do and I’m pretty confident the decision makers at the Hall of Fame will refrain from doing that.

    We should thank them for their restraint… and thank God that Bud Selig isn’t in charge of making the rules for the HOF.

    - JC
    This article was originally published in blog: Hall of Fame Flap Brewing? started by Jim Crikket
    Comments 39 Comments
    1. OldManWinter's Avatar
      OldManWinter -
      How can anyone vote for dishonest numbers? How can anyone determine what the honest numbers really are? It is not likely that guys between 35 and 39 can hit with so much more power than between 25 and 29? The score is 175 HRs in his late 20's and 258 HR's in his late 30's for anyone interested.
    1. biggentleben's Avatar
      biggentleben -
      Quote Originally Posted by OldManWinter View Post
      How can anyone vote for dishonest numbers? How can anyone determine what the honest numbers really are? It is not likely that guys between 35 and 39 can hit with so much more power than between 25 and 29? The score is 175 HRs in his late 20's and 258 HR's in his late 30's for anyone interested.
      You vote the era. Drug use was rampant from the 40s through the 80s. The best players weren't even allowed to play until the 1940s, so any numbers weren't truly put up against the best the game had to offer. The 90s and 2000s saw the steroid era. The 1960s are considered a major pitcher's era because of the mound height change that was later changed back. Jack Morris pitching in the 1960s doesn't even make a second ballot. You have to go by the era the player played in. If he was, in fact, one of the absolute elite in his era, he's in. If you start to police the game, you need to remove everyone from the Hall because there are no clean players in the Hall. Not one.
    1. grubah's Avatar
      grubah -
      I don't think expanding it to 15 would have any effect at all. How many ballots currently have 10 voted for? My guess is very few.
    1. Ctwink's Avatar
      Ctwink -
      There will most certainly be more years in the future where no one is elected. You have this huge backlog of "cheaters", 95% of whom are only guilty by association, who will never be voted in (because all the sanctimonious voters have decided that they should be made an example), but who remain on the ballot because enough other people vote for them. When you continually add in more retirees, you only add to this list. Whether voters can put 10 people on the ballot or 15, even slamdunk candidates won't be elected in their first couple ballots. It's the 40's and 50's all over again (although for obviously different reasons) where guys like Hank Greenberg took 9 yrs to be elected and Joe Cronin 10.

      The only ways that this is going to solved is for A) MLB or the HOF to come out and officially say that unless someone is a convicted/admitted steroid users, steroids were not tested for or considered against the rules at the time they were playing so they should be considered innocent, B) just the opposite - everyone who played from 1995 to 2005 is considered dirty and we shouldn't elect anyone (even the people we have annoited as "the nice people" like Bags, Biggio and Maddux - everyone). Since you can't tell who did it and who didn't, everyone is assumed guilty and you can't vote for any of them (even if the guy, or C) all the "assumed dirty" guys fall off the ballot on their own.

      Bottomline is its a mess and it isn't improving.
    1. OldManWinter's Avatar
      OldManWinter -
      Biggentleben, Jack Morris did not pitch MLB in the 60's. A 17 year career started in 1977.

      No one ever accused me of being an honor student, but if it turned out a class valedictorian cheated for his/her grades would you still honor the achievement?

      Of course not.

      If you discovered a quarter of that class was also cheating you may not know every single cheater. But you would certainly know when career "C" students suddenly vaulted to the top of their class that there was funny business going on.

      So how do you honor them? Create a special award for the best cheaters?

      Honoring cheating dishonors the Killebrews who did not cheat. It also dishonors the Jack Morris' because if he was competing against his numbers are unfairly reduced.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by biggentleben View Post
      If you start to police the game, you need to remove everyone from the Hall because there are no clean players in the Hall. Not one.
      How on earth can you make that claim?
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Thanks for all the comments.

      I guess I just think it's best to give the process time to work the way it's supposed to. The 'roids issue, to me, is just one more factor that the voters have to weigh and decide for themselves what it means to them. It will mean a lot of the PED users never get in, that would have otherwise. It may mean some of the very best PED users do get in... but much later than they would have otherwise. Maybe that's the way it should be, too.

      Obviously, Ctwink and I disagree totally on the chances we'll see a lot of years with nobody elected. We won't find out who's right for a while, but I think you'll be surprised by how many really great players start hitting the ballot that have no character issues at all attached to them.

      Will this make the BBWAA voters' jobs more difficult and uncomfortable every year? Yes. But they want the honor of being the gatekeeper, so I really don't want to hear them whine this much about how difficult it is and how somebody else needs to do something to make it easier for them to make their decisions.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      The baseball writers change (some die, some come on board) over the 15-20 years a player is out of baseball. The arguments are always made that if I guy is elected right away, what makes him more electable and appealing 10 years or 15 years down the line. Also, make the argument that if a guy is Hall of Fame bound, it should -- happen. Today, not tomorrow. Okay, he's a first ballot Hall of Famer. Does that make him better than everyone else in the Hall (let's start making walls configured with who got in on what ballot). I'm glad there is the second chance where Hall of Famers actually vote. But I would almost like to see the positions reversed where Hall of Famers vote for the Hall of Famers, and BBWAA vote for those that should've could've.
    1. jm3319's Avatar
      jm3319 -
      News Flash: People have been cheating since the game began. The only thing has changed is how they cheat. Who is to say that amphetamines are perfectly okay, but steroid use leads to being not voted into the hall of fame? Hank Aaron admitted to using amphetamines. Bonds used steroids. The homerun total is 755-762, steroids win by a hair. Both used PED's of some nature. Both deserve to be in the Hall. Yes it's unfair to anyone who was 100% clean during their career, but we have zero way of determining who was 100% clean.
    1. YLT's Avatar
      YLT -
      Like it or not, baseball's history is nuanced and complex - just like the rest of human history. The fact that it does have such a rich history (for better or worse) is part of what makes baseball such a fantastic game. That begs the question asked recently by ESPN's Jayson Stark: Is the HoF a shrine or a museum or both? If it's a shrine, then a group of people who are already in better get kicked out. Maybe Ty Cobb shouldn't be in the HoF because he was a raging racist. Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford certainly shouldn't if you consider doctoring baseballs a sin unworthy of the shrine. If it's a museum then that bad part of the history (cheating, drugs, racism, exploitation, etc) can be explained along with the greatness of the player elected. I'm a big fan of the HoF being a museum because historical context is a must. A baseball shrine is sterile, uninteresting and does not tell the story of baseball.
    1. YLT's Avatar
      YLT -
      I'd also like to point out that while McGwire, Bonds and Sosa were ripping jack-jobs off of every thing thrown their way, no one was saying boo about it. The fans loved it, the media loved it and the owners and Bud Selig knowingly turned a blind eye. The one reporter who wrote an article about McGwire's use of over-the-counter steroids was ostracized for bringing it up during the homerun chase. What McGwire was taking at the time wasn't even a banned substance according to MLB. Certainly he knew that roids = bombs, but there really wasn't much stopping him.
    1. Ctwink's Avatar
      Ctwink -
      I think we'll have to agree to disagree Jim. It seems obvious that the problem is only going to get worse because of the upcoming classes: Glavine, Maddux and Jeff Kent next year; Randy, Pedro and Smoltz for 2015, Griffey & Billy Wagner in 2016, Vlad, Posada, Manny, Varitek, and Ivan Rodriguez in 2017, and Chipper and Omar Vizquel in 2018. All could eventually get elected which will further spread the votes around to a continually growing pool of players as all the holdover players continue to get enough votes to stay on the ballot. Factor in writers who throw out stray votes for "their" guys (like a Twins writer putting in a vote for Jacque Jones) or players like Mike Mussina or Luis Gonzalez garnering vote percentages in the teens and 20's, but who will fall short of being elected to one degree or another, and you have a growing problem where you don't have enough slots on the ballot to vote for everyone who is a legitimate HOF candidate. In addition, you have a slam-dunk guy like Maddux or Randy Johnson who is voted in on the 1st ballot and consequently, everyone else's vote totals will drop. And you have guys like that almost every year. It isn't getting better any time soon.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Personally... I have a hard time being concerned about it... I look at Pete Rose... If he's not in... Obviously precedent has been set for inclusion.

      Like a diver in the Olympics. The Russian Judge has a different score than what the Swiss Judge has.

      To me... Fame means Fame... Good or Bad... but since a precedent has been set... Here's a solution that isn't serious at all.

      Create a basement section of the hall in Cooperstown. Call it Hall of Fame "Hell" or "Damnation" or something of the like... Decend the stairs or take the elevator into the bowels of Cooperstown... Be greeted by flames on the basement walls. Thermostat turned up to 100 plus degrees... Blood curdling sound effects piped in.

      In that environment... You can put Shoeless Joe... Pete Rose... Barry Bonds... Roger Clemens... Mark McGwire and (pause) Calvin Griffith.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by jm3319 View Post
      News Flash: People have been cheating since the game began. The only thing has changed is how they cheat. Who is to say that amphetamines are perfectly okay, but steroid use leads to being not voted into the hall of fame? Hank Aaron admitted to using amphetamines. Bonds used steroids. The homerun total is 755-762, steroids win by a hair. Both used PED's of some nature. Both deserve to be in the Hall. Yes it's unfair to anyone who was 100% clean during their career, but we have zero way of determining who was 100% clean.
      Ugh. Where to begin.

      First, amphetamines weren't "cheating" when Aaron used them, because they weren't banned by MLB until 2006, 15 years AFTER steroids.

      Second, amphetamines aren't performance enhancers. They don't make you stronger or faster, they just make you less tired.

      Third, the "Guilty until proven innocent" rationalization is beyond silly. If you cheat, you shouldn't get in. If Bonds cared about the Hall of Fame, he shouldn't have cheated, and he'd be in today. Now he can buy a ticket like everyone else if he wants to get in. Same for the rest of the 'roid morons.

      Rewarding dishonesty is always a bad idea. So is patting someone on the back for injecting themselves with dangerous chemicals. Nice messages for America's youth: 'Cheat and abuse your body! See you when you and your shriveled grapes get voted in!'.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by YLT View Post
      . If it's a museum then that bad part of the history (cheating, drugs, racism, exploitation, etc) can be explained along with the greatness of the player elected. I'm a big fan of the HoF being a museum because historical context is a must. A baseball shrine is sterile, uninteresting and does not tell the story of baseball.
      The worst kind of defense of the roid clowns. Being a bad guy isn't cheating. Don't lump the character defect guys in with the nitwits shooting up so they could put on extra muscle.
    1. YLT's Avatar
      YLT -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      The worst kind of defense of the roid clowns. Being a bad guy isn't cheating. Don't lump the character defect guys in with the nitwits shooting up so they could put on extra muscle.
      What's the argument for Perry or Ford being in the HoF then? Is cutting or greasing baseballs not cheating? Or is that just a clever or funny way to cheat so it's ok? How is that advantage any different than steroids? Both of those guys knowingly took illegal measures to enhance their chance of getting an out. Corked bat guys? In or out? How about sign stealers? It's complex and becomes a slippery slope - hence context of the era is needed.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      'First, amphetamines weren't "cheating" when Aaron used them, because they weren't banned by MLB until 2006, 15 years AFTER steroids.'

      How long have Amphetamines been illegal in the US?

      In 1991, Vincent sent a groundbreaking memorandum to all MLB clubs regarding the use of steroids, although he really did not consider steroids to be a major problem at the time. Vincent merely wanted to lay the groundwork for an attempt to control the entire drug and potential steroid problem, i.e., he was being proactive with regard to steroids. In his memorandum, Vincent emphasized, "There is no place for illegal drugs in baseball. Their use by players and others in baseball can neither be condoned nor tolerated. Baseball players and personnel cannot be permitted to give even the slightest suggestion that illegal drug use is either acceptable or safe. It is the responsibility of all baseball players and personnel to see to it that the use of illegal drugs does not occur, and if it does, to put a stop to it."

      Commissioner Vincent's memorandum contained the following provisions:
      • The possession, sale, or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by major league players and personnel is strictly prohibited. Those involved in the possession, sale, or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance are subject to discipline by the commissioner and risk permanent expulsion from the game.
      • In addition to any discipline this office may impose, a club may also take action under applicable provisions of and special covenants to the uniform player's contract. This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids or prescription drugs for which the individual in possession of the drug does not have a prescription.
      • MLB recognizes that illegal drug use has become a national problem, and that some players and baseball personnel may fall victim to drugs. Baseball will not hesitate to permanently remove from the game those players and personnel who, despite our efforts to treat and rehabilitate, refuse to accept responsibility for the problem and continue to use illegal drugs. If any club covers up or otherwise fails to disclose to this office any information concerning drug use by a player, that club will be fined $250,000, the highest allowable amount under the Major League Agreement.
      • MLB believes that its testing program is the most effective means available to deter and detect drug use. For admitted or detected drug users, testing will be a component of that individual's after-care program for the balance of his or her professional baseball career.
      • This office will continue to search for positive and constructive methods of dealing with drug use. While baseball will attempt to treat and rehabilitate any player or personnel who falls victim to a drug problem, we will not hesitate to impose discipline, especially in those cases involving repeated offenses or refusals to participate in a recommended and appropriate course of treatment.
      • If any club has a question about any aspect of the drug use program, please contact Louis Melendez, Associate Counsel, Major League Baseball Player Relations Committee.


      Sincerely,
      Francis T. Vincent Jr.

      It does seem Aaron was fine, seeing as how he last played in '76, but we'd have to see if there was any other rules regarding illegal substances during that time. And, of course, Amphetamines were illegal, period.

      'After decades of reported abuse, the FDA banned Benzedrine inhalers, and limited amphetamine to prescription use in 1965, but non-medical use remained common. Amphetamine became a schedule II drug in the USA under the Controlled Substances Act in 1971.'
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by YLT View Post
      What's the argument for Perry or Ford being in the HoF then? Is cutting or greasing baseballs not cheating? Or is that just a clever or funny way to cheat so it's ok? How is that advantage any different than steroids? Both of those guys knowingly took illegal measures to enhance their chance of getting an out. Corked bat guys? In or out? How about sign stealers? It's complex and becomes a slippery slope - hence context of the era is needed.
      So because a cheater has already been admitted, we should open the door to all of them? That's a pretty thin arguement. I could care less if Perry got kicked out of the Hall, but his spitball rates at about a 1 on baseballs scandal meter. The steriod cheats made the embarasment of the 1994 strike look like a funny little sidenote in the games history. These guys did significant damage to the game. They knew there would be consequeces if they got caught.
    1. YLT's Avatar
      YLT -
      On a similar note: are we of the delusion that players aren't still doping right now? Certainly these guys know about EPO and how well that works and how quickly you can taper off of it before a season starts. How often are major leaguers being tested? Is it ok to dope in the offseason to increase your workload without getting injured and then taper it off before the season begins? Or do they have to be caught in the act? Again, more complex interpretations of "cheating."

      Cycling and track and field are eons ahead of baseball in this area and I'd say they're still a few steps behind the best dopers. As one track and field commentator put it last summer, "you'd have to be completely stupid to actually get caught at the Olympics using a banned substance." It's all about the timing. So what is it: doping in the offseason is ok and during the season it's not? One time caught and you never go to the HoF? Lifetime ban from baseball on a three strikes you're out rule? What if MLB decides something that's legal today ("natural supplements", suspect use of thyroid medication (steroids), caffeine, etc.) becomes illegal in the next generation? What do you do with the HoF then? Look, I'm not saying we just let everybody dope and be done with it - exactly the opposite. If MLB is serious about this they better up their ante in terms of testing and biological passports, which I am in full support of, otherwise it'll just turn into the NFL. We're simply turning another blind eye if we think doping is over.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      So because a cheater has already been admitted, we should open the door to all of them? That's a pretty thin arguement. I could care less if Perry got kicked out of the Hall, but his spitball rates at about a 1 on baseballs scandal meter. The steriod cheats made the embarasment of the 1994 strike look like a funny little sidenote in the games history. These guys did significant damage to the game. They knew there would be consequeces if they got caught.
      To me, an important distinction is whether mechanisms exist for the officials on the field to do something about it or not. Umpires are hardly unaware of spitballs and corked bats and the like, and when they choose not to enforce those rules it is questionable for others to go about trying to correct this choice after the fact. On the other hand, umpires should not be tasked with trying to determine whether a player has an illegal substance in his body or not. I don't think it's fair to suggest someone of hypocrisy if they choose to view these differently. "Between the white lines" versus not, matters to me.
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