The 2014 MLB Hall of Fame voting results are officially announced tomorrow, and they should be very, very fascinating.
This year’s ballot is a crowded one, full of all kinds of players and storylines. There are the heavyweight crop of newcomers, including Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Kent. There are the older guys who have been on the ballot for many years and are hoping to squeeze into Cooperstown this time around, such as Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lee Smith, and Tim Raines. And then you have the steroid question, players who rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, have been tainted by their association with the performance enhancer. These players, of course, include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, and Craig Biggio.
But there are always several extracurriculars that take place at this time of year, as certain members of the “esteemed” voting panel take it upon themselves to stand out and be noticed. At a time of the baseball calendar when it truly should be all out the players and honouring greatness, these arrogant and selfish writers find a way to stick their noses in, year after year.
There are many things that really get to me when it comes to the Hall of Fame vote, but there are three that stand out most of all.
There are a lot of unwritten rules in baseball. Never bunt to break up a no-hitter. Don’t admire a home run. Never steal a base with a big lead.
But there also appears to be an unwritten rule with a select group of lunatic writers in the BBWAA: never unanimously elect a player to the Hall of Fame. Their intentions, though badly flawed, are somewhat admirable. “Nobody has ever been elected unanimously,” they say, “and if the greatest players in baseball history, like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Honus Wagner, Jackie Robinson, and Ted Williams weren’t unanimous, then nobody ever will be.”
They want to protect the sanctity of the game, and the gloriousness of the Hall.
But there are so many reasons why they are wrong.
For example, back in the old days, writers and players were much, much closer. They traveled on trains together during road trips, and hung out together after games. Many reasons why the old greats didn’t get in unanimously were not baseball related, but personal. You beat Babe Ruth in a card game but he refused to pay the $10 he owed? Fine – teach the scoundrel a lesson by not voting for him! Those shenanigans should in no way influence anything that transpires today.
I simply don’t understand why voters focus so much on the past. In 1936, four writers didn’t vote for Ty Cobb, and 11 didn’t vote for Honus Wagner and Babe Ruth.
Also, in a shocking newsflash, 1936 was 78 years ago!
Imagine people’s decision making today was influenced by what happened in 1936?
“I think I’ll take the train across the country because planes were unreliable in the 30’s.”
“E-mail? Nah, forget it. I’ll use the telegraph, or better yet, send a telegram, so I can be just like a guy in ’36!”
Ridiculous. Times change. Forget about the past and embrace the present.
In my opinion, Greg Maddux deserves to be voted in unanimously. He pitched spectacularly in the heart of the steroid era for many years. Between 1990 – 1998 he went 157-79, with a 2.44 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and a 4.01 K/BB ratio, and lead the league in ERA four times, IP five times, complete games three times, and WHIP four times. For his career he was an 8-time All-Star, 4-time Cy Young winner, and an 18-time Gold Glove award winner. And he did it all without any trace of scandal or suspicion.
Many players in the history of baseball deserved to be elected to the Hall of Fame unanimously. The fact that they weren’t is unfortunate. But why punish players like Maddux because a sportswriter hated Ty Cobb in the early 30’s?
Stats Speak For Themselves, Except When They Don’t
At least they should. But often, writers will ignore the stats and cite something else to justify why they choose to vote, or not vote, for a player. Take, for example, the incorrigible Steve Simmons, he of the esteemed Toronto Sun, who somehow has a HOF vote this year. Simmons decided not to vote for Tim Raines, who is on his 7th year on the ballot. Why? Well….
Never mind the 800+ stolen bases, the All-Star appearances, the career .294 average. He just doesn’t seem like a Hall of Fame player. He fails the smell test. He could have cited the fact that Raines had a cocaine problem early in his career, or maybe didn’t have a long enough peak. But no, he simply doesn’t look like a HOFer.
But wait! There’s more!
He never won an MVP in his peak years! He only finished in the top-15 five years in a row! This is lunacy on two fronts:
1. MVP is, just like the HOF process, a purely subjective voting process. That’s like saying he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame because he didn’t make the Hall of Fame last year.
2. If winning an MVP was so important, why is Roberto Alomar in the HOF? Why is Tony Gwynn in the HOF? Gwynn, often though of as a good comp for Raines, finished as high as 3rd in MVP voting, never won one, and actually finished with a lower career WAR than Raines.
Every voter is entitled to his or her opinion, and is well within their rights to vote for who they want. But at least have a bit of respect for what you are doing.
Stealing the Spotlight
The Baseball Hall of Fame should be about the players. It should be a time of year to honour the very best in the history of the game, those who made baseball the best sport in the world. Instead, it so often becomes a time when somebody decides that they want to become front and centre and earn 15 minutes of fame.
Every year there always seems to be a few voters who submit a blank ballot to preserve the sanctity of the non-unanimous Hall. Every year there is somebody who fills out such a perverse ballot and is sure to publish it in a newspaper or on a website so that his name makes the round of sports talk shows.
This year, that moron is Ken Gurnick, a Los Angeles Dodgers beat reporter. This morning, Gurnick published his Hall of Fame ballot. He voted for Jack Morris – only Jack Morris. His explanation?
Morris has flaws — a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for more than a decade of ace performance that included three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Players votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.
Tremendous. Not only is he refusing to vote for those who may have used PEDs, he is refusing to vote for anybody who played the game of baseball for 15+ years. Sorry Maddux, Glavine, Mussina, and Thomas. Just because you once played against Barry Bonds, you will never make the Hall of Fame. Using Gurnick’s logic, we should probably just remove anybody who ever played for the Cincinnati Reds from the Hall of Fame, because at one point they played on the same team as Pete Rose, and are thus guilty of betting on baseball.
The best part about Gurnick’s idiocy is that there is no definition of when the “period of PED use” happens to be. Does it begin in 2001 when Barry Bonds hit 73 HR? Does it begin in 1998 when McGwire and Sosa went HR crazy? Or does it begin when McGwire and Canseco were tearing it up for the Bash Brother A’s in 1987? And did the PED period end when baseball started testing, or is it still ongoing? Nobody, not even Gurnick, knows.
But if it truly does begin in the late ’80’s when Canseco and McGwire were in Oakland, what does that say about Gurnick’s logic? He refuses to vote for anybody that played in the PED period, yet Jack Morris was still pitching in 1994, which by my count puts him several years into the so-called PED period. Gurnick conveniently seems to forget that though. Just as he also seems to forget that Maddux and Morris actually overlapped from 1986 – 1994. Oh well.
Congratulations Ken Gurnick. Sometimes the stupid are even stupider than can be imagined.