For only the second time in four decades, the high and mighty Baseball Writers Association of America sent word down from the mountain top Wednesday that none of the 37 players eligible for enshrinement in Baseball’s Hall of Fame were worthy.
What a bunch of garbage. Then again, this is nothing surprising or new. The BBWAA has evolved over the years into a collective defined by their sense of self-importance. They believe their opinions – which they often change from year to year even if players in question have been retired for more than a decade – are far more important than anything or anyone else. THEY are the show in their own view, and they have too much power and decision making authority.
This year, instead of sticking to a particular player (as they did to Goose Gossage for many years) they decided to “make a statement” and stick it to an entire generation of players, whether those players deserved punishment or not. Judge, jury and executioners all.
This is not to rehash the “did he or didn’t he” argument that centers on some of the game’s all time greats having been linked – often times by big, thick chains – to the use of steroids. Everyone has an opinion on Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, (who each got, ironically, roughly 37% of the votes needed) Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. They are among those who have been determined by one method or another (The Mitchell Report, the book Game of Shadows, BALCO, court proceedings or even full out admissions) to have achieved a level of greatness – or at least lengthened their careers and enhanced their statistics – by illegal means. That argument is for another time.
No, this argument is about the players NOT linked or even suspected of using steroids – guys like Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Curt Schilling and others – who failed to garner enough support for Hall induction despite their obvious credentials…just because the BBWAA felt the need to air their mixed feelings.
According to some, many members of the BBWAA – including the five voters who submitted blank ballots – wanted to express their displeasure with the Hall’s system of voting, which failed to give them any guidelines on how exactly they should handle the accused steroid users. Fair question? Yes. However, maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t there seem to be a better time to address that question, say in the many MONTHS prior to the day to cast ballots? You wait until it’s time to vote to file your protest ballot? Really?
What we’ve been told with this ridiculous non-vote is that the members of the BBWAA cannot, on their own, find a way to distinguish Biggio from Bonds. They are unable to judge players individually, independently of each other. Biggio is a guy who’s never been accused of doing anything except giving 100% to the game, who has more hits than all but 19 players in the history of baseball, who has better qualifications than half the guys who already have plaques in Cooperstown…but he has to wait for enshrinement because Joe Voter from Milwaukee can’t decide if he should vote for Clemens or not. Wow.
Having played the game for a dozen years, I don’t have to rely just on statistics to tell me who is a Hall of Famer. I know one when I see one. Jack Morris belongs in the Hall. So does Biggio. Mike Piazza has more home runs than any catcher in history. To this point, there has been no indication that he did anything wrong. Tim Raines. Lee Smith. Schilling. No one should have a problem voting to any of them. But no, they don’t get in because they didn’t do enough to stop steroid use? What total nonsense.
These voters get to put 10 names on a ballot, and they can’t do it? It’s an embarrassment.
While the voting members of the BBWAA try to figure out if they want the steroid users in or not, the Hall itself should take action. They should shake up the voting procedure to include some who are not only writers, but broadcasters, former players, coaches and even umpires. Make it a cross section of those who follow and cover the game closely. Guys like Vin Scully, Bob Uecker, Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, etc. I trust their opinions more than anonymous beat writer from Miami who never even saw Jack Morris pitch.
There is some sentiment in that direction, even among writers. “Also, there are broadcasters who would be imminently qualified,” wrote Richard Justice of MLB.com. “Jon Miller knows more baseball -- and has more smart opinions -- than anyone I've ever met. Vin Scully obviously would be terrific. Brian Kenny and Keith Olbermann are brilliant. And there are many, many more.”
Plus, real baseball people like that would have the onions to get off the fence, make a decision they could stand by long term, and make the right kind of statement by voting for the players they believe rightfully belong in the Hall - regardless of what year they are on the ballot. (Deciding that qualified former player shouldn’t be elected in his “first year of eligibility” because that’s somehow sacred territory is just plain stupid as well.)
Either a player belongs or he doesn’t. Biggio (who was 39 votes short) belongs. So does Morris, Schilling and Piazza. Punishing them because a particular voter is confused and can’t decide how he feels about steroids should disqualify that voter, not the deserving former players.