Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Leaves More Questions than Answers

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Folks, for the second year in a row, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, is at the center of a scandal.

Last year, of course, the big scandal was that no one was voted into the Hall whatsoever (I wrote about that here).  But this year’s scandal is nearly as bad, considering — despite big names such as seven-time Most Valuable Player Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award Winner Roger Clemens being on the ballot again, the Baseball Writers of America voted only for three men — Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas, all first-time nominees — and ignored everyone else.

Mind you, Glavine, Maddux and Thomas were all deserving candidates. I’m glad they got in. But I’m frustrated that Bonds and Clemens didn’t even get 40 percent of the vote, all because the BBWAA would rather punish alleged steroid users than celebrate great players.

This hypocritical attitude has already forced 3,000 hit club member Rafael Palmeiro off the ballot (he didn’t get the required five percent to stay eligible), has caused former All-Stars Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s candidacies to be largely ignored despite their memorable home run record race in 1998 that reinvigorated baseball, and has caused Bonds and Clemens to wonder if the BBWAA will ever allow either one of them into the Hall, either.

And I’m not the only one wondering about this. Keith Olbermann, on his ESPN sports show last night, asked again why the BBWAA insists on behaving in this fashion. (Granted, Olbermann is much more miffed about 3,000 hit club member Craig Biggio once again falling short of the Hall, this time by a mere two votes, than by the exclusions of Clemens or Bonds. But the point is much the same.) Olbermann believes at bare minimum that the BBWAA should allow voters to vote for more than ten people, the current maximum.

Here’s a sample of a few other good blogs on the subject, the first coming from writer Jonathan Weber at The Ballclub, a blog devoted to the New York Mets that in this case discusses the case for catcher Mike Piazza in detail:

But once again, the argument revolves around who didn’t get in, and central among the snubbed is Mike Piazza. Piazza’s credentials don’t need to be discussed. Neither do those for the similarly snubbed Craig Biggio or any of the others who probably should be taking their rightful place in Cooperstown’s hallowed halls.

The issue obviously lies in the voting process, and how those 571 individuals choose to cast their votes. It becomes, then, a rather subjective process and a bias against certain players who might have rubbed one, or several, of those 571 the wrong way. Or, however many of those 571 that choose to vote based on some archaic principle that only makes sense to them. Invariably, we get stories like the ballot holder from Los Angeles who voted for Jack Morrisand nobody else. Of course, what ends up happening is that Craig Biggio, who should be a Hall of Famer whether you feel he’s a compiler or not, falls 0.2% shy of election, and Mike Piazza falls 12.8% short.

Neither Biggio or Piazza has been specifically implicated of any wrongdoing. . . Piazza’s problem is basically guilt by association—though he’s never failed a drug test and never been specifically implicated for steroid use, he’s of that era so the suspicion will follow whether he’s guilty or not. At this point, if you haven’t gotten a smoking gun on Piazza, you’re probably not going to, because there really aren’t any guns left for the players of that era.

(Emphasis and ellipsis by BC)

This blog from St. Louis Cardinal Baseball.com writer Ray DeRousse points out the real problems with leaving Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, and the others out of the Hall:

Imagine it is the year 2114. A young boy from San Francisco visits Cooperstown with his family. The kid strolls through its corridors, gazing with wonder at the memorabilia enshrined in glass and the bronze faces of baseball’s greatest players staring back at him along its hallowed halls. Slowly, his excitement turns to confusion.

“Dad, where is Barry Bonds?” asks the boy.

The father stops, temporary stumped. “He’s not here,” he responds carefully. “Barry Bonds is not allowed to be in here.”

This confuses the boy even more . . .

Is this really the kind of conversation we want in the corridors of Cooperstown 100 years from now? Apparently the writers charged with voting players into the Hall of Fame do, as they used yesterday’s election ballot to strongly rebuke several players of the PED generation . . . (including) Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro.

(Links to Baseball Reference removed because they’re already extant in this article, and ellipses added to condense quote — BC)

Even Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan, with whom I’ve had my differences, wrote this:

As one side seethed about the indignity of Greg Maddux failing to show up on 16 Hall of Fame ballots and another side bellowed about the shame of Dan Le Batard giving his vote to Deadspin readers and another wallowed in the misery of Craig Biggio falling two votes shy of induction and the entire operation reached levels of rage and fulmination and wrath that have turned sports debate today into the modern-day Cuyahoga, a conflagrant river of pollution, a harrowing fact fell to the background.

The man who may be the greatest hitter ever and the man who may be the greatest pitcher ever are going backward in their efforts to join the Hall in which they belong.

If Passan, a man who’s seething hatred of Brewers OF Ryan Braun is already legendary due to Braun’s PED use (and subsequent cover-up of same), can say this, why can’t the rest of the baseball writers?

Oh, wait.  At least a few have, including Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt, who admitted to voting for Bonds, Clemens, and a number of others (he didn’t vote for Palmeiro as Palmeiro failed a drug test).

But it’s obvious that many in the BBWAA are retaliating against supposed PED users, though there’s another factor in play — that ten-vote rule — that Haudricourt discusses here.

My view is simple. Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Piazza, and Biggio are all clearly Hall of Famers and should’ve been elected into the Hall right away. But because the BBWAA seems to want to be punitive, these men aren’t getting into the Hall.

How do you fix this? Olbermann’s suggestions (referenced in this article by the Washington Post) of adding people like Bill James, some sportscasters like Vin Scully (perhaps Brewers-own sportscaster Bob Uecker might qualify for a vote due to his fifty-plus years in baseball?), and even a fan vote counting for one percent overall sound like a step in the right direction.

But one thing is clear: this must be fixed.

Because this is wrong.

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