I’m Not As Pissed Off About The HOF Voting As I Thought I Would Be

I’m pretty much always at least a little bit pissed off, so the fact that I’m only a little pissed off is probably as good a result as we could have expected.

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio, and John Smoltz were elected and will be inducted this Summer. Good for them, they all deserve it.

I’m a little pissed off that Pedro Martinez didn’t get 100%. Randy Johnson also deserved 100%, but I don’t give a damn about him. And sure, some of the folks who didn’t vote for them did so because it’s a crowded ballot and they wanted to vote for some of the guys down ballot a bit who weren’t locks to get in. I’m mostly cool with those guys.

But the guys who actually didn’t think Pedro Martinez was worthy of hall induction are just utterly divorced from reality. Sure, his career wasn’t the longest, but it was long enough, and his peak was obscenely high. There were five seasons where he was twice as good as the league average, including a 2000 season where he was almost three times as good as league average. In one of the most offensively dominant eras in the game, Pedro Martinez made the entire league hit like Mike Benjamin.

The moral policemen drive me nuts. There are people who aren’t voting for Jeff Bagwell because he looks like he used steroids. No failed tests. No evidence from steroid suppliers. Just whispers. It’s disgusting.

We have a situation right now where there is someone who has a credible argument to make that he’s the best hitter of all time who has been on the ballot and who is not in the Hall of Fame.

We have a situation right now where there is someone who has a credible argument to make that he’s the best pitcher of all time who has been on the ballot and who is not in the Hall of Fame.

We have a situation right now where there is someone who has more hits than anyone else in the history of Major League Baseball and he is not in the Hall of Fame.

With Pete Rose, there’s a good reason, and while I think a player’s placement on the ineligible list should expire when they die, that doesn’t yet apply to Rose.

But Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens aren’t in the Hall of Fame and it’s embarrassing. It’s obvious it’s the steroids. There’s good reasons to keep steroids out of the game, but I don’t think that means there’s good reason to keep out—as a class—the people who took steroids.

We have a pretty good idea when Clemens and Bonds started roiding up. If you look at their numbers before that, they’re Hall of Famers.

Perhaps more to the point, if you’re going to keep such monstrously talented guys out for steroids, why are you not keeping Rickey Henderson out because of cocaine? Or all the guys from the 70s who used amphetamines? They didn’t start taking those things just because they were fun, they started taking them to help them stay alert during the long grind of the season.

I heard Bob Costas saying that the coke and amphetamines didn’t allow anyone to improve as drastically as steroids and HGH, and that’s true, but do we really want to set the precedent that cheating is okay unless you’re really really good at it?

Of course not.

It’s too late to keep all the cheaters out. It’s too late to set a strict moral line. It’s too late to have a Hall of Fame that doesn’t have any players who aren’t completely immoral douchebags.

There are current Hall of Famers who are cheaters, drunks, racists, and every other thing you can imagine.

So…enough ranting.

The fact that four guys made it is fantastic. It relieves a ton of the pressure on the ballot to the point where it might be possible to turn in a 2016 ballot with less than ten names on it without being an assjack.

Trevor Hoffman and Ken Griffey, Jr join the ballot in 2016 and I think they’re pretty likely to get in on the first ballot. Just as an aside, the closer fetish the voters have is a little bit weird. With Mike Piazza at 69.9% this year, I think it’s pretty likely the class of 2016 will be Hoffman, Griffey, and Piazza, and putting in three more guys would be a very good thing.

I think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens to Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina in 2016. There are some who suggest that clearing Pedro, Johnson, and Smoltz off the ballot is going to lead to a very large jump in votes next season. I think I’d like to see it, as they both deserve it, but I’m skeptical that it will really happen. And if it does, I don’t think it’s going to be enough to get them in.

Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are the other guys who I’m going to be looking at in 2016. They’re at 54.3% and 46.1% respectively, which means getting up to 75% would take a gigantic leap that I just don’t think is going to happen. Since Raines only has two years left on the ballot, he’s got to get a lot of votes in a short amount of time.

We shall see.

The Problem with the BBWAA

The problem with the BBWAA isn’t that they failed to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame, but the reason why.

Not the plethora of reasonable sounding reasons that they no doubt gave us in their columns but the underlying worldview that makes those excuses as relevant as they are.

The writers of the BBWAA view themselves as the defenders of the realm, a puerile hubris that blinds them to their real function in the Hall of Fame selection process. Their job is to decide who is good enough, not who is pure enough, and their obsession with the latter overwhelms their incompetence at the former.

Like their medieval predecessors, these Knights of the Keyboard have taken the ideal of serving justice and turned it into a crusade to inflict their own view of morality upon people who neither need nor want it.

The quest for purity from PEDs has extended itself to the ridiculous extreme. It is not enough to exclude from the Hall those who have been proven to have used. It is not enough to exclude from the Hall those who have been accused of using. Now it extends to excluding from the Hall those who look like they may have used. Are we supposed to believe that there is a different–legitimate–reason for not voting in Jeff Bagwell whose 76.7 career WAR (bbref version) is eclipsed on this ballot only by two men, one of whom is a candidate to be considered the best hitter of all time, and the other of whom is a candidate to be the best pitcher of all time?

And both of whom undoubtedly enhanced their performance with drugs barred by Major League Baseball.

Jeff Bagwell has, to the best of my knowledge, never been so much as accused of taking performance enhancing drugs but he was big and strong and really good for a long time so of course he was juicing.

We don’t need writers so obsessed with purity that they would rather deny an innocent man the induction he deserves in an attempt to deny those malfeasant miscreants an honor they did not deserve.

We don’t need writers who think Jack Morris is more deserving of induction than Curt Schilling.

We don’t need writers who cast what I can only hope were joke votes for Sandy Alomar, Aaron Sele, Julio Franco, and Shawn Green.

We don’t need writers telling us who is and isn’t a First Ballot Hall of Famer ™ because the notion that there’s a difference between a first ballot hall of famer and a second ballot hall of famer is infantile. A player is either worthy enough for the Hall or he isn’t and that worthiness doesn’t change between their first year on the ballot and their second.

It’s supposed to be about the baseball, and rewarding those who, among all their peers, outperformed damn near everybody. It’s supposed to be about recognizing achievement. It’s supposed to be about celebrating the game. It’s supposed to be about the visceral pleasure of a good sports argument. It’s supposed to be about joy.

It’s not supposed to be about the writers.

Hall of Fame Ballot

The 2013 Hall of Fame class will be announced on Jan. 9 so it’s time, and while there is very little I like more than celebrating the game, we can’t do it this year because the steroid thing gets in the way because Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are no doubt Hall of Famers whom everyone knows did steroids.

I hate this. I hate the fact that we have to talk about it. I hate the fact that I have to think about it because I hate where it leads me.

There are a lot of despicable cretins in the Hall of Fame. It pains me to say this about a game I love so much but a lot of the people who made the game what is is are just plain horrible people.

Kennesaw Mountain Landis probably takes the cake simply because his racism closed the game to African American players for decades. Tom Yawkey makes the list because his racism was one of the biggest contributing factors to the Red Sox not willing the World Series in his tenure.

And they’re the tip of the iceberg. Babe Ruth was hanging around with gangsters and you can’t tell me he wouldn’t be doing every drug available if he were alive today.

I end up being forced into the conclusion that character questions don’t matter. When you tell me that steroids impacted their play on the field, I’ll tell you that all the other drugs, uppers, cocaine, whatever, also impacted their play on the field. I don’t know where to draw the line so I draw it at what was done on the field.*

So I look at the field of candidates (which you can find here) and the first names that strike me as no doubters are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mike Piazza. Their qualifications are obvious.

Who else?

Curt Schilling: He pitched enough, twenty years, three thousand innings, four hundred starts. He pitched pretty well overall, a 127 ERA+ and he’s got post season heroics on his resume from both Arizona and Boston. Good enough for me.

Craig Biggio: Twenty years, first as a catcher, then as a second baseman, lots of black ink, lots of gray ink, a little light in the power but a .363 career OBP. As a second baseman and a catcher. He gets a vote.

Jeff Bagwell: Why did he not get in last year? A career .948 OPS and OPS+ of 149. Yeah, it’s a power position and has higher standards. He met them in spades. He gets a vote.

That’s six votes, max is ten, who’s left?

Larry Walker: Big offensive numbers, largely put up in Colorado, at a power position. Yes, he did well outside Colorado, but he doesn’t even hit 400 homers. I’ll pass.

Allen Trammel: Not a ton of black or gray ink, but he’s a shortstop. Gold gloves, lots of MVP votes, good offensive production at a defensive position. He’s worth a vote.

Tim Raines: Not a ton of power, but holy mother of all that is holy did he get on base. Six years with an OBP over .400 and five more over .390. Eight hundred steals with an 85% success rate. He’s worth a vote.

Kenny Lofton: In a lot of ways he’s Tim Raines light. Light on the power, not as much of an on base machine as Raines, only five years higher than .390 OBP. He went to the post season almost every year for a decade and his overall performance is nothing special. I’ll pass.

Edgar Martinez: An offensive force who would probably be an easy vote if he had any defensive value. He played two thousand games, less than six hundred of them in the field. For comparison’s sake, both his career WAR and his seven year peak WAR (BBREF version) are lower than Kenny Lofton’s. I’ll pass.

Mark McGwire: He’s all about the home runs. Lots of black ink, mostly from home runs, less gray ink. He had prodigious power while playing a power position. He played in forty-two post season games over ten series and overall didn’t perform terribly well. I think it comes down to whether the 586 career home runs and the 70 in 1998 are enough to get him in on their own. I have a little sympathy for that position, but I’m not quite there yet.

Sammy Sosa: Similar to McGwire, his candidacy is based on the homers. He hit over 60 three times and didn’t lead the league in any of those seasons. He didn’t get a chance to do much in the post season. His career homer total is over 600. Thing is, his peak was pretty short. He was nothing special defensively. Again, sympathy, but I’ll pass.

And that’s pretty much it. None of the other guys really have much of a case. Maybe you can make a case for Palmeiro or Bernie Williams but I’m not seeing it yet.

So there it is. Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Schilling, Trammel, Bagwell, Biggio, Raines.

*And yes, this means Pete Rose should be in the Hall.