Like many baseball fans, I had been eagerly anticipating the results from this year’s National Baseball Hall of Fame election. This year’s ballot was polarizing, to say the least, as players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were eligible for induction for the first time. Clemens and Bonds were two of the greatest players the sport has ever seen, but they have strong ties to performance enhancing drugs. The results have been tallied and this year became the eighth time in the history of the Hall of Fame that the BBWAA failed to elect any players on the ballot. Players need to be named on 75% of all ballots to be elected. I, like many baseball fans am pretty disappointed with this year’s results. Here are some of my thoughts regarding the results of the election:
1. Seriously, who would want to attend this year’s induction ceremony? Three people were elected by the Pre-Integration Era Committee: Jacob Ruppert, Hank O’Day and Deacon White. That does not include Paul Hagen, who won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, and Tom Cheek who won the Ford C. Frick Award. While Ruppert had an enormous influence on baseball as the man who owned the Yankees when they purchased Babe Ruth and built Yankee Stadium, the fact remains that none of those three men had any sort of impact on the average baseball fan of today. My guess is that the actual induction ceremony will come and go without much fanfare, which is not good for the game of baseball.
2. Hall of Fame voting is becoming more about the writers than the actual people who played the game. The prevalent discussion is more about whether writers think a certain player used PEDs than if said player’s career statistics and performance merit enshrinement in Cooperstown. There is something wrong with that. Voting for the Hall of Fame is a privilege. Millions of people would love to have that privilege. I truly believe that people who have left their ballots blank to make a statement about PED usage in baseball should have their votes taken away from them. Intelligent people like Bob Costas, who is an ambassador of the game of baseball would probably gladly take that writer’s blank ballot and put it to good use. I am not saying I think every baseball writer is a narcissist and that they need to get off their high horse. Not at all. Over the past couple of weeks, I have listened to many writers explain their ballots and make good cases for and against various players. It would just be nice if the discussion became more about the players instead of the moral compass of the writers of the BBWAA.
3. How did Mike Piazza not get elected on the first ballot? He got 57.8% of the vote in his first year of eligibility. He was the GREATEST hitting catcher of all time. He made 12 All-Star teams, hit 407 home runs and retired with a triple slash of .308/.377/.545. Sure, he was not the best defending catcher, but his offensive numbers are so far and away better than anyone else’s that it shouldn’t matter. People have suspicions that Piazza used PEDs. But there is ZERO proof. This has become a witch-hunt and it is getting ridiculous. To not elect a surefire Hall of Famer based on unfounded suspicion is really a travesty. The writers should be ashamed of themselves in this case.
4. The Hall of Fame is a museum. Museums portray events that have occurred throughout the course of history. Therefore, to simply omit players from the Hall of Fame based on their PED use would be trying to pretend a certain piece of history did not happen. Do we pretend apartheid in South Africa did not happen? No. Do we deny that our country thought that slavery was an acceptable part of society? No. If you were to go to a civil rights museum somewhere, there would probably be exhibits that detailed those two periods in history. Much as some of us would like, we simply cannot deny that this piece of baseball history occurred. The players, managers, owners and commissioners allowed it to happen. Let’s tackle the PED issue head on, acknowledge that certain players used steroids and try to move on as best we can. A baseball Hall of Fame without Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro as members cannot be truly be considered as a museum that accurately portrays the history of the game.
5. I’m going to be a bit hypocritical here, but I actually think the writers got it right with Bonds (36.2% of the vote) and Clemens (37.6% of the vote) this year. Previously, I had been against the attitude of making people wait a couple of years to punish them. In some cases, I still am – the fact that Roberto Alomar did not get elected on the first ballot is a joke. But while I believe that Bonds and Clemens should indeed be in the Hall of Fame, I do not think that we are all ready for it just yet. The flame on the fire of this topic needs to cool down a little bit and more people – writers, fans, and former players need time to get used to the fact that those two players will probably be enshrined in Cooperstown one day. Both Bonds and Clemens have a long way to go, but I would be very surprised if they both do not get in eventually.
6. Get the Killer B’s In. Harold Reynolds of MLB Network made an interesting point about Craig Biggio’s candidacy, comparing his vote total of 68.2% to those of Ryne Sandberg and Barry Larkin during their first years on the ballot. Biggio compared favorably to those two players and will most likely hear his named called next year. I guess if Biggio supporters were to look at from Harold’s perspective, it would make them feel better, but the fact remains that he still should have gotten in. Jeff Bagwell’s vote total went up from 56% to 59.6% in his third year on the ballot, but he still has a ways to go. Much like Piazza, Bagwell’s candidacy is hampered by the fact that people think it is possible that he might have used PEDs, but there is no concrete evidence that would lead one to believe that other than the fact that Bagwell was ripped.
7. Looking forward to next year, the ballot is going to be incredibly crowded, with this year’s returning candidates as well as Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent. Maddux, Glavine and Thomas are probably all locks to get in on the first ballot, while Kent and Mussina will probably get in, in subsequent years. But since the ballot will be so crowded it remains to be seen if people like Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Fred McGriff and Jack Morris will be able to continue to gain traction in 2014. It is possible that a couple of those names could slip off the ballot entirely (it will be Morris’s last year of eligibility regardless) and that would be a shame. I’m not saying I think all of those people should be in the Hall of Fame, but the debate should certainly continue for several of those names.
8. My prediction for 2014: Next year’s induction class will be Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza. Yes, Jack Morris finished with 67.7% of the vote, but I have a feeling that he will get lost in the shuffle of the incredibly crowded ballot next year and fall short. Most importantly though, we should all hope that next year’s election is more about the players’ contributions on the field, rather than a PED witch hunt that is perpetrated by the writers.