No one elected to Hall of Fame: Fine with me

No one elected to Hall of Fame: Fine with me
January 9, 2013, 4:00 pm
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It’s all right with me that no one was elected to the Hall of Fame this year. Overall, I think the Baseball Writers do a good job in choosing players. This year, it was almost impossible to get right.

Lots of people are annoyed that no recognizable names will be inducted this year. The only ones to be enshrined will be some names from early last century that only baseball historians know about.

It isn’t as if the writers had an easy choice. Not only did they have to wrestle with the steroids issue, but they had a number of qualified candidates. Eighteen players received more than five percent of the vote with only Dale Murphy at the 15-year limit.

Those 17 will return next year along with five new legitimate candidates: Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine and Jeff Kent. It will be another hard year for voters.

In light of the results, or in some cases anticipation of it, there have been calls to reform the voting. Currently, 10-year members of the Baseball Writers are eligible, and while Tyler Kepner of The New York Times, called for a radical change, I’m not sure I buy it.

I’ve often thought that excellent broadcasters such as Vin Scully, Jon Miller and Bob Costas should vote. They are long-time observers and historians, too.

But, the writers’ role shouldn’t be curtailed. Writers debate the merits of candidates all year, and take their voting duties seriously. While I think there are some viable candidates who’ve slipped through the cracks in recent years: Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Jim Kaat and Lou Whitaker, there have been a few elected who I might not have voted for: Rich Gossage and Jim Rice.

In the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a committee of 46 writers and broadcasters must select between four and seven inductees each year. I think the baseball procedure is superior.

Kepner argues that there should be smaller number of voters comprised of writers, broadcasters, executives and former players.
That’s what the veterans committees look like, but there are lots of issues there, too.

Five years ago, the Veterans Committee elected one-time commissioner Bowie Kuhn, but refused to vote in his nemesis, longtime Players Association leader Marvin Miller. If writers had the sole say, I’m sure Miller would have been elected.

Had I had a ballot, I would have voted only for Craig Biggio and Jack Morris, the two candidates who came closest to election. Biggio (68.2 percent) and Morris (67.7 percent) needed 75 percent of the vote.

The candidates most closely associated with steroid use: Roger Clemens (37.6 percent), Barry Bonds (36.2 percent), Mark McGwire (16.9 percent), Sammy Sosa (12.5 percent) and Rafael Palmeiro (8.8 percent) have little chance of changing enough voters’ minds to gain entry.

Morris will be on the ballot for the 15th and final time next year, and with Maddux, Glavine and Mussina up too, he’ll probably have a tough time.

There were others who didn’t make it who some suspected of steroids use: Jeff Bagwell (59.6 percent) and Mike Piazza (57.8 percent). They have never even been implicated, just whispered.

The big loser is the beautiful town of Cooperstown and the wonderful Hall of Fame. They’re deprived of tens of thousands of tourists who attend because they’re such devoted fans of those elected.

Baseball isn’t necessarily harmed. Healthy debate is great for the game, and may even improve the voting process. Some like to argue that it’s foolish for voters to change their minds on players. I think that’s healthy, too.

Bert Blyleven never would have been elected if many voters didn’t change their minds. The same with Rice and Tony Perez.

Sometimes, it helps to look at a player’s place in history in context a year later. This may be one of those times.

There have been other years when the Baseball Writers didn’t elect anyone, but at least in 1996, the Veterans committee elected Earl Weaver and Jim Bunning.  It isn’t as if writers collectively turned in blank ballots to protest, though a few did. They just had an impossible task, and performed it the best they could.

NOTES:

-Former Orioles Tim Raines (52.2 percent) Lee Smith (47.8 percent) and Curt Schilling (38.8 percent) will join Sosa and Palmeiro on next year’s ballot. David Wells (.9 percent) and Steve Finley (.7 percent) are excluded. Jeff Conine and Jose Mesa did not receive a vote.

Armando Benitez, Joe Borowski and Todd Jones may also appear on next year’s ballot.