Blog Entry

At WAR with (some of) the readers

Posted on: January 3, 2011 4:27 pm
Of all the e-mails I got on last week's Hall of Fame column -- by far the most I've even received for anything I've written -- one stood out.

"I'm really concerned," Steve wrote, "with any Hall of Fame voter who writes something to the effect of 'When I hear so-and-so's name, do I think Hall of Fame?' This is a very superficial way to approach such an important decision. We have mountains of data. Surely, you can be more analytical than this."

Surely, I can. Surely, I have been.

And I still believe that one of the questions about any Hall of Fame candidate should be 'When we watched him play, did we think Hall of Fame?'"

That's why the Hall has handed voting duties to members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. That's why voting is restricted to members who have covered the game for at least 10 years.

If we wanted the Hall of Fame selections to be totally objective, we could come up with standards.

500 home runs, 300 hits, 90 WAR, whatever you want.

Meet the standard, you're in. Don't meet it, you're out.

Or we could form a committee of statisticians to decide.

We could. We don't. We ask baseball writers, the guys who saw these players play, which ones were Hall-worthy. We ask them to apply their standards, and we guide them only by saying that "voting shall be based on the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

The rules also say that "no automatic elections based on performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one (1) year, pitching a perfect game or similar outstanding achievement shall be permitted."

If you don't like that system, that's fine. But that is the system.

And maybe the best thing about it is how much it allows us to argue about it.

I'm not going to print all 53 e-mails (more than 6,000 words' worth) I got over the last week, but I do want to share some of them, along with a few responses. I will say that it was somewhere near 50-50, with a little less than 50 percent agreeing with me and a little more than 50 percent calling me a total idiot.

Since this is my blog, I'll start with a few who agreed:

From Tevis: "I normally don't agree with most of your articles, but when you wrote this one I felt compelled to say thank you. I am one of the many Giants fans that loved Barry Bonds. [But now] it's obvious he cheated, and if I had known back then, I would have voted to sit him down or kick him out."

You want to know how passionate people are about the Hall of Fame? It caused a Giants fan to agree with me. That should tell you everything.

From Bob: "You are so right about [Jack] Morris. I can't believe he isn't already in. No-brainer. I hope the other voters have the same intellect as you."

And I hope the other readers have the same intellect as you.

From Lawrence: "I just want to thank you for taking serious your Hall of Fame vote. I and most of my friends have lost respect for baseball since the steroid era of tainted broken records. The only way those players should be mentioned is with several asterisks next to their names. But voted in? No way."

We can argue about this forever.

From Steve: "I was wondering if you were going to take some grief for that [column]. It's too bad it wasn't well received. I thought it was a heartfelt portrayal of the challenges all fans are facing when recognizing the achievements of players during the steroid era."

Full disclosure: Steve is my cousin. But Tevis, Bob and Lawrence are not.

From Tyler: "Cheating is not a good standard for in or out. Cheating probably should keep you out, but not be a guarantee. [Bill] Belichick cheated, and he's still a Hall of Famer in football."

I'll stick to baseball. Cheating is a good enough standard for me. If you cheated the game, I'm not voting for you.

From Eric: "I understand you are stating your opinion, but to vote for Jack Morris and not Bert Blyleven, you're insane."

Tough call on Bert, I'll admit, and I strongly suspect he's going to get in without my vote. As for Morris, I stand by my vote. He deserves to be in.

From Adam: "Why no Barry Larkin? He fits all of your criteria."

I know I've said I won't say why I didn't vote for anyone, but I broke that rule for Blyleven and I'll break it again for Larkin, since I didn't vote for him last year, either (before I began to exclude suspected steroid cheats). Larkin is a very tough call for me, very comparable to Alan Trammell, and for now I have come down just slightly on the no side. I will continue to consider both of them seriously every year, until they get in or are no longer on the ballot.

From Jerry in Sydney, Australia: "Just forgetting about the steroid era and the players who played then is just wrong. The game was played on the field, and everyone was cheating."

I'd hate to believe that everyone was cheating. But if I did believe that, I'd have to turn in a blank ballot.

From Seth: "Why do you feel you're the arbiter of justice for the Hall of Fame?"

I don't feel I'm the arbiter of justice. I'm a voter because they sent me a ballot, and after many hours of consideration, I filled it out the fairest way I could.

If that's not analytical enough for you, well, it'll just have to do.

Let the discussion continue.

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Since: Oct 21, 2011
Posted on: October 22, 2011 6:35 am
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Since: Jan 8, 2007
Posted on: January 8, 2011 2:37 am

At WAR with (some of) the readers

  I agree with you in your first argument: Big Mac, Bonds, Clemens and ARod were HOFers BEFORE they cheated, so was Palmeiro. The Advil/Tylenol, etc thing was funny by the way. But I don't agree with you on the Blyleven argument. Yes he didn't win a Cy Young, yet he did finish in the top 5 votes three times. Yes he had only one 20 win season, but he had 4 straight seasons of 15+ losses and his ERA was never higher than 2.81 in any of them, as a matter of fact he had six seasons of 15+ losses from 1971 to 1985 and his highest ERA for those seasons was 3.16! To put that in perspective, there were 8 pitchers this past season, also known as 'the year of the pitcher', who ended with 15+ losses, the lowest ERA? 4.47. So my point is don't blame Blyleven for not having any Cy Young awards or winning enough games, cause to tell you the truth, this guy did dominate. You can say Kerry Wood, Justin Verlander, are examples of dominant pitchers because of their strikeout ability, but Blyleven had eight seasons of 200+ K's, 6 of them in a row, 4 of which were in the years he had 15+ losses! This guy could really pitch. Jack Morris wasn't as dominant, but he was clutch, thats what makes him a HOFer. 
  And yes, if Andre Dawson made it in, Murphy should also be in the Hall also.

Since: Dec 5, 2008
Posted on: January 7, 2011 5:27 pm

At WAR with (some of) the readers

I agree with the 53 emails guy.... That is pathetic, you really aren't very good at what you do and your articles are less interesting than even that. However Morris NEEDS to be in the HOF, much better than Bert... And Donnie Baseball should have a plaque, only because what he did, he did clean and hands down was one of the best in the game for the ERA he played in.... He was downplayed because played just prior to the juice heads who made his accomplishments less signifigant, kinda like what happened for years with Jim Rice....

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