Tag:Hall of Fame
Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:39 pm

Stay away from steroids -- but vote how you want

This summer, the Hall of Fame will ask kids to pledge to stay away from steroids.

Next winter, the Hall of Fame will send out a ballot that includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.

A contradiction? A message to voters?

Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson insists that it's neither one. Idelson said Wednesday that the Hall has always been an education center, in addition to being a baseball museum and a Hall of Fame, and that the new BASE (Be a Superior Example) program fits in with that.

He also said that the Hall isn't -- and won't -- tell anyone how to vote, and that the new education program should not be read as a directive to eliminate steroid users.

"We believe in allowing voters to use their own value judgment," he said. "We're very comfortable with the rules for election as they stand."

In other words, it's my problem. Mine, and the other 500-some Hall of Fame voters.


Actually, I'm fine with that. Deciding how to treat proven, almost proven and suspected steroid users is the hardest thing I've had to do in all the years I've had a ballot, but I'd rather the Hall leave the decision to us, rather than make it for us. I'd rather they put Pete Rose on the ballot, too, rather than take that decision away from us.

Based on the voting so far, there's no danger that Bonds or Clemens or McGwire will be standing on stage in July 2013, accepting a plaque that glorifies a steroid-aided career, at the same time that the Hall is trying to educate youngsters about the evils of drugs.

McGwire has never even received 24 percent of the vote in his five years on the ballot, with 75 percent required for election. Bonds will likely get more than that, since some voters will see him as having a Hall of Fame career before he likely began using, but I can't imagine him coming close to 75 percent, because many voters won't support anyone connected at all with steroids.

That's been my position for the last two Hall elections (after I voted for McGwire in his first three years on the ballot). It's a position I reexamine every year, and one I'm still not completely comfortable with. I'm just more comfortable with it, for now, than I would be with playing a part in electing someone who likely (or in some cases definitely) cheated the game.

The Hall of Fame shouldn't run away from the issue, because it is a big part of what happened in baseball. And education about steroids (and other performance-enhancing drugs) is more effective than simply announcing that proven steroid cheats will be banned (and if you just ban the proven cheats, you'll be letting quite a few unproven but strongly suspected cheats in).

Maybe the debate over whether Bonds, Clemens et al should be Hall of Famers can even be part of the education program, which is designed to teach about the negative effects and consequences of using performance-enhancing substances.

Idelson hasn't helped me with my vote -- and I don't want him to. But if the BASE program works, maybe fewer kids turn to steroids, and maybe some future votes will be easier.

Posted on: November 30, 2011 4:37 pm

On 2012 Hall ballot, it's no, no and no

The first (and easiest) part of the Hall of Fame voting process is crossing off the names that obviously don’t fit.

This year, it's far too easy.

I counted 13 new names on the 2012 ballot that was announced Wednesday. It took me about 13 seconds to realize that I won't be voting for any of them.

Jeromy Burnitz? Bill Mueller? Tony Womack?

No, no, no.

Vinny Castilla? Brian Jordan? Bernie Williams?

No, no, no.

And here's my problem: I only voted for two guys last year (Robbie Alomar and Jack Morris), and one of them (Alomar) got in.

That leaves me with one holdover (Morris) and no newcomers. That leaves me with one name on my ballot, and it leaves me with one big question:

If I'm only voting for one guy (voters can pick up to 10 names), am I being too picky?

I don't know the answer yet. I've got a month to figure it out, because the Hall ballot must be postmarked by Dec. 31 (with results announced Jan. 9).

If I decide that my standards have been too strict, the two guys I'm most likely to add to the ballot are shortstops Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell. Both have good (and similar cases), and they were the last two players I eliminated a year ago.

I'll look at other names, too.

I'm not sure yet. It's going to take a lot of time, and a lot of thought.

A lot more than 13 seconds.

Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:44 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 12:54 pm

Next stop, Cooperstown (with Cox and Torre?)

There's absolutely no doubt that Tony La Russa is headed to the Hall of Fame.

And what a Hall of Fame class it could be.

La Russa will be eligible for a December 2013 vote on the "expansion era" ballot for managers and executives, on a ballot that will also include Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and John Schuerholz, among others. The ballot for managers and executives is separate from the player ballot, but Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will appear on the player ballot for the first time that same year.

All of them could be part of the same induction ceremony in July 2014.

La Russa, Cox, Torre and Schuerholz would be voted on by a 16-member panel, and each would require 12 votes to be elected. There is no maximum on the number of managers or executives voted in in any one year (although each of the 16 voters has a maximum of five votes).

Posted on: January 3, 2011 4:27 pm

At WAR with (some of) the readers

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.
Posted on: February 12, 2010 11:53 am
Edited on: February 12, 2010 11:54 am

The no-doubt Hall of Famers

When the Hall of Fame ballot came out in December, I looked at it once, looked at it twice, looked at it again a week later.

There were good names on it (and some bad ones, too). But this was a year where the best candidates fit into the grey area, the debatable area, the area that leads to the great Hall of Fame arguments.

The area that Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine don't fit in. The area that Frank Thomas doesn't fit in.

The no-doubt area.

The only question we need to ask is when we can vote them in. And stick with us, because if you haven't been paying close attention, it gets a little tricky.

Glavine announced his retirement Thursday. Thomas announced his retirement today. But since neither of them played in the major leagues in 2009, they'll be eligible in 2014 (or in the December 2013 voting, if you prefer).

In other words, they'll be eligible the same year as Maddux, who announced his retirement more than a year ago. They'll be eligible a year earlier than Johnson, even though he announced his retirement a month before they did.

It's important, because these are guys who have credentials so obvious (and who, so far, aren't steroid-tainted) that they should be first-ballot Hall of Famers.

How can you argue with Glavine, who has the fourth-most wins of any left-hander all-time? How can you argue with Thomas, who for seven straight years finished in the Top 10 in American League MVP voting, winning it back-to-back in 1993 and '94?

Phil Rogers made the argument in the Chicago Tribune that Thomas was the best right-handed hitter in baseball from 1990-97. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but by any numbers you want to go by (traditional or sabermetric), Thomas was a great hitter. There were opposing pitchers who made fun of his "Big Hurt" nickname, but few who really wanted to face him.

The late Vern Plagenhoef, who covered the Tigers for many years and taught me more than anyone about this business, used to say that there should only be one vote on every Hall of Fame candidate -- yes or no, he's a Hall of Famer, or he's not. If they're Hall of Famers, they should stand out, and you shouldn't need multiple votes.

Frank Thomas stands out, just as Maddux, Johnson and Glavine stand out.

Those ballots, I could fill out today.

Posted on: January 27, 2010 12:56 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2010 1:10 pm

A Cub . . . or an Expo?

On the facts, the Hall of Fame got the Andre Dawson call right.

He played 11 years with the Expos, just six with the Cubs. He was, as Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said in an e-mail, "clearly the face of the franchise" when he left the Expos after the 1986 season. He won six of his eight gold gloves in Montreal, and while he was an MVP with the Cubs, he finished second twice with the Expos, and also was the rookie of the year there.

If only barely, the numbers definitely say he's more an Expo than a Cub.

That said, I'm having trouble with the decision to put Dawson in the Hall with an Expos cap (and with all his teams listed on the plaque), just as Dawson apparently is having trouble with it. While the Hall was right to take the cap decision away from the players -- it wouldn't be right for Dawson to be pictured as a Marlin, even if that's what he said he wanted -- in this case the player should have been able to choose.

Idelson said he talked with Dawson Tuesday night at the BAT dinner, and said he thought that at the end of the day, Dawson understood the rationale. I see the rationale, too, but I guess I'd rather this decision was left to emotion rather than to the simple facts.

The decisions will only get tougher, as more and more multiple-team Hall of Famers are elected. Is Randy Johnson a Mariner or a Diamondback? What about Roger Clemens (if he even gets in)? Alex Rodriguez?

They're emotional decisions, because fans' ties to players -- and managers -- are so emotional.

And on emotion, the Hall of Fame seems to have gotten this call wrong.

Category: MLB
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