Can someone justify not voting for Greg Maddux?
I've kicked around for a while how one might justify not giving Greg Maddux his vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Though this person wouldn't be me, I think I've found a reason that isn't ridiculously stupid.
Greg Maddux will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame later today. If he's not, the very last shred of credibility the museum once had will be completely gone. Fret not, though, he's in.
My colleague Gregg Doyel wrote earlier this offseason that Maddux should be the first player to gain a unanimous vote and there will be no argument from me.
We now know for certain, though, that Maddux won't get the unanimous vote. The reason we've seen given so far for not voting for Maddux -- essentially punishing him for the wrongdoing of his peers -- doesn't satisfy me, but I've been wondering if there's a plausible justification a BBWAA member could make for not including Maddux on his ballot that might satisfy most of us.
I don't consider "[Enter player here such as Hank Aaron] wasn't unanimous, so Maddux shouldn't be unanimous either!" a credible argument. That's flawed logic and just plain stupid. Players aren't ranked by their vote totals and the voters don't get together to decide how to divy up the vote. Each individual voter should vote for the best candidates available.
On that front, I think there is zero chance anyone who respects the game of baseball, its history and the Hall of Fame can look at Maddux's career and find a single reason to not vote for him. It can't be done. He has everything a resume could ever ask for. I generally hate name-calling on a subjective matter, but I'm going to do it here: If you actually, honestly believe that Greg Maddux doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame in his first attempt, you are a moron. A slobbering, blithering idiot.
Anyway, now that my lead is buried, I believe I have figured out an at least somewhat plausible reason that someone could keep Maddux off his or her ballot, should any particular voter so choose to do so.
A voter could leave Greg Maddux off his or her Hall of Fame ballot in order to help other worthy candidates -- because Maddux doesn't need every vote to get in.
There's overwhelming evidence out there that Maddux is set to get over 90 percent of the vote. He only needs 75 percent for induction. Couldn't someone have said that Maddux is going to fly in with ease, therefore the 10 slots on the ballot could be used elsewhere to help some other guys in need of said help?
Jack Morris is in his final year on the ballot and got 2/3 of the vote last year, but he needs 3/4 of it. Lee Smith is in his 12th try and only got 47.8 percent of the vote last year. Alan Trammell is in his 13th try and got 33.6 percent last year. Don Mattingly only has two chances left and he was down at 13.2 percent last year.
Tim Raines is a worthy candidate and is continuing to gain steam. Tom Glavine, Craig Biggio and Frank Thomas might be close to getting in and the ballot is already too crowded. If they all are cleared out of the way in addition to Maddux and Morris (whether he gets in or falls off, he's gone next year), the ballot will be less crowded moving forward.
There are also -- depending upon where you stand -- the PED-related names of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Or the cases where players seem to be punished by the PED era without much evidence in Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell.
I just named 12 guys other than Maddux without even getting into Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro or Jeff Kent. Hall of Fame voters aren't allowed to vote for more than 10 candidates.
So what I'm saying is that I could see a few voters with a "Big Hall" mentality -- like mine -- strategically leaving Maddux off their ballots in hopes of boosting some of the other guys on the ballot.
Now, this needs to be said: I wouldn't support this practice and I definitely wouldn't do it. I wouldn't even think about it. The first name I would have checked on my ballot this year would have been Maddux (regarding the people in the comments section who already stopped reading to post about how I'm a moron because I wouldn't vote for Maddux, please direct them to this paragraph and what follows).
First of all, I'm an unabashed Greg Maddux homer. He's my all-time favorite player and that's not a secret. I couldn't have possibly passed up the chance to cast a Hall of Fame vote for him.
Secondly, I'm a big merit guy. If I have a ballot and 10 spots, I'm not trying to figure out how to get 18 guys elected. I'm checking the top 10 names in my opinion and that's it. If guys fail to get into Cooperstown due to a flawed voting process, that's not my fault. My job as a voter would be to follow the rules and elect the best players, in my opinion. In my opinion, it would be intellectually dishonest to vote for Morris and not Maddux and while some take part in intellectually dishonesty, I refuse to stoop to such levels.
The most simple and direct approach: Do I really want to be the clown who prevented Maddux from unanimous election? Absolutely not.
Finally and most unrealistically, there's always that little shred of thought in your mind: If I'm doing this, what if 25 percent of the voters are also doing this and Maddux doesn't get in? That's the biggest argument for merit I can think of. If you start messing around, you end up with lesser players getting in and then everything is an even bigger mess -- affecting ballots for years down the line.
So, no, there no chance I'd leave Maddux off my Hall of Fame ballot if I had one this year. I'm just saying that there might have been one path where a voter wasn't either intellectually dishonest or a complete moron in leaving him off. And though I'd disagree with the stance, I'd hold off on attacking said voter. It would feel like taking the above approach would be one of those situations where I'd say something like, "well, I disagree with you, but I guess your heart was the right place."