Hall of Fame voting and the soapbox it gives the world

Hall of Fame voting and the soapbox it gives the world

Credit: Getty Images

Legendary outfielder Barry Bonds is one of those who will be kept out of the hall this year. And that's fine. But some of the arguments for keeping he and his peers out border on the asinine. (Getty Images)

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by JOSEPH URSERY

WFAA Sports Blogger

Posted on January 9, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 9 at 11:38 AM

I take comfort, sometimes, in knowing that absent a calendar, you can always find something to tell you to the time of year.  The kids go back to school around August. My allergies conspire to leave me a lifeless husk every March. If you see Christmas decorations up, it’s somewhere between early November and mid-February.

 
And like clockwork, late every December to early every January, we get Baseball Writers Association of America writers’ articles that defy the very existence of common sense in justifying the way their votes swung.
Consider Woody Paige’s 2007 piece where he says he votes for guys who played in Colorado (in reference to Dale Murphy, who played 26 games for the Rockies) and guys who were nice to him (in reference to Goose Gossage, and also Dale Murphy. )
 
Or then there’s Dallas’ own Gerry Fraley, saying that same year that he would have voted for Tim Raines if Raines had been thrown out trying to steal more often, which would make sense if we were on a Bizarro planet where giving away outs is a good thing. But, hey, maybe this means Elvis Andrus is a lock for the Hall, with all the sacrifice bunts!
 
This year suffered, more than anything else, from predictability. Nearly every article you can find begins with rambling prose about how they just don’t know what to do with all these blasted steroid users, like Barry Bonds (who kind of admitted it) or Mark MacGwire (who also admitted it) or Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza (who… uhmm… wait, they totally did it, right?). The acrimony lead at least one writer to just give up on the whole mess
 
Several writers joined in what must have been an organized attempt to passively-aggressively categorize Bagwell and Piazza with the confirmed users. Consider Scott Miller of CBS Sports:

“Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza: Did they do steroids? Loads of speculation, no proof.” 
 
See, proof is a fairly evanescent thing, in this case.  If it hasn’t come out in, oh, say five years, then it very likely doesn’t exist. And who is it that’s doing the speculation? The same writers that are voting, yes, that is who is doing the speculation. That’s like getting denied on your driver’s license renewal because the guy who works the next booth thinks you’re a lizard person, bent on stealing us surface-dwellers’ resources.
 
Oh, and the reason most writers will give you why their vote should count more than those who are not members of the BBWAA? Because they’re with the team constantly, traveling with them, traversing the club houses before and after games, garnering a closeness that we, the paying public, just can’t have. The kind of closeness that would make a decade of rampant steroid usage really hard to hide.
 
“I want to vote for both, but I'm just not going to rush into it.”
 
Bagwell and Piazza have been retired for a combined thirteen years.  If you rush any less, you’re going to run out of your special lizard-person air supply and have to return to your underground lair to retrieve more, without completing your deterraforming mission. 
 
“Bagwell is only in his third year on the ballot, Piazza is in his first. As long as each gets at least five percent of the vote, he will remain on the ballot for 15 years…I want to give it a few more years, and see if any more of the Steroid Era vagaries clear.”
 
See, Miller isn’t a ‘stats’ guy (as evidenced by his vote for Jack Morris, but that’s neither here nor there). One of the arguments against being a ‘stats’ guy is that we dehumanize players and reduce them to lines on a spreadsheet. It’s kind of true, a little bit.
 
But if what Miller said isn’t dehumanizing to an extreme, I don’t know what is. He’s literally telling Bagwell, who has ‘only’ waited three years for his crowning career achievement, that there’s no harm in waiting longer.
 
Surely that’s no income to be lost, no prestige lost, no sweat off Bagwell’s back, legging out another half-decade before he gets to have his moment. And Vincent Piazza’s sure to be around for another five years for us to argue about whether or not we should enshrine his son (Vince Piazza was of course largely responsible for Mike getting drafted, because he was childhood friends with Tommy Lasorda, who is 85 years old).
 
But, sure, I’m the one taking emotion out of the game, by using different numbers than you use.
In those intervening years, neither Jeff Bagwell nor Mike Piazza will do anything to change what they did on a baseball field, by the by.
 
Jim Alexander went a more direct route, saying he’s voting for Jack Morris despite what those pesky “numbers” say, because Morris was “the guy you most wanted pitching a big game”. That’s not just him talking, though, that’s the “players and managers of the era”. These were the same managers, by the way, who were so afraid of Jim Rice they 'constantly considered intentionally walking him with the bases loaded,' and then, um, never did. Not even once.
 
Put simply, I can’t think of a sports player who’s ever made as much hay with one game as Jack Morris did in Game Seven of the ’91 World Series.  Calvin Booth comes to mind.  I mean, these same writers who are beating the drum for Morris now never saw fit to vote him higher than third in Cy Young in any year, but that’s their quarrel, not mine. 
 
But no Hall of Fame inanity review would be complete without Boston’s Dan Shaughnessey, who, aside from halfway wanting the “bleepstorm “ (his words, not mine, in case you were confused about who’s the amateur blogger who’s doing this for fun with no real consequences and who’s the paid professional that baseball appointed to select Hall of Famers) that is sure to follow an empty election class, gave us the awesome inclusion of Bagwell and Piazza in with the admitted and proven dopers- because they “don’t look right”. They just don’t look right. Shuaghnessy admits the two never admitted, even that there’s no evidence, even that his line of reasoning was unfair.

But they don’t look right.
 
Then again, the guy voted for Schilling, and his strongest defense of the decision was because he didn’t like Schilling, so you can’t accuse him of not voting for guys he doesn’t like.
That’s not near as inane as not voting a guy because he “doesn’t look right”, which is the saddest comment I have to provide. 
 
But the saddest of all comes from the Rangers’ own TR Sullivan.  See, TR did not vote for Mark McGwire.  That’s totally justifiable, because Big Mac totally did steroids, which is kind of embarrassing given the display he had before Congress, but what’s a scoundrel standing before a whole league of scoundrels anyway? Sullivan lays out his decision as a two part process: first, “I did not vote for Mark McGwire ... Why? Because I only get ten and I decided to use that vote to get both Tim Raines and Alan Trammell on my ballot.”
 
See, that’s a good argument. McGwire was his number ten, and he found a new number ten (and nine), so McGwire isn’t so much a loser as much as first non-winner. Raines is a very sound pick, and Trammel had four or five superstar years surrounded by pretty much a decade’s worth of being really good, so that’s fine. The real damper was the second tine of the fork, though: “That may be a trend for me in that I may stop voting for guys who have no chance of getting in regardless of their baseball accomplishments in order to vote for some borderline candidates I deem worthy.”
 
That right there is a man accepting defeat, and wallowing in- no, almost celebrating- the pointlessness of his vote among the crowd. 
 
Heck, they just should have been nicer to Woody Paige, anyway.
 
If Twitter had a Hall of Fame, Joseph Ursery would vote for you. But, really, that’s only because he wants your vote, too. However Twitter does not have a Hall of Fame, so for now you’ll just have to settle for following @thejoeursery.

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