So the Hall of Fame ballots are due on Thursday from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. I’ve decided to complete my ballot and send it in on-line. What’s that you say? I’m not a member of the BBWAA. There are times I think I’m as amply qualified as some of them are, but in an case there are other times when I just get my back up and think “Badges? Don’t need no stinking badges.” I’ll tell you what I think even without a ballot or a membership or anything else that shows whether I’m worthy of possessing a legitimate opinion.
Writers are being asked to cast a pretty troubling ballot this year and it’s leading to enormous problems. The problems are both practical and ethical, and while it may not be quite so important as deciding whether or not to raise the debt ceiling, they are serious problems.
The first big problem is the size of the ballot. Last year Barry Larkin was the only candidate elected to the Hall of Fame by at least 75% the voters. Many candidates worth Hall consideration had to be carried forward, meaning choosing from the list of worthy candidates became even more difficult. Why? Electors are only allowed to vote for ten players. With so many players having Hall-worthy numbers through traditional statistics and new statistical measures, the Hall discussion just becomes that much more complicated, with more and more factors to take into consideration. Wins, losses, ERA and strikeouts must now be considered alongside WHIP, xFIP, and WAR. 3,000 hits, 500 homers or 1,500 RBI’s need to be balanced with OPS+, WAR, UZR and BABIP. The simple stats that used to cast a player’s career in colorful relief are now submerged in varying shades of gray. With so many players capable of entering the conversation, it is less and less likely voters can achieve consensus, as was the case last year when only Larkin received the necessary 75%.
A second problem, which is likely to contribute to the growing ballot is the presence of some the elite performers closely linked to steroid use. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa join admitted user Mark McGwire and the truth challenged Rafael Palmeiro. Each of the these players have the “counting stats” that would almost certainly guarantee election if they were clean. In the case of Bonds and Clemens, they are arguably the greatest players of their generation. They probably earned their way into the Hall before their involvement with performance enhancing drugs. Still there is the matter of the 1990 Anabolic Steroids Act which makes the possession and use of these drugs illegal, as well as the 1991 memo sent to each team by Commissioner Fay Vincent that adds steroids to the list of banned substances. Voters, again, have to weigh the accomplishments of these men with the requirements for admission to the Hall of Fame:
“ Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
More voters, such as Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, Jim Caple and Jayson Stark of ESPN have chosen to vote for PED users this year. Many others, such as Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times have not. The division over this important issue contributes to the logjam of those on the ballot.
I’ll make my case against the PED users in a separate blog post. However, on my ballot below, I have omitted any votes for those linked to steroid use.
1. Craig Biggio 2. Tim Raines 3. Fred McGriff 4. Edgar Martinez. 5. Kenny Lofton. 6. Curt Schilling. 7. Lee Smith 8. Alan Trammell 9. Mike Piazza 10. Jack Morris