Usually – as in the last two years – I write a series of blogs about some of the various candidates that are eligible for baseball’s Hall of Fame. I like baseball. Writing about it when I had little else to do, featuring some of the best players ever to play the game – Hall-worthy or not – was interesting to me. It was fun to (try to) show off my knowledge, research, and writing ability.
I didn’t do it this year. It didn’t strike as something I’d have much fun doing, for a variety of reasons.
The ballot is loaded this year, with all-time greats like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, and others appearing on it for the first time. Add guys like Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire – and more! – and it is stacked. Unfortunately, most of the talk revolving around it concerns the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and how evil the guys who took it are, and whether they deserve getting into Cooperstown. A lot of the writers are sermonizing, not picking. It’s heavy-handed, melodramatic, and by and large, not very entertaining as a reader. I fully understand that getting into the Hall of Fame is a honor, and should be taken seriously, but some of these BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) scribes are so sanctimonious it’s appalling.
Funny how I don’t remember reading any of their warnings 10 or 20 years ago.
The divide between the old-school and new-school writers (and bloggers, and anyone else who can transmit an opinion) is also increasingly bothersome. Each position seems to be more concerned with entrenching themselves in their opinions, and firing verbal volleys at each other, than actually arguing their own point of view calmly and lucidly. Sabremetricans are nerds living in their parents’ basement; beat writers are misguided and uneducated Neanderthals. Neither caricacture is very accurate, but damned if you can convince some people otherwise.
What else bugs me? Well, while I appreciate it when the BBWAA writers publish their ballots, and even better, when they explain their selections, some of their logic baffles me. I’m no writer, and I’ve never covered a team or a sport like their credentials would indicate, but geez, I think I’m enough of a fan/scholar to know what I’m talking about every once in a while. Well-reasoned debate is good, and if you make a strong argument that’s statistically, historically, and morally consistant, then bully for you. But there are some real crackpots out there.
I don’t want to be accused of being an ageist, but it also bothers me that some BBWAA writers don’t even actively cover the sport anymore. To qualify, a writer must have ten years under his or her belt covering baseball… and that’s about it. Never mind if you stopped writing about baseball to cover another sport, or industry, or if you’ve retired altogether. Some of these guys haven’t been active baseball writers for decades, but they still get a vote. Thus, the number of voters increases, making consensus more and more difficult, amongst an aging pool that probably (and “probably” is probably too kind) isn’t representative of the the most qualified, up-to-date, or knowledgable group of baseball people. Why do players only get 15 years on the ballot, but writers keep their vote much longer than that?
So hopefully you can understand my frustration, and forgive my inactivity this holiday season. And I hope that this Wednesday afternoon, the truly great and deserving players get the call from the Hall.