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Write Off

Should baseball writers vote for the Hall of Fame? Buster Olney and Jeff Pearlman say no, and I think they are on to something.

Pearlman writes:

Most of us writers weren’t exactly the cool kids in school. We stunk at sports, failed at dating and rarely — if ever — got invited to the good parties. While our peers were making out with the cheerleaders, we were debating among ourselves whether the Yankees were wise to have traded Jerry Mumphrey to Houston for Omar Moreno (And I don’t care what Chris Katechis said — it was a horrible deal). Point is, even the eternally powerless crave power. In the world of baseball, few wands wield greater oomph than that of the BBWAA Hall vote.

And yet, after spending so many of my years itching to earn that elusive BBWAA Gold Card status, I can honestly say that I would rather work as Bieber’s “swagger coach” (frighteningly, he has one) than cast a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And then there is this from Olney (to read the entire story you have to subscribe to ESPN insider):

First and foremost, it’s a clear conflict of interest. As a writer, I should be reporting on the news and not making it. It’s Journalism 101 (I assume, since I was a history major). It’s not my place, as a reporter, to determine whether Andre Dawson is inducted into the Hall of Fame, no more than it would be for a Capitol Hill reporter to cast a vote on health-care legislation while reporting on it.

…The most important reason why the writers should not be voting is that it has become increasingly evident that the voters, as a group, don’t really have a clear understanding of what the standards for the Hall of Fame are, particularly in this time, as the ballot gains more and more players touched by the steroids issue.

Some (not many) don’t vote for any candidate in their first year on the ballot, although the rules say they can. Some don’t vote for candidates because they didn’t like them personally, or because they
didn’t like how they played.

…The Hall of Fame should form its own committee that determines who gets a plaque. The plaques should include information, written in neutral language, about feats and achievements, and about bans and
suspensions and admissions.

Olney concludes that the process is not likely to change because of the heated debates that the Hall of Fame voting stirs every year. And really, when do you ever hear the same kind of enthusiasm about the Football or Basketball Hall of Fame? Heck, I enjoy arguing about the Hall even if I know it is an excercise in the absurd.

I guess we need the eggs.

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1 Diane Firstman   ~  Jan 8, 2010 3:05 pm

I find it a bit amusing that the fans vote for the All-Star teams, and the BBWAA consider All-Star appearances as criteria for HOF worthiness.

2 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 8, 2010 3:17 pm

I've never given the HOF voting process much thought before this year. I know in years past you've had odd little occurrences, like some guy who writes for a retirement community newspaper in Arizona somehow leaving Ricky Henderson off his ballot, but those seemed to be more amusing that outrageous.

But this year, with the whole Alomar thing...it's just gotten under my skin like never before. To hear Marty Noble on MLB Network last night talk about how he left Alomar off his ballot because a) Robbie had never personally apologized to him for the Hirschbeck incident, and b) he had two bad years in NY at the tail end, it just kills me.

Add in Jay Mariotti, whose opinion on anything carries about as much weight as a screaming pantsless man on the 6 train, turning in a blank ballot and it becomes abundantly clear that the whole thing is a mess.

The bottom line is that this is a voting process where the opinion of Jay Mariotti (seriously, JAY MARIOTTI!!) is considered, but guys like Bill James or our very own Cliff have no place...that says it all.

3 Will Weiss   ~  Jan 8, 2010 3:22 pm

[0] The same thing can be said about any of the College Sports polls that carry a human element, i.e. the AP Polls that require X number of writers from each state to submit a vote for the best teams each week. Those should be governed by the NCAA, in neutral language, with some kind of computer tabulation.

Olney's idea with the HOF vote is excellent. I would carry it a couple of steps further and include the season awards in that envelope. It's a travesty what's occurred with some of the results in the last 10-15 years, especially with the Gold Glove.

4 FreddySez   ~  Jan 8, 2010 4:29 pm

[1] Unless you see it as the process coming full circle, because All-Star voting is based less on measurable performance and more on... Fame.

[2] "Screaming pantsless man on the 6 train" - Don't knock it 'till you've tried it.

5 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 8, 2010 4:48 pm

Screaming Pantless Man is usually too busy to scream, from what I've been momentarily subjected to...

6 ms october   ~  Jan 8, 2010 4:56 pm

speaking as someone who has been crammed onto the 6 train many a damn morning - i would much rather be subjected to screaming pantless man on the 6 train more than mariotti

i like olney's idea of a committee - preferrably ones with some baseball intelligence

7 FreddySez   ~  Jan 8, 2010 5:32 pm

In my dream, Buster's HOF-appointed committee would require at least twice as much tenure as the current 10-year BBWAA rule. Fewer voters, each with more perspective... sounds good to me. (What kind of people on the committee? I'll sidestep that minefield.)

And (still dreamin') they'd have to gather in person to vote. When you have a big responsibility, exercising it should require a little commitment. Popping a form in the mail seems too casual for me, and some of the voters clearly treat it that way.

Imagine them all in a big banquet room at the Otesaga, let's say... with the selections revealed immediately in a press conference out on the porch overlooking the lake. It would be like electing a pope, except with whiskey and cigars.

They could do it a little later in the year, to avoid blizzard trouble -- I'm sure the village wouldn't mind an extra weekend of booked hotels and restaurants -- and inductees would still have plenty of time to write their speeches before July.

8 Start Spreading the News   ~  Jan 8, 2010 5:47 pm

Alex, you referenced one of my favorite lines from movieland:

9 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 8, 2010 7:10 pm

We need the eggs.

10 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 8, 2010 11:31 pm

The fact that Dawson was voted in before Raines..is this definitive proof that the system is flawed now??

Got Jeff Pearlman's book on Roger Clemens as an Xmas gift..just a few chapters in but man..I always hated Clemens but now feel kind of sorry for him. WAYYYYY too many issues in this guy's past, he clearly needs some therapy.

11 The Mick536   ~  Jan 9, 2010 7:37 am

I think we have to research the origins of the voting for the Hall and how it evolved. Olney's argument is wanting, because the people who have the vote have the knowledge. Players play. Fans watch. Think about who votes for president. All you have to do is be alive, unless you lived in Chicago, Philadelphia, or Boston.

As for Mariotti, I cannot watch the show because of him. He needs a sock in his mouth, literally and figuratively.

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