UPDATE: (11:00 a.m.) For the first time since 1996, the BBWAA did not elect a single player into the Hall of Fame.
The hand-wringing and vein-knotting over today’s Hall of Fame inductees – or lack thereof – has offered more than the usual amusement with what is already one of American sport’s most spectacular preening opportunities.
In short, we have spent a solid month, and before that months of anticipation, worrying about this day, and the results that could throw baseball into turmoil for years to come.
In shorter shirt, we’ve been acting the collective fool.
Now that None Of The Above won induction into the Hall of Nothing Whatsoever, there has come a continental hailstorm of thought, analysis, hand-wringing and tortured prose and logic about what just happened or didn’t happen or could happen if we’re not all very mindful of responsibilities as voters, and non-voters alike.
[BAGGARLY: Breaking down a ballot -- Barry Bonds & the Hall of Fame]
Navel-gazing, demanding that the process show an internal logic that – and this is important – IT HAS NEVER EVER EVER POSSESSED. AND NEVER EVER WILL.
The Hall of Fame is a hot mess, a festival of amorality, inconsistency, illogic, back-scratching, log-rolling, petulance and self-indulgence that the modern methods of information gathering and dissemination have only exacerbated. It is everything it pretends not to be, and by happy accident, it makes the topic all the more fascinating when one person’s logic meshes with another’s to create a map of the Balkans in upstate New York.
First, it is not a place of honor. Oh, it is for some, sure, but as long as the men who instigated, enforced and defended the color line are safely ensconced in the building, the definition of “honor” is too elastic to be truly soul-warming. And that doesn’t even include the knaves, brutes, thugs and weasels who bent rules and opponents as part of the “way things were.”
The best you can say is that it is a museum, and museums cover everyone. At least the good ones do, and those voters who pretend at being guardians of the game end up looking like P.R. people.
[GUTIERREZ: More questions than answers on Hall of Fame ballot]
Second, the arguments about who should be in and who shouldn’t have largely revealed much more about the people voting than the people being voted upon. The old stats-nerd vs. old-schooler divide has morphed into the I-want-to-vote-too vs. well-you-can’t, and as a result, a vote for or against Jack Morris has stopped being a vote for or against Jack Morris and become a statement on the mental acuity of the voter.
Yes, it’s what happens when civil debate becomes “You suck because you suck, and I don’t suck so I have the right to say you do.” It’s not about the candidate, it’s about the voter, and that is so not baseball.
Third, the Steroid Classes have turned people into hyperactive schoolmarms, defending a game’s alleged purity when those who actually work for the industry did not care at the time about the current crop of candidates. They do this despite not knowing the rudimental biochemistry involved, a rough date when the Steroid Era actually began, how many players did or did not use, or how much the actual “guardians of the game” ignored and profited from before finally being roused to action.
But they know a PED guy when they see one, a fascinating if moronic twist on the old Potter Stewart legal analysis of pornography, “I know it when I see it.” And as an added insanity, they often didn’t know it when they saw it, because not all PEDs make you a Transformer, or a back acne patient, or a hydrocephalic.
So when voters complain that the Hall of Fame has become a more confounding place than it used to be, they are complaining about the actual history of the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was confounding the minute the word “integrity” was introduced into a process that rewarded Ty Cobb, and installed executives who wanted baseball to be the private preserve of white folks.
In short, it is the history of the game in all its mutant imperfection, and the only rational way to deal with it is to ignore the idea that some level of antiseptic order can be restored. It can’t. And at this late date, it shouldn’t unless everyone is willing to start excavating the 75 years of detritus that the Hall has collected.
And so far, nobody wants to do that.