The Hall of Fame announcement is going to be a disappointment to all the social scientists who lose their skulls at this time every year.
I know this because it always is, and I believe in the omnipotence of inertia.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens did not get a massive boost in votes despite the purging of about 150 voters no longer regularly covering baseball -- in fact their votes have remained downright ossified. In four years, Bonds has gotten 206, 198, 202 and 195 votes, and Clemens 214, 202, 206 and 199. Their percentages rose, but they gained essentially two less percent of support from the available voters. Bat that around your “PED users are seeing a thaw” argument.
Ken Griffey, Jr., who got in with Mike Piazza, was not the first unanimous choice of the electorate, falling three short, and the desire for him to be so designated was as loud as it was spectacularly silly, even by baseball writer standards. If three people can explain why they didn’t vote for him, fine. If not, so what? The argument between metrics devotees and I-know-it-when-I-see-it devotees is dying not because everyone has talked it out but because everyone got bored.
And in the end, the word “snub” will have been overused and misused, because not getting into the Hall of Fame is not a snub and never has been. It’s a gift you didn’t receive, not a right.
So in the end, what we got at 3pm is a recitation of names, and then a few hours of feigned outrage, some projections about the 2017 class (because it’s never too early to plant your flag in an empty field), and then months and months of silence.
Like we always get.
The Hall of Fame people went through a manic burst of adjustments to an electorate portrayed as ossified and out of touch – a lazy and stupid assessment, given that there are lots of different kinds of people applying lots of different templates to their opinions. In doing so, they addressed the claim that too many voters had been too long removed from regular baseball coverage.
But the cry for more orthodoxy in voting swung both ways, and metrics-only bullies and the get-off-my-ballot bullies yelled at each other until their punched themselves out – or, more like, until everyone else watching the fight walked and said to themselves, “I’m not drinking with those killjoys any more.”
And frankly, none of the things that outrage people got materially changed, for one simple reason.
450 voters are no more homogeneous than 600, and orthodoxy in the pursuit of Ken Griffey’s unanimity is just as obnoxious as orthodoxy in the pursuit of Roger Clemens’ eternal spurning.
In short, we’re all talked out and we solved none of the non-problems of the Hall of Fame.
We voters earned this paralyzing ennui by our insistence that our voices be heard incessantly, and that we always use words like “snub” and “outrage” when arguing about our favorite stalking horses. None of this is an outrage, and players who don’t get voted in have not been mistreated, but by annually framing this day in such stark terms, we lost the power of those words on issues that truly matter.
But now I sound like a scold in defense of my own position, so let me put it this way:
Ken Griffey got in, and so did Mike Piazza. But I do know that Jeff Idelson, the executive director of the Hall of Fame, should announce the names while drunk, just to remind everyone that this is supposed to be a fun day and not the starter’s gun for another grim and tedious bitch-a-thon.
Oh, and I swear before I lose my vote, either due to senescence or the Hall of Fame cutting out the writers entirely at the behest of the MLB marketing department, I’m putting Arnold Rothstein on my ballot.