As we explained in our last Hall of Fame diatribe, the voting base is changing to opt for more, rather than fewer, candidates. That explains why Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio represent the largest single class of inductees since the first Eisenhower Administration.
In other words, the bitching and moaning about the Baseball Writers Association of America as a bloc is misguided. With the speed one typically associates with catchers -- or glaciers -- the electorate is coming to meaningful grips with the serious backlog of candidates that has confronted them for the past three years.
On the other hand, writer speed -- unlike warp speed -- is still far too pokey for the I-demand-immediate-justice-for-my-favorite-candidate crowd, and the Hall’s decision to narrow rather than widen the funnel is only going to make the problem worse.
If, in fact, it is a problem at all. I mean, now that the annual Hall story has morphed into who didn’t get in rather than who did, the growing blockage probably is just what the sadistic accountant (or baseball plumber) ordered.
So it is that Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz and Biggio take a back seat to Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Kent, Edgar Martinez, McGriff, McGwire, Mussina, Raines, Schilling, Sheffield, Smith, Trammell and Walker.
And so it also is that even full ballots (like, well, mine) are now subject to inconsistencies based on time constraints, late ballot arrivals, and inquiries on why Ty Cobb’s antisocial cheating was better than Roger Clemens’ cynical cheating, and why the sanctification of the record book has replaced the actual game as the baseball writer’s new religious rite.
None of the inductees didn’t belong, to be sure. Their's is a well-earned triumph by any measure. But that’s not the argument anymore. Nor is the value of math in trying to explain more fully a player’s value. It helps. A lot.
But if I hear “he cheated the record book” one more time, I am seriously going to hurl on Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ plaque, since he was the last commissioner to fight actively for the preservation of the color line, which as we all apparently have come to learn is considered preferable to PED use.
The argument is now about who has to wait for reasons other than baseball skill, and why that seems to be OK for so many people. And if it’s about who’s out, why don’t we just change the rules so that every time a player is voted in, one has to be removed? Don Mattingly, come on down. Lou Gehrig, take a hike.
Makes perfect sense in the new age.
Our annual railing about the arrogance and self-involvement some writers possess finally hit "E" for me this year, and I have nothing left by way of argument. I now become what I once detested -- the Defensive Inclusionist -- not because I have seen the light, but because there is too little light to be seen.
And that’s the Hall we’re going to get from now on. In the few years left for the writers’ vote until Major League Baseball turns them out and replaces them with it an Internet Buy-One-Get-One-Free sale (you know, buy $1000 worth of licensed team shmata, get a vote), the Hall of Fame will bring you romantic tales of the worthy unworthy. Now there’s a hoot.
We like to think that therein lies the fun of the ballot -- the endless debate about whose numbers don’t mean what they mean, how many votes are enough, how many players may be influenced to be nice to media members in hopes of a stray vote here or there (the answer so far is none).
But it isn’t. In pursuit of the perpetual talking point that we all think is the real raison d’etre for the building, we have turned it into a Hall of Voters, which is a lot worse than the historical museum it ought to be. And as a voter, I would like to take this opportunity to throw up into this rosebush.
And it won’t change until the vote is turned over to the guys who wear jerseys in their 40s and only vote for their favorite players on their favorite teams in the time-honored tradition of the All-Star Voting ballot box cram.
X X X
And my ballot, if you must know (and frankly, you don’t really need to and shouldn’t care that much): Jeff Bagwell, B.L. Bonds, Roger Clemens, R. Unit Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, John Smoltz and Alan Trammell. Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio fell from my last ballot not because their deeds deteriorated, but because I ran out of room and had to vote tactically rather than by merit, and while that’s not really that good a reason, it’s the only one I have.
But the world is changing, and the notion of Once of Hall of Famer, Always a Hall of Famer dies in the new paradigm that is Once a Hall Of Famer, Give It Time Until He Isn’t.
If that makes sense to you, then well played to you. You are on the cutting edge of the new thinking -- The Hall As A Shrine To The Best Players Who Can Never Get In Just Because, the logical triumph of nihilistic gasbaggery over merit. Maybe we should just bulldoze the joint and replace it with a giant empty warehouse with a sign on the front -- “No Admittance, No Vacancy, No Entry, No Good Reason. Just No. Gift Shop, 500 Feet Ahead.”