I saw this headline on Google News:
Voting for Hall of Fame too complicated these days
I so badly wanted the enclosed article to be about the convoluted and absurd process of electing members to the Baseball Hall of Fame that I clicked on the link right away. Alas, it was not about the dumb, difficult Hall of Fame. Rather, it was about the tough moral questions brought on by this corrupt era of steroids.
Now, thanks to the taint of the steroid era, the arrival of the ballot brings dread instead of anticipation, suspicion instead of admiration.
For the second straight year, I look at Jeff Bagwell’s name and wonder if he beat the system while he was also pounding baseballs out of ballparks all across the country. I’d love to vote for him, because he was always a class act whenever I had to interview him and his numbers scream Hall of Famer.
Dread! Suspicion! What is a baseball columnist to do in times like these? After all, this is a world in which terrorists could be hiding under the hedges at the country club and children are just as likely to play soccer as they are tee-ball. Truth is scarce, the Culture is changing. Baseball remains safe. In Baseball things remain the same. There are clear lines drawn between Evil and Good, between Good and Great. Or at least there used to be. (Also: Hall of Fame ballots still come by mail? Really?)
Whining and whispering about which names on the Hall of Fame ballot may have used steroids is a new annual tradition. It’s not likely to go away anytime soon because Hall of Fame voters are losing a grip on the only world that they control — that world of illusions comprised of discarded Gold Glove trophies and dusty Hall of Fame plaques. In their world, morality consists of things like “clutchness” and “being a class act.” It also consists of not hitting home runs between say 1997 and the present because doing so makes you suspicious and suspicions are like fog and fog makes it harder to see.
So we’re stuck with a bunch of writers losing their grip on the one relatively meaningless thing they are tasked with controlling. We’re stuck with poor Bob Brookover at the Philadelphia Inquirer, who after grousing about Jeff Bagwell, concludes that he would rather not have to vote for the Hall of Fame at all because it’s just so damn difficult.
I did not enjoy actually filling out the ballot and I am starting to believe it is an impossible task that would be better left to someone else.
Actually Mr. Brookover, it’s just the opposite. Filling out a Hall of Fame ballot is a super easy, super possible, and totally inconsequential task. All you have to do is look at a bunch of names, decide which ones you like, and then write them down or check the box next to them — I’m not sure how precisely a voter marks his or her choices on the ballot.
Previously I’ve argued that we should let more people into the Hall of Fame because the institution’s purpose should be bringing joy to fans, not operating as a vehicle for exclusion. Along those lines, it seems foolish to let suspicions rules our thinking about a place that is meant to celebrate baseball, not moralize over it. Let’s make things easier, not harder. (Pete Rose and Joe Jackson should be in too, of course.)
I’ve suggested adding fan voting and lowering the threshold for election from 75 percent to 70 percent of writers. I’d like double down on the call for a popular vote — let’s make room for beloved players who don’t have the gaudy numbers — and then go one further. The writer vote should should go by a simple majority: If more than 50 percent of writers think Jeff Bagwell is Hall of Fame worthy, then he is Hall of Fame worthy. And if Atlanta fans can make a compelling case for him, Jeff Blauser ought to be Hall of Fame worthy too.
More speeches. More plaques. More joy.