It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And I don’t mean the Christmas season (and I definitely mean this sarcastically):
That’s right, folks. It’s Baseball Hall of Fame season, the most tedious, pedantic time of the baseball year. And I can’t help but at least partially love it. I’ve been Extremely Online about baseball since about 2005 and a good portion of that time has been spent thinking about and discussing players making or not making the Baseball Hall of Fame. This style of writing and argument helped me get into thinking about the game in a more analytical, numbers-driven way, and for that, I’ll always be appreciative. My first statistical deep dives, way back when, were dissecting Craig Biggio’s career in my ‘he’s actually kind of overrated’ argument (before I got into/understood WAR. I still think there’s a touch of overrated there, but that’s a story for another day), then spilling a lot of digital ink over Bert Blyleven’s and Mike Mussina’s deserving HOF cases (and against those of Jack Morris, Jim Rice, etc.). For a long while, I was pretty passionate about it. Over the last few years, though, I’ve started to care less about it, but I can’t fully quit it.
To be honest, this discourse matters less and less as we move on in the baseball world. In this information/technology age, it’s much easier to find out who actually were the best players in a given time than before, making us much less reliant on the BBWAA’s interpretation (or whatever other committees are voting now) or the Hall of Fame’s plaques. Regardless, it’s obviously important and meaningful to both the players and the writers and I’m a sucker for that, so I can’t fully quit this stuff.
Before I reveal my hypothetical ballot, some thoughts on the voting process:
- I hate the ten-player limit. It’s less of a concern now that the logjam of the last ten years or so has cleared up, but there should be no limit.
- I don’t like that there’s some arbitrary eligibility standard to get on the ballot. If a player has played ten years and been retired for five, he should be on the ballot and stay on until his time’s up. The 5% barrier is fine, I suppose, but I think it should be expanded beyond one year.
- I hate blank ballots. Hate them. Absolutely hate them. Allow me to reproduce what I said on Twitter on Friday, prompted by this tweet from Jared Diamond: No, the reasoning is bad. There is at least one person on this ballot who is surely HOF worthy with no “baggage” or whatever. To act otherwise is foolish, or shows a complete lack of understanding of baseball beyond, like, 1993. There are going to be years when no one gets in; we experienced that recently. But there is almost never going to be a year when no one is worthy of a vote, by most any standard. Writers who turn in blank ballots are seeking attention above all else, whether directly or indirectly, so they can make some point informed by an incredibly narrow and (most often) outdated understanding of baseball. It also smacks wildly and loudly of the almost unrivaled self-seriousness of baseball writers, which I cannot stand.
Now on to my fake ballot, without paragraph upon paragraph of explanation because most of these are pretty self-evident.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent (an offensive force at 2B when that wasn’t quite a thing yet), Andruw Jones (400+ homers; all time great CF), Manny Ramirez (PED suspensions or not, one of the top RHB ever), Scott Rolen (he crawled so Adrian Beltre could walk/run), Gary Sheffield (go look up his numbers if you haven’t lately), Sammy Sosa. I’m leaving Curt Schilling off, even if some of the guys on here are also bad. Craig Calcaterra does a nice job explaining why here, so I’m not going to drone on and on about it.
The only one I’m unsure about up there is Kent, but the rest are among the best hitters or pitchers in the game’s history, without whom the telling of the story of baseball is hard to do. Clearly, PED stuff doesn’t matter to me, either. If you want the HOF to put some PED acknowledgement on their plaques, go right ahead.
And that’s my HOF discourse for 2020-21 (don’t hold me to this; I’m sure I’ll offer a take or three when the results come in). Let’s do this again next year, shall we? Good luck to the candidates.