I’m not smart enough to solve all of the problems that plague the voting process for baseball’s Hall of Fame. I’ve given my opinion, which is just that — one opinion. I think much of the angst and hand-wringing could be eliminated if they simply eliminated the voting rule that states we have to factor in sportsmanship, integrity and character. It works for the Pro Football Hall of Fame — which certainly doesn’t have things exactly right, but at least the process doesn’t force the voters to make educated guesses about who did and did not do things that were against the rules or the law.
It’s high time the voting process was revamped, anyway. If an attention-seeking sports columnist and TV personality from South Florida can thumb his nose at the process by giving his vote away to readers of a satirical sports news website, something clearly is wrong.
Still, it’s a process I feel compelled to take seriously. I spent 1999-2009 covering baseball, 11 consecutive seasons as a card-carrying, hard-traveling member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Yes, it was a truncated career. It wasn’t my choice to leave newspapers, any more than it was the choice of so many others whose careers went south when the print industry imploded. I hung around long enough to meet the requirement for 10 consecutive years of uninterrupted membership. Growing up, I lived the game. I love it still, and that decade-plus I spent roaming clubhouses and press boxes was the culmination of a dream come true in a lot of ways.
So, I’ll keep voting until they tell me I should stop.
Here are my 2014 selections (I voted for nine players, one fewer than the 10-player limit):
- Greg Maddux, RHP
- Tom Glavine, LHP
- Frank Thomas, DH/1B
- Craig Biggio, 2B/C/CF
- Jeff Bagwell, 1B
- Fred McGriff, 1B
- Lee Smith, RHP
- Mike Piazza, C
- Edgar Martinez, DH
This is my sixth year as a voter. My thoughts on the PED users already have been documented. And you can see by my ballot that my thoughts haven’t changed. I won’t vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa. I never voted for Rafael Palmeiro, who fell off the ballot this year. Rumor and innuendo are not necessarily enough to convince me to not vote for a player (witness my inclusion of rumored users Piazza and Bagwell). What separated those two from Bonds and Clemens? The overwhelming preponderance of circumstantial evidence against the all-time home run leader and the greatest right-handed pitcher in baseball history. Simply, the rumbling and whispers about Piazza and Bagwell just weren’t loud enough, and I think their numbers and contributions to their teams made them Hall of Fame players.
A few other notes.
I vote for Martinez because I believe that if we’re going to put relief pitchers into the Hall, all specialists should be included. This argument about “only” being a hitter and not contributing with a glove doesn’t make sense to me. Are we going to exclude pitchers because they can’t hit? Outfielders because they don’t pitch? Nonsense. Baseball specialists who excel at an extraordinary level should be considered for the Hall. Extraordinary specialists whose achievements are historical (such as closer Lee Smith) should be elected.
There’s also this: Martinez won the 2004 Roberto Clemente Award, which is bestowed upon the major leaguer who best combines giving back to the community with excellence on the field. Biggio won it in 2007. Why does this matter? Because if factoring in sportsmanship, integrity and character means Bonds and Clemens are out, how can we not take into account exemplary displays of those qualities? In other words, the way the rule works now, being a good guy during a playing career meant something. That’s one reason I voted for Dale Murphy for five consecutive years before his candidacy came to an end in 2013.
So far, I haven’t deviated from the belief that if a player is a Hall of Famer, there is no reason to leave him off the first year. I re-evaluate each candidate with each new ballot, but unless some new evidence came up the last time I voted, there is virtually no chance I’ll include him.
I’ll finish with this: If the integrity, sportsmanship and character rule was eliminated, I would not hesitate to vote for Bonds and Clemens. I didn’t ask to be some sort of moral cop when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, but as long as that rule is in there, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make as informed a decision as possible. Ultimately, it’s a futile exercise, because as I’ve written before — here and in my old life as a sportswriter — no one who didn’t see PED use happen knows for sure if it did. We’re guessing, at best. I hope I’ve made the right choices, and I hope the process is reformed soon.
12 thoughts on “My 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot”
i agree with you that the system sucks. Sportsmanship and character are arbitrary terms that really have no basis in reality. I love that they need to factor in character and sportsmanship. There are some pretty smarmy players in the hall already – racists, alcoholics, philanderers….. Why can’t we just vote in who was at the top of their game, when they played. You can’t compare Bonds to Ruth, but I think that you can conclusively say that if Ruth played when Bonds did he would have used the cream. Bonds hit the ball better than anyone in baseball for a decade and Clemens threw it harder.
And Martinez is still hanging around Seattle doing good. In many ways he’s still the face of the franchise. Only now he has more time to do good in the community. The man truly embodies what “hall of fame” character is. Many of those other folks on the ballot do too. I’m glad you take that into account and not just the numbers.
Thanks for being so transparent with your vote. It has to be a tough call every year.
I agree with you on the PED issue and completely share your views of Edgar Martinez (no surprise) as he is one of the really terrific ambassadors of the game. Plus he could rake like no one I have ever seen. In my mind there is no question on his status.
Why do you think Lee Smith hasn’t made it? I have not studied his stats or anything but my memory is of him being an excellent closer for multiple years. Curious to hear your take.
Really don’t know, Larry. He retired as the all-time saves leader. Either closers matter, or they don’t. And the one-time saves king ought to be in there if they matter. Sutter, Gossage, Eck are all in. Rivera and Hoffman soon will be. Smith is in their class.
As you know, I covered ball for four years and one of the things that disappointed me most about not staying in newspapers longer was the privilege to be able and vote for the Hall of Fame. I’ve thought a lot about the process over the years and have talked to a lot of writers and former players who I still remain in some relative contact with and nobody has the right answers.
My issue isn’t with the PED’s (of which I feel that you don’t know who used and who didn’t, so it’s unfair to single out the major users like Bonds and Clemens while we don’t know if Glavine or Maddux or whomever didn’t use HGH to bounce back during the length of the seasons and their careers because they did a good job of covering their tracks … so if you’re the best user/player/cheater during an era where seemingly everyone used, then you are … whatever this is not the space for that argument) but it’s with the people who throw their votes away or try and reason with it.
I was fortunate to vote for one Cy Young award and three MVPs in my time and I spent hours creating spreadsheets and comparing players, etc. while some others simply voted for their hometown guys or players who they heard on the radio deserved it.
The point is that I agree with you about the process needing to be changed because too many people don’t take it seriously.
Come on….no Donnie Baseball? Injury shortened career, kept greatest franchise linked from Nettles and Munson to Jeter…..MVP and batting champ.
Having grown up in southwest Ohio in the 80s, I’m a die-hard Reds fan and whenever the topic of Hall of Fame voting comes up I feel it’s my duty to bring up Pete Rose. I know a lot of Cincinnati area sports writers like Hal McCoy and Paul Daugherty think he should be in the HOF – I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on Rose’s chances to get in the Hall.
I’d be surprised if he got in during his lifetime. Giamatti might have meant to reinstate him, which might have changed things. Then again, Bonds, Clemens and Co. have not been banned, and it’s pretty clear they’ve got an uphill battle. Bottom line on Rose: It’s hard to predict.
My gut tells me that it’ll happen posthumously for him. Which, on some levels is a shame.
Could/would you vote for him?
I’d vote for Rose if the Hall of Fame voting rule about sportsmanship, character and integrity was dropped. Otherwise, it’d be tough.
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