Despite grumblings, writers ultimately get Hall of Fame vote right

No new player plaques will be installed at the Baseball Hall of Fame this year after the BBWAA failed elect a single player in this year's vote.
Who will enter the hallowed halls in 2014?

Every year, we hear more and more complaints about Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame voting. Fans, including myself, are quick to jump all over certain writers for their opinion of who belongs in the Cooperstown’s storied halls.

But as the results of this year’s Hall of Fame voting are announced, we see once again that the writers, collectively, got it right.

Sure, there are plenty of guys like Los Angeles Dodgers writer Ken Gurnick who have their own self-imposed stipulations for how they vote, but for all of the obscure votes, there are even more writers who typically get it right. That’s why this voting system has worked for so long, because it’s not just one writer’s opinion that decides who belongs in the Hall of Fame, it’s a collection of minds that have a far better perspective of the game than any fan sitting on the couch watching his/her favorite team.

The only problem I see with writers voting is it seems like some use this platform to gain notoriety, or either to help their standing with a certain player on the ballot. Do you think Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens is more inclined to do an interview with Buster Olney of ESPN if he leaves them off his ballot? It’s not likely. I’m not saying Olney is someone doing this, but I have to think it goes through the mind of some voters.

Ultimately, these writers want to be in good standing with players so they can keep their sources and “friendships.” That is what scares me the most, especially with the more polarized writers who are in the media frequently and want to play both sides of the fence. I feel like if only these writers voted, everyone would be in the Hall of Fame.

Personally, I’m someone who believes the Hall is a Hall of Great and not a Hall of the Very Good. There is no way a ballot with 10 slots should ever be filled. But many writers this year are arguing that 10 spots aren’t enough. To me, there is a big difference between a Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine and a Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina. Maddux and Glavine are no-brainers. You can’t say the same for Schilling or Mussina, and for that reason I don’t believe they belong in the Hall of Fame. If you have to think about it, or you’re on the fence about it, then they probably don’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. It should be an easy decision for a player who deserves to enter Cooperstown.

But these are just my opinions on the criteria for someone who belongs in the Hall, and the hundreds of writers who actually vote are inclined to their own opinions as well. The point I’m trying to make is the combination of those various opinions usually end up getting the desired result that myself, and I believe the majority of fans, are looking for.

Yes, we love to criticize a particular writer for voting for someone or not voting for someone, that’s what makes this process exciting and fun. But after the results come out, the outcry from fans is lessened, because 95 percent of the time the combination of votes gets the desired result.

The one glaring issue that has completely ruined this voting process is the problem with voting or not voting for suspected steroid users. The fact is we have no hard evidence to convict any of these guys who never failed a drug test (there wasn’t testing in MLB before the 2004 season).

However, we all have our suspicions about certain players, namely Bonds and Clemens, who are considered the best players of the steroid era. My thinking: Don’t you believe they were the best in the game for a reason? Isn’t it a little odd that they put up the biggest numbers of all-time during an era that is known for players regularly using performance-enhancing drugs?

Then there are those who argue that Bonds, Clemens and Alex Rodriguez were great players before they started using steroids, which means they admit to believing they took steroids in the first place. This stance drives me crazy because how do we know when they allegedly started using? How do we know that these drugs didn’t help them sustain a lengthy career to pile up numbers that make them Hall of Fame worthy?

There are so many unknowns with players from the steroid era, and the blame can’t all be put on the writers. The Hall of Fame committee does need to look at changing its criteria on players during the 1990s and early 2000s. Whether that’s creating a separate room for players during that era, or simply adding somewhere that said player was suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs.

The fear is, a writer votes in a Jeff Bagwell, who on the surface is clean as far as we can tell, and then 10 years from now a “hidden document” suddenly isn’t hidden anymore and you’ve put a steroid user in the Hall of Fame.

This complication doesn’t simply give writers a pass, or allow them to give up on the voting process altogether as Gurnick has chosen to do. If anything this should increase the amount of research a writer conducts before making a decision on who to vote for. Just like a jury in court, it’s now the writer’s job to do as much research as possible to find out who is clean and who is not, and then vote using your best judgment. At this point, that’s all a writer can do.

But even despite the steroid era complicating the process, we see that the voting process comes together in the end to work. Baseball’s Hall of Fame is a distinguished museum, one that sets it apart from any of the other sports halls of fame. Players, writers and fans take great pride in who gets elected as one of the greatest of all time. That is why this debate is so heated every year. I’m sure the debate will continue, but rest assured, the process works, and these halls will remain hallowed.

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