More and more, in our ever-shrinking cyber-world, voices throughout the baseball community cry out about what constitutes a good Hall of Fame ballot and a bad one.
What an outrage!
That voter should have their vote taken away forever!
Even though, you know, it’s a vote. And in any election or selection process, there’s no such thing as a good vote or a bad vote. There are simply votes. They’re cast by individual humans, usually from widely varying backgrounds and experiences and perspectives, individually expressing themselves toward a collective outcome.
Sorry, but I feel obligated to start with that before unveiling my own 2017 Hall of Fame ballot, which I’ll do below.
Because even though this will be only my third Hall ballot, as a 13-year member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, I’ve long sensed a homogenizing effect growing out of the relentless whining and witch-hunting mounting with each passing Hall vote, most of it on social media but much of it right in the mainstream. And it’s working, believe me. I hear it in press boxes all summer long, worries about voting for this guy or not voting for that guy, or looking like a homer for voting for a guy you cover or even not voting for a guy for that same reason. And never mind the whole PED mess.
All I can control, obviously, is my vote. But I want to tell you here, with these three statements, that it’s my vote:
1. The research I’ve committed to this was my own. I studied my own finalists’ histories in as many forms as I could find, from old stats to new, from major achievements to memorable impact.
2. The guidelines I’ve followed are those outlined for us by the BBWAA, which also happen to be the very same guidelines the Hall wrote for the very first vote in 1939.
3. The approaches to difficult decisions were based on a combined goal of careful thought, consistent applications of my own precedents but also an open mind to conceding when I might have been wrong.
In other words, I didn’t care what anyone else thought before casting this vote. And I sure as Harvey Haddix won’t care now that it’s cast.
Here’s my ballot:
A few explanations:
• A voter can choose up to 10 names. I obviously chose six for the simple reason that I saw six of them as qualified for a place in Cooperstown.
• Guerrero, the former Montreal and Anaheim great, is the only one of the Hall ballot’s 19 first-timers on the list.
(Sorry, Freddy Sanchez! You’re still one of the most uplifting stories I’ve been privileged to cover!)
I’ll be stunned if Vlad gets in on the first try, but I’m not a believer that a player’s first ballot should be something special. If you belong, you belong right away. That said, I’ll repeat that it’s one of the beautiful things of free voting that the process handles that without the homogenizing.
• Of my five choices among holdover candidates, I made two changes from last year’s ballot, and I always feel particularly compelled to explain these.
Martinez was added because, upon hard reflection and more intensive digging into Martinez’s historic comparables, I reached the realization that, as someone born and raised in a National League city, I unfairly held his career-long designated hitter status against him. I regret that. My own views on the DH should never have influenced a vote. The DH is a real thing, and Martinez’s status as the best at that job should have been seen as a plus, not a minus.
Curt Schilling was subtracted because his behavior, especially in recent years, represents the antithesis of the character clause that the Hall and BBWAA continue to instruct voters to honor. I’m not even going to dignify his many actions and statements with a listing or a link. Find them yourself. He’s not worth it.
Here’s the character clause, verbatim:
“5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
When the Hall and/or Major League Baseball decides it wants the voters to stop weighing “integrity, sportsmanship, character,” they can and must remove that from the clause. Until then, I’ll follow the guideline.
• It’s become the cool thing to dismiss PEDs as if they shouldn’t matter to the Hall, just as it’s cool to bash the BBWAA for acting as holier-than-thou or judge, jury and executioner. This is, of course, nonsense, for the reason I just outlined and for the fact that the Hall and MLB are all too happy to pass the buck to the writers.
Which, again, is fine by me. I’’ll follow the guidelines precisely as written and weigh “integrity, sportsmanship, character,” with an inclusion of those connected to PEDs, because cheating the public, your peers and the game doesn’t exactly fit any of those three traits.
In other words, I’ll vote for Barry Bonds or first-time candidates Manny Ramirez and Ivan Rodriguez and all the rest when the guideline is changed by the Hall and/or MLB. But I’m not holding my breath. They don’t want Bonds in the Hall, either. Unless, of course, they can explain why the former commissioner essentially refused to acknowledge Bonds breaking the most hallowed record in our nation’s long sporting history.
Anyway, no need to end this on a down note. The Hall itself and America’s pastime as a whole should be celebrated, and I extend best wishes to the six gentlemen above. The results will be announced Jan. 18, 2017, at 6 p.m.