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From Hall Of Fame To Hall Of Shame

From Hall Of Fame To Hall Of Shame Derrick Ong via


Baseball Hall Of Fame facing election crisis

Every year the National Baseball Hall of Fame elects a new class of players to take their rightful place among baseball’s elite. It’s an honor that every player hopes to, one day, be deserving of, but in recent years, more questions about the voting process are being raised calling into question the credentials and character of those entrusted with baseballs most precious honor. But who is entrusted?  What are there qualifications?

The Baseball Writers Association of America or BBWAA, if you like acronyms, is the voting body in charge of deciding which players are worthy of the hall. The BBWAA was founded in 1908 to assist journalists covering Major League Baseball. It’s primary function was to ensure that journalists and reporters would have access to players and people within the game and that reporting would be accurate and complete. Writers who have been active members for at least ten consecutive seasons are eligible to vote for member enshrinement. Writers who are eligible may become “lifetime” members even though they are no longer active in the BBWAA. This lifetime status allows them to vote even though they are not active members. But who authorized this association to make such decisions? The answer to that is the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The privilege to hold a vote in each years election is a great one, and one that should not be taken lightly. These writers are some of the most successful, prominent journalists in the country and in the sport, yet some of them have forgotten just how much of an honor and a responsibility it is to cast that ballot. Former New York Times and Associated Press writer Murray Chass has been a member of the BBWAA since 1962. He’s been a blogger since 2008 and recently revealed that he would be submitting a blank ballot in this years election. That’s not the first instance of him using his position to stick it to the baseball Hall of Fame. In 2015, he submitted his ballot with one name selected; Ken Griffey Jr. This is by no means an indictment of Griffey, who is undoubtedly a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word, but was he the only player deserving of the hall in 2015? Many other writers didn’t agree with Chass and voted otherwise.

Chass has spoken out publicly against voting for players who used performance enhancing drugs during their careers. He’s also made comments about the Hall of Fame being for great players, not good players.

“The hall is for the best players, not very good players. There are players on the ballot that are very good, but fall short of HOF.” – Murray Chass

While reasonable people can see the logic behind this statement, how do you justify keeping Jeff Bagwell and Trevor Hoffman out of the hall? These players weren’t just good, they were great. Jeff Bagwell hit 449 home runs, drove in over 1,500 runs and has a lifetime batting average of .297. Hoffman is a seven-time All-star with 601 career saves ranking him 2nd on the all-time list. To put into perspective just how impressive Hoffman’s career has been, Lee Smith ranks 3rd on the all-time saves list with 478 career saves. Hoffman has 123 more saves than the guy right behind him on the list. Both of these players have had Hall of Fame worthy careers, and yet Murray Chass refuses to acknowledge this because he’s decided to make the voting process about himself.

The Hall of Fame voting system has become a laughing-stock in recent years. The system is broken and leaves fans and players scratching their heads wondering what constitutes a Hall of Fame career. It’s become a popularity contest, where players personal beliefs, politics, and inner demons are used to justify them being less than deserving of the hall. We don’t want guys like Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa or Manny Ramirez in the hall because they used P.E.D.’s but yet we allow players like Ty Cobb, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry entry into baseball’s most sacred fraternity. Cobb, a known racist was disliked by not only most of the players he played against, but by most of the players he played with. Cepeda served ten months in prison on drug charges. Perry was known throughout baseball as a pitcher who doctored baseballs with spit, vaseline or whatever he could find. Chass doesn’t want players who aren’t deserving of the hall to be allowed in, yet fails to mention players who have been less than stellar human beings being allowed to remain in the hall.

There is a really simple solution to this problem. Allow players entry to the hall if their statistics and body of work determines they are worthy. It’s not rocket science, and yet the writers who are in charge of making these decisions vote with their hearts and not their heads year after year. Put your personal feelings aside and vote based on the body of work. That will eliminate these debates that we are forced to have year after year. Furthermore, allow players and managers to cast ballots. After all, who is more knowledgeable and credible than the men who have spent their lives immersed in the game? Another option would be for the Hall of Fame to step out of the dark ages and into the light, and allow fans to cast a vote the same way All-star votes are cast. Allow the fans to cast a “fan vote”. If baseball is willing to compromise itself by allowing writers who are out of touch with today’s game and players to vote, then maybe it’s time for players, managers and fans to step up and take responsibility for one of the games most sacred traditions. Writers who choose to cast blank ballots or give away their ballots should be stripped of the right to vote. The integrity of the game has been an argument used to keep Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame for decades. The integrity of the game and the lack of respect shown to the players when writers cast blank ballots should be held in the same standard. The BBWAA has a constitution and by that word constitution, there is a duty and integrity that it’s members must uphold. Baseball has more than done its part throughout the years. It’s time for the ballot casters to do the same.