By Sweeny Murti
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Some thoughts on the Hall of Fame election:
-- I imagine it's hard to get 75 percent of a group of more than 500 people to agree on anything -- religion, politics, The Great Pumpkin and most definitely baseball. When they do agree it's a pretty significant thing, a pretty remarkable achievement. And that's why election to the Hall of Fame is still pretty special.
Remember this: saying somebody isn't one of the super-elite players of all time isn't the same as saying he stinks. It seems that's what these arguments boil down to nowadays. It's possible to be better than 98 percent of the people to ever play the game and still not be a guy with a bronze plaque in a museum.
-- Let's remember to focus some of our attention on the ones who actually did make it into the Hall. The vote is still meant to celebrate the greats, not destroy the process. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are all deserving.
-- I'm disappointed -- as a baseball fan who spent the baseball-crazy years of his youth in the 1980s -- that Jack Morris didn't get elected in his final shot on the ballot and that Tim Raines has not gotten more support. We grew up seeing many other fantastic ballplayers -- Don Mattingly, Keith Hernandez, Fred Lynn, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and so many more -- who were among the best we ever saw, but for various reasons won't ever be enshrined in Cooperstown.
But the arguments we have over these and other players reflect on just how much we love this game. Do we even know or care if Art Monk, Adrian Dantley or Ron Hextall are in their Halls of Fame?
The other sports are fun too. But they don't strike the same chord, bring out the same passion as baseball seems to.
-- I respect the voting process because I know how seriously the voters I know take their responsibilities for awards like Cy Youngs, MVPs, and of course the Hall of Fame. I respect the choice of individual voters so long as they are reasoned and well thought out.
But I can't see the logic with whoever voted for Armando Benitez or Jacque Jones or J.T. Snow. This was a year when so many voters expressed their displeasure with being limited to only 10 selections on a stacked ballot. If a voter didn't feel they wanted to vote for 10, that's his choice. But it's a total sham to fill in the ballot for an undeserving player.
In most any other year, it's been acceptable to cast a token vote. If you want to argue the merits of Larry Walker or Alan Trammell or Lee Smith, OK, I'll listen, even if I disagree. But this was not the year for token votes.
-- I know Dan Le Batard a little bit. I get along with him well and think he's a talented writer and a sharp mind. I think what he did with his vote was ridiculous. I know many voters who agonize over their ballots for weeks before finally sending in a piece of paper that impacts the lives of the names that appear (or don't appear) on it. Taking fan input for your ballot isn't a bad idea. The way this was executed was a bad idea.
-- I have met Ken Gurnick but don't really know him. If he really won't vote for anybody who played in the Steroid Era, does that mean he won't vote for Pedro Martinez next year? Or for Mariano Rivera in five years? Also a bad idea.
-- Rafael Palmeiro will no long appear on the ballot. I can't say he belongs in the Hall, but I can't say disappearing from the ballot is a great thing either. Our views on PED users hasn't changed much lately. But will it change in five years? Or eight years? Maybe, or maybe not.
But a player is given 15 years (as long as he receives at least 5 percent of the vote to stay on the ballot) to see how historical context treats the player. If history, or the voting group, ever changes its attitudes on PEDs ... well, I guess we cross that bridge when we get there.
-- I believe Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling will eventually be elected, although it may take several years to hike their vote totals. They probably won't gain much support next year when they will be compared to ballot newcomers Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. But in time their place in context to their peers will likely lead them to Cooperstown.
It's interesting to wonder just how many players on this ballot will eventually land in the Hall. In 1974 only Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford were elected, but 13 others on the ballot eventually made it to induction.
-- Does the voting process need to be modified? Sure, it can always be improved I'd say. I'm not lobbying for a vote, but I would certainly be honored to take part if ever given the chance. While team broadcasters are also qualified to vote, might there still be a chance for less than fair voting? What if, for example, a Mariners broadcaster didn't vote for Edgar Martinez and then suddenly found his contract not renewed? We can, and should, consider any amendments to the process, but be careful how you go about it.
And don't think that changing the electorate will make it any easier to get 75 percent of them to agree on anything.
-- Now back to our regularly scheduled A-Rod programming, right after these messages.
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