Today, it was announced that the BBWAA elected Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio to the Hall of Fame. No problem. They are all very deserving of enshrinement. It is the self-congratulatory sanctimony of the writers that makes this day less joyous than it should be.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is doing just fine, thanks. BBWAA elects 7 players in a 2-year span for first time since 1954-1955.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 6, 2015
First of all, Alan Trammell got less than 26% of the vote. He of the 70.4 career bWAR, Alan Trammell. For comparison sake, Derek Jeter may be the first unanimous player elected when his name appears on the ballot and his career bWAR is 71.8. And Jeter was a terrible defensive player (Don’t bring me Gold Gloves as an argument to the contrary). As a hitter, Trammell was, in 20 years, .285/.352/.415. There is no argument that Jeter was a better hitter than Trammell. Jeter is on a short list of greatest hitting short stops of all time. But Trammell could hit. And he could defend the toughest position on the field. How he isn’t getting anywhere close to election is a damned shame. It is downright Santonian. Let’s just hope Trammell gets in before he dies.
Tim Raines was also denied election, again, inexplicably. At 55% of the vote, it’s difficult to imagine he gets elected next year, either, although there is some hope. Apart from Rickey Henderson, Raines is on the short list of all-time great lead-off hitters. His career .294/.385/.425 and 808 career steals and 69.1 bWAR are worthy of induction…and there’s this little nugget to leave the Raines discussion with…
Players with 100+ 3B, 150+ HR, & 600+ SB in baseball history Tim Raines End of list. — Ace of MLB Stats (@AceballStats) January 6, 2015
The annual discussion of PEDs picked up steam again. Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds…great players. They need to be in. Is that even debatable? It would seem to be, since neither carried 40% of the vote this year, but their numbers speak for themselves.
The funny thing is, they’ve elected cheaters before. Hank Aaron: Cheater. Willie Mays: Cheater. Mickey Mantle: Cheater. Those are not exactly controversial statements, either. “Greenies” have been banned by baseball, along with steroids. They offer an unnatural advantage. In an era where we know more about health, nutrition, taking care of the body, and physical longevity than ever before, the league leader in home runs in 2014 was Nelson Cruz with 40, and only 11 players in baseball had more than 30 HRs. Only five players over the age of 30 hit more than 30 HRs last season. I can’t help but wonder how amphetamines helped Hank Aaron have eight 30+ HR seasons after the age of 30, with their energy boosting and focus increasing ability, and yet, he is held as the gold standard of integrity of the game.
Unfortunately, the writers have taken it upon themselves to serve as the morality police. They’ve taken it upon themselves to act as judge and jury on the careers and merits of players like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, both of whom were deserving of enshrinement. For Piazza, he is trending to the point where he should be elected next year. On the plus side, nobody was close enough that the votes for Troy Percival (4), Aaron Boone (2), Tom Gordon (2), or Darin Erstad (1) kept them out. With votes like this being made, it sure will be a neat little feather in Ryan Theriot‘s cap when he gets a handful of votes when he becomes eligible.
None of these remarks should take away from the four very deserving players who were elected. They were some of the best I’ve had the pleasure of watching. There are problems with the system of electing players to the Hall, though. The arbitrary 10 player limit, writers keeping their votes in spite of not covering the game for years, and the conspiring to write baseball history in a way that allows the writers to pat themselves on the back highlight the need to change who votes and serves as a justification for the Hall of Fame to establish guidelines for voters to follow when the decision is made on a player.
As others have done leading up to today, there needs to be a strong and clear call for a binary ballot. Answering yes or no for each individual player’s worthiness to be inducted is not only necessary to allow players to get in, but to clear some of the backlog of players awaiting induction. It eliminates the strategy of electing players. And it allows voters to make a firm declaration on the worthiness of each individual player. Guidelines about a player’s contribution to the game, their overall impact on the era they played in, and how they matched up with their peers also need to be added. No more morality police. No more rewriting or erasing history because it’s messy or icky. The Hall is a museum. It needs to be a record of baseball history…even the bad stuff. Nobody should hold their breath, though. Next year, we get to do and say all of the exact same things over again.