Advice for my fellow Hall of Fame voters

Updated 3:52 p.m. ET on Shutout Day, Jan. 9, 2012:

I am disappointed in many of my fellow Hall of Fame voters right now. That includes a lot of people I consider good friends. Not even Craig Biggio, with more than 3,000 hits and a career all spent with the same team, one of the best guys in baseball (isn’t this now about best guys vs. bad guys?), will be inducted next summer? Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner said it best: “…to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings — and others never even implicated — is simply unfair.  The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game.  Several such players were denied access to the Hall today.”

I voted for Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza and Lee Smith. This is my 24th year in the Baseball Writers Association of America, going back to my first year (1990) on the San Francisco Giants beat for the San Jose Mercury News, and as a Lifetime Honorary member I take the annual responsibility very seriously as a privilege.

In 2007, I was in Cooperstown covering the historic Cal Ripken Jr.-Tony Gwynn induction weekend for MLB.com, and there were record crowds. At that time, Bonds needed one more home run to tie Hank Aaron for the all-time lead with 755. Among the record crowds at the Hall that weekend, 100 percent of the many patrons I interviewed told me there was no place there for Bonds. He would tie the record that next week and then finish that final Major League season with 762, official and unasterisked.

In the course of agonizing over my ballot last month, that particular juxtaposition of anti-Bonds sentiment and the subsequent crowning of a new home run king was the thing I thought about the most.

I watch the games, I talk to players and club personnel, I talk to fans, I am a fan, I grew up playing the game, I made my own scorecards as a boy to score Evansville Triplets Triple-A games on the radio that night, I am the nephew of a former Major League player and manager (Johnny Goryl), I am the father of boys who played baseball (one All-Stater at the alma mater of Ryan Howard and David Freese), I believe pitch-and-catch is as good as it gets in life, I am in my 12th year with Major League Baseball Advanced Media, and I love and breathe baseball as the greatest game. I share your passion.

I go to Cooperstown routinely and I feel the hallowed greatness of the plaques that surround me in the Gallery. It always reaffirms my belief and commitment that it is for the elite of the elite. Plaques of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Willie Mays, Cy Young, Joe DiMaggio are what I see. I get chills down my spine and I see goosebumps on my arms.

As a voter, there is a temptation to see your role as a voter as representing a constituency, like a Senator or Congress member, but that is not the reality when I open the ballot envelope at home and pore over choices. For me, it is about body of work and not work of body. I can know the former but not the latter. I will never know who exactly may have used steroids, and a BBWAA voter should not vote based on perception of a suspected user’s body language, cranial measurement, innuendo, allegations and so forth. The character clause, included in a long list of expected voting criteria that we receive, seems inapplicable there to me.

Since Mark McGwire first appeared on the ballot and was eligible for that same classic, one-team-only, All-American Class of 2007 (could you imagine?), I have believed that it is the Commissioner’s right to exclude a person from our ballot consideration, as was the case with Pete Rose. It is only his right. I do not believe voters should attempt to play that role. Body of work, not work of body. So for the last time, hopefully, I have explained why I vote the way I do — just as I explained it one day this year to a former postseason star who once shared a clubhouse with many big names on this ballot. He told me in strong terms: Do not vote for them.

Why Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Piazza and Smith? I believe 3,000 hits is still very much a Hall benchmark, so Biggio is in for me. I was shocked not to see his name read. Are you serious? The Hall would be incomplete without Bonds and Clemens, as the former is the greatest player in history and left field was “my house” in his prime, and the latter knows no superiors among history’s right-handers other than Walter Johnson and Nolan Ryan. Piazza hit more home runs than any catcher, a 62nd-round draft pick Disney story. Once we started electing the Goose Gossages and Bruce Sutters of the world, I knew that Smith belonged as well, a relief legend.

I stopped there, at half of the maximum 10 boxes you are allowed to check. I’m not much of a vote-for-everyone guy. Five is a lot. Rather than checking Big Mac’s box as I had each previous time, I considered the overall ballot and in my view felt those were the candidates who truly were worthy of the Gallery room. If I’m not voting for McGwire, then I am not voting for Sammy Sosa. Based on their home run numbers, perhaps one day they will be added. Perhaps Rafael Palmeiro as well.

I have much respect for other voters and for fans who have made impassioned cases for others, such as Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Dale Murphy, Alan Trammell and others. Those candidates should feel fortunate that they had such ardent supporters who make such strong cases for them. My five is not an indication that I am right and others are wrong, it is merely how I ultimately had to put my pen to the check boxes on the hardest ballot the BBWAA ever saw. Next December I will look at the ballot with fresh eyes. The voting electorate is the right one now and for the future, and it is an honor taken seriously.

I was expecting Biggio’s name to be read alone. A shutout for this ballot is frankly embarrassing, and it is just disappointing to see so many of my peers make the wrong judgment, to see themselves in a job that is simply not theirs on LinkedIn. Maybe it feels empowering. More likely, it feels hard for them to concede that they took the wrong position in previous years and can’t bear the admission that they must change. Again, these are many of my good friends. May they see the light.

What do you think of the Hall of Fame choice for 2013? Make sure to leave your blog post URLs in the comments here – always a great way to grow your blog’s traffic in this community.

Thanks for all the comments that have followed the posting here Friday of the 2012 Top 100 MLB.com Blogs! Keep it up, reblog if you made the list, and please be sure to click through all of the blogs that made it, as we have a constant flow of great posts in this community. Welcome the new Rays Radio PRO blog if you haven’t yet. And special thanks to blogger Alicia Barnhart for posting a cool wrapup of her tour here at MLB Advanced Media’s HQ on Friday.

TIP OF THE DAY: Want to embed a tweet within your MLB.com Blog post? Go here.

- Mark

9 Comments

Hello Mark and MLBlog group. Here is my take on the 2013 Hall of Fame Vote….. http://wrigleyregular.mlblogs.com/2013/01/10/2013-hall-of-fame-vote/ Thanks, Russel

Not disappointed by the vote but saddened by what it means. I explain why in my latest post. http://wp.me/p1wIrS-9g1H

Shutout day is a good way of remembering this day Mark. Were you really surprised with the early voting polls? I did think that Biggio might have snuck in there though.
-Emma

http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

Hi Mark,

Long time since we last spoke — I’m still blogging!! Here’s my Hall of Fame blog post: http://dugoutdiary.mlblogs.com

Regards,

Joe Boesch

http://dugoutdiary.mlblogs.com

Mark,
Decided I would jump off the old Centerfield fence this year and throw my 6 selections for the 2013Hall of Fame selections at you as well as try and be savvy with the words on the whole enchilada.
What an honor it must be for the last 24 years of getting that Hall of Fame envelope, checking the names and seeing some of your selections on that grand stage in Cooperstown….I’m jealous as all heck!
Here is the Hall of Fame blog post link:

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com/2013/01/09/so-who-you-got-on-your-2013-hall-of-fame-ballot/

Let me first say that you voting for Lee Smith makes me really happy because I think he needs to be in the Hall of Fame. I wrote a blog post on Lee Smith and Edgar Martinez. I actually posted two blogs on the Hall Of Fame recently.

http://9inningknowitall.com/2012/12/11/edgar-martinez-and-lee-smitth-for-the-hall-of-fame/

http://9inningknowitall.com/2012/11/28/how-the-hall-of-fame-should-approach-the-steroid-era/

Forgot to mention that one of my co-writers and I did a blog talk radio show on the Hall of Fame class of 2013. That was a lot of fun. Norm my co-writer is a huge Dale Murphy fan and I’m a big fan of Edgar Martinez so that gets addressed.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/9inningknowitall/2012/11/29/9-inning-baseball-talk-ep-4

Well this is NOT a commentary on the 2013 Hall of Fame class, but it does pertain to the whole idea of whether a steroid user should be enshrined. I wrote it a little over two-and-a-half years ago while I was at the University of Miami for a couple Sports Management courses. While I don’t know how much I agree with *all* of its arguments any more, it’s a historical look at steroid users from the perspective of other moral dilemmas in baseball’s history. The conclusion of the research paper is a little cop-out-y, but I offer it to anyone who is in the process of writing their own 2013 HOF entry or just anyone who is intersted to use it as new viewpoint or as an example of completely illogical rationale and a wrong contradictory arguement: http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com/2011/04/07/case-study-on-morality-in-baseball/
-Mateo

http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

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