Of Cooperstown, Catfish and the Politics of Glory
They are announcing the results of the Hall of Fame voting today. This, of course, is the single greatest debate among baseball people including players, executives, statistical analysts, writers and fans.
The only opinion that really counts though are those members of the Baseball Writers Association of America with at least ten years of seniority – approximately 500 or so – who have the honor of voting.
This honor was accorded to them 75 years ago when the Hall of Fame first opened as a Cooperstown tourist attraction. The BBWAA reigned supreme back then with no television, no internet and no sabremetrics. Now the number of people who can write, analyze and speak intelligently on baseball has multiplied greatly because of the electronic mediums but it is still the BBWAA that holds the monopoly on who initially gets into Cooperstown and who doesn’t…or has to wait until the Veteran’s Committee elects them.
Which was thankfully the overdue case of Ron Santo this winter.
The BBWAA has the monopoly on the vote but not on opinion. The internet allows anybody and everybody to have their own blog and advance their own opinions on this or any other subject.
That allows many to point out the vast stupidity that permeates the BBWAA, both at Hall of Fame time and in November when the organization passes foolish judgment on their annual MVP, Cy Young and other awards.
There seems to be two significant reasons why the BBWAA’s judgment is routinely called into severe question: 1.) Not enough players are elected; 2.) Writers refuse to use advanced statistical analysis in deciding who is worthy of immortality.
As in the case of Santo and possibly others, the BBWAA’s biggest sin is who they omit rather than who is elected. As far as the second point, there is no doubt that advanced statistical analysis has cast many players in a different light than otherwise perceived by others.
Bert Blyleven is in the Hall of Fame for that reason, and now there are many outstanding analysts who offer irrefutable evidence that Blyleven was a better pitcher than Jim “Catfish” Hunter.
That may be the case but when they were contemporaries in the 1970’s, I don’t remember anybody believing that Blyleven was the better pitcher and there might be others as delusional as myself in being completely convinced that Hunter was one of the best pitchers in baseball history
But they are both in Cooperstown, which is not the case with Jack Morris. He was one of the best pitchers in the 1980’s but is not getting the groundswell of support that carried Blyleven to Cooperstown. Instead it is the opposite. Morris appears to be looked unfavorably upon by the statistical analysts who have examined his resume beyond the roundup of usual numbers: wins, strikeouts, ERA and are convinced that the mathematics support their conclusions.
The biggest division of debate, of course, centers around those from the “steroids era” and the cacophony will only grow louder next year when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others go on the ballot.
So far the writers have been quite unforgivable in their treatment of Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Jeff Bagwell. Getting 75 percent of the vote needed for election is difficult under normal circumstances but having the stain of steroids on the resume has completely crushed any chance of McGwire and Palmeiro getting elected.
McGwire admitted to using steroids and Palmeiro was suspended in his last season when he tested positive. He was also “outed” by Jose Canseco.
I have voted for all three because I don’t feel worthy of passing judgment on the steroids era. That simply means we don’t know for absolute certainty who was using and who wasn’t, therefore it is not right to pass selective judgment against those dumb enough – Palmeiro being the poster child – to get caught. No matter, they aren’t going to Cooperstown unless the landscape changes drastically in the coming years.
But perhaps it is wrong that the tremendous offensive numbers of the steroid numbers have unfairly eclipsed the accomplishments of those who came before: Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, Fred McGriff, Dave Parker and others. Rice got in under the wire in his last year of eligibility while McGriff, Murphy, Parker and maybe others are nowhere near Cooperstown.
Whether it is because of “what they saw” or statistical analysis, everybody has an opinion with the common denominator being, “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
But there are other things written on the internet far more insulting and delusional on the internet than the Cooperstown debate, especially one so infuriating by a highly-respected member of the press that I wanted to throttle the …
But he might agree with me about Hunter, which would make us idiots in arms.