Not Your Father’s Hall of Fame (Part One)


At least we got two in before it all crumbled. Three if you count Jerry Coleman, and hell I’ll always count Jerry Coleman. It’s nice to know you contributed to something before it completely fell apart. I imagine it’s similar to parents who got divorced fawning over their accomplished child. We may have failed in the long run, but at least we created one bright spot before the end.

Empty. Like the thought process.

For the first time in over fifteen years the Hall of Fame will not honor one living player. Their annual ceremony enshrining the games great heroes will literally be a ghost town. The level, in which every professional Baseball player hopes to reach after just one swing of the bat or toss of the ball, will remain unattainable for another year. The people entrusted with choosing who gets to grace the walls of the Hall of Fame, with it’s ever declining foot traffic, are a part of a system almost as confusing as the Electoral College. The first Hall of Fame “class” was inducted in 1936, as more of a promotional stunt than anything. Game attendance was low, and they figured trotting out the Superstars of yesteryear was a good way to put butts in the seats, and it worked. Then, it became an annual tradition to induct not only players, but executives, managers and umpires as well. Later, writers and broadcasters would find their own special wing in Cooperstown. Each year, the Veterans Committee and The Baseball Writers Association of America (which have now been divided into three different sub-committees, making it all the more confusing) can vote on the players, officials, and figures of the game that have been passed through a pre-screening process. They’re encouraged to vote on ten of the pre-screened eligible players, and any of those players who receive more than 75% of the vote or greater will become Hall of Fame inductees. Sounds simple, right? No, not really. You probably aren’t wondering why, but I will go on.

There are several things these voters have to weigh and calculate before they can just give someone immortality. First off, a lot of these Veterans and writers have/had personal issues with a lot of the nominated players. Some writers just hate certain players, and the same for the Veterans, and no amount of statistical achievements will ever change that. It’s stupid, and childish, and downright idiotic, but it’s also the way it is and nothing will ever stop it from happening. This is human nature. It’s why most politic pundits will tell you a woman will never be President, and why Crash Davis teaches Nuke about the media in Bull Durham. People’s opinions of you will ultimately matter, because we all immediately form an opinion about someone else, without basing it on qualifications or talent. There are two people I literally hate in this world. One is from High School and the other is from the 2000’s. I hate these people, and I know I shouldn’t because hating them won’t change anything about why I hate them. However, they were terrible to me, and no matter what either of them achieve in the future I could not see that hatred fading away. It’s an awful attitude and I’m glad that I’ve been able to hold its numbers down. I understand where the BBWAA and Veterans Committee are coming from, but I’m also not in the position to decide how the people I hate will be remembered to the rest of the entire world.

Adding to our ridiculous human nature is the long-standing “mythical laws” that most everyone believes the HoF abides by. Like, no one can be inducted with 100% of the vote because Babe Ruth never got 100% of the vote. Which is bogus from the beginning since in the year Ruth was inducted Ty Cobb beat him 98.23% to 95.13%. But “Ruth’s Law”, although most certainly real to some degree, has been broken twice. In the early 1970’s Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell were both inducted posthumously with 100% of the vote. In fact, Tom Seaver received the highest percentage after Bell and Gibson with 98.84%, and our very own Tony Gwynn bested Ruth’s percentage with a 97.61%! So, what’s the point of holding on to some ridiculous notion that Ruth is the standard when that standard was immediately and continues to be risen? Then there’s the myth that any player suspected of gambling or drug use or steroids will never make it in as a lesson. Which, so far seems to be proving itself right whether you agree with it or not. And after that, of course the myth of “benchmark numbers” – 3,000 hits, 500 homeruns or 300 wins, which are believed to all but guarantee a plaque in the Hall. But, this is hardly the case when just last year Barry Larkin and Ron Santo were elected into the Hall of Fame. Both were well below 3,000 hits, neither hit over .300 for their career, and neither came close to 500 homeruns. But, both were inducted, Larkin with well over the needed percentage and Santo a special selection by the Veterans Committee. So that myth was and looks to continually be incorrect. So, why would above-average-almost-great players like Santo and Larkin get the Hall of Fame nod? Cause they were nice guys? Cause they were great Baseball players? Maybe. But, most people agree that what made them Hall of Famers was based on what they meant to the teams and cities they were a part of for their entire careers. They both certainly belong in the Hall of Fame, and they both eventually made it. However, all we have to do is go back a year before that to 2011, to start seeing how none of this really makes any sense. In 2011, Bert Blyleven barely made it in with career pitching numbers that suggested a perfect candidate rather than a 79.7% vote. Why did he barely make it in with outstanding numbers, and Larkin make it in with good numbers? Was Blyleven a jerk? Could be. Is being a jerk something that should keep someone out of the Hall? No it shouldn’t, but as we’ve already read and you could easily google, a voter’s bias can outweigh everything. And hell, Ty Cobb is in the Hall of Fame! If they won’t give anyone 100% vote because Ruth didn’t get 100%, then every jerk with the right numbers should be let in because KKK Cobb got in. Just going by the “mythical laws”, that again almost everyone believes are real, because the HoF voters have never given us any reason to think otherwise, we can easily see that things are a little screwy. They don’t add up. If one writer thinks Blyleven’s numbers are where they should be, but one time early in that writers career Blyleven was a jerk to him/her, then there’s a good chance Blyleven wouldn’t end up getting that writers vote. And, Blyleven sat on the ballot for 12 years before being inducted. In fact only two pitchers were inducted with Blyleven on the ballot whose numbers bested his own: Don Sutton (’98) and Nolan Ryan (’99). Year after year players whose numbers were less than or comparable to Blyleven’s passed him up. Then finally, after almost everyone from his class were either inducted or tossed aside, Bert got his plaque. Why did it take so long? Because Bert wasn’t a household name? Well, everyone in Minnesota would disagree with you. Earlier I asked if maybe it was because Bert was a jerk, but upon further investigation that seems inaccurate. Other than dropping the F-bomb on live TV in ’07 I can’t see anything wrong with Bert. Experts will flimsily tell you it’s just the way the cookie crumbles, but is that anyway to run a Hall of Fame? If there are these “mythical laws” then it sure seems like no one is following them. If there are  “benchmark numbers” then the additions of Blyleven, Larkin, Gary Carter, Tony Perez and Robin Yount should have never happened. Which leaves us with the only option left, something we’ve already discussed when it came to Larkin – Worth. How much a player meant to their era, city, team and the game itself. So, it seems the Hall voters decide whom they vote for based on Statistical achievements, Personal Bias (Media Savvy), and Worth. Never in the same order, and almost never for all three or even two. That’s why this year’s shutout makes no sense at all. In part two of this article we’ll discuss the players who got enough votes this year to end up on the ballot for next year; what might have decided their fate, and where we need to go from here as fans and as a game.

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