With the Baseball Hall of Fame announcing their induction class for 2013 on Wednesday, the debate around candidates has been getting fierce over the last week or two, moreso than in recent years due to the presence of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and several other players who have been branded "steroid-abuser!" with no evidence whatsoever (Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, come on down!). Of course, this has resulted in the people with ballots hopping onto their soapboxes and regurgitating the usual batch of rhetoric regarding protecting the integrity of the game and so on and so forth, going based solely on hearsay and assumptions. And as of this point, it appears nobody will be elected to the Hall of Fame.
The logic (or lack thereof) in many of the ballots that writers have made public thus far this winter has been stunning. I'm not here to argue personal choices. If you think Dale Murphy is a Hall of Famer because he's a great person and had a high peak, whatever. That doesn't make your ballot terrible. But if you're refusing to vote for Mike Piazza because "Jeff Pearlman once wrote that he had backne, and Piazza never went after him" you're damn right that's worth a callout.
Here are some of the worst ballots I've come across this winter, and what exactly makes them tick…
Mike Nadel turned in an odd ballot (Biggio, Morris, Schilling, Raines, while he said he could vote for Bonds and Clemens next year), but Nadel's tipping point for not voting for Jeff Bagwell was his poor postseason numbers.
"There is steroid talk but no proof, so my decision on this borderline case was tipped by his poor postseason numbers for a Houston team that desperately needed more from its leader to win pennants. The one year the Astros finally made the World Series, they did it without an injured Bagwell."
In 33 playoff games, Bagwell had a .685 OPS. Craig Biggio, who Nadel claimed was "the spark plug of Houston's drive towards its only pennant" had a career .618 playoff OPS in 40 games. He was such a sparkplug in the 2005 playoffs that his .718 OPS in the 2005 NLCS was seventh among Astros regulars, and his .541 OPS in the 2005 World Series was sixth among Astros regulars. Nice job attempting to create a narrative where one didn't exist. Nadel also didn't vote for Mike Piazza, saying his WAR was ranked 179th all-time. You know who Piazza is tied with at 179 on the all-time WAR list? Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. Jack Morris, who Nadel voted for, is 432nd.
Chris Jenkins didn't vote for anyone. I think. In his column, he said that Bonds and Clemens were worthy, because he only votes for "baseball legends." But he didn't vote for either because… well, he didn't really give a reason aside from "I'm waiting for the eligibility of Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr, Albert Pujols, and Derek Jeter." His entire column is essentailly just a story about how people vote for the Hall of Fame, as opposed to why or why not he's voting for players on the ballot.
Mike Imrem voted for the maximum 10 candidates, but included Kenny Lofton over both Tim Raines and Craig Biggio "because for a period of time I considered him one of the top five players in baseball." Lofton finished in the top five in WAR twice in his career. Apparently, that's more important than Raines blitzing him in both total stolen bases and steal rate, Lofton's strongest suits.
Mark Faller drew attention to himself by voting for no one. His logic is that he was angry about baseball, and about how long it took for people to open their eyes to steroid use. Essentially, he grouped the Clemens/Bonds class of players in with the guys like Bagwell, Biggio, and Schilling, and hell, even Morris and Raines.
"I don’t know what I’ll do next year, but I’m fairly sure I won’t send in a blank ballot. This one-year protest should make my point."
I'm pretty sure the sport of baseball isn't going to be fundamentally changed because Mark Faller turned in one blank Hall of Fame ballot.
Jay Dunn didn't vote for any of the steroid players, despite admitting that Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa never failed a drug test. He also admits the evidence against them is hearsay and circumstantial, and that Bonds and Clemens weren't convicted in a court of law. Dunn also compares Bonds and Clemens to Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, which is ridiculous because Jackson and Rose were banned from baseball (and thusly, induction in the Hall of Fame) for life. Dunn also voted for Bernie Williams with no justification of the vote listed.
Jim Ingraham voted for Kenny Lofton, and directly compared Lofton's career in the 1990s to Rickey Henderson's in the same time frame. Of course, that's completely ridiculous considering that Henderson's rookie season was in 1979, and he was 33 during Lofton's first full season in 1992. Also hilarious: the aging Henderson stole more bases in the 1990s than Lofton in the prime years of his career. Ingraham also voted for Jack Morris, and refuted the claim about his 3.90 ERA being the highest in the Hall with "well, Nolan Ryan walked more batters than anyone in history!" Ryan also struck out more batters than anyone in history by a huge margin, and threw the most no-hitters in baseball history.
Bob Brookover voted for Dale Murphy, and no one else, stating Murphy was a terrific player who showed great integrity, sportmanship, and character. His logic for not voting for Jeff Bagwell is as follows:
"I've read columns by voters who say they will support a player as long as the player was never caught cheating, and I've been questioned in the past about not voting for Bagwell, who has openly denied ever using steroids and whose name cannot be found anywhere in the 2007 Mitchell report.
I'm just not sure I believe him, and the reason is because I've watched players lie in front of Congress. If they can lie there, they can lie anywhere about anything."
Not Bagwell, mind you, but other players. He also didn't vote for Curt Schilling because he lied about quitting chewing tobacco during his career with the Phillies, more than a decade ago. Seriously.
Murray Chass voted only for Jack Morris. The Chass logic for voting for Morris is the usual rubbish you'd expect, but Chass brings up Piazza's backne as a telltale sign of steroid use. He also claimed that his former editor at the New York Times wouldn't let him write about Piazza and steroid usage, because there was no proof. Chass countered with the backne argument. CHECK AND MATE. He also got in this delightful dig at "new-age stats guys"…
"Though I don’t believe there is a more qualified set of electors, certainly not the new-age stats guys who are envious of the writers and believe they should determine Hall of Famers, I don’t think reporters and columnists who cover and comment on baseball news should be making baseball news."
Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer voted for Jack Morris, Fred McGriff, and Craig Biggio… while also writing in the ineligible Pete Rose again. While a totally fruitless endeavor from an actual voting standpoint, at least it will always win fans over back home.
But before you lose total faith in the BBWAA, there were voters who made a compelling, logical, and sensible case with their Hall of Fame ballots this year…
Ken Davidoff had a very good ballot, aside from voting for Kenny Lofton over Mike Piazza. But Davidoff actually provided some logical reasons for the vote, so I'll give him a pat on the back for at least being consistent.
Ken Rosenthal didn't vote for *any* first time candidate. but did vote for Jeff Bagwell, indicating that he's at least open-minded about the ballot.
Danny Knobler tabled all of the players from the 1990s for another year. Argue with the sentiment behind it, but he's consistent at the very least.
Joe Posnanski gets it, probably more than any other writer out there today. He wrote a mammoth, three-part series breaking down every candidate, including his ten player ballot and a great analogy as to what separates Rafael Palmeiro from the other players linked to steroids. More proof that Posnanski is one of the best writers in America about baseball.
However, one writer stepped up like no other this winter, and that's ESPN's TJ Quinn. Quinn gave up his vote two years ago because he has no idea who has used PEDs and who hasn't. Quinn feels that he's not qualified to judge whether or not a player has used, and that it's not his place to decide what the threshold is for PED users. Quinn also makes a fantastic point in that he hasn't regularly covered baseball since 2002, and that he no longer can accurately judge the game.
This is an issue that is plaguing the BBWAA: too many writers with Hall of Fame ballots no longer cover the game. Did you know that three writers from GolfersWest.com have Hall of Fame votes? It's true. There are too many people voting for the supposed most-hallowed honor in the game that don't cover it on a weekly, let alone daily, basis anymore.
The 2013 voting cycle is proving that something needs to change for the Hall of Fame to continue to remain relevant in the future. We're on the cusp of a potentially disastrous election result for the game, and the ever-variable voting guidelines and electorate are a huge reason why.