There are plenty of reasons to criticize the Baseball Hall of Fame selection process in general, the Baseball Writers Association of America voting selections in particular, and the specific 2022 BBWAA ballot that saw only David Ortiz elected. The Baseball Hall of Fame in particular has been sparking arguments since its founding, much more so than any other sport’s Hall of Fame, and the 2022 ballot that saw the election of Ortiz and the particular dismissal of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling (all of whom were in their final year on the writers’ ballot) is certainly worth some conversation. With that said, though, the take that Chicago Cubs’ pitcher (and noted MLB insider) Marcus Stroman (seen above with the New York Mets last year) threw out calling the writers dinosaurs was a remarkable dinosaur of its own:
It’s a travesty that biased “writers” who have never played the game get to vote on who gets in and not. It’s actually comical that this is the process. What a scam. Pre-historic mindsets. Jurassic Park-ass shenanigans. Lol ???♂️ https://t.co/QHSstpKM1C
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) January 26, 2022
There have been a whole lot of “never played the game” arguments criticizing writers over the years, but most of those peaked decades ago, especially in baseball. At this particular point, countless baseball front offices are filled with people who “never played the game” (at least in a significant fashion at the major league level), and there really hasn’t been a lot of discussion in the last decade that people who haven’t “played” can’t write about it. Playing the game has quite a different skillset from analyzing it, either in management or in media; that stereotype is so old it might as well be fossilized in amber.
And the really notable particular discussion around the Baseball Hall of Fame is that while many people have trotted out the “never played the game” argument over the years, the BBWAA votes have proven far less questionable overall than the votes from various veterans’ committees. That’s despite those committees being comprised of those who did “play the game.” Yes, there are absolutely bones to pick with certain people the writers have voted in and certain people they’ve left out, but so many of the actual outliers in the Hall of Fame come not from the writers, but from the veterans’ committees. And those committees were largely set up because of the writers’ failure to agree on who should get in, as Joe Posnanski detailed thoroughly in 2018). But the answer isn’t just “let Hall of Fame players vote”: here’s more from that Posnanski piece on what has happened when the Hall of Fame has tried to get players to vote:
You know what sounds good? Let the Hall of Famers Vote. How many times have you heard that one? The BBWAA constantly gets dinged with that whole “You never played the game,” thing, and this inevitably leads to that big idea, letting the Hall of Famers do the job, only greatness knows greatness, only a Hall of Famer can recognize a Hall of Famer and all that stuff.
Here’s what happens when Hall of Famers vote.
After the VC was disbanded post-Maz, the Hall of Fame gave the vote to the Hall of Famers (along with the writers and broadcasters in the media wing of the Hall of Fame).
The first vote was in 2003 — 78 people voted. Guess what? Nobody got voted in. Nobody came close to getting voted in. Gil Hodges got 62% of the vote. Tony Oliva got 59%. Roy Santo got 57%. Those were the only three who even got half the vote.
…Ah, the Hall of Fame decided, maybe the problem was those darned writers and broadcasters. So in 2009, 64 people voted — it was down to just the living Hall of Fame players. Finally! Purity!
And guess what? Nobody got in. Nobody got close to getting in. Things got worse, not better. Percentages tumbled. Santo got 61%, Kaat a little less. Hodges dropped below 50% of the vote. It’s so strange that nobody saw the obvious: Yes, Hall of Famers might recognize other Hall of Famers. But that doesn’t mean they will open the door for them.
Anyway, that was the end of the Hall of Famers voting for the Hall of Fame disaster.
At any rate, Stroman is certainly entitled to his opinions. And he can certainly criticize the BBWAA if he wants, and on this particular vote, he’s certainly not alone. But the “never played the game” is a hilarious criticism to read in 2022, when so many people in crucial positions in baseball (and other sports) “never played the game” in the sense Stroman is referring to. And the Baseball Hall of Fame in particular has seen a whole lot of terrible results from the cases where they have tried to specifically lean on those who did “play the game” rather than a wider pool of writers. And there’s quite a lot of evidence to suggest that a player vote, rather of all current players or of all current Hall of Famers, would not actually work out better than the current selection process.
[Marcus Stroman on Twitter; photo from Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Sports]