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It’s “Oh, how heavy a burden it is to vote for the Hall of Fame” season

Dec 26, 2013, 8:29 AM EDT

Weight of the World

I think my least favorite type of baseball columns are the ones in which the writer talks about the heavy, heavy burden of his Hall of Fame vote. We’re baseball writers for Pete’s sake. We’re not making life or death decisions. Not that you’d know it from some of these pieces, though. Check out Steve Simmons’ heavy, heavy burden:

Every year seems to get more difficult, more complicated, more conflicted and less certain about voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame and every year I make a list and scratch names off it, then make another list and do the same again. All the while, wrestling with what you perceive to be right and wrong, what your own beliefs happens to be, angry that baseball has left the writers to play the part of jury and all the while trying to find balance between what you believe, what you witnessed, what you think you know, what prejudices you may have, real or imagined, what you have determined statistically — with new stats and old stats.

What follows are several paragraphs of PED/Hall of Fame/Oh-my-this-is-so-morally-vexing wankery. After which Simmons decides that he can’t vote for PED guys for the Hall of Fame. Which is fine if that’s how you roll with the PED issue. I disagree with it, but as long as someone is consistent with their approach and doesn’t make baseless assumptions and crap, all I’ll do is disagree. It won’t get me too bent out of shape.

But what I really don’t get is, if you are an anti-PED voter, what’s so hard about this? If anything, it should be pretty easy. You’ve made a moral judgment, apply it. All of the self-flagellation about it seems like silly drama designed to fill column inches.

  1. raysfan1 - Dec 26, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    Yes, it shouldn’t be hard, unless one is completely distraught at the idea that someone they voted for, who they thought was pure as driven snow turns out not to be. Two things though… One is that every BBWAA voter was a BBWAA member during the “steroid era” and needs to face their own complicity in it, whether by knowing what was going on and doing nothing or by never asking about PEDs. The second is that if the burden is just too darn heavy, there’s still an option that hurts nobody–don’t turn in a ballot.

    • indaburg - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      ‘The second is that if the burden is just too darn heavy, there’s still an option that hurts nobody–don’t turn in a ballot.”

      It’s rare that I disagree with you, reasonable doctor and fellow Rays fan, but by voting for no one, they are still impacting the outcome of the vote. They are hurting somebody. The players who deserve to be there.

      If it burdens them so to be judge and arbiter of who enters the HoF, don’t turn in a blank ballot. Resign from the process. Moral dilemma lifted, and no one gets hurts.

      • raysfan1 - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:44 AM

        Ah, Indy, turning in a blank ballot is voting and does hurt all the candidates. If the voter does not turn in a ballot at all, it does not get counted against anybody–although it does make the relative weights of those who did vote worth a touch more. It’s the same as withdrawing from the process.

      • indaburg - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:08 AM

        Pre-morning coffee. New rule. I am not allowed to post before first cup of the morning. My reading comprehension es no muy bueno.
        English is my second language, you know. Um, how many excuses can I conjure? :-)

        Like you said though, it does make the other ballots weigh just a touch more, and if enough of these Hamlet-esque BBWAA writers do what you said, it could impact the vote. Unlikely, but it seems like a lot of these men (they’re mostly men–sorry, ‘philiac) gnash their teeth at this time of the year. To vote or not to vote? PED or no PEDs? Those are the questions.

        Still, if they’re incapable of voting and doing their duty as a HoF votes, I would encourage them to resign. There are many who would love to have that honor. Really, if it’s that much of a burden and they’re incapable of making a decision, resign and allow someone else who is willing and able to make a decision.

      • raysfan1 - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:36 AM

        English is my native tongue, and it doesn’t always help me either!

        I do find the over-wrought angst of certain writers to be quite ludicrous though–especially when considering that the situation about which they whine is one that each of them helped create.

        In defense of Hamlet, he at least was dealing with a life and death situation, the future of Denmark, and none of it was his fault! The writers are Hamlet wanna-be’s.

      • tved12 - Dec 26, 2013 at 1:21 PM

        indaburg,

        I thought of another excuse for you. It’s just such a heavy burden to not only respond to peoples comments, but to actually Read and Comprehend them! RIght?

      • indaburg - Dec 26, 2013 at 6:41 PM

        Ah, anonymity and the internet. By your grammar and punctuation, I see you’re not a perfect human. That’s okay. Neither am I. As fellow imperfect humans, let’s cut each other a little slack, kind sir.

      • raysfan1 - Dec 26, 2013 at 3:03 PM

        tved, there wasn’t any reason to be rude to her.

      • tved12 - Dec 27, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        indaburg,

        I wasn’t saying it to be rude, I was saying it in jest. Sorry if it came off that way.

      • indaburg - Dec 27, 2013 at 6:29 PM

        :-) It’s okay. One has to have tough skin if one wants to post on the internet. I simply misread raysfan’s statement. My apologies.

      • tved12 - Jan 3, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        Glad to hear it. I was actually playing off of your comment, surprised everybody missed that!

    • rje49 - Dec 26, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      If it were solely up to Steve Simmons who entered the Hall and who didn’t, I could understand the burden. But he’s only one of hundreds of voters, and seldom (ever?) does one vote make a difference. It takes many, many, others to agree with him to elect a player to the Hall, doesn’t it?

  2. chacochicken - Dec 26, 2013 at 8:49 AM

    I can totally relate to this. About twenty or so years ago, by strange circumstance, was made a poultry judge at my state fair. Now dear reader, surely you must be thinking “Chicken, you had to judge chickens? That must be some kind of joke.” Not so and I should also mention I know very little about chickens and other domestic fowl. I wandered back and forth with two other judges checking for bearing and color, size and sheen all the while staring into the hopeful eyes of some local farm kid. Some hopeful farm kid that spent a great deal of time with this bird, naming it, grooming it, sometimes hand-feeding it all in hopes of winning a ribbon at the state fair. I was easily one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Oh the burden, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the rending of garments. True story

    • zzalapski - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      Hope you didn’t find out later that the chicken you voted for was fed PEDs (preening enhancement drugs).

      • chacochicken - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:18 AM

        Those farm kids were always ahead of the game. They could be using cutting edge stuff that 4-H didn’t even test for yet.

  3. rje49 - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    As far as PED users is concerned, voters are entitled to decide about guys like Bonds, Sosa, Clemens, & Palmeiro where there is a connection or some evidence of use. However, when voters won’t vote for a guy like Jeff Bagwell because he was a power hitter, who is suspected by some without a shred of evidence, then it’s an unfair witch hunt. Hall of Fame voters are not doctors or detectives and should not pretend to be one.

    • dcarroll73 - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      rje49, I agree with you 100% about the unfairness of excluding Bagwell (I would call it stupid.) However I would point out that for Bonds your phrase “where there is a connection” is pretty tenuous. He never failed a PED test, and the “legal” connetion is the absurd “obstruction of justice” conviction (they failed to convict on perjury since they had incompetently cross-examined and had no evidence.) Bagwell is being found “guilty by association”, but except for unproven claims against Barry Bonds what else is there against him? I admit I don’t really give a rat’s hindquarter about PEDs, but even if one does, it might be nice to have facts. In Barry’s case the rather impressive weight and budget of a prosecutor’s office could not dig up enough facts for a solid perjury conviction, and the jury went for a totally vague ‘obstruction of justice’ count (based on what? failing to manuever through the ambiguities of a bad cross-examination?)
      The sooner we put all this nonsense behind us and put the leading players of the steroid era into the Hall, the better off we’ll all be.

  4. stoutfiles - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    They do this because they can write an article about it and get page views. Then, people like you will get annoyed by it and link to it for even more page views. This is exactly what Steve Simmons wants and you fell right into his trap. Good job.

    • realgone2 - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      DAMN!

  5. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    If voting is such a burden, I’ll happily take that responsibility off of their hands. Hell I’ll probably do a better job, and won’t feel the need to write 4 articles about what I’m doing and why.

    • yahmule - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:44 AM

      What would you write about right now?

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Dec 26, 2013 at 12:28 PM

        The state of the game and the changes that need to be made to advance and improve, including fixing the all-star game, replay, improving the JDA and CBA, the way they determine a player’s service time, etc. Stuff like that.

      • yahmule - Dec 26, 2013 at 4:54 PM

        Borrrrrrring.

  6. nymets4ever - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    Hall of Fame talk in general is extremely boring and overrated.

    • yahmule - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:42 AM

      Oh, you’re gonna love the next six weeks around here.

  7. Marc - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    Nice use of the word ‘wankery.’

  8. thebadguyswon - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    “baseball left the writers (blah, blah)”

    Yes, it’s filling inches for sure.

  9. yahmule - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    Craig is unhappy with this writer’s conclusion, so he’s condemning the process he used to get there. If this Simmons fellow had finally arrived at a ballot to Craig’s liking, he wouldn’t be mocked for acting like this is extremely important to some people, which is undeniable. Simmons is obviously open minded about using “new stats”, so I don’t get the snark about him taking his assignment seriously. As far as filling column inches goes, talk about posting from a glass keyboard. Was this guy’s dorky angst any less newsworthy than innumerable articles on the dithering of the Rakuten Golden Eagles front office?

  10. thebadguyswon - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    The writers love it because, for three weeks, THEY become the story.

  11. Walk - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    They can completely resolve their issues by looking at who is already in the hall. The moral clause was put in to help borderline cases get into the hall, not keep people out. Does any voter really think that ped’s and cheating in the game can compare to blatant racism and hate of ty cobb? He tried to injure his fellow players on many occasions as well. That is only one player, and i apologise for giving the poster example of an immoral player but he stands out glaringly to me.Get over yourselves i say and quit being deliberately obtuse and do your job. That is i would tell the voters. Legitimate hall of fame candidates are going to fall off the list because you failed your own moral test to report on the steroid era. In fact i would go so far as to say if you knew of the steroid scandal and failed to report it you should have lost your vote. Be thankful you still have one and fix this secondary mess of a crowded ballot. This is a mess of your own making and is only going to get worse.

    • braxtonrob - Dec 27, 2013 at 1:01 AM

      Well said!

  12. Jonny 5 - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    It’s hard to place a vote for the very institution Bbwaa members helped to make more irrelevant with every passing year? All of the writers who’ve made voting about a game and who played it best, basing their votes along the same moral levels as they would the potus while being imperfect themselves? Yes, it’s lame. It’s voting for whom was best at playing a game (a great game btw) let’s keep it in perspective instead of pretending the fate of the sport or world hangs in the balance over one ballot. Journalists, pfffft!

    • yahmule - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:14 AM

      Except he didn’t pretend “the fate of the sport or world hangs in the balance.”

      You’re urging people to retain perspective, while in the very same sentence, wildly exaggerating what this man said.

  13. stercuilus65 - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    This coming from such a judgemental whiny drama queen that is Craig is quite humorous.

  14. phillyphannnn83 - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    And every year you spew crap like this chastising those who have a vote while sounding like a childish whiner. ‘This the season.

  15. mayorrobford - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    It’s just TOO hard to ignore the BBWAA for you isn’t it?

    You just want to be one of them
    Pathetic

  16. realgone2 - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    Well if he voted PED users into the HOF and whined about how Jack Morris didn’t deserve to even be on the ballot then he’d be a saint.

  17. hughhansen - Dec 26, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    Eh, I don’t know if I can begrudge the guy for taking his vote seriously. With PEDs, there’s much more complexity involved I’m HOF than there would be otherwise. There’s also a lot of uncertainty, such as who was using and when, how much that impacted their numbers and how much that impacted baseball numbers overall.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 26, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      Except A, there are already plenty of PED users in the HoF and no one cared about them before (some prominent members are Mays, Aaron, and Mantle). And B, there are also plenty of players who cheated, and admitted cheating such as Gaylord Perry and no one cared about them either.

      • hughhansen - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:24 PM

        OK, then what can you say with certainty about how much they used or the efficacy of that use?

  18. simon94022 - Dec 26, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    Facts:

    1. PEDs were rampant in baseball for nearly 20 years. The frequency of positive test results even now suggests that their use is fairly widespread — as it is in every professional sport.

    2. There is no evidence that anyone from the “PED era” was clean. At a minimum, every player from that era supported a union which was nearly fanatical in its opposition to any form of testing program. ARod is currently the poster boy for PED cheating, but only 6 years ago he was the great hope to break Bonds’ home run record as a “clean” player.

    3. Most of the “known” PED users are known only from hearsay or circumstantial evidence. Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, etc. failed no tests and have not been convicted of violating any drug laws.

    Therefore, any attempt to vote for “clean” players and exclude “cheaters” is arbitrary. You will make mistakes on both ends – excluding the innocent and honoring the guilty. What will inevitably happen, then, is bias in favor of players who are viewed by sportswriters as good guys and bias against those who were never friendly toward the media.

    And thus you get what is emerging now – the Hall of Pretty Good But Not the Best Players. A place that enshrines Jim Rice and maybe Jack Morris, but excludes Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell and Pete Rose.

    What is the purpose of this Hall? And who would be interested in it?

    • Reflex - Dec 26, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      I agree with most of what you said here, although I come down on the “if there is conclusive evidence of cheating, leave them out” side, but I took issue with the line about excluding the best and revering the mediocre. I agree that Rice and Morris are not HOF level. But the guys you mention are not excluded per say. The accomplishments of Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell and Rose are all enshrined, their story is there in the museum. What has not occurred is those guys themselves being inducted as individuals. And for some there is good reason for that(Shoeless Joe, Pete Rose), and for others there are debatable reasons for that(Clemens/Bonds), and for a few there is no reason for that (Bagwell).

      If the museum acted like Bonds season of 73 HR’s never happened I would think that ludicrous. But not admitting Bonds as a member is itself defensible even if you disagree with that decision. And in other cases its clearly the right choice (Rose).

    • braxtonrob - Dec 27, 2013 at 1:06 AM

      @simon, You had me … until you slammed Jim Rice.

  19. paperlions - Dec 26, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    This should really be easy. The penalty for PED use has never included any effect on eligibility for the HOF. If a player is eligible, then any suspected or confirmed PED use should be irrelevant to the consideration. Cheating and general morality have never been center stage in baseball (which is especially true in the business of baseball). There is no reason to insert it here.

    PED use in baseball has been common since WWII and just as big of a “problem” in the 1960s as in the 1990s, if we are being honest with ourselves, because we know just as much about PED use in each era: no details, just enough to know that such use was wide-spread.

  20. bostonboresme - Dec 26, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Can we talk about something else now?

    • yahmule - Dec 26, 2013 at 4:56 PM

      Check back when pitchers and catchers report.

  21. whereyaat - Dec 26, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Wow, I just learned a new adjective, “Oh-my-this-is-so-morally-vexing wankery.”

    Sorry Craig, but I am going to have to steal that one the next few times I hear about someone’s faux-outrage.

  22. bostonboresme - Dec 26, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    Jeez tved, what’s up your fanny today?

  23. chip56 - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:28 PM

    In fairness, given how much crap they take from “some writers who lack Hall of Fame votes themselves” I can understand a writer saying that it’s a hard job.

  24. braxtonrob - Dec 27, 2013 at 1:19 AM

    It’s (ultimately) simple.

    Decades from now everyone will now this simple truth and consistently apply it to their voting:

    If MLB let them (cheaters) play, then it’s MLB’s fault.
    I can’t ‘unsee’ Pete Rose (who I doubt ever bet against himself; the rest of his bets I don’t give a rat’s a~~ about).
    I can’t ‘unsee’ McGwire and Sosa (of which the latter I wouldn’t vote into the HOF anyway! And, probably not the former either).
    I can’t ‘unsee’ Clemens striking out 20 in on game or Bonds hitting 73 HR’s or walking 232 times in one season.

    Some of these players I like, and some I don’t.
    If you feel like voting extra (likely cleaner) players for the steroid era, go ahead.
    But numbers don’t lie. All of these statistical giants deserve to go into the Hall of FAME.
    Look up the word ‘fame’ – God knows we’ve all heard of these players enough that they certainly qualify.

    MLB is not perfect and they’ve proven it but letting cheaters play decades without punishment.
    But, baseball was still entertaining, and I hate to sound like a Pollyanna, but if you cheated then you really only cheated yourself.

    They go in my HOF, and they should be in Cooperstown too.
    And, ultimately, one day, they all will, mark my words.

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