Hall choices -- and snubs -- raises many questions
Posted: Wednesday January 11, 2006 2:59PM; Updated: Wednesday January 11, 2006 5:21PM
Jim Rice's absence from Cooperstown is just one of the Hall's many flaws.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
The Baseball Hall of Fame is not quite a joke, but, much like something out of Carrot Top's mouth, it's close to one. There's a fundamental problem with it: To borrow from Abe Lincoln, It's an institution for the people, of the players and by the media.
The HoF's raison d'etre is, in my opinion, to be a place where fans can go and learn about the history of the game, to find out about the great players they never had the chance to see in action. That's it. I don't see it as a reward for the enshrinees (though that's certainly a nice byproduct) or a punishment for those who didn't quite have whatever it is that voters look for. Screw the politics. (Don't think it's political? Ask Jim Rice.) The HoF is for the fans.
But fans -- and the players who comprise the Hall -- have no say in who's enshrined, in choosing the players who will be held up to people 100 years from now as the "guys you just had to see play." That wouldn't be a huge problem if the media did its job, but, to me at least, this year's voting underscored four giant problems with the way the voters handle the electoral process.
1. Not picking on Bruce Sutter here, but can someone explain to me how he wasn't a Hall of Famer the past 12 years but this year he's suddenly worth it? Seriously, if you can give me a solid explanation, I will buy you a steak dinner. Try me.
2. Not all of them obviously take it seriously. Two people voted for Gregg Jeffries. No offense to Mr. Jeffries, but that's absurd, and the two who did it should have their voting privileges revoked. Seriously, if you are one of the two voters who chose Jeffries (presumably at someone else's expense), I invite you to write in and defend your choice. I will print your letter in its entirety, and I will buy you a steak dinner. And five people voted for Hal Morris, whose best finish in a major offensive category came in 1994, when he finished fourth in double plays grounded into. If you voted for Morris, I will not buy you a steak dinner because, frankly, you don't deserve it.
These are clearly the people who voted for Mighty Mouse for student council president in high school.
3. Sticking with the high school train of thought, it often seems like HoF voting is just a popularity contest. Phil Rizutto is a Hall of Famer (he was voted in by the veterans committee, not the writers). His career OPS+, which measures his on-base percentage and slugging percentage compared to the league average (and is the best way of comparing players across eras), was 93, which means he was worse than the average player. Yet he's in and Rice is out. If Rice were a malapropist instead of a misanthrope, he'd be in. No doubt. But writers are never going to vote for him because many of them hate him.