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In the afterglow of Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice's warm and fuzzy induction Sunday, there is this cold dose of reality: If neither Roger Clemens nor Barry Bonds plays again, both will be eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in 2013. No Hall of Fame vote (in any sport) will captivate the public as much as that one.
The public's mass interest in the steroid-era ballplayers naturally brings up a question: Is it time for the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to make its members' Hall of Fame votes public? The vote here is yes.
Jack O'Connell, the longtime Secretary-Treasurer of the BBWAA, said in an interview with SI.com that there is no movement within the BBWAA to make the votes public. "Hall of Fame voting is confidential because the BBWAA is opposed to campaigning," O'Connell said. "If the voting list were public, BBWAA members would be inundated with campaigns from candidates' supporters. As it is, we get enough of that just from people who guess who the voters are."
But a number of BBWAA members -- there were 539 ballots cast this year -- support making the votes public. (SI's Jon Heyman and Tom Verducci are both in favor of it, and Verducci writes a column annually on how he has voted.) Last week I paneled some of the higher-profile Hall of Fame voters to ask them where they stood:
Ken Davidoff, Newsday: "Honestly, part of the reason I [make my votes public] is because it drives traffic to my blog. But I did it even before I had a blog, because I think, simply, it's the right thing to do -- just about public accountability. I think the BBWAA should publish all of the HOF votes on the BBWAA's Web site ... There's enough interest in the Hall that the public deserves to know how the votes went down."
Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle: "I generally write a column listing my votes, what went into my thinking, etc ... I'd like to see it go public, yes, to expose some of the idiocy that goes down each year. We've reached the point where there's a distinct line between writers who won't vote for any player connected with steroids (Bill Madden being an example) and those who will consider the vagaries of the steroid era and vote for the best players (Tim Kurkjian and Buster Olney; I'm also in this group, and it appears we're a distinct minority). When the likes of Bonds and Clemens come up for vote and are shot down, I think the public should know exactly who's keeping them out."
Tim Kurkjian, ESPN: "I have voted for 20 years, and I make my vote public every year. ESPN.com usually runs a list of how its Hall voters voted. It is an extremely important responsibility, voting for the Hall of Fame. I take great pride in it. I work very hard at it. So if anyone wants to know how I voted, I'm happy to oblige. The steroid issue has made the voting process harder than ever. Because of that, and because of the controversial nature of the steroid issue, I think the voting should be made public. For something this important, we should all be accountable for our votes and our thought process."
Bill Madden, New York Daily News: "If guys choose to reveal their vote as writers, that's their prerogative. But I think it detracts from the process to make the votes public, because it opens up a whole new forum for writers' being criticized. I've always said in the past, What difference does it make if somebody gave a vote to John Lowenstein? By the same token, what difference does it make who that voter was? And in instances where a bunch of blank ballots are cast, what does it accomplish to reveal who those voters were? In the year blank ballots cost Jim Bunning election in his last year, I was one of them, and I revealed as much, as well as my reasons. But by allowing the votes to be public, you suddenly turn the emphasis from who got elected to who voted for whom and why. I believe this election should be like any other election, where your vote is your own unless you care to make it otherwise."
Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports: "Given the steroid era, I think we should make it public ... Why should we not be transparent, and why should our votes not be out there? The Hall of Fame is such a public debate all the time, and I see no reason why guys should not do it. I feel very comfortable making it public, and I feel I should have to defend my vote."
Joel Sherman, New York Post: "I am not sure if I have ever done a column that had my entire ballot, but I have done multiple columns and blogs on the controversial issues, such as yes or no on a Jack Morris or [Bert] Blyleven, and certainly how I view all the steroid guys, either on the ballot or those likely to come on the ballot. Even if there were no such thing as steroids, we should make our ballots available to the public. We ask for transparency as reporters and then don't practice it here. If you are ashamed of your vote or not ready to defend or explain it in some way, then don't vote."