Imagine really caring about hall of fame voting

by Fred Hofstetter on January 22, 2019

Baseball writers and a handful of hardcores are really enthusiastic about who does and doesn't get into the hall of fame. Imagine being one of these people.

Baseball Writers Hall of Fame Debate 2019

Look at these grown men pretending to be Charlie Rose discuss the baseball hall of fame like it’s geopolitical strategy.

There’s nothing wrong with caring deeply about something. Unless that something is stupid and a waste of time. Then you should care deeply about something else. Ecstasy is found in esoteric safe spaces with like-minded ne’er-do-wells, but it’s an irritated rub when those members have no awareness of themselves in the eyes of their observers.

If you’re one of these people who get fired up and have big opinions about what 90’s slugger gets their helmet in a glass case in a building we all agree matters for some reason, remember: members of this National Baseball Hall of Fame with capital H and F are inducted based on the votes of a select group of tenured baseball writers. Not players. Not fans. A subset of writers with infinitely more interest in ego-stroking and self-preservation than in the meandering wailings of the chaotic disorganized mass of misfits who actually preserve memories of the game’s greats. These guys get off on making emphatic, sweeping statements with steely glares across tables to their scoffing counterparts just to see them recoil in academic indignation. These are self-fashioned baseball intellectuals who swell at their reflection and work tirelessly pursuing the approval of their immediate peers.

But no, their isolated cadre couldn’t possibly be susceptible to elitist groupthink.

Imagine caring what a small subset of baseball writers in their lordly bubble think is worthy of adoration. Can someone explain the logic behind the rules these people have drawn up?

BBWAA members earn a Hall of Fame vote from its organization, which is independent of the Hall of Fame, by maintaining 10 consecutive years on a baseball beat. Those Hall of Fame eligible voters are required to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct. Potential Hall of Fame voters must meet requirements as active members covering the game, with a 10-year grace period for those no longer active. The names of those BBWAA members casting Hall of Fame ballots are made public with the election results; however, an individual’s ballot will not be revealed by the Hall of Fame.

So let’s get this straight:

  1. Arbitrary tenure required to get a vote
  2. Squishy designations (“actively covering the game”…?)
  3. Secret ballots

Lots to believe in there. RE: what it takes to get elected to the hall of fame:

3. Eligible Candidates — Candidates to be eligible must meet the following requirements:

A. A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a period beginning fifteen (15) years before and ending five (5) years prior to election.

B. Player must have played in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in 3(A).

These are both completely fabricated out of thin air and assign a bizarrely formal structure to assign honor to the memory of how capable someone was of thwacking a little ball with a stick.

“Going forward, the maximum years of consideration for a player who meets that criteria is now 10 years. Candidates would then move to the Era Committee system for review in perpetuity.”

BBWAA election rules

Why 10 years? Why not 9? What about 12? Because 10’s a nice even number? Open it up for everyone and it’s unimaginable anarchy, right? And what’s this Era Committee system? Look at all the words on this page. Please, again – just imagine yourself being a person who can open that webpage and read all the words on it.

In short, the BBWAA and the Orwellianly named Eras Committee can elect players, managers, people, etc. inside or outside of the 10-year eligibility window.

I’ll translate: these people can decide to elect anyone anytime they want. You’re welcome!

There’s nothing wrong with Bob Costas getting passionate about the hall of fame.

Makes sense. I’d be a little suspicious if he didn’t care. This is his life. He is a professional carer about baseball. He’s done the research, has the experience, and is more deserving of the first crack at a legit opinion than most.

What Bob Costas thinks about the inner machinations of the hall of fame voting process should be like what the most prominent scholar in avant-garde literature believes about the overuse of minimalism in the early works of Samuel Beckett. Maybe he’s right, or maybe he’s grasping wildly to get published and justify his existence.

Either way there’s 12 people who care and I’m not one of them.

These “official” deciders don’t make the rules, they just want us to think so.

Nobody’s waiting for some tiny supposedly qualified group of elites to confirm when it’s OK to think Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens or Ken Griffey Jr. or Hank Aaron or Fred McGriff deserve to be part of your favorite stories about watching baseball growing up, or take part in your favorite team’s greatest memories. The BBWAA doesn’t dictate fame and neither does any other committee with a fancy acronym.

They’re just another fringe nerd group in their little corner of the world with no barometer for when they’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole.

Meanwhile the rest of us wait patiently for them to discuss our team in a positive light for 3 minutes – so we can complain about how they didn’t do it for 4.

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