Hall of Fame Ballot Goes Out Shortly; Which Unqualified Player Will Be Voted In?

Later this month, the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot will be released. For traditionalists like me who think the HOF is already overcrowded with marginal players, next year’s offerings are slim pickings and, hopefully, will not produce any new inductees.

The popular Jack Morris’ 254 wins are overshadowed by his 3.90 ERA and his 206 career wild pitches. Despite being at best a slightly above average pitcher, Morris’ support has steadily increased to 52 percent of voters last year.  Morris has been on the ballot since 2000. One of the biggest flaws in Hall voting is that so-so candidates like Morris stick around for way too long.

Relief pitcher Lee Smith has also been around forever. In 17 years (1980-1997), Smith pitched a mere 1,300 innings and never more than 75 after 1990. Smith is third on the career saves list(478) but that statistic was manufactured (by sportswriter and later MLB historian Jerome Holtzman) and hyped out of proportion by the media. If you are impressed by save totals, let me remind you that in 2007 when the Texas Rangers beat the Baltimore Orioles 30-3 reliever Wes Littleton earned a save.

Regular readers know my position on the Hall. Way too many undeserving players have been inducted. As a result, the Hall has lost credibility. And during the next few years, as steroid era players gradually gain admission, the Hall will become a joke. For readers who think that the BBWAA won’t put them in, they haven’t been listening to members Buster Olney, Peter Gammons and others who have said publicly that it’s “probable” they will vote for Barry Bonds, etc with the excuse that those players were  representative “of their era” and should be judged accordingly.

I take my cue from Rogers Hornsby who once said: “The big trouble is not really who isn’t in the Hall of Fame but who is. It was established for a select few.”

Hornsby, who also said that he felt sorry for pitchers when he was at bat, is unlikely to have voted for Morris, Smith or dozens of other previous inductees except (probably) Ted Williams.
In 1995, Williams drew up his “20 Greatest Hitters of All Time” list. Eventually, Williams expanded his original list into his Hitters Hall of Fame as part of his Florida-based Ted Williams Museum.

Williams’ inductees are what the Hall of Fame should be: a consensus among players and historians that those included are without argument the greatest ever.

Here’s Williams’ list: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, Tris Speaker, Al Simmons, Johnny Mize, Mel Ott, Harry Heilmann, Ralph Kiner, Frank Robinson, Mike Schmidt, and Hornsby.

Hornsby and Williams are credible voices on Hall of Fame credentials; the BBWAA isn’t.

6 Replies to “Hall of Fame Ballot Goes Out Shortly; Which Unqualified Player Will Be Voted In?”

  1. I can’t resist chiming in when you write a column about the Hall Of Fame; I think mostly because you are a “small hall” person and I’m a “big hall” person. That being said, I certainly don’t think either Jack Morris or Lee Smith should be in the Hall Of Fame. However… do you honestly not think ANY of the players on the current ballot should be in the Hall Of Fame? Because I guess that would put you in the “very small hall” camp (as opposed to simply the “small hall” camp). Anyway, thanks for the article, as I do enjoy reading your thoughts on the Hall.

  2. Bob: Thanks for your nice note. I am absolutely a “very small Hall” guy—just like Rogers Hornsby! Did you read my original post about the Hall wherein I suggested that if I had my way, I would move many players out into a supplemental wing (yet to be built) where they would be assigned secondary status.

    As for your question about my opinion of all the players on the current ballot, on first glance I would vote no on all of them—just like Hornsby would!

  3. Joe, the question of Small Hall vs. Big Hall is a matter of taste, but I think you’re making too much of the opinions of a few Olneys and Gammonses when it comes to the question of roiders.

    Here’s why I’m skeptical: Mark McGwire is now sitting below 20% of the total (I think it’s 19.7%). He might gradually increase that total as long as he keeps a low profile as a batting coach in St. Louis and the Cardinals keep winning, but he’s still got a long, long way to go.

    The arguments you hear that Bonds and Clemens are “different” rest on the case that these two were Hallworthy BEFORE they started using steroids, whereas McGwire needed steroids to get his totals into Hall of Fame territory. But whether you buy that argument or not (I don’t, and I’d bar all known roiders on principle, regardless of what they did before they started roiding), the problem is that for Bonds or Clemens to get in, fully 56% of the total BBWAA would have to agree with that argument, ON TOP OF the 19.7% of the writers who voted for McGwire. The point is that it’s going to take a lot more than a handful of writers like Olney and Gammons to get any roiders into the Hall of Fame in the near future. Down the road, that’s another story, but for the first year at least, I seriously doubt it.

  4. Andy: That’s a great point. I think there are writers who simply won’t vote for the steroid users. I hope not, anyway. And I agree that McGuire isn’t Hall worth even if he hadn’t been exposed. But I get worried when I hear writers say about Jim Thome, “Well, he’s such a great guy” as a reason to put him in. Is that the sixth tool now—personality?

  5. I agree with Joe’s assessment here. Once you start lowering your standards, all you do is encourage mediocrity. All you have to do is look at the nation’s education system to see what happens when you water down grades and accept less than the best effort. What happens next is that the public accepts the new standard as being “normal” or “reflective of changing times.” Sorry, I’m not buying into the “Big Hall” argument.

  6. Personally, I’m a “small hall” guy in that I think the hall should be limited to 100 players, so I don’t think anybody on this year’s ballot could be considered to be one of the top 100 players of all time.

    However, with regards to whether players tainted by steroid use will ever be elected, I think you have to consider that there are two different types of voters on this issue…voters who will not vote for ANY steroid user on general principles, and voters who will not vote for SPECIFIC steroid users because they think that their stats were bolstered by their steriod use to the extent that they would not have been HOF-quality players without the use of steroids.

    I’m the latter type of voter, so I would vote for Bonds and Clemens in a heartbeat because I think they were HOFers even before they used steroids (Bonds’had already won three MVP’s with a WAR of 94.1 before 1998, for example, and Clemens had already won 5 Cy Youngs with a 92.6 WAR before he joined the Yankees), but would never vote for McGwire, Sosa, Palmiero, Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, et al, because I don’t think they would have been HOF-quality players without the assistance of steroids.

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