It seems lately many members of the Baseball Writers Association of America have been tormented and undecided as to which player should receive their Hall of Fame vote. This not only applies to this year’s ballot but especially in 2013 when the eligible list will be flooded with steroid-aided stars. Should these writers forgive and forget, or wait a few years until those stars are merely a distant memory? Should they refuse to vote for these players at all? Should a player whose career position was mainly that of a DH be eligible? Should a player be voted in because a precedent was set in the years before? Has the idea that only the greatest players should qualify for the Hall ever been followed to the letter?
All good and valid questions and with no clear eligibility standards other than perhaps 500 homeruns, 300 wins or 3,000 strikeouts, no clear answers.
Until now that is.
I have always believed that in giving a player immortality, only the best and most upstanding should be honored. But these players must be held to a higher standard than the rest of society. That should go with the territory. That should be part of the payment and understood without explanation. Transgressions should not be forgiven, ignored or excused. If claiming innocence and later, after much questioning and crocodile tears, all is forgiven with a shrug of the shoulders, then Pete Rose should be a charter member of the Hall.
Players who excel at only one or two phases of the game should be passed over. Very good shouldn’t be good enough. Doing so only cheapens the accomplishments of the elite players. It could turn into the farce that is Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Are you really comparing Cary Grant to some actor in a lousy television sitcom? Do we want the Hall of Fame to become as insignificant as putting your hand and foot prints in cement has become? Do we want some disco queen in the rock and roll Hall of Fame or a Joan Jett?
There is no reason to elect a player every year. Not voting for any of the names on the ballot will not negate your voting eligibility. There is also, in most cases, no reason to elect a player after many years of being eligible. His stats didn’t improve after retirement. Not being in the Hall doesn’t require a player to forfeit some or all of the money made during his career. Being an ex major leaguer is noteworthy and special all on its own.
A player who was virtually a full time DH shouldn’t get voted in either. Baseball pre DH was full of players who could hit but couldn’t run or field. They were good at only one of the five tools and regardless of how well they could hit, were not complete players.
A player should not be elected because of who was voted in before him. Ozzie Smith is a member therefore a precedence and an excuse to elect every great fielding shortstop in baseball history has been set. I’m not singling out Smith; he was an electrifying defensive player… I think he was very good, just not elite and not great at any other part of the game.
There are no hard and fast voting rules for election into the Hall of Fame. It would seem so but at the risk of sounding naïve to the ways to the world, I have come up with answers to those very questions.
While the players in the Hall who shouldn’t be can’t be removed, let’s start honoring the Ruths, Aarons, and DiMaggios with elite selections and let’s not dishonor those by voting in the likes of Sosa, Palmeiro, or other players who excelled at only one phase.