Through the combination of moral grandstanding, misapplication and misuse of newer sabermetric statistics, and good old-fashioned douchebaggery over the past 12 months, all of the writers in the BBWAA have proven themselves collectively of not being completely undeserving of receiving my vote for the Hall of Fame. They are entitled to have their logical fallacies, biases, and even their personal grudges against certain players, (e.g. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens). And they even entitled to submit a vote for an obviously unworthy candidate just so sed player can they received 1 or 2 votes, (e.g. Aaron Sele, Shawn Green). But that does not excuse their behavior that they are the judges, juries, and executioners of the entire game, (especially when many of them turned a blind eye towards steroids in the 1980’s, 1990’s, and early 2000’s). Nor does that excuse the false mythology that the game of baseball was ever pure, or purer than the other big sports in the United States. (In fact, I would go as far to say that soccer, with all of its egregious diving by its divas, is more pure in America than baseball ever was. But that is another post for another time.)
If the 2012 American League MVP debate wasn’t bad enough to give writers a proverbial black eye amongst the fans and general public, the 2013 Hall of Fame voting has generated a tsunami of bad publicity toward an occupation based on publicity. As brilliant as they are at the craft of writing (admittedly, remarkably better at writing than I), they are quite poor at investigative journalism. And they have a terrible inconsistency when it comes to the history of professional baseball.
Everything about the creation of the Baseball Hall of Fame is based upon a lie. Baseball prides itself on its mythology that it is: (a) invented by Abner Doubleday; (b) first played in Cooperstown, NY; and (c) is 100% American.None of these things are true. The Baseball Hall of Fame was created for the same reason every other tourist trap was created: to generate revenue. And in this case, create revenue in one of the many areas that were hit hard by the Great Depression. Abner Doubleday is an American hero. But he was too busy fighting in the Civil War to invent baseball. Not only did Doubleday not invent the game, he was never in Cooperstown at any point, especially around the time he allegedly created the game. If we were historically accurate about this, we would be lauding Alexander Cartwright in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Hoboken, NJ. And only through a dubious leap of logic (or what some might call a fallacy) by claiming that adapting and localizing something invented in another country (in this case, the English game of rounders), is the “American” way. If any of the “Big 4” American sports can lay the claim of being all-American, it is basketball.
It is these lies that are the foundation for modern baseball writers to invoke the “character” clause to justify their snubs. Just like many other private institutions, a “character” or “purity” clause is just a buzzword or euphemism in order to make sure that “they” are kept excluded, and only “our kind” will ever gain admission. Because back then, one could be racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, alcoholic, violent, and a cheat, and still have character. Not that character was ever reported by baseball writers back then.
If Babe Ruth or Ted Williams played in our era, they would probably receive around 40% of the votes in his first Hall of Fame ballot. Ruth because of his decadence and Williams due to his epic unfriendliness towards the media. But writers back then were too busy glamorizing the game itself (this during the “Deadball” era, which made their task much more difficult than it would be today) than pointing out that most of these players had little to no moral fiber. And writers back then certainly did not even dare criticize the owners, and all of the problems they created due to the way they ran their ball clubs, (e.g. The Black Sox scandal). The baseball writers then, and now, fancy themselves more as wannabe poets than fact-producing journalists.
If you ignore all of the wistful prose of your Grantland Rices, your George Wills, your Bob Costas’, you will discover than the sport of baseball has always been more like a cold-blooded, ruthless business than a harmless, good-nature game. Let me repeat, baseball HAS NEVER BEEN JUST A GAME! The moment when a club paid a person to pay for their team, it stopped being a just a game. And that moment was back in 1859!
If baseball is and was so pure, why will it take until 2019 until we have had more integrated ball than segregated? If baseball is so clean, why is stealing bases a legitimate part of the game? Why is stealing an opposing team’s signals considered good gamesmanship? And if cheating is so reviled, why are there so many cheaters in the Hall of Fame? Even after the spitball was banned, the writers have elected known spitballers into the Hall. There are many other pitchers who have doctored the ball in almost every conceivable way imaginable. And many Hall of Fame batters have doctored their equipment as well. The most popular method is corking the bat. And most importantly, if the results from baseball players from the 1990’s and 2000’s are under a cloud of suspicion due to the wide use of steroids and HGH, why aren’t player from the previous four decades called out for their rampant abuse of amphetamines, a.k.a: “greenies”? Amphetamines, like steroids and HGH, is a PED. The writers in 2013 have taken a position that they are the vanguard to the gates of Cooperstown, and that the worst thing that can happen to the sport is if they happen to vote someone in whom we later find out was a user of ‘roids. Yes, admitting a new kind of cheater in the Hall is worse than segregation, the Reserve Clause, corporate welfare, labor strife, the lack of proper documentation of players from Central and Latin America, collusion, over-expansion, lack of accountability toward umpiring, the under-utilization of instant replay, and the lack of a salary floor that would create some semblance of competitive balance.
There are plenty of wonderful writers in the BBWAA that have gone on the record for whom they voted on their ballots and why. Most have used valid statistical analysis, and anecdotal evidence to support their arguments. Some have changed their minds one way or the other on certain candidates for all sorts of reasons. The ones I respect are the ones who are honest enough to cite personal preference as a reason for the way they voted without mentioning PEDs or the character clause. Because when it comes right down to it, a baseball Hall of Famer is no different from a successful businessman, or mediocre sportswriter in one key aspect: Character doesn’t matter.