Thursday, January 09, 2014

I'm Feeling A Little Chippy Today

The Baseball Hall of Fame results were announced yesterday. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas got in. Good for them. As a non-Braves fan, Maddux always frustrated me, with his ability to get strike calls six inches off the outside corner, but the way he pitched, that was clearly skill, not luck. Or luck as the residue of design. I'm not a huge DH fan, but they're part of baseball, so if they're good enough, I don't see any reason not to vote them in. I liked Paul Molitor, and he DH'ed a lot, and I'd vote for Edgar Martinez if I could, so no problem with the Big Hurt. Craig Biggio missed it by 2 votes, which is a little maddening. There's so many players I think deserve to be in to choose from, it would have been nice to clear the ballot a little more. I need the ballot cleared by the time Jim Edmonds gets on there (Note: I know Edmonds has next to no shot, but what the hell, I think he has a decent "peak value" case. Griffey gets in first among centerfielders, but Edmonds could go in later. Maybe the Veterans Committee gets Kenny Lofton in later).

Deadspin got a writer to turn control of his ballot over to them. In practice, this meant turning it over to the fans, since Deadspin opted for a polling approach. Every player on the ballot was listed with the question, "Is {Insert Player Name} a Hall of Famer?", then Yes or No below that. You could vote yes for as many as you pleased, or no, or skip any of them you wanted. Any player who got more than 50% yes, they'd try to put on the ballot. If there were more than 10 (since the rules say you can only vote for 10 players for some reason*), the 10 with the highest percentage of "Yes" votes get named, which is how it turned out.

I took the opportunity to vote. Just once, no ballot stuffing, but why not? I like baseball, try to follow it as much as possible. As I went into biology and not journalism, the chances of my ever getting to vote otherwise are pretty slim. Because only BBWAA-accredited sportswriters, with 10 years in that organization get to vote. Players or managers? No (well, as part of the Veterans Committee they do, if they've been elected to Hall already). Broadcasters, announcers, analysts? No. Fans. Oh, hell no. So I voted for around 15 players. I thought they all had strong cases, so I was gonna throw my tiny bit of support behind him, and see how things played out.

The voter in question was Dan LeBatard, which wasn't surprising once I thought about it. I figured it would be a voter I'd never heard of, playing the odds that there are about 600 possible voters. But it's the sort of grandstand act he seems to appreciate. Now he's barred from ever voting again, which may not be a good thing, if you're fond of voters who actually want to vote for lots of players. As opposed to sending in blank ballots to spite their detractors (I wonder if Murray Chass will do this as he's vowed), or taking a moral stand completely divorced from reality**. Then again, there are lots of people in the Hall of Fame most people couldn't name, while quite a few more people know Pete Rose, the guy forever banned from baseball. LeBatard might be more well known as the guy frozen out for going against certain writers' sense of superiority than as just another voter. Maybe. Strictly speaking, nothing in the rules says you can't crowd source your vote. Just like it doesn't prohibit sending in blank ballots to mock people who think you're an idiot, or voting for a guy you know doesn't belong (Jim DeShaies), because you want to write an article about why you voted for him. I'd say LeBatard's mistake was letting Deadspin name him, but Chass has been open about his intent, and so was the guy who voted for DeShaies, so it's really about letting the fans have a little voice. Besides, LeBatard's not the sort to shy from publicity (for the record, he didn't receive money, Deadspin donates to charity as specified by him)

So I'm not surprised at the outrage of some writers, but I'm still irritated. I know Tony Kornheiser's a cranky old man at the best of times, but his insistence the Hall of Fame is about as democratic as you get is silly. It is democratic, in the same way the United States was when it was first formed. You could vote, if you were a white man, otherwise, scram. You can vote for the Hall if you're a sportswriter, but otherwise, you couldn't possibly have the deep understanding necessary for such an undertaking. They see it as their exclusive little fiefdom (or country club), one gifted to them by the Hall 80 years ago, and woe be to anyone trying to sneak in under the fence. Or smash through the gate on a lawnmower, which may be the more appropriate metaphor in this case.

It's a little like the awful guys that perpetuate the "fake geek girl" idea and erect all these bullshit barriers to somehow bar people from also enjoying something they enjoy. Because those other people enjoy it differently, and that's wrong. The Hall of Fame thing isn't that bad, because at the end of the day, it's just a baseball museum. I know Tim Raines and Mike Mussina are good whether they get in or not. Also, most sportswriters don't go around being complete dicks to baseball fans who disagree with them. They can be overly defensive, arrogant, and hypocritical, but they don't actively try to run off people who like baseball. They might do it inadvertently, but there's not typically intent.

Part of what bugs me is a sense the writers are devaluing the players and baseball I watched and enjoyed. They know some players used drugs, but they don't know which ones (and it's only certain drugs that matter), or how much those drugs helped. McGwire used steroids when he hit 70 home runs in '98. OK, how many would he have hit without them? 63, 37, 11, maybe he would have been so bad without them he retires in 1996. We don't know, anymore than we know how much greenies helped Hank Aaron. Since they don't like the history they've been dealt, they try to wipe it out, deny its existence.  "Those guys don't count, they can't possibly compare to the players I grew up watching," they say. Like DC's, "let's roll the characters back to the Silver Age" strategy. More Hal Jordan and Barry Allen! You like Cassandra Cain or Ryan Choi? Tough shit, we're killing them off or just wiping them from history. Except unlike DC, the writers don't actually own baseball, or the Hall of Fame. They just enjoy acting like they do.

* Well, the reason now would be, "because that's how it's always been done", but I don't know the original reason.

** Ken Gurnick, the only guy who actually copped to not voting for Greg Maddux, argued he wouldn't vote for anyone from the so-called PED Era. I disagree with that, but it's at least in theory a consistent approach. Except he voted for Jack Morris, whose career overlaps Maddux' by about 7 seasons. He didn't vote for Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, or Lee Smith, all contemporaries of Morris. It frames PED use as something that didn't exist in baseball prior to Morris' retirement in 1994. Never mind that fans were doing "steroid" chants at Canseco as far back as 1988, or that players were popping amphetamines like Skittles as far back as the '60s, including no-doubt Hall of Famers like Hank Aaron and Mike Schmidt. It undercuts the whole argument with how poorly thought out it is.


SallyP said...

I never thought of the voting for the Hall of Fame quite in that way before, but you do have a valid point.

People do seem awfully fond of thinking up ways to exclude other people from participating in "their" cool stuff.

CalvinPitt said...

Someone pointed out the writers had all the power for a long time, and most people don't like to give up power once they've got it. Maybe that's it.