With the Hall of Fame ballots due in less than a week, baseball writers around the country are looking at players from the past and thinking, “Did he juice? If he did, did it help? Does it matter? Is it cheating, or not?”
Such is the conundrum of players on the ballot from the PEDs Era. How do we solve it? Easy.
To me, the Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum. It’s a physical place that people can visit and learn about the history of the game. There are curators who acquire, organize, and manage historical items to put on display. Let’s leave it at that, and stop voting players into it. End the ballot. Done.
Going forward, the curators decide what players to honor, how to honor them, and when to honor them — just like any other museum. Was “Sue” the Tyrannosaurus Rex voted into Chicago’s Field Museum by a bunch of dinosaur writers? Did space writers vote moon rocks into the American Museum of Natural History? Was the Mona Lisa a first-ballot entry into the Louvre? Of course not. The idea of voting people into a museum is ludicrous, when you think about it. So let’s end it.
Without having the pressure of a vote every year, the great feats — and terrible choices — of Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Denny McLain, and Mark McGwire can be detailed and chronicled as part of baseball history. The remarkable run of Dodgers infielders Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey can be properly honored. The brief yet incredibly dominant runs of Dale Murphy and Don Mattingly can be celebrated without the nonsense of requiring 75% of a group of baseball writers to agree that it should be celebrated.
I understand why there was a vote in the past to establish “Hall of Famers.” Further, I understand how important it was — in the past — for individuals to be officially honored as “Hall of Famers.” Mainly, it was a financial thing. Back in the day, players didn’t make the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars that they do now, and their pensions aren’t nearly as lucrative as the ones doled out to more recent MLBPA members. So the credibility of “Hall of Famer” attached to a player was somewhat similar to adding the letters “Dr.” or “M.B.A.” to one’s name — it meant one could make more money. Who gets a bigger payday at a baseball card show? Jim Rice or “Hall of Famer Jim Rice”? For many players, that earning potential was important to enjoying their retirement.
However, the players coming on to the ballot now don’t need the meager dollars attached to “Hall of Famer” status. Rafael Palmeiro, for example, earned well over a hundred million dollars in his steroid-enhanced career — I doubt he, his children, or his children’s children, will ever need to rely on autographed baseballs to pay their doctor bills. So why is it so damn important that multimillionaires such as Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, etc., be voted in to The Hall? They don’t need the status for anything other than ego. If there was something about their careers that curators believe was so important to the history of baseball that future generations should learn about it, it can be chronicled in some way, shape, or form in the museum. Maybe it’s a photo, or an old glove, or a laser show. Plaques are boring, anyway. With or without voted-in “Hall of Famers,” we’ll still have arguments about who are/were the best players in baseball — and it will remain a fun exercise.
The problem, of course, is that if there is no longer a vote for Hall of Famers, there’s no induction and no gala event to promote and celebrate The Hall every summer. Well here’s an idea: instead of voting in “Hall of Famers,” the BBWAA can vote in a panel of curators every year. The curators can be players, writers, broadcasters, owners, coaches, scouts, MLBPA labor leaders, and maybe even fans. Those curators handed the custodial responsibility of choosing artifacts and events to honor in the Hall, for a period of one year. To some people, the opportunity to shape how baseball history will be displayed may be more of an honor than having their face put on a plaque.
That’s my idea — just throwing it out there. Not saying it’s the greatest idea, but it’s something to start the conversation. In my opinion, the concept of voting players into the Hall of Fame has run its course, and it’s time for something different.
What’s your thought? Is it time to end the voting? If not, why do you feel it is important to continue? Or, maybe you think the voting process needs to be changed. Air it out in the comments.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers.