Saturday, January 09, 2016

Takeaways from the 2016 Hall of Fame Results

Now that this year's Baseball Hall of Fame voting results have been announced and the furious hot takes about whether Jack Morris should get in have been safely buried for a year, it's time to look at those results - Griffey and Piazza in, everybody else out, Jim Edmonds off the ballot - and think about what this really means. To wit:

  1. As angry as people get over the fact that Ken Griffey Jr. was not elected unanimously to the Hall, it doesn't matter. We're talking about a binary state here, people, In or Out. Griffey is in; so is Tony Perez, and the difference between their vote totals stopped mattering once they started figuring out which hat was going on the plaque. Yes, it seems odd that three voters didn't mention Griffey on their ballot, but whether they were gaming the system by not voting for a sure thing in order to support a candidate in trouble *cough cough Alan Trammell cough cough* or they're just cranky die-hards who don't want anyone going in unanimously, it ultimately doesn't matter. In is in. 
  2. Backne apparently no longer means jackne. As indignant as the shrinking violets of the old guard were about Mike Piazza's assumed PED use - Murray Chass showed way more interest in Piazza's dermal issues than really is healthy for anyone who isn't a board-certified dermatologist - once the deadwood of the voting electorate got cleared away, there weren't enough bodies on the fainting couches to keep the greatest offensive catcher of all time from going in. Which is as it should be. Demonstrate proof or shut the hell up and go home, and if your proof is second-hand reports of Murray Chass muttering darkly into his decaf Sanka about the evil things he's seen, you've got nothing.
  3. It sucks that Jim Edmonds was a one-and-done. There are an awful lot of worthy players still cramming ballots, which means someone inevitably gets screwed. In this case, it was Edmonds, one of the top 20 center fielders of all time. But when the ballot's overloaded with the transcendent, the merely excellent gets lost in the shuffle. Here's hoping he gets the Richie Ashburn treatment and sees Cooperstown sooner or later.
  4. Slowly, some of the writers are figuring it out. We're in a place where we now have hot takes on hot takes on people's Hall of Fame ballot hot takes, and we've gone from it being about the players to it being about the writers voting for the players to it being about the writers criticizing the writers who are voting on the players, and finally, writers criticizing writers who are criticizing writers who are voting on the players. But slowly, the notion that debate about this stuff is not only good but also necessary and, more importantly, fun, is starting to creep back into the conversation. There's no automated Sorting Hat for Hall of Famers, nor should there be - the glory of the museum is not just the recognition of excellence, but the emotions that recognition evokes in us, the fans. And the debate over who should and who will get in is part of the fun, a part that baseball would do well to cling to. The alternative is a secretive, boring Hall of Fame process like football's, where there's no anticipation and no debate and the process feels mechanical, year after year. Thank goodness folks from Gammons to Jaffe get it and have started planting that flag in the public discussion.
  5. The "good guy/good quote" vote has largely outlived its usefulness. Look, in a slow year I'm all in favor of local writers tipping their caps to good local players. It's respectful, it's fun, and it doesn't hurt anyone. But in a year when the ballot is so choked with worthies that people are gaming the system to find a way to keep HOF-caliber players from simply falling off the ballot, it's time to get serious. Save the David Eckstein tributes for another year. This time around, there's work to be done.
  6. Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell aren't in yet, but it looks like they're going to sneak across the finish line next year. Good. They're both worthy. Raines was, as Jonah Keri keeps on trying to remind everyone, the second best leadoff hitter of all time who just happened to have the misfortune of playing alongside the first. "Not quite as good as Rickey Henderson" is not the same as "bad" or "unworthy". And counting stats aside, nobody hit moon shots like Bagwell, uncoiling that funky swing to launch baseballs that knocked the rain out of clouds all over east Texas. Imagine if he'd played in a park smaller than the Astrodome. The mind, it boggles.
  7. The purge of the voter rolls - in case you didn't know, the Hall dumped all the voters who hadn't covered baseball since the Truman administration - shored up support for more analytics-friendly candidates. Since Hall election is percentage-based, clearing out the ancient deadwood inclined to A)discount everything that's happened in baseball since Oscar Gamble was a thing and B)send in blank ballots to protest the Pete Rose decision because he gave a good quote in Flushing back in '78 means that every vote counts more, and it's a little bit harder to game the system against inclusion. 
  8. Nomar Garciaparra fell off the ballot. That's a wicked pissah.
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