Thursday, 17 January 2013 12:20

Sports Column: The Baseball Hall of Defame

By Damian Fantauzzi | Sports

There will not be any baseball player inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. It's only the eighth time in the Hall's history that this has happened.  The closest candidate was Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, who totaled 3,060 hits in his career and made seven  All-Star appearances, all while playing three positions in his illustrious career (catcher, second base and outfield).  He topped the ballot with 388 votes - 39 shy of the 427 needed for election. There were 569 ballots cast, the third highest total in the history of voting, but none of the 37 candidates in the 2013 vote gained the necessary 75 percent needed.


So, who votes? The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) does the work and there were 569 ballots cast. This is the first time since 1996 that the association has not picked a Hall of Famer. Commenting on the election, the Hall's president Jeff Idelson said, “The standards for earning election to the Hall of Fame have been very high ever since the rules were created in 1936. We realize the challenges voters are faced with in this era. The Hall of Fame has always entrusted the exclusive voting privilege to the Baseball Writers Association of America. We remain pleased with their role in evaluating candidates based on the criteria we provide."


Other players named with more than half of the ballots were pitcher Jack Morris (Detroit Tigers for 14 seasons including stints with the Twins, Blue Jays, Indians) with 385 votes, first baseman Jeff Bagwell with 339 (Houston Astros), catcher Mike Piazza with 329 votes (Dodgers, Mets, Marlins) and outfielder Tim Raines (Expos, White Sox, Yankees) with 297 votes.


Biggio and Piazza were each on the ballot for the first time, Morris for the 14th year, Bagwell the third and Raines the sixth. Players remain on the ballot for up to 15 years provided they receive five percent of the vote in any year. There were 19 who failed to make the cut this year (29 votes) - 18 of the 24 players who were on the ballot for the first time. This includes outfielder and former beloved Yankee, Bernie Williams, who was on the ballot the second time.  First-year candidates who received sufficient support to remain in addition to Biggio and Piazza were pitchers Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens, along with outfielders Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. Outfielder Dale Murphy, in his 15th and final year on the ballot, received 106 votes.

Other holdovers are first basemen Mark McGwire (Cardinals), Fred McGriff (who played for MANY teams); Don Mattingly (Yankees) and Rafael Palmeiro (Cubs, Texas, Baltimore); pitcher Lee Smith (many teams); shortstop Alan Trammell (Tiger for 20 years); designated hitter/third baseman Edgar Martinez (Mariners for 17 years) and outfielder Larry Walker (Expos, Rockies, Cardinals.)

Just a little history for you baseball fans! How difficult is it for these baseball writers to vote on these candidates?  I'm guessing it isn't an easy job and during the modern era, it’s become an even more difficult position. Obviously, no one in Cooperstown was trying to pitch a shutout of the eligible candidates. But one has to admire the process and how it is carried out. I think it's fair and there must be many circumstances that have to be weighed when casting a vote for America's baseball heroes.

The process used by the BBWAA is more than fair because it is a prolonged intense look that can be measured over a fifteen year period with plenty of scrutiny. It would seem that over that time period, that there is no one who can really be overlooked because of the method of examining something so closely! 

One wonders if the guidelines should be changed because of the distinctive shadow of the steroid era.  Also, is it time to change or re-examine the process used for voting?  It seems to me there couldn't be a better group than the baseball writers to execute what needs to be done, mainly because they all have a common cause and interest, in a serious concern for the game. I think that it is evident that the BBWAA took this vote a bit more seriously than others; there have to be so many questions, especially during the past decade, for these writers to process in their minds than probably ever before.

The suspicions of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) have created a whole new question for the baseball writers to consider. How do they determine if any of the candidates are users? This might be a reason that Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio and his teammate, Jeff Bagwell, were not inducted. The baseball writers might be concerned that one of these candidates (that should probably be inducted) could have used steroids or another form of PEDs during their careers. Taking a look at the modern era of athletics, how does one categorize who did what and who didn't?

Looks like maybe another Lance Armstrong story, such as: if all of the candidates used PEDs, things could get grim for the Hall. Lance was accused of doping, but so did mostly everyone else on the "tour!”  So who gets the multiple yellow jerseys and the seven Tour de France titles, even if Armstrong finally fesses up that he did doping? So where does it end or should I say what will the new beginning look like in all of sports, not to mention the problems confronting the Baseball Hall of Fame or Defamed?  Do we have a quagmire underfoot of a changing world of athletics? 

I certainly don't envy the BBWAA for the task that confronts them in the years to come. Maybe there needs to be an award for the "liars club" or even a marking like on the Walk of Fame at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, with a star for acting professional athletes.  Who knows what going to happen with the Baseball Hall of Fame or any other designated awards for athletes?  I certainly don't have an answer. There are some who say it is part of the changing demographics of baseball and other sports.  I just can't buy that.  I do feel that there can become such mistrust in the athletic world, when it comes to who is using what and who isn't. Where do we draw the line and how do we do that? This can get real messy - even more than it already is - and it puts a hole in the road to the future of institutions like the Baseball Hall of Fame. Where does it stop, how can it stop and will it stop?  I think this the beginning of a constant problem or a new beginning for professional world of sports where PEDs are accepted. But I certainly hope not!

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