Since I (Evander) am always babbling (even occasionally in a coherent manner) about this subject, Martin has egged me on to comment further on The National Baseball Hall of Fame selection process: how to ensure only the greatest players are inducted. Thus, Right Off the Bat has not only come up with this Overhaul of Fame, but with the related concepts of Hall executives commissioning an Anabolic Annex and an “Anti-Chamber.”
Bill James has written far more eloquently on the subject of “immortality-inclusion” in Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? He makes passionate but statistical cases against certain “immortals” like Don Drysdale.
The subject of to induct or not to induct (as Shakespeare might have said) is filled with all sorts of subjective criteria. Did the player cultivate the right writers during his career? After it was over, does he go deep-sea or fly fishing with key members of the Veterans’ Committee? (To The Hall’s credit, this committee has been re-thought; though it still smacks of a popularity contest to me.)
Aside from the obvious issue of talent, and the more slippery-slope issue of character, today we have the added wrinkle (in or out of time) of anabolic-steroid or “protein-shake” ingestion when such were not quite banned. Mark McGwire has already been muscled out, perhaps permanently. What will be the fate of home-run king Barry Bonds, when he appears on the ballot? Of Roger Clemens?
As recently blogged, what do we do with figures implicated in gambling? Pete Rose and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson? Rose has the most hits of any big-leaguer. Jackson’s lifetime batting average is right up there with Rogers Hornsby’s (try saying that three times fast) and Ty Cobb’s: Cobb being the number-one inductee…and, by the way, a psychopath.
Separate from these issues is the recent run of non-superstar inductions: to wit, Paul Molitor; Bert Blyleven; and recent inductee, Barry Larkin. My own subjectivity comes into play in naming these fine players. But I can hardly wait to see the July induction ceremonies when Mike Piazza, Pedro Martinez, and Greg Maddux become eligible. (I don’t count on seeing Bonds or Clemens.) Rickey Henderson is the last real-star induction I can recall.
For the rest, as the chantey asks, “What do we do with the drunken sailor?” Here go The Big Concepts from ROTB: The Anabolic Annex would include Bonds, McGwire, Palmiero. “The Anti-Chamber” is for Rose, Joe Jackson, and maybe even my own favorite piano-man and Las Vegas bad boy, Denny McLain.
We wonder what Jonathan Swft would make of our Modest Proposal.
This time of year, i.e., HoF voting, always brings up arguments about inclusion and exclusion. If McGwire, who admitted to taking PEDs can’t get in, Bonds and Clemens shouldn’t either, using the “character” issue as rationale since they continue to deny imbibing. There are numerous articles about the general topic, which I have (at the risk of appearing self-serving here) collected in an entry on my own blog (http://www.ronkaplansbaseballbookshelf.com/2012/01/11/the-hall-of-fame-wheel-comes-around-again/).
ROTB could not agree more. HOF inclusion is always a great barroom-brawl starter. Players such as Larkin and Jack Morris are on today’s short list surely. I would also note, there are a surprising number of players long-ago inducted that fit the same general description. This does not mean, however, that these players ought to be on any short list. Their election does not exactly cheapen the HOF; and Ron Santo is a fine choice from the Veterans’ Committee. All are superb athletes. If Santo were alive, the 2012 induction ceremony would be a little more exciting. Recent ceremonies have been snoozes. What ought to concern even more is the watering down of the HOF pool (to mix a metaphor slightly) as steroids-associated players are dropped (at least at present) from consideration and others, not so short-list worthy, move up the chain.