December 16, 2017

Baseball HOF Voting — Some Writers Don’t Deserve The Privilege

July 27, 2015 by · 9 Comments 

As it happens every summer, for one weekend in July, the eyes of the baseball world turned to Cooperstown, New York, for Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Now that they’re over, thoughts will turn to next year’s candidates and Ken Griffey, Jr., who was elected to Major League Baseball’s All-Century team in 1999, and will be up for Hall-of-Fame induction in 2016.

Griffey, before Barry Bonds started rubbing flaxseed oil all over himself (which made Bonds’ head grow, who knew?), was the greatest player of his generation, and certainly the greatest “clean,” i.e. drug and steroid-free player of his generation. When one is elected to Major League Baseball’s All-Century team as Griffey was, and with his unquestioned character, is there any reason for any baseball writer to not vote Griffey in on his first year of eligibility?

Griffey should be elected by a unanimous vote, but don’t count on it. Despite not having a valid reason, some baseball writers will not vote for Griffey on their Hall of Fame ballot. Inexplicably, 16 writers did not vote for Greg Maddux for the Baseball Hall of Fame on this year’s ballot. No baseball player, no matter how great, not Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Henry Aaron or Willie Mays, has ever been voted in unanimously. Mind-boggling isn’t it?

Bill Conlin, who covered sports for the Philadelphia Daily News, was only one of six writers out of 497 to not vote for Nolan Ryan on his 1999 Hall of Fame ballot because he did not consider him among the elite of all-time pitching greats. Six out of 497! I guess it didn’t matter that Ryan is the all-time leader in strikeouts and no-hitters by a significant margin. Conlin and five other writers thought differently than their 491 counterparts.

Another line of thinking by some writers is that since no player has ever been voted in unanimously, that no one should. Trying to right a wrong with another wrong to make a right is wrong. In math terms, one wrong plus another wrong does not equal a right. It simply equals greater wrongdoing. In other words, a stupid act plus another stupid act equals further stupidity.

When you think of all-time great shortstops in baseball history, Honus Wagner immediately comes to mind followed by Cal Ripken. Ripken, also one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors ever, inexplicably was not voted into the Hall of Fame unanimously. One would think that arguably the second greatest player ever at his position would be voted in unanimously. Amazingly, eight baseball writers out of 545 did not think Ripken worthy of being voted in on his first ballot, which is utterly ridiculous.

How many voters will leave Derek Jeter off their ballot when he becomes eligible for induction in five years?

It is an honor and a privilege to be a voter for the Baseball Hall of Fame and that responsibility should not be taken lightly. That vote helps determine a player’s legacy and helps define the sport’s history and its greatest players. It is not the time for a writer to make a statement or to self-promote and upstage the Hall of Fame and the sport itself. Write a column if you want to make a statement and not deny someone obviously worthy of a first ballot vote.

When you hear the name of hall of famers such as Stan Musial, Mays, or Aaron, the thought of what great players they were and unquestionably amongst baseball’s all-time greats should immediately come to mind.

Musial, winner of six batting titles, had a .331 lifetime batting average and 3,630 hits (4th all-time), and was a record 24-time All-Star, yet 23 voters did not vote for him in 1969 when he was on the ballot for induction. Twenty-three voters! At the time of his retirement, Musial held or shared 17 major league records, 29 National League records and nine All-Star Game records. What possible reason could any writer not vote Musial in on his first year of eligibility?

Twenty-three voters did not vote for Mays, the greatest all-around baseball player of all-time, when he was eligible for induction. Aaron retired as the all-time home run and runs batted in leader, and yet was left off nine ballots. That is comparable to having an Art Hall of Fame and not voting for Michelangelo. When 97.8% of your counterparts are voting for Aaron and nine writers do not vote for a true all-time great of the game, it is no longer a question or whether the player is worthy or not, but for what reason are they not they voting for him. For a writer not to vote for someone obviously first ballot worthy, and without a valid reason, should have his voting privileges revoked.

Twenty writers did not for Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter of all-time, in 1966 when he was on the ballot. Sixteen baseball writers left Johnny Bench, arguably the greatest catcher in the history of the game, off the ballot in 1989. How could 13 voters out of 545 not vote for eight-time batting champion Tony Gwynn? Gwynn’s lifetime batting average is a remarkable .338.

If asked who was baseball’s greatest third baseman years ago many might have said Brooks Robinson, and then Mike Schmidt started to change a lot of people’s minds about that. If you are that good that you are in the conversation of being the best ever at your position, shouldn’t everyone vote you into the Hall of Fame? Yet, 16 writers out of 460 did not think so in 1995 for Schmidt.

Eleven voters did not vote for Honus Wagner back in 1936, that very same number that did not vote for Ruth! Cy Young, the all-time wins leader with 511, got less than half the writers’ votes in 1936 and had to wait until the next year and barely got voted in. In 1974, there were 365 votes by writers and 43 of them did not feel Mickey Mantle was worthy of induction. Someone please enlighten me how Mantle was not worthy of the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

I am not saying that Griffey is better than Mays, Ruth, etc., or even more deserving of being the first unanimous first ballot electee into baseball’s hall of fame, but he is unquestionably a first ballot hall of famer. To not vote him on the first ballot would be a terrible mistake. It is time to stop repeating egregious mistakes.

As idiotic as it is to not vote for someone who should be an automatic first ballot Hall of Famer, it is also wrong to vote for someone who should not be considered for the Hall of Fame. That is a mockery of the system and an insult to the sport’s history. Those voters should be exposed.

There are many examples of this over the years. In 2010, David Segui, Kevin Appier, and Pat Hentgen all got one Hall of Fame vote, and Eric Karros got two. None of these players should be on the ballot much less receiving a vote for the Hall of Fame.

In 2009, Jay Bell got two votes. In 2008, Chuck Finley and Todd Stottlemyre both got a vote. Who are these writers and what reasoning do they have to give such players a Hall of Fame vote? The writers should come out and explain the lunacy of their actions. In 2005, one writer, yes one writer out of 516, thought Terry Steinbach deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. That writer should have his voting privilege revoked.

When you think about players that are worthy of the Hall of Fame, one thinks of Ruth, Musial, Aaron and…..Grady Hatton? You never heard of Hatton? Me neither, yet some writer voted for him in 1967. Hatton had a 12-year career beginning in 1946, had a lifetime batting average of .254, and had 91 home runs, 533 RBIs, and 1,068 hits, which averages out to less than nine home runs a year, 44 runs batted in and 89 hits a season. This is Hall of Fame worthy?

These writers are belittling the process and the responsibility they have been given, and it is time their voting privilege be taken away if for no other reason than stupidity. Over the years, the numbers of voters has increased substantially. In 2007, there were 545 votes cast, so eliminating those few writers who do not vote intelligently will not be missed at all.

I am not suggesting singleness of thought by all the baseball writers, but let’s be serious. Automatic first ballot hall of famers and those who have no business getting votes are easier to pick out than someone wearing scarlet and gray at a University of Michigan pep rally.

The American Sportscasters Association has been lobbying to let sportscasters vote for baseball’s Hall of Fame inductees. Boston Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione has broadcast more than 5,000 games and cannot vote. Castiglione once said he knew one writer that has not covered a game since 1972 and voted year after year.
I certainly would not advocate for fans to vote when it comes to who belongs in the Hall of Fame, but judging by how some baseball writers have voted over the years, they couldn’t do any worse.

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Comments

9 Responses to “Baseball HOF Voting — Some Writers Don’t Deserve The Privilege”
  1. Sorry, but allowing the general public to vote for Hall of Fame candidates would turn it into a 3-ring circus and for sure, a popularity contest, which is what it’s bordering on now. If you don’t believe me, just look at what’s happening with the All Stars now. Whoever has the biggest fan base will surely be voting their favorites in, year after year,
    and that’s not what it’s supposed to be about. But I think you’re on to something about the writers who do vote.

  2. John Baranowski says:

    Ronni,
    Thank you for your comments. Please note that I did write I’m not advocating fans vote for the HOF, but some of the “professional” baseball writers who do vote are exhibiting ridiculous fan-like behavior when it comes to HOF voting.

  3. mike says:

    The point is to win and Nolan Ryan was only a little over .500 for his career. Poor teams, you say? Look up the record of Walter Johnson sometime. Some of those Washington teams make Ryan’s Angels look like world-beaters. K’s and no-hitters are great, but if you lose the game, what’s the good? A better focus for changing the logistics of Hall voting would be the New York-centric bias and the lack of appreciation for defense, although the latter is changing slightly. Whining because no one has gotten 100% of the vote is ridiculous. Four voters didn’t vote for Tyrus Raymond Cobb, and several did not vote for the greatest player ever, George Ruth. What do you bet the New York contingent spearheads a drive to elect Saint Derek with 100% five years hence, despite his mediocre defense?

  4. John Baranowski says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if an effort took place to have Jeter be unanimously voted it, but it will not occur despite their best efforts.

    Do you blame Ernie Banks for the lack of the Cubs success? Some players benefit by being surrounded by great players others are not as fortunate. Off the top of my head I don’t recall Ryan’s teams having many HOFers in the starting eight. Thank you for your comment.

  5. Dr. Doom says:

    Griffey was NEVER a better player than Bonds. More popular? Sure. Bonds was a surly SOB. But Griffey was never a better player. In fact, I doubt he had one single season in which he was a better player than Bonds. MAYBE 1996 or 1997, but I’m not even sure about those. In the 1990s (1990-1999), here are their lines (R-HR-RBI-SB-AVG/OBP/SLG):

    Griffey: 1002-382-1091-151-.302/.384/.581; 1 MVP, 1 2nd, 2 4th, 1 5th.
    Bonds: 1091-361-1076-343-.302/.434/.302; 3 MVPs, 1 2nd, 1 4th, 2 5th.

    Unless you think that 21 HR and 15 RBI are WAY better than 89 R and nearly 200 (192) SB, or that a 4th-place MVP finish is better than two wins, I don’t see where the argument is that Griffey was the better player. The 2nd best player of the ’90s? Absolutely. But Bonds was superior, regardless of what happened after 2000.

  6. John Baranowski says:

    Griffey, from 1993 to 2000, in the seasons he played over 111 games, in every season he hit over 40 home runs, including 56 twice and 48 in another, and his high RBI years were 140, 147, 146 and 134 while winning a total of 10 Gold Glove awards in his career.

    Bonds’ highest HR total, including the years that showed declining statistics three consecutive seasons ’97-’99 before his statistics improved ridiculously at his age (flaxseed oil anyone?) were 46, 42 and 40. His highest RBI years to that point were 129 and 123 and Bonds would win two less Gold Gloves in his career than Griffey.

    Also, keep in mind through 1999, Bonds averaged playing in 153 games a year, Griffey only 140. Junior was producing superior statistics while playing in 13 less games a year on average.

  7. John says:

    How in the world did sportswriters get the vote in the first place? Sounds like a great idea. Lets have the guys who werent good enough to play themselves decide who the best is. Just let former players vote and be done with it. No one knows more about the game than them. Id even rather have the fans decide over the writers. The game is for the fans after all.

  8. Bob Mack says:

    I knew a writer who did not vote for Schmidt.

    I was at spring training in the 80’s and after a game
    at Jack Russel the writers went into the clubhouse for
    players to field their questions. This writer came out
    afterward and told me that a Philly PR man went to Schmidt
    and told him there was a terminally ill kid outside from
    the Make a Wish program who would love to have a ball
    signed by him. Schmidt told the PR man, “Not today”.
    this is not the only instance which formed this writers
    opinion of Schmidt and I have to agree with his perspective.
    I would not have voted for the guy either.

  9. John Baranowski says:

    We would like to think that all professional athletes are exemplary individuals all the time, and we hold them to a higher standard, yet we know that’s often not the case. IF (capital letters intentional) that is true, that sucks.

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