For the first time this year, I was a baseball Hall of Fame voter. Unlike my colleague Jim Souhan, who made an interesting case for why he longer votes, I was glad to cast a ballot.
A bit about me: I used to cover the Twins for the Star Tribune and then I edited our baseball coverage. I was an official scorer at the 1987 World Series and for about five years after that when i was no longer working in sports. I've blogged about baseball for the Star Tribune and, in my current role as digital web sports editor, there's very little significant baseball news that I don't see.
This is my second stint as a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). The first one lasted more than seven years before I switched from writing about sports to covering news. Losing my membership was the right move at the time.
I've earned the right to vote this time after 10 consecutive years as a member. I haven't made a big deal about it because, despite my years in and around baseball, I'm among the most junior of voting members. I don't have the background that Jim wrote about in his column.
But I'll match what I do with anyone.
I don't sit in press boxes often or go into clubhouses. But when I'm at Target Field, I'll wager that I'm watching the game as intently as the baseball writers who vote. If you go to a game with me, we're not going to wander around the ballpark like many fans or debate craft beers. I'm not distracted by all of the things that sportswriters need to do during and after games. When I go to a game with my season-ticket partner, there's a pretty good chance he's looking up stats or sharing baseball updates on his phone. We went to a game once where I didn't keep a scorecard and he was stunned. (I knew I had to leave early.)
When I go to a game with my wife Julie, she's listening to the radio broadcast with an earphone and frequently passing along Dan Gladden's insights. We met at a Twins playoff party at the Bulldog on Lyndale and got married at Target Field.
The Hormel Hall of Fame song was on our DJ's playlist.
At home, baseball is the only sport I watch in which i go out of my to shut down everything else, except for my Twitter feed. No multitasking in the basement. I watch a lot of games on MLB's at-bat package. I still talk to "baseball people."
What did I do for research? I used a couple of vacation days. I spent a lot of time digging into data-filled rabbit holes, especially those on baseball-reference.com. I created a small baseball cabinet. It included two Division III college players. One of them is a senior Applied Math and Statistics major who did his capstone project on Hall of Fame ballot; the other is a sophomore Economics major. Both were recommended to me by their college coach, Matt Parrington, at Macalester.
I consulted with a Twin Cities high school math teacher who also has done work for a sports analyics company, as well as a long-time MLB scouting coordinator, who agreed with me that a player for one of the clubs he's worked for was very good but not a Hall of Famer.
I set up some parameters that I shared with my helpers: On the steroid guys, on Curt Schilling's candidacy. I gave them a few questions to ponder that I thought would help guide my choices. Voters can pick up to a maximum of 10 candidates. Voting for 10 players has become more common in recent years, in part because of the debate over players who were suspected of and suspended for their use of Performance Enhancing Drugs.
I ended up giving serious consideration to about 15 players before deciding on 10. A couple fell off because I knew they weren't going to make it. and I wanted to use those votes on others in hopes that they'd stay on the ballot so there would be more debate about them in the next few years. Part of my curiosity there is because I think those players will foreshadow the debate voters will have in a few years about Joe Mauer's Hall of Fame candidacy.
It was necessary for me to break one of my previous habits: Checking the Hall of Fame tracker that includes BBWAA members who offer up their ballots to the public before the Dec. 31 deadline for submitting votes. Normally an avid along-the-way follower, I didn't look until after my ballot was signed and in the envelope. (I'll acknowledge that it's kind of cool to see my name on a spreadsheet listed with people who are my friends and have known over the years.)
I voted for all four of the players -- Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina -- who were elected. I also voted for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez and Larry Walker.
Jim Souhan wrote that he was "sick of being treated like a criminal by anyone who disagrees, however illogically, with any of my decisions." I've seen a lot of that, especially the yelping on Twitter, and my "sibling" policy has taken over: Most of the noise goes in one ear and out the other. I will talk about my picks in just about any forum other than Twitter. We'll disagree on some things and that's how it supposed to be. If you yell at me, I'll (to twist a common radio phrase) hang up and won't listen.
I posted my ballot on Facebook a couple of days ago, and have been having a nicely nuanced discussion with my friends there. For the most part, anyway.
My friend Mark (Surname Redacted), added to the Facebook discussion, "Andruw Jones?"
My response: "Mark (Surname Redacted)?"
My day job includes working on the Internet and watching over a Twitter feed. I may have a limited skill set, but one of the boxes you can check next to my name is "really, really good at not being provoked."
If nothing else, I wanted to show you how seriously I took this privilege. From my conversations, though, I haven't come across anyone who takes it lightly. I may not have the traditional credentials or background of many voters. I think the current rules guarantee more diversity of background than many people are willing to acknowledge.
And for those who have opted not to vote, including Souhan, that's fine too.