What advice would you give friends stuck in a lousy job?
Here’s the job description: Do in-depth research. Subject yourself to nationwide criticism and relentless social media abuse. Get paid nothing.
The job is voting for baseball’s Hall of Fame.
I quit, and I wish my friends would, too.
If you are a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) for 10 years, you become eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame. Once you receive this “honor,” you often are asked by players, managers and baseball lifers why you get to make those decisions.
The better question is why anyone would want the job.
There are writers who might get an ego boost out of holding such power. And there are voters who have the vote who shouldn’t — especially those who earned the vote as baseball writers, then took jobs that kept them out of press boxes and clubhouses for years.
I’ve been through all of the emotional stages of Hall of Fame voting.
Proud to earn the vote.
Nervous about making such important decisions.
Sick of being treated like a criminal by anyone who disagrees, however illogically, with any of my decisions.
Uneasy at having to determine whether a player accused of using performance-enhancing drugs should be eligible.
Relieved to stop voting.
There is a good reason why baseball writers have made these decisions: Journalistic integrity and objective thinking make writers better qualified than almost anyone else.
Broadcasters essentially work for their teams. They would face intense internal pressure to vote in ways that benefit the team, or those they have befriended.
Former players tend to rely on their gut and eyes more than objective analysis.
Perhaps the next-best voting population would be a committee blending former players, general managers, scouts, media representatives and statistical analysts, but the problem with smaller voting populations is they can encourage horse-trading. (You help me get my guy in this time, and I’ll help you next time.)
I participated in one NFL Hall of Fame committee meeting, presenting Carl Eller’s case for the Hall. I sensed that because I wasn’t a regular, my presentation was barely considered, and I also sensed the reputation, longevity and passion of a presenter could sway other voters.
I think the NFL voters do good work, but their system is hardly flawless.
The defect of the baseball Hall voting — the huge voting population — is also its greatest strength: There is no way to lobby or coerce all of the voters. They act and think independently, which leads to the occasional mistake (Bud Selig is in the Hall but Marvin Miller isn’t? Bill Mazeroski is in and Jeff Kent isn’t close?) but is as equit-able a system as you will find.
I stopped voting for baseball’s biggest seasonal awards because I felt uncomfortable determining whether a player I cover daily, such as Justin Morneau, Johan Santana or Joe Mauer in their primes, should earn financial bonuses attached to awards.
Abstaining from postseason award voting led me to reconsider voting for the Hall. I saw how emotional Bert Blyleven was about failing to get in for so long. I saw how frustrated Jack Morris was by the process.
I voted for both of them. I thought both were Hall of Famers. But I can’t tell you I kept sentiment from affecting me. And sentiment, in this process, should be disqualifying.
Let me be clear: I admire most baseball writers. I admire those who do their homework and who make their votes public, knowing they’ll be criticized. Even if the outrage of the day is a player not receiving 100 percent of the votes or making it into the Hall in the first year of eligibility. Those occurrences are not outrages, just results of a broad-based democratic process.
I still believe baseball writers comprise the best electorate. I just don’t think they should be volunteering for such a lousy job.