Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
First off, the disclaimers. Yes, I am a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. No, I don't have a Hall of Fame vote because I haven't been a member for 10 consecutive years. Yes, I'm not sure I would vote even if I had that authority to do so because I'm uncomfortable with journalists voting on "honors" for the people they've covered.
And, no, I'm not bothered by what happened with Hall of Fame voter Dan Le Batard giving his vote to the web site Deadspin, which in turn allowed its readers to cast La Batard's vote. The readers certainly did better than those who cast knucklehead buddy-up votes for ex-Twins outfielder Jacque Jones and some of the others who make the ballot only because of longevity rules that put pretty good players up for the honor who aren't close to being worthy of a vote.
While I don't recommend that giving away votes become a common practice, if Le Batard's move becomes the event that brings some change, then it will have served a good purpose. And I was happy to hear Le Batard say Thursday morning that he wishes he'd waited a day to reveal his identity because of the attention it deflected from the Hall of Fame results themselves.
(I'm not going to get deep into the steroid-era debate here, even though that is driving much of the outrage. If I did have a vote right now -- and if I chose to cast it -- I would have trouble voting for the players who I would judge to have skewed and screwed the game for others. Don't make that a journalist's argument because it's a popular position among those who have played the game and among fans, too. It's a fair debate, and it is nowhere near resolved.)
My Star Tribune colleague La Velle E. Neal III has walked squarely into the voting issue by virtue of his recent appointment as president of the BBWAA. In large part, it will be up to La Velle and others in the group to craft an appropriate response, one that will be driven in part by those within the organization who think change of some sort is needed.
Another key player in the discussion is baseball's Hall of Fame itself. The Hall's position is that the BBWAA is doing a fine job. And, more importantly, that any revision in the process would be no guarantee of making things better.
The Hall of Fame has entrusted the process to an organization that, with the exception of some silliness among a small group of the 571 members who voted, is filling its role as well as anyone. As La Velle said in this video: Among any group of voters that large "you're going to have a couple of crackpots." The vast majority of BBWAA's voters see more baseball -- and see it more objectively -- than other groups that could be assembled.
The one thing I would require of all voters is that their ballots be made public. I'm pretty sure that would do away with almost all of the silly votes. Let Jacque Jones be on the ballot as a reward for the length of his playing career -- if only because energy spent on who should be on the ballot is energy taken away from the bigger issues.
If you can't stand the scrutiny of voting for baseball's highest honor, you shouldn't have the privilege of voting on it. Could the people who voted for Jones or Armando Benitez or J.T. Snow post their vote and explain it with a straight face? (Time spent talking about "punishing" Le Batard, if that's being done, is also time wasted.)
The other thing I'll await is a resolution of some sort on how the steroid-era players should be viewed. I don't think that will happen next month or next year, but I suspect that a position will evolve over time. I'm open to my position changing and it doesn't bother me that the most heavily targeted players -- Bonds and Clemens, for example -- are on hold. The Hall of Fame is filled with players, including Bert Blyleven, who clawed their way up from meager vote totals to eventual election.
Jayson Stark of ESPN addressed the unresolved issues here, and it's definitely worth your time to read his opinion.
The real issue is that almost everything done well can be done even better. That's the challenge facing the BBWAA and Hall of Fame. I'm voting that they're up for it.
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