The time has come yet again for baseball Twitter to spend the next several months eviscerating the Baseball Writers Association of America, also known as the BBWAA, and rightfully so. Even though the deserved criticism will be intensified due to the lockout, year after year the BBWAA lets down the entire baseball world by ignoring deserving players in favor of creating a popularity contest, wasting their selections on “strategic” votes, and taking a delusional moral high ground so unprecedented that it appears nowhere else in sports. Why are these issues inherently problematic? Let me explain.
In every other Hall of Fame, statistics do the talking. If a player reaches certain standards on the field, they are enshrined in glory for the rest of time. Simple enough, right? Well, no. Cooperstown runs differently. Instead of following the aforementioned logical reasoning, baseball strives to be different in the most frustrating and illogical ways.
An example? Well, as fellow Phenom contributor Alexander Mihalopoulos pointed out in his spectacular piece, the prime candidate for this point is Derek Jeter. I know I know, Jeter is for sure a Hall of Famer, but do his career statistics beyond fan-voted All-Stars and undeserved Golden Gloves actually back this up? No. As Alexander points out in his piece, Derek Jeter is one of the worst defensive players of all time, and certainly the worst defensive player of his time, as well as a statistically just above-average hitter. But, because of he and his team’s popularity, Jeter received the second-highest percentage of votes all time (396/397, 99.75%) only behind the deserved Mariano Rivera’s 100% vote clip. The same will happen in this year’s class with David Ortiz, an average-at-best regular-season hitter.
Next, let’s quickly tackle why “strategic votes” are a wasted selection. Strategic votes are votes that are cast solely to keep a player, almost always one that won’t make it into Cooperstown, above the 5% threshold so he can remain on the ballot for next year. Not only are these a waste, but quite frankly downright cruel. Imagine this for just a second: say that you have a bunny and you place that bunny on a treadmill and hold a carrot just outside of its reach. The bunny thinks he has a chance to get the carrot, so he chases and chases until eventually, he falls off the treadmill when the time limit is reached. The entire time the optimistic rabbit chased the carrot, you knew he wouldn’t have a shot at reaching its goal. This is strategic voting and it’s being done in this year’s class with Tim Hudson. Tim Hudson will never be a Hall of Famer, shown by his measly 42 out of 100 on Baseball-Reference’s HOFs (Hall of Fame Career Standard) measurement, yet he will most likely remain on the ballot around his 5.2% vote last year to be strung along in 2023’s class.
Finally, the most popular criticism surrounding the BBWAA: their insatiable moral high ground. When discussing this issue, there is usually only one topic that is associated with this and that is steroids. While I will end up touching on that, I would be remiss if I didn’t very quickly mention one of the most prominent ways this year’s class is especially unique. That is the notoriously strange Curt Schilling. All that needs to be said about Schilling is this: is Schilling subjectively really crazy? Yes. Did Schilling purposefully intimidate journalists and request to be taken off of the ballot after a frustrating nine years of rejection? Also, yes. Should anything other than his unprecedented and unmatched post-season dominance matter in impacting his Hall of Fame chances? No. The only reason why Schilling is not already in the Hall of Fame is because he was socially outcasted by baseball’s upper-echelon.
Now, onto the steroid abuse. This year’s ballot is full of new steroid abusers, but also a few of the most prominent users in baseball history are on the last year of their eligibility. These names include Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez is highlighted entering his sixth year on the ballot because of this trend, and they are joined by newcomers David Ortiz and the infamous Alex Rodriguez. While they all have PED use binding them together, the first grouping of three are under completely different circumstances than the latter three. Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens have far too long been the face of steroid use during baseball’s ‘Steroid Era’. This period of time was truly a “Wild West” of sorts and there were few rules prohibiting the use, but Ramirez, Rodriguez, and Ortiz knew better. There were clear-cut rules that were enforced and they lied, cheated, and stole their way through them. The fact that the three older players are heralded as being worse is an injustice because, in my eyes, anyone in this generation that uses PEDs is far more egregious. Furthermore, steroids boost physical attributes, such as strength, so how are Bonds (the greatest hitter of all time) and Clemens (one of the two best pitchers post-WW2) still being held out? Even if Bonds didn’t have all of the power he had off-the-roids, his immense talent still would have carried him to be a great player. Same with Clemens, whose steroid use would’ve had little impact on his immaculate control. That being said, I don’t believe Sosa is a Hall of Famer. The only thing Sosa had going for him was power, and that is a direct benefit from steroids, unlike Bonds who was very talented in other areas at the plate. If you make Bonds and Clemens wait until their 10th year to decide their fate, at least stay consistent with Ramirez, Rodriguez, and Ortiz. Or, ya know, don’t put up a fake moral compass that constantly shifts with the trends of the BBWAA groupthink.
So, the moral of the story? Overhaul the BBWAA and let someone else take over the voting so we can at least have a shot at not making Cooperstown stay a joke forever. Whether let the fans vote, a fan-journalist mix, I’m not sure. But something must change, and honestly, anything that isn’t the constant hypocrisy of the BBWAA would be a tremendous upgrade for the legacy of the greatest sport in the world.
P.S. TIM LINCECUM BELONGS IN THE HALL, STOP LYING TO YOURSELVES.