By: Jamie Samuelsen
I love the Baseball Hall of Fame. And I hate it.
If you’ve never been to Cooperstown, I highly recommend it. The museum and the town are steeped in baseball. I went there in 1987 with my father, brother and grandfather who since passed away. It was two of the most memorable days I’ve ever spent. And I can’t wait for the day when I travel there with my father and my son. We’ll see the mementos and the plaques and the history of the great game.
We probably won’t see much mention of Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. I disagree with that. But I can at least understand the motivation behind it from the voters. In my mind, the players cheated the game, but they were still some of the greats. Gaylord Perry is an admitted, celebrated cheater. He’s in Cooperstown. I’m still waiting for someone to explain the difference to me.
But my understanding of the voters ends there. Pretty much everything else that I feel towards them is pure disgust and embarrassment.
To put it plainly, they’ve ruined the Hall of Fame. Their arrogance. Their inconsistency. Their bias. All of these factors have combined to make a baseball shrine and an annual rite of passage nothing more than an exercise in ego and message-sending.
Let’s start with the whole preposterous notion of “first time” Hall of Famers. It’s such a lazy excuse. Either you’re a Hall of Famer, or you’re not. Rickey Henderson somehow didn’t get in unanimously. He’s the greatest leadoff hitter ever and the all-time stolen base king. And one voter didn’t vote for him simply “because”.
So with that, you get people like Jack Morris and Alan Trammell who have to go through this excruciating process on an annual basis. Each year, they inch a little bit closer even though they haven’t played any baseball since they retired. The whole debate enrages Tiger fans as it should. Trammell is Ozzie Smith’s superior in every way other than defensively and “The Wizard” got in on the first ballot. Morris was simply the best big game pitcher of his era and arguably the best pitcher of the 1980s. Detractors love to point out that his ERA (3.90) would be the highest of any pitcher every elected into the Hall. But guess what, barriers were made to be broken. Andy Pettite finished his career with an ERA of 3.85. And despite an admission of PED use, I bet he gets further down the Hall of Fame road than Morris has.
The announcement will be made tomorrow. And based on most polling, both Trammell and Morris will be left out, again. This is the last go around for Morris who will only be able to get in via the Veterans Committee in future years. Trammell will remain on the ballot one more, but his voting total seems to have stalled out at about 40%.
I think it’s fair to debate both of their candidacies. Neither one is some sort of mortal lock. But debate their merits not their demerits. And if you vote for one or the other, why didn’t you do so the year before that – or the year before that?
The Hall of Fame was constructed to celebrate the game and honor the best who ever played it. The voters have taken it over and turned it into a referendum on THEIR game and THEIR views. It’s changed. It’s sad. And I fear it will never change back. So while Trammell and Morris will certainly lament not getting in, I’m not sure that they should. It’s like the Woody Allen line– “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.”