OK, time to fill out the Hall of Fame ballot. I’ve been staring at it long enough. Procrastinating. Hoping maybe new information would surface. Maybe the rules would change. Maybe I’d get clarity pills for Christmas.
No. Nothing has changed. The ballot has to be mailed by the last day of the year. So, here goes . . .
I am voting for Jack Morris, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux.
This means I am not voting for (among others) Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Mike Mussina, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Sammy Sosa, Alan Trammell, and Larry Walker. And I know that a case can be made for all of the above.
I’ve been voting since 1986 and I truly miss the good old days when we argued about home runs, batting averages, ERAs, World Series performances, All-Star Games, and a player’s dominance at his position in his era. Things were so much simpler then. Saying yes to Ron Santo or no to Jim Kaat was a serious baseball debate. This was before PEDs and WAR and ALDS and Deadspin buying a Hall of Fame ballot. Now there is so much to consider, it makes one’s head explode.
So, let’s pass go, collect $200 (or send it to Deadspin), and advance directly to Rule 5 of the ballot. Rule 5 is the charge that makes it virtually impossible to cast a ballot with a clear conscience or a logical argument. Rule 5 makes it almost impossible to be consistent. Rule 5 makes voters look like jackasses. Rule 5 takes all the fun out of voting. Rule 5 gives me the feeling smokers get when they see the surgeon general’s warning on a pack of smokes.
Rule 5 states: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.’’
Got that? Integrity, sportsmanship, and character.
Now I don’t know your thoughts, but my position would be that there is probably no group on this planet less equipped to pass judgment on folks’ character than the membership of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).
Tea Party and ACLU members think they are targets for ridicule? Try being a member of the BBWAA. Baseball season stretches from February to October, but it is always open season for harpooning the BBWAA. We are a group incapable of unanimous agreement on the Hall of Fame candidacy of a player such as Willie Mays. We give Jim Rice 29.8 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot, then ultimately elect him with more than 75 percent of the vote. We cannot get all members to agree that today is Sunday. This promotes the image of The Lodge. Now we have Deadspin standing up for Everyfan, purchasing a ballot from a thus far anonymous (big surprise there) BBWAA member.
Even the ballot itself is hideously old-timey. No online voting for the BBWAA. Our Hall ballot looks like something that was used at the Groton Town Hall when voters had to choose between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams in 1828.
Now that all of that is out of the way, let’s go back to the 2013 candidates for admission to Cooperstown.
Morris is a holdover vote. This is his 15th and final year on the ballot. He got 67.7 percent of the vote last year. The sun-starved stat geeks hate him because — according to the new metrics — winning games and pitching well in clutch situations is wildly overrated. His ERA (3.90) is too high. He is probably not going to make it.
Schilling inspires good baseball debate. The second half of his career was much better than the first. His 216-win total is shy for Cooperstown, but he was one of the great strike machines of the modern era and his postseason dominance is beyond question. I consider a vote for Schill a demonstration that BBWAA members do not use the ballot to settle scores. Sometimes I think I vote for him because I can’t stand him.
Thomas, Glavine, and Maddux are on the ballot for the first time. All have Hall numbers. None was tainted by the steroid era.
The numbers are obvious. Thomas hit 521 homers, same as Ted Williams and Willie McCovey. Glavine and Maddux were 300-game winners. Those are magic plateaus . . . unless you cheated.
Nobody thinks Glavine or Maddux cheated. That’s probably because of their body types. Glavine looked athletic, but nothing out of the ordinary. Maddux looked like he played slow-pitch softball. He should be unanimous. But, of course, he won’t be unanimous.
Thomas had a Popeye body, but was never suspected of being a ’roids guy. Lucky him.
This is where we go off the rails. Like Thomas, guys such as Piazza and Bagwell have Hall of Fame numbers and never tested positive for PEDs. But they look dirty. Something doesn’t make sense. Thomas makes sense.
This is where it gets unfair and subjective. I don’t vote for the PED guys, so it’s easy to say no to Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, and Palmeiro. They have positive tests and/or admissions and/or multiple appearances in the Mitchell Report. Piazza and Bagwell have none of that. They just don’t look right.
The rest of the list of players I reject are good old-fashioned baseball arguments. Biggio got 68.2 percent of the vote last year, but I don’t think of him as Hall-worthy (only one 200-hit season). Same for Mussina and his 270 wins (he always pitched for good teams) and Smith and his 478 saves (saves are overrated and often artificial). Not voting for Raines and Martinez also feels totally unfair. I just never thought of them as Hall of Famers. They fail the “I know it when I see it” test.
It would be easy to vote for all of them. But the Hall is for guys who were more than very good. It’s for those who dominated at their position in their time. And it’s in the eye of the beholder.
Let the arguments continue . . .Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.