When I started out covering baseball, I never imagined spending the requisite 10 years in the Baseball Writers' Association of America to get a vote. My plan was to cover the Mets for a few seasons then go back to college basketball. Life changed and now I have this 8x10 sheet of paper that demands a lot of thought.
The list of 33 players is fairly daunting. By my rough count, there are at least 16 players who have to be carefully considered.
Some players (Bobby Higginson, B.J. Surhoff, Lenny Harris, Kirk Rueter) are easy to discard. Others are much harder to evaluate. You can make good cases for and against many of the players.
Here are the only guidelines supplied by the BBWAA and the Hall:
Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
You can vote for as many as 10 players or none at all.
Talk about ambiguous. Figuring out a player's record, ability and contributions aren't difficult. But who am I to judge somebody's character, integrity and sportsmanship? I have no idea whatsoever what kind of person most of these guys were. I know them only as athletes.
Does that even matter? Ty Cobb was a racist who once beat a handicapped man senseless. He was in the first Hall of Fame class. So much for his character.
Mark McGwire admitted he used PEDs. I believe other players did the same but haven't admitted it. They broke laws, not just baseball rules. How do I judge them?
Here are some personal guidelines I plan to adhere to:
1. If a player is a Hall of Famer in my estimation, he'll get my vote the first time he's eligible. I see no point in having a waiting period. Nobody is getting any better or worse at this point.
2. It's not my job to correct the mistakes of the past. Just because the Veterans Committee put Phil Rizzuto in doesn't mean I need to vote for middle infielders who had a career OPS+ of 93.
3. I'll be judicious in selecting players. The Hall of Fame should not be the Hall of Very Good. Cooperstown needs to be a special place.
4. I'll solicit opinion and information from many sources when I have doubts or questions. If you feel strongly for or against somebody, feel free send me an e-mail with your reasons.
Beyond that, I'll do the best I can and be ready to explain whatever I did.
Once I get it done, I'll let you know who I voted for and why.