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Thoughts on the Baseball Hall of Fame

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  January 8, 2013 03:51 PM

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So let me lead off with this: Pedro Martinez, eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time two years from now, gets in on the first ballot, right? The most dominating pitcher you, me, or Karim Garcia ever saw, the player who exceeded league averages over the course of his career by a greater margin than any starting pitcher in history, is close to unanimous in our corner of the world and should get the 75 percent from the Baseball Writers Association of America in that first year of eligibility, correct?

You're with me, right? Pedro, mortal lock right away? OK, good. Maybe I'll see you there, in the Cooperstown summer of 2015. You know Pedro will deliver a hilarious, thoughtful speech. Can't wait until then.

As for now ... excuse me for looking down the road a couple of years, but I imagine I don't have to delve too far into an explanation for you to understand where I'm coming from. I adore everything about the Baseball Hall of Fame -- the concept, the location, the exhibits, the celebrations, the debate over who belongs and who doesn't, Jay Jaffe's candidate-by-candidate JAWS breakdowns, all of it.

My professional dream -- a pipe dream probably, but one I hang on to like Adam Greenberg in search of one big-league at-bat -- is to someday have a vote, to be privileged to participate in the process that puts a coda on the most brilliant performers. One of my first posts on this blog eight years ago, and in a different incarnation, was on the Hall of Fame. I think I may have been pro-Jack Morris, which tells how long ago it was and how far all of this has come.

But this year, the buildup to Wednesday has been exasperating more often than not. It just hasn't been fun, which is precisely what it should be, and of course much of that is on the purported dastardly deeds of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, among others, engaged in to keep themselves playing at an unfathomably high level at an age when athletes' bodies typically refuse to cooperate as much as they once did. Bonds and Clemens are both on the ballot for the first time, and so what should be a day of celebration feels more like a day of reckoning, a chance for some sportswriters who were fooled by certain players' scientifically engineered late-career feats to give them their comeuppance.

The mass arrival on the ballot of the Superstars of the Performance-Enhancing Drug Era seems to have emboldened some writers in another negative way. The bitterness-fueled patronization and dismissal of the sabermetrically inclined seems even more venomous this year, and some voters are making this complex, controversial ballot about themselves. One Philadelphia writer is voting only for Dale Murphy, a two-time MVP and fringe candidate in his final year on the ballot. Why? Because he was nice. A blogging New York-based curmudgeon is voting only for Morris, who, as Fangraphs' Dave Cameron points out, pitched 563 more innings than Curt Schilling and allowed 569 more runs.

morrisjackfinn18.jpgMorris, who pitched a brilliant Game 7 in the 1991 World Series but was essentially Dave Stieb with a bushier mustache, received 66.7 percent of the vote last year and probably has the best chance of the 37 candidates of being elected. (The results will be announced at 2 p.m. Wednesday.) Because of the various lines in the sand and statements being made about what essentially is a very cool museum that has long enshrined its share of .330-hitting scoundrels (can't we put an asterisk on Clemens's and Bonds's plaques and move along?), it's possible that no one will be elected this year.

I hope someone gets in -- heck, I hope 8-10 someones get in. I realize I'm making my defense when the jury has already come to the verdict, but my hypothetical ballot would include Astros brothers Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, Bonds and Clemens and their asterisks, Edgar Martinez and his 147 career OPS+, Mike Piazza, Alan Trammell (a much more worthy '80s Tiger than Morris, as was one-and-done candidate Lou Whitaker), Curt Schilling, and of course, Tim Raines, whose candidacy continues to gain steam as more voters realize just how brilliant he was in the shadow of Rickey Henderson:

I'll run through the streets dressed as Youppi! if Raines is elected. But I'll be pleasantly surprised if any of my choices is. The summer in Cooperstown just won't be the same without a newly confirmed legend or two to celebrate. But the voters don't seem inclined to agree on 75 percent of anything this year, and who's to say it will change in the immediate future?

Well, at least until Pedro comes along in two years. If you can't agree on his worthiness, the process is more hopeless than it feels today.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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