If everyday life had a “hall of fame,” how would people get into it? Would we survey a group of people who observed them and reported on them? Or would we have their friends vote for them? How about their co-workers? I ask these questions because of the latest Major League Baseball announcement of four new inductees (the most since 1955) to the Hall of Fame.
I have nothing against the recently elected Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Randy Jackson, and Craig Biggio. Biggio, a Long Island boy, is certainly most deserving and makes New Yorkers proud; however, it’s more about who did not get in – specifically Mike Piazza – and the logic supporting the reason why. New York Daily News sportswriter Bill Madden recently wrote an article describing why he did not vote for Piazza. He describes hearing rumors regarding Piazza using steroids during his career. Imagine that vague whispers and accusations were the reasoning that this fellow used to vote “no” on Piazza. This in and of itself is proof why this subjective kind of process has to be changed as soon as possible.
Madden explains it this way:
First of all, I’ve always had my suspicions about Piazza, even though he never tested positive nor was he mentioned in the Mitchell Report.
Those suspicions were heightened when players who played against Piazza, a number of players, told me he used steroids.
I have read Madden’s baseball column for years and, for the most part, I have always found his reporting to be solid and his observations to be fair to the people involved. In all those years I never saw him write one article about Piazza using steroids. If he was so convinced of his suspicions, why didn’t he ever expose Piazza during his playing days? The answer is he had no proof and could not write about “suspicions” without looking like a fool – the way he does now. After this, I have lost complete respect for him and refuse to read his articles anymore. For him to vote negatively is less the issue than the reasoning involved – it lacks any merit and is based on hearsay rather than tangible proof.
This case alone makes clear why the voting process to get into MLB’s Hall of Fame is suspect. There are those icons who could have walked in the door without a single vote cast – guys like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Babe Ruth didn’t need any votes for people to know that they belonged in the hallowed hall. Obviously, this is the ultimate honor for guys who play the sport, and it should not be withheld because of the fickle nature of writers like Madden who use less than objective numbers and information to make a decision.
If you look at the voting, Piazza came in fifth and has a shot next time, but perhaps not now since Madden wrote this despicable article. By making his unsubstantiated suspicions public, Madden has sullied Piazza’s name and the voting process. It also makes us question how many other sportswriters have allowed such kinds of things to sway their votes in the past. What if a player was not as open to being interviewed as the affable Piazza? Would a sportswriter hold that against him years later when it was time to cast a vote?
My idea is to take away this privilege from sportswriters and put it into the hands of people who understand the high honor and responsibility this task requires – the players themselves. I think all active MLB players should be able to vote for the candidates – but that there should be a stringent set of criteria based on statistics, years played, and impact the player had on the sport. Using these guidelines, the players would have to tick off some kind of rubric and add the points. After calculating if the player had enough qualifying points based on performance and years played, then the only thing that could prohibit their positive votes would be impact on the game – positive or negative. Someone like Barry Bonds would get equitable consideration by those who play the game, and his selection wouldn’t be in the hands of people, some of whom were very critical of Bonds, who may cast votes for less than objective reasons.
Of course, players may have their agendas too, and the fear could be that they would vote for a former teammate or friend. Another voting option would be vox populi; MLB trusts the fans to decide who will appear in its annual All Star Game. Why not allow the public to decide who enters the HOF? This would also have its drawbacks too, but anything is better than the present configuration that allows someone like Madden to cast a ballot and then write a ridiculous article that exacerbates his faulty reasoning by making it public.
The HOF is an enormous honor for the men who have played America’s pastime. As a new season gets underway, it is imperative that all those stepping onto fields everywhere across the land on Opening Day will have a fair shot at the hall based on their numbers. As it stands, that is obviously not the case. Piazza deserves to be in there based on his statistics and positive impact on the game, and we have to wonder how many other guys suffered the same fate over the years. It is time to alter the way the votes are cast and that time is now. Can MLB get this right or will this be just another stain on the sport that the fans will have to overlook yet again as they pay higher ticket prices to go to games? It’s your call, MLB.
Photo credits: Baseball Hall of Fame, Wikipedia, ESPN
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