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Irreversible Virginity And The Hall Of Fame

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This weekend brought in a strange trio of baseball players into the Hall of Fame. Unquestionably, Rickey Henderson was the best leadoff hitter the game has ever seen, and perhaps one of the top five players in history. Joining him was Jim Rice, a great ("feared!") slugger from the '70s who required over a decade to accumulate the necessary three-quarters-majority support to have a shiny plaque made for him.

And then the Veterans Committee, with players like Ron Santo, Gil Hodges, and Roger Maris there for the taking, went 60 years back and elected Joe Gordon, a Yankees second baseman who won one MVP award, slugged his fair number of home runs, and played alongside some legends of the game. So, the Jim Rice of the '40s.

The Hall of Fame has built itself up to be baseball's Mount Olympus, a paradise wherein the best of the best of the best (three "bests" is an actual requirement, look it up). So imagine when, once important gods like Zeus and Poseidon were ushered in, there was nothing left to do but vote in lesser chumps like Dionysus. Now you have gods that control the heavens, the oceans, and love … next to the guy who made wine. It's the Mountain of Gods, not the Mountain of Very Good.

Back in the human world, plaques of Joe Gordon, Jim Rice, Gary Carter, Bruce Sutter, Ryne Sandberg, and Bill Mazeroski are next to Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Tom Seaver, and now Henderson. Well, not right next to them. Same building, though.

If this was the worst epidemic creeping into Cooperstown, it might be alright. But now Hank Aaron et. al. recently made remarks about why steroid users ought to be banned from entrance into the Hall, adding that the gamblin' man, Pete Rose, should have his lifetime ban revoked yesterday. These are all valid topics that would make great debates. My opinions on these quandaries have not been formulated, but one thing's for sure: once my mind's made up, it won't mean shit.

Remember, the only people who put people into the Hall of Fame are baseball writers and the players that baseball writers voted in. The heart of the game — the fans — do not have a say in any of this. But they visit the building like crazy.

A couple years ago, Salon's Lee Lowenfish openly submitted the idea of voting players out of the Hall, which is kind of like declaring someone a born again virgin. It's a unique perspective, but evicting Joe Gordon doesn't fix the hymen. It's just there forever.

In a perfect world, the solution would be to create a Hall run and funded by the fans. Unfortunately, mob rule never did so well in the business world (unless you're a stereotypical fictional Italian family who runs a strip club), so this idea will never get off the ground. But imagine how cool that would be.

So let's go further into reality. The Hall of Fame is an institution for the players, by the players (and writers). There is talk of making the HoF votes public, which would be nice for transparency's sake, but really doesn't address the issue at hand. Peter Gammons can knock on my door and personally tell me who he's voting for, but it still doesn't change the involvement of the fans. They can vote for All-Stars. Why don't they get at least a component of the Hall of Fame debate?

Here's a proposal. The numbers are just being thrown out there for clarity's sake. Make the fan 20 percent of the vote. So if there are 500 voting baseball writers, the fans act as 100 voters, bringing the total to 600. This increases the difficulty of getting into the Hall, because suddenly there's a new demographic one has to win over. Just like Julius Caesar gained more control by increasing the number of senators in power, having more people dip a hand into the process strengthens the doors to Cooperstown.

Failing that, just relocate the Hall of Fame building on an actual mountain. If you're unable to reach the top, you can't be in the Hall. It sounds dumb, but in all fairness, that would've avoided the Joe Gordon election.


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About Suss

  • Aren’t you assuming, by suggesting that the fans get some say in the HoF voting process, that they are, by and large, knowledgeable to make that kind of decision?

    Voting on an All-Star game is nothing more than a popularity contest, no matter what sport is hosting one. The HoF is based on sustained and stellar performance, which a lot of fans don’t keep track of in depth over the span of an athlete’s career.

    And what happens when fans clamor to induct Sosa, McGwire, and Bonds? All 3 were popular and successful in their prime; Bonds laid claim to Maris’ season HR record and Aaron’s all-time HR record. But what do you tell their fans who want them inducted despite the shadow of steroid use hanging over their respective careers? “Pick someone else?”

  • Tony

    I agree with Donald; letting the fans vote would produce results as bad as the All Star Game.

    And I think you’re being a little hard on Gordon. His election bring up another voting question: do you lump all players together and vote on the best or do you do it by position. If you compared the stats of only second basemen Gordon belongs in. Overall, he doesn’t. Personally I don’t think he should be in bu that reasoning behind his election should at least be acknowledged.

  • THe problem with HoF is how many people get in. I mean, Cooper just got in the College Football hall, and he was a piece of…

    Anyways, I think that fans should have some say, but only a little – maybe one person every other year

  • Tony

    Allowing fans to vote will only exasperate the problem. They voted Josh Hamilton into the All Star game this year. You would just have regional fans voting for their regional guys. The voting needs to be as objective as possible and fans possess little to no capability for this.

    I gaurentee you if Yankee fans voted Mattingly would be in among others. Detroit fans would put Jack Morris, Trammel, and Whitaker in. Talk about the Hall of Very Good. That would be the nail in the coffin.

  • The college FB Hall-of-Fame voting is another joke to discuss at another time. Chuck Ealey never lost a game as quarterback (35-0), but he’s not in because he was never an All-American.

    And the fans may not be the smartest in the world, but baseball writers and players don’t necessarily know best. Ted Williams lobbied for Dom DiMaggio. Joe Morgan wants his teammate Dave Concepcion in. Woody Paige publicly stated he would’ve voted for Goose Gossage “even if he wasn’t deserving,” which is why he also says he votes for Don Mattingly every year (because they’re friends!). Yes, apparently these guys know better.

    Donald and Tony, I agree that letting fans vote, if they were the sole carriers of the vote, would be bad. But I’m just talking about having a hand in the process. If the players and managers were able to contribute to the All-Star starting lineup, you might’ve seen Torii Hunter replace Josh Hamilton in center field.

  • I would say writers 25% fanes 25% current HoF 25% random computer poll 25%

    frankly, my vote would first go toe Rose

  • “I gaurentee you if Yankee fans voted Mattingly would be in among others. Detroit fans would put Jack Morris, Trammel, and Whitaker in”

    Let’s assume every Tigers fan votes for Morris, Trammell and Whitaker, and every Yankees fan votes for Mattingly. Assuming both groups of fans are equal, they both still only have 50 percent of a voting component. Add in Cubs fans who vote religiously for Andre Dawson and no one else … suddenly the percentage goes down even more for all three candidates.

  • Tony

    First off all fan bases aren’t equal. While the Yanks and Tigers may be more equal than say the Yanks and Marlins, there would still be a heavy bias towards big market teams and players with greater visibility.

    You’re point about the writers is correct. I don’t think it is the perfect system but I definately think it is better than a popularity contest fan vote. I would say the writers should meet certain qualifications to vote but I’m not sure how you would enact that.

  • Well … isn’t a popularity contest the point? Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter would be voted in year after year because they were popular (and also kinda good).

    A Red Sox fan would not question the legitimacy of Jeter’s Hall of Fame candidacy. They may argue that Jason Bartlett had a better first half of 2009 (a close argument, but probably untrue), but when it comes to the career, I doubt

    ASG voting and HOF voting is tough to compare, because of the rigidity and fluidity of each ballot. But roughly 13.5 percent of the people voted Josh Hamilton in as an All-Star. By comparison, Albert Pujols (probable Hall of Famer if his career continues) got 30 percent. Fans from 29 other teams will cancel the Yanks/Sox/Cubs/Dodgers fanbases out.

    Don Mattingly got 12 percent of the HOF vote. Will the Yankees fanbase really push him up to 75 percent? In fact, I would submit that it would go down. (Even if I’m wrong on this point, so what if it goes up a little? The end result is negligible.)

    Comparatively, Jim Rice got 76 percent of the vote. The Yankees fanbase, including yourself, would pull that number down. Fans of other teams — and baseball in general — would have the same effect.