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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