BBWAA's worst crime is creating apathy, not stirring outrage

BBWAA's worst crime is creating apathy, not stirring outrage
Greg Maddux

The Baseball Hall of Fame elected 3 players today.  Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Tom Glavine all made the cut while Craig Biggio was 2 votes short.

Congrats to those 3 players.  They were well deserving of enshrinement.

We made our statement on the HOF ballot here in a subtle way.  We did our own vote with our own writers.  In case you missed it, we elected 8 players,

  • Greg Maddux
  • Frank Thomas
  • Tom Glavine
  • Craig Biggio
  • Roger Clemens
  • Barry Bonds
  • Mike Mussina
  • Curt Schilling

We also had votes for Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Alan Trammel, and Tim Raines.

In my opinion, they were all good votes and every single one of those players deserves to be in.  We are saber friendly here, but this is hardly what I would call a sabermetric metrics blog that goes strictly by the numbers.  We are a diverse group of baseball writers and passionate fans here at Cubs Den.  If we can get it together, why can't the BBWAA?

I really tried to feel livid about the HOF voting results, but years of Ron Santo outrage has worn me thin.  Try as I might, I could not summon up enough outrage to write a scathing article.  The writers have already hit rock bottom in my eyes when they only elected Ron Santo posthumously after keeping him out all those years for no good reason.  The Santo snub was one of the first things I wrote about here at Cubs Den.  You can read it here.  But since then, I haven't spoken out.

That won't happen again.

There was the guy (no, I won't mention his name on my blog) who voted for Jack Morris and not Greg Maddux simply because he didn't want to vote for anyone who played in his arbitrarily defined "steroid era".  It didn't matter to him that Maddux did not use nor was even suspected of using.   He played in the era and that was enough for that particular writer.

There were also guys who voted for Jacque Jones and Armando Benitez -- yet the deserving Biggio fell two votes short.

While I'm not happy that a lot of worthy players didn't get in, I had to at least console myself that Jack Morris wasn't voted in to make some meaningless point.

That's what it has come down to.

The BBWAA has done worse  than make me angry about their voting.  They made me apathetic to it.   I can't imagine anything worse than that.  Their own apathy towards modernizing their understanding of the game has, in turn, created apathy among many toward the HOF process among this new generation of fans.   What's the purpose of stubbornly doing it the way it's always been done when there is so much more objective information available these days?

So I'm putting stomping my foot down again.

Outrage it is.

I owe that to Ronny and all of the other players who get snubbed for irrational reasons.

I owe it to the game I love.

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  • Couldn't agree more. I read 16 voters didn't vote for Maddux. That us crazy

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    Dan Le Batard gave his ballot to Deadspin and they voted for Jacque Jones and Armando Benitez what a joke!

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    NVM I read the article wrong!
    http://deadspin.com/revealed-the-hall-of-fame-voter-who-turned-his-ballot-1496558341

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    Here's hoping Bonds and Clemens admit to juicing before they ever get in to the HoF.

  • In reply to Ray:

    I don't think they will ever admit to it. Bonds and Clemens could have legal ramifications to admitting steroid use due to their testimony.

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    Especially considering Clemons is still fighting legal battles. And Bonds isnt exactly out of legal hot water either. Bonds would be open to perjury charges with at least 3 juristictions if he ever admits to juicing.

  • In reply to Ray:

    better yet ray here's to hoping they never do get in

  • Yikes, I missed you guys voting Bonds and Clemens in. I think it's silly of that writer to not vote Maddux in when there's no evidence or suggestion he ever cheated, but just as bad to ignore evidence of cheating when it clearly exists. None of the known PED cheaters would ever get my vote. The "known" part is where that gets tricky with some players, but Bonds and Clemens aren't two of them.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I think we cant judge them any more than we have judged baseball players throughout history for trying to gain an edge through chemistry. Its as old as the game itself. I don't think we should arbitrarily draw the line here, especially since baseball itself did nothing to stop it.

    Also uncertain is the impact of those PEDs. We can intuit that it helped players to some degree, but it has yet to be proven. What's more, are Clemens and Bonds not HOF level players with or without them?

    And what about Raines, who used amphetamines? Heck TJ surgery can be performance enhancing and there have been stories that some healthy young HS players have already done it to try and increase their velocity. I'm not sure where we draw the line here and until we do, I don't feel we can punish the players.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Any known cheaters, including Raines if it wasn't with an RX, sure. Look at the numbers before and after the steroid era and then compare them to the numbers during the steroid era. It's not a subtle difference. They're glaring. So even granting your argument that some players (not all) have always tried to get a competitive edge in baseball, if you have this one era where cheating significantly improved players' numbers even above that level, you still need to hold that era apart since admittance into the Hall is based solely on numbers. That's a completely logical conclusion with no moralizing required.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Brady Anderson, 1997. Ken Caminiti 1996. Just 2 examples of juicers whose numbers suddenly became highly inflated.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The line, to me, is this: would you let your kid have TJ if he needed it? Yes. Would you let your kid do steroids or amphetamines? No. And that is why voting them in is a problem to me (though I feel like the Simpsons' church lady a bit, "Think of the children!").

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    Personally, I wouldn't do any of those things! TJ if he needed it, but not if he needed it just to increase velo. But those are my morals and my concerns for my kids' long term well-being, and I'm not going to hold others to them.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree with you, John. What I think is the most salient point is the MLB DID NOTHING ABOUT IT for years and years. They even turned a pretty willful blind eye to it because it sparked a rise in attendance after the strike. You can't really punish players for doing something that wasn't against the rules. You also can't punish players for doing something that was implicitly encouraged by MLB itself. The whole steriods era is slimy, but it's part of the history of the league and as such should be part of the Hall too.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    as far as I'm concerned voting ANYONE into the hall under any reasonable suspicion of using peds goes against everything the hall stands for. to have a bunch of self appointed hippocrates trying to set standards that they feel is only right is bogus. those standards were good enough for the first 3 hundred some odd members but now we're supposed to relax the standards because some idiot like bonds doesn't want to be judged based on his thumbing his nose at all of baseballs rules is just plain stupid. he or any of the rest of those cheating sob's have no place in the hall

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I love everything you do, & I agree with most everything you write, be it in your articles or comments. 99 % of it, especially when you explain it with your trademark level headed approach, but I can't agree with you here.

    I agree with Bob Costas & others that there is a clear distinction between performance enhancers & performance enablers. Furthermore, baseball is a game of unwritten rules, and those that have used substances like steroids or HGH are in clear violation of unethically attempting to gain an advantage.

    I don't respect liars, I don't respect cheats. I can draw that line, and I don't think there's anything arbitrary about it. My general rule of thumb is - if you have to hide it, or lie about it, than you know it wasn't right.

    And isn't it the voters job to draw a line in the first place? Isn't this what the votes all about? There's the have's & the have not's. It's highly subjective, the purpose is to make a distinction, to draw a line.

    PEDs are exactly that, performance enhancing (and if someone wants to get Tommy John surgery unnecessarily, more power to them) . Does Sosa hit 60 HRs, 3 times without them? Does Barry Bonds defy every known quality of aging while increasing his head & shoe size? Sure you can't know for certain, but we're not talking about sending anyone to prison here. This isn't amendment rights being violated. There are no rights to the Hall Of Fame. This is a privilege.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Should every pitcher suspected of scuffing up a baseball be left out? Every batter who illegally leaned over the plate to get a BB? Every guy that took painkillers to play through pain that would otherwise cause him to miss AB's and opportunities? I don't have an answer, but I don't think you should quickly say 'No' to steroids and overlook these other "acceptable" forms of cheating.

    You cannot look at the players in a vacuum. Hell, even many of the HOF voters themselves says not to judge players by their individualized numbers or performances! They take into account the contemporary players, conditions, techniques etc. Basically, the entire milieu of a player.

    SO MANY people claim to know the correct right/wrong classifications for something that is so much more complex. The entire discussion of competition, improving technology and uneven and unethical applications of such technologies falls into the area of ethics and morality. Baseball is a game where stealing signals and bases, deceiving runners by faking a throw, intentionally beaning a hitter, take out slides (5 feet from the bag), framing pitches, never correcting an ump when the call is in your favor etc etc etc is not only accepted but embraced as an essential part of its fabric. Any honest examination of whether players "cheated" in such game should be an incredibly complex and difficult one that has no right or wrong answers - only degrees and trade-offs.

    Initially, I thought Bonds/Mac/Palm/Sosa etc should never get in. The more I thought about it, thought about the culture, the time period and MLB's silent encouragement the less I felt it OK to make them the scapegoats.

    After all, how many sports writers and HOF voters (managers, officials etc) either kept quiet or kept themselves ignorant of steroid and drug use when they covered, cheered, criticized, profited from and buddied-up-to these players?? I have a hard time with their self-righteousness now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I don't know how you can argue the point that there is any uncertainty with the impact of steroids on sports. Athletes themselves noticed differences and because of that many became heavily involved. The biggest problem I have with their use is not necessarily their ability to strengthen a player, but the ability to recover from injury during a long season or career. Instead of being worn down, year in and year out, steroids immediately repairs an athletes body. I know many might argue, what about vitamins? There is something inordinately wrong when any chemical is used that creates a drastic change resulting in greater endurance or strength. I don't think vitamins falls under that category, particularly with the latest scientific evidence that has been divulged. I am perplexed how how anyone can argue that steroid use doesn't change a person's body in very clear and dramatic ways. For that advantage that was chemically induced, it alters a fair test on ones ability to play with endurance, which I think is one of the hallmarks of a great player. Ever hear of Billy Williams, Steve Garvey, Cal Ripken? Do I think Bonds and Clemens would make the hall without the juice? Bonds had a phenomenal swing...in all likliehood he would have reached that 500 HR plateau and gotten in. Clemens....not so sure, because the evidence shows his body was starting to wear down...just look at the difference between what is suspected as pre and post steroid years.

  • Deadspin ballot was:
    Maddux
    Glavine
    Thomas
    Piazza
    Biggio
    E. Martinez
    Bagwell
    Clemens
    Bonds
    Schilling
    Pretty well done I think.

  • I like it, but I would have gone with Mussina over E.Martinez.

  • John, that Sickels guy put out his top 20 Cub prospect list. Pretty good read, you may want to show that if you have not already been working on that.

  • I will probably do that for later tonight. Maybe in a couple of hours or so.

  • I wish they would make each person's voting choices public. It would be very interesting to hear those 16 or so voters who didn't vote for Maddux explain why. It doesn't take a genius to figure out their reasoning would be warped but it would still be nice for these people to give an account publicly.

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    The Santo snub was one of the first things I wrote about here at Cubs Den.
    That was my first day reading Cubs Den!

  • In reply to David Logue:

    Awesome! Long time reader indeed. I think that article was less than a month from the date I started Cubs Den.

  • Congratulations to the former Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, and greatest spitball pitcher of all time for making the Hall of Fame.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    ucandoit... read this article before you besmirch one of the greatest pitchers in modern baseball history!!!

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/greg-maddux-a-hall-of-fame-approach-that-carried-an-average-arm-to-cooperstown/2014/01/07/fdd7ae82-77d3-11e3-af7f-13bf0e9965f6_story.html

  • It should be really hard to get enshrined in the HOF. I hope known and highly suspected Steroid and HGH do not get elected. It's not only whether they work, but that they worked too good. Amphetamine may have helped one's alertness, but didn't turn players into roid rage robo sluggers compromising the integrity of the game and its records.

  • John,

    Good article. Yeah, these sportswriters have driven me crazy about this issue. I mean, it's not like all of these sportswriters are known for their own selflessness and humility yet they treat their HOF vote as if it is some divine intervention. We are talking about a museum of baseball. No one can dispute the impact to the game that players like Bonds, Clemens, Sosa (and even Rose) had on the game and are needed to tell future generations the story of the history of baseball. We shouldn't be suggesting that these inductions mean they should be thought of as role models for our children (as Ty Cobb wasn't necessarily thought of as one at the time of his induction). But they are definitely needed to tell the story.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    Ha! Divine power! I like it. They certainly act that way.

  • One correction in the above article. It is not true that "The writers ... only elected Ron Santo posthumously." The baseball writers did not vote Santo into the Hall posthumously. The veterans committee did, but only after four times not electing him and the process being revamped into the current "voting eras" format. The reason for Santo's own HOF peers having an animus against him is an interesting one, but not related to the BBWAAS.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    True. That only makes it worse. The BBWAA never elected him at all.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Incredibly, Santo was only on the writers ballot for one year, and he was dropped for failing to get 5% of the vote. Cub players have always had an uphill battle.
    Lou Brock with a career war of 43 was elected first ballot. Santo with a career war of 71 couldn't even stay on the ballot.
    I have always had apathy as you say John. How can a museum that honors the games best players, ignore Pete rose?

  • Not exactly. Ron Santo was dropped after receiving less than 5% of the vote in 1980, but was reinstated to the ballot in 1985 along some other players in 1985. He stayed on the ballot until 1998, building his vote total to 43.1%

  • I won't get into the PED issue but anyone that turns in a blank ballot or votes for players like Jaque Jones really should have their vote taken away. We hear about integrity of the game but some of these voters make a mockery of the system. Its obvious something needs to be done about the frivolous voting that goes on. One simple fix imo is if you vote for someone that ends up with less than 1% of the vote you are either removed or suspended from voting in future HOF votes.

  • In reply to kansascub:

    Good point. However you feel about PEDs (and I do understand both arguments), they are indeed making a mockery of the process. Something they sanctimoniously accuse players of doing to the game.

  • If a criteria for the HOF is to dominate your era then the dominating players of the so called steroid era should be elected. Also they were not cheaters untill after steroids were banned,so they played using suppliments that were not banned so therefore no cheating just taking advantage of what was available. I am not condoning just pointing out a simple fact. We can get on our high horse but chemical enhancements have been a part of the game since the game began. Also why not outrage for the spitball pitchers who were clearly violating the rules hence cheating. Except for those that doctored the ball prior to it becoming illegal. PS. Love this site, John and the crew keep up the great work.

  • The HOF is a joke. It now refuses to admit the most decorated hitter in the history of the league, the most decorated pitcher in the history of the league, and the all time hits leader. Yes folks, the all time HR and hit kings are not a part of the HOF. The entire institution is worthless. It is a museum that celebrates atrocious human beings and racists. But guys that that hurt no one by taking one drug (amphetamines are okay though!) and others that have been merely been accused of cheating but enshrines admitted cheaters (spitballs are okay too!).

    The entire history of baseball is a combination of horrible social stances, un-American labor models, and breathtaking individual accomplishments. Ignoring the unpopular or the bad people/incidents is not the job of a freaking museum. You cannot ignore an entire era of players.

    I enjoyed my trip to Cooperstown several years ago, but I am done with that institution. The people that control its public image and are responsible for the legacy of the game are failing so miserably that it deserves to die a slow death. MLB should open its own museum, and not be afraid to admit its own mistakes, while still being able to celebrate the great players and moments in its history.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    Great post. I'm of the belief that the hall should portray the evolution of the game. There's nothing wrong with noting a player's controversies on their plaque, but to keep out the guy who hit more HRs than anybody else (as well as the other examples you brought up)!? Ridiculous!

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Love the outrage. I should have had you write the article!

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Well put, mjvz. Pretty much my stance on the issue, too, though I'm less enthusiastic about the HOF dying a slow death.

  • I am okay with just those 3 getting in. The HOF is a very elite class to be in and should be treated that way. I don't want the HOF to be watered down. It should be the best of the best players.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    The best of the best doesn't include Bonds, Clemens and Piazza? The most MVPs, most Cy Youngs, single season and career HR record holder, most career BBs, and the greatest offensive catcher of all time.

    I'm all for a "Small Hall" but there is no argument for keeping those guys out.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I agree with you on Bonds Clemens , and Piazza. I was referring to the other guys. I didn't think those three would get in but have the numbers too. Who knows if those three will ever. I was referring to Tim Raines, and the Craig biggios of the MLB.

  • Some of these idiots think they are "king-makers". By tearing down the Kings who earned their recognition, they would prop themselves up on a pedestal. They should be removed from voting! The Hall of Fame is for the players and the fans, not a place for a so-called "sports writer's" agenda, personal grudge, or some form of cronyism! They are diminishing the dignity of the Hall, proving themselves to be of a lesser god!

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    I think the BBWA balloting just proves that you don't have to necessarily be intelligent to be a baseball writer

    Present company excepted, of course!

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Haha ;) I'm not a member of the BBWAA. I will say there are some very bright writers within that group. The problem is the half-witted grandstanding writers get all the attention and far more power than they deserve. But I guess you can say that about most of society :)

  • I also am outraged about Santo being voted in too late (after his death) but I must disagree with you on the steriod crew. I would never vote for any of the steriod players including Bonds & Clemens. I like the 3 players who were elected and Biggio will get in eventually. I also think Morris belongs because he was the winningest pitcher in the 80s. I guess the Vets will have to vote him in.

  • In reply to Santo10:

    Morris to me was just a very good, but not a great pitcher. I don't like to judge a pitcher by wins because that depends on so many factors outside himself.

  • Baseball needs to come to peace with the steroid era. You can't run from your past. They need to learn from their mistakes, which they have to a degree (drug testing). Perhaps in doing so they could look back on this time in a better light. Its like high school, sure you look back and think "wow what was i thinking" half the time, but to act like that time in your life never happened...

  • That's an interesting perspective. I think you're right. One way or the other they have to accept that it happened and move on.

  • Wrote my thoughts about the HOF vote at cubhouseblog.com . Looks like Lee Smith is going to be forgot about.

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    Congrats to the thee new inductees - all deserving

    Id say what stands out is
    Morris not making it - off the ballot
    Biggio missing by 2 votes
    Palmerio - Missing the 5% cut off and off the ballot even with 3,000 hits etc.

    also MLB network put Lou Brock and Tim Raines stats head to head and Tim Raines beat Brock in most areas.

  • This article started off dead-on--the Hall is no longer what it once was and is surrounded by apathy by the casual fan and die hard alike. The writers arbitrary reasons for voting which are most heinously displayed by their deciding if a guy is a "first time ballot" HOF'er is a joke--you're either in or not. Maybe a guy was cantankerous in the clubhouse or didn't grant interviews, should that skew the vote into a Hall which is supposed to be for playing accomplishments? NO!!
    As for the steroid era, that is a different matter altogether. By voting certain guys in, and others out, they are claiming to have the inside track on who used and who didn't--they don't, and never will! As much as it seems stupid that a tiny geek like Maddux ever used 'roids, we don't know for sure. I have to agree with the voter who left him off for his having played during the Streroid Era. Either you punish them all, or allow it as the way that the game was played in that time span (arguably 1988 when Canseco admitted to using during his MVP year to 2003) and vote for the players who were dominant in their era. Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, Clemmens are all in in my book.
    Bonds is the homerun king--having him out of the Hall is as absurd as Pete Rose being out. And before anyone starts with their Hank Aaron high horse, he played during the amphetamine era, and never had to hit off of pitchers who were juicing.
    As for Clemmens, how many steroid-jacked hitters did Sandy Koufax face? Zero. They were keeping up with the competition using whatever was available to give an edge.
    The era in which a player played has certain factors that affect his numbers in that era--deadball, segregation, coke and amphetamines, steroids, HGH, and whatever is going on now or in the near future.
    The Hall of Fame should be voted upon solely by those who understand what they are voting for--the dominant players of their era--which is the responsibility of the HOF to outline those guidelines.
    The HOF is a joke and nobody cares anymore who is voted in or out. We all know who was great when we watched them, and that is where true 'fame' lies. Apathy to the Hall, indeed.

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    I (obviously) dont have a vote
    but thought Maddux, Thomas and Glavine were no braners

    with the PED crowd - again my 2 cents worth nothing but
    Clemens won the CY Young and was dominant early, Bonds was really good as a skinny kid for Pitts - both made the call later in life to use and thus extend career and stats but both were prob HOF guys prior to that.

    on the other hand Sosa was skinny as hell with no power in his first few years and made a crazy jump.
    Palmerio - was very similar to mark grace a good player but not great, and dont get me started on Piazza who was one of the worst catchers ever and should be judged vs Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas. OR similar to Jeff Kent - Kent killed Sandbergs HR record but people know he wasnt a great 2nd baseman.

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    Speaking of 2nd baseman, when will Glenn Beckert get in? Ever?

  • I'm glad for who got inducted. All the news channels up here in MN are crowing about Jack Morris not making it in. Didn't he get into some legal trouble a few years ago? He got arrested for something. That's probably why he didn't get in. Kind of funny when an ex- Cub and an ex-White Sox make it in the HOF. Wtg!

  • Love all the posts. I also love the HOF, having visited twice, including for Andre Dawson's induction. I think the difficult and idiosyncratic voting process are part of what makes the Hall unique. And for those who think the Hall should better chronicle the history of the game by letting in players a dozen or more players per year (as ESPN's Buster Olney thinks) or letting in players with major ethical violations should consider the "controversies" of keeping out Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, etc. inadvertently becomes a form of preserving those controversies through conversations such as these. I think the passionate conversation about the Baseball Hall is one of the things that make it great, as opposed to the football and basketball halls of fame that are far more forgettable experiences and institutions. (I've been to Canton, but not to the Basketball HOF, which doesn't even merit being known by its hometown like Canton or Cooperstown.)

  • The Cubs Den, like so many greats, are ahead of their time here. Maddux, Glavine, & Thomas were locks, and that's who got in. Biggio will get in next year. Mussina & Schilling, 2 of the best pitchers during the 5 man rotation era, likely the year after. And I agree that Bonds & Clemens will eventually get in.

    But do they deserve to? That's still the hottest, greatest debate, & will continue to be until the next generation of voters takes over. It ain't happenin' until then, at the earliest. And I agree with that personally. You don't get the privilege of being in The Hall, you get the records, but not the Hall, not the highest honor.

    As usual though, Cubs Den is all over this one, I suspect all 8 to eventually get into Cooperstown.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    And it only took 4 voters instead of 500 +, thought you did miss out on Raines

  • I don't put Pete Rose in the same category of cheater as Bonds & Clemens. Rose had his chance to have his side heard and declined. He voluntarily accepted a lifetime suspension. Because he did, the evidence wasn't presented and we'll never know exactly what he was guilty of. That's the way he wanted it - his choice. When his "lifetime" is over, however, he belongs in the HOF.

    As for Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro; my vote would be no. They've already received the million$ of rewards they were after when they juiced, and shouldn't be glorified for children to emulate, IMHO.

  • Apathy, long time apathy. Almost as much as I have for the Oscars, the voters are an old boys club without in real cred. Why would we care?

  • MJVZ, totally agree with everything you said! The Hall of Fame is a joke, just like the so-called "experts" who vote. How do you determine who used chemical enhancers and who didn't and who decides which ones are OK and which ones aren't? Seriously . . .. it's a joke!

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