Today Jayson Stark makes a point about the Hall of Fame ballot that I hadn’t even considered: writers leaving suspected PED users off their Hall of Fame ballots are, perversely, making it harder for the suspected non-users like Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy to make the hall. How is that? Because not everyone thinks like they do, they’ll still vote for the Jeff Bagwells and Rafael Palmieros of the world, and thus you end up with a huge backlog of candidates:
For the first time ever, 10 slots weren’t enough for me to vote for all the players who fit my definition of a Hall of Famer. For the first time ever, I had to leave off the names of players I’ve voted for in the past — not because I’d changed my mind, but because that 10-player limit got in the way.
Because I wanted to vote for three first-timers — Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro and Larry Walker — I had 12 names for 10 spots. So after agonizing for two weeks about how to deal with that challenge, I decided the fairest way was to rank them from 1 to 12.
That meant eliminating, with a case of massive heartburn, the two guys I ranked 11th and 12th — Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy. And so, because I’d voted for them in the past, that meant abandoning a voting philosophy I believe in. That truly stunk. But it also meant penalizing two players I firmly believe were clean, in large part because the Hall of Fame has no idea how to handle the guys who weren’t. That stunk even more.
Bagwell and Palmiero will still be on that ballot next year, and voters like Stark who don’t believe, regardless of what the PED evidence says, that McGriff or Murphy were better than them, will be obligated to vote for them lest they twist themselves in knots. And just imagine what happens in a few years when Clemens, Bonds and a ton of other inner-circle talents enter the conversation.
Stark aims his ire at the Hall itself, believing that they need to do something with the ballot. It seems he’d have them take the character and morality clause out of the equation. That may help, but I suspect that the current electorate would still vote against the PED users, believing that their newfound morality on the steroids issue outweighs the criteria set forth by the Hall. Just a guess, though.
That stuff aside, Stark’s ballot is a good one and his reasoning — even when it comes to players I wouldn’t support — is sound. Especially good stuff: his evisceration of the view that, on his merits as a player, Bagwell is not Hall of Fame-worthy.