ESPN’s T.J. Quinn was a beat writer for many years, covering the White Sox and Mets and then moved on to do investigative reporting for the New York Daily News and ESPN, with a huge emphasis on covering performance enhancing drugs in sports. If there is any Hall of Fame voter, therefore, who is qualified to assess how PEDs and the Hall of Fame mix, it’s him.
Except he has decided that even he can’t do it and gave up voting for the Hall of Fame two years ago. Today he explains why:
Even before the issue of performance-enhancing drugs overwhelmed the annual conversation, I questioned my capacity to evaluate a player’s fitness for immortality. My only qualification, like all voters, was 10 years’ service as a BBWAA member. But nothing in my years as a beat writer covering the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets, and nothing in my years covering doping as an investigative reporter since has prepared me to evaluate the effect PED use should have on a player’s legacy.
He goes on to explain why the “keep the juicin’ bums out” arguments are essentially incoherent as generally applied. He also notes — as we have noted here at HBT lately — that it’s kind of a problem to give votes to guys who haven’t actively covered the game in years. Personally I think Quinn is eminently qualified, but even he himself thinks the fact that he hasn’t covered baseball on a day-to-day basis since 2002 prevents him from being up to the task. So who is?
But at the end of the day, the game, the Hall and journalism would be better served if voting was limited to a select group of veterans, historians and even journalists — if they’re the right journalists. Columnists and national writers who have devoted their careers to the game, not dabblers. That wouldn’t solve the problem of how to evaluate players in the age of modern chemistry, but at least the right group would be making the call.
I think it would be hard to come up with the right group of voters — ex-players are a particular problem as I think they are among the least suited to objectively analyze players’ contributions — but I think Quinn is right that the current electorate — ten-year BBWAA veterans who, quite often, aren’t even baseball writers anymore — is the wrong crop.
A lot of food for thought here. It’s nice to see someone with the franchise chewing on it all, even if he chooses not to vote.