Every year around this time, MLB Hall of Fame ballots come trickling through the Tweetdeck timeline, one BBWAA writer at a time.
Some make you shake your head. Others, you find yourself nodding up and down. Others make your brain hurt and, once in a while, a ballot will actually make you slap your head with your hands and whimper.
This is the most controversial Hall of Fame ballot of all-time. Between players linked with the performance enhancing drug era, players with checkered-to-downright awful off-field exploits, and those whose cases are somewhat on the fence, the number of possible ballot permutations are through the roof. It’s incredible there would be two ballots that are the same.
Many of the differences have to do with philosophy.
Some believe in a Cooperstown reserved for the creme de la creme, only the finest players, the superest of superstars. You’re not Willie Mays? You’re out. No Sandy Koufax? Get outta here. Others want to look to certain benchmark numbers — 500 homers, 3,000 hits, 10 All-Star teams, MVPs, et. Some want players who were postseason legends, others favor those with a short but dominant peak, and still others like longevity.
Then, there are ballots like this one.
Ballot #154 is from Dan Shaughnessy. For the second consecutive year, he submits a Kent-only ballot. He is the only voter from the Boston Globe to not vote for David Ortiz. The Globe's group reveal: https://t.co/SPhXqOZ0m5— Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) January 11, 2022
In the Tracker: https://t.co/sziMyHwvb0 pic.twitter.com/T0Q1Jv3gLY
Folks, this is the second straight year he has submitted a Kent-only ballot.
Some writers have turned in blank ballots, believing none of the players on the list above are worthy of enshrinement. Whether you agree with that sentiment or not (and I certainly don’t), it’s at least consistent. Those voters didn’t see a Henry Aaron on this ballot (at least one that wasn’t stained by PEDs) and saved themselves wasted No. 2 graphite, but this ballot by The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy is indefensible.
Even if you don’t believe anyone involved in the PED era should be inducted, and even if you don’t want to check a box next to Curt Schilling’s name (which is totally understandable), how is Jeff Kent the only candidate on this list worthy of a selection? At the very least, why wouldn’t Scott Rolen also get a checkmark? While I also agree that Kent is a Hall-worthy player, Rolen’s combination of upper echelon defense coupled with outstanding offensive numbers and advanced metrics screams for his induction as well.
The biggest problem with a ballot like this (and this isn’t the only one, just the most recent), is it’s not intellectually honest.
Look, I get it. The voting process is difficult, and never more so than this year. New players are continually added, making it harder to vote for the same players you may have voted for in the past. Logjams and the 10-vote limit rule means worthy players might see more or less support than the year before.
It’s not as if Tim Raines suddenly got better during the decade he was on the ballot before finally being inducted in Year No. 10. Sometimes, the narrative around a certain player changes. With regard to Raines, more writers did a deeper dive with his candidacy and, over the years, were convinced he was worth their vote. The same will be required with a player like Jimmy Rollins. And hey, people are allowed to reevaluate players and change their minds.
All of that is fine. Heck, even submitting a blank ballot is defensible, provided those impossible-to-meet standards are consistent.
I would put Barry Bonds in. He’s baseball’s all-time and single season home run leader and widely considered one of the five best players the game has ever seen. I would put Roger Clemens in. I believe he was a Hall of Famer before steroids entered the picture. I would put several other PED-linked players in, because it’s hard to know who was using and who wasn’t during that era. But I understand a vote yes or no either way. I would not put Curt Schilling or Omar Vizquel in, mostly for off-field reasons (although I don’t believe Vizquel’s on-field play warranted Hall induction). I would vote for Scott Rolen but not Bobby Abreu. I would vote for Rollins but not Torii Hunter.
There are also metrics we can use to help us make these tough calls. JAWS, WAR, OPS+, ERA+ and defensive metrics are just some of the tools that have been developed to help us better rank players across generations, an important development when you’re comparing players of today to those from the 1960s. They can help tell these players’ stories in a way the backs of their baseball cards cannot.
It’s OK there are a wide range of ballots. It’s OK opinions vary.
But whatever the opinion, it must be intellectually honest. It must be defensible.
I don’t have a Boston Globe subscription so I don’t know why Dan Shaughnessy voted for Jeff Kent and Jeff Kent only, but whatever the reason, it feels like a mockery of the process. For folks like me who do not have a vote and almost certainly never will, it’s a little infuriating.
Enshrinement means a lot to these players, and it also means a lot to those players’ fans. For Rollins, or Chase Utley, or Cole Hamels, to get into the Hall one day would be exciting for Phillies fans and a moment to celebrate. When non-serious people submit non-serious ballots, it cheapens the whole thing and mocks baseball fans at large.
So go ahead and keep all the PED folks off your ballot. Or put them all on. Put Schilling on there. Or don’t. But every ballot should be able to be defended. There should be a reason for what’s done, otherwise, it’s a wasted ballot and a waste of everyone’s time.
To the writers who are voting, vote for who you want, but make sure it’s intellectually honest. Otherwise, let someone else do it.