Why I Still Care About the Hall of Fame

This is a post that’s kind of about baseball’s Hall of Fame in which I tell you how to think and how to act. It’s a post that I should have given a title with a colon or starting with the word “On,” or incorporating a Dr. Strangelove joke–in short, the kind of title I used to use for 70 percent of my baseball writing before I realized those tropes were more childish than profound. This post uses baseball to make a larger point about society and public discourse. It will be, in a word, insufferable.

This morning, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com posted his Hall of Fame ballot. I apologize in advance to the Dodger beat writer, because I’m going to call him Tom Grunick at some point and not catch myself–Broadcast News is one of my favorite movies and to be honest, I’ve spent much more time with William Hurt’s character in that movie (which is to say, any time), than I have with Ken Gurnick.

But the point is this: Gurnick voted for Jack Morris, and Jack Morris alone, for the Hall of Fame. And the internet blew up. I use the phrase “roundly pilloried” a lot, but it applies well here. I’ve made no secret of my own Hall of Fame rationale: I’m generally a big Hall person, I value peak over longevity, I make some allowances for qualitative or emotional influence on my evaluations (leading to, for instance, my preference for Larry Walker over Tom Glavine), and when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, I am on the most liberal end of the spectrum: if a player is eligible, I’d consider him. That’s how I’d vote, and I believe it’s the best way to vote, otherwise I’d have some other opinions. I don’t believe it’s the only way–if a voter prefers a smaller circle, for instance, or if he or she isn’t so comfortable with PEDs and chooses not to vote for a player who tested positive, or who was credibly accused of wrongdoing, I’d disagree, but such a ballot wouldn’t merit the treatment Gurnick got today.

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