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.

Gurnick’s ballot was so bad because, simply put, it didn’t seem to follow any particular rationale. Gurnick doesn’t say that Morris was the best pitcher on the ballot, only that he wouldn’t vote for any player in the so-called “steroid era.” That includes Greg Maddux, who was by orders of magnitude a better pitcher than Morris, and whose career overlaps with Morris’ by nine seasons and is held up as a paragon of clean living. It includes Roger Clemens, a better pitcher even than Maddux, whose career overlaps with Morris’ by eleven seasons. By any credible account, PED usage in baseball dates back to before Jack Morris even thought about turning pro, and reached epidemic levels by the 1980s, or before Morris acquired the folk hero status he has now. If there is a steroid era, it includes 1988-90, when the Oakland A’s of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire won three straight pennants, and during which time Morris went 36-45 with an ERA+ of 89 for the Detroit Tigers.

The voting rules for the Hall of Fame are nebulous, so Gurnick gets to set up whatever hurdles he wants, as does any writer. I wouldn’t deny Clemens a vote because of his alleged drug use, but if that’s a heinous enough sin to give Gurnick pause, that’s his prerogative–after all, I think you’d have to be incredibly naive to think Clemens didn’t cheat at some point in his career. If he wants to deny Maddux for playing alongside drug users, I’d call that draconian, but that’s his prerogative. But to deny Clemens and Maddux and not Morris, their relative contemporary, is indefensible.

That’s where Gurnick loses me. He set up criteria and applied them selectively. I don’t condemn him because his ballot doesn’t match mine–I condemn him because he’s intellectually dishonest. If there is a rationale for voting for Morris and not Maddux, I haven’t come across it, and that’s why Gurnick is getting so much shit. But that’s not anything you haven’t heard, and if that’s where the story ended, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

Shortly after the internet exploded at Gurnick, Ken Rosenthal came to his defense. I think Rosenthal is the most indispensable baseball writer working today. From what I know of him personally, he’s a good guy–earlier this year he came on the Baseball Roundtable and was candid, funny and forthright for way longer than he had to be, in a forum that was so far below his weight class I struggle to describe it. Because I think so highly of Rosenthal, I can say this: he completely missed the point.

I broadly agree with Rosenthal’s initial statement–Gurnick has earned his vote, and is entitled to his opinion, and he shouldn’t be denied either based on the ballot he submitted. I don’t, however, think the reaction was out of line. Gurnick invited a response when 1) he voted at all and 2) he made his vote public and explained his rationale. That’s the danger of expressing your opinions publicly–if they’re poorly constructed, you’re going to hear about it.

Rosenthal wasn’t the only writer to defend Gurnick–Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times expressed his dismay that Gurnick, whom he called “the smartest and most thoughtful baseball writer I know,” was having such a rough day. This reaction, in addition to being an example of what Gawker’s Tom Scocca identified (correctly, if somewhat insufferably) as smarm, is where this stops being about baseball alone.

Gurnick’s intelligence and thoughtfulness are a diversion. Snark is a diversion. Smarm is a diversion. What’s at issue here isn’t ideology or manners–it’s the argument, and appeals to authority, or to Gurnick’s character, or to internet buzzwords only distract from the only important part of the conversation: that bad arguments, riddled with intellectual dishonesty, presented in opposition to–not ambivalence to, but direct opposition–to empirically provable truth–must be confronted and destroyed, no matter the source. If, when they’re among the electorate, Keith Law or Ben Lindbergh or Jonah Keri submits a Hall of Fame ballot as hand-wankily cheeky and philosophically unrooted as this one, I’ll spare no criticism just because I like those writers.

There was no lynch mob. Nobody credibly called for Gurnick to lose his platform or his vote. You’re allowed to change your opinion over time, even when later opinions directly contradict believes to which you once held fast. (Or at least I hope you are, because to my eternal shame, I once voted for a libertarian for statewide office before I knew better.)

What happened is that Gurnick put out, for public consumption and comment, an indefensibly stupid opinion, and the wages of stupidity is ridicule.

There’s a growing movement among my peers of conscientious objection to BBWAA voting, disavowing the Hall of Fame and MVP voting and so on because they represent values and evaluative methods that have been proven to be obsolete. If our institutions don’t reflect us, they say, then we should reject those institutions. It’s a movement that’s part John Locke and part scene kid, and it’s a movement that I can’t justify joining.

On the Effectively Wild podcast a few months ago, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller talked to MLB Network anchor Brian Kenny about his unusually aggressive approach to baseball analysis and pointing out faults in others’ analysis where he sees it. It’s a tone that was largely abandoned by the online baseball community sometime after the publication of Moneyball, and Kenny (not him alone, but him in particular) has been criticized for taking an inappropriately confrontational tone and fighting a battle that’s already been won. Generally, I’m on board with this line of criticism, that Kenny and others are right, but could stand to cool it a little in the name of not turning into the sabermetric equivalent of Internet Atheists.

But his response stuck with me, and I’ll paraphrase and adapt it for today’s controversy here: the reason we suffer arguments like Gurnick’s, and the reason Miguel Cabrera wins MVP awards and the reason Jack Morris is going to get more Hall of Fame votes than Mike Mussina, is that we’re choosing not to fight back against bad arguments. We might have won the war, but we don’t have the influence yet because when people with big platforms say things we know to be wrong, we’re not fighting back.

In that vein, I still care about these institutions because while they don’t reflect my values, I don’t have any other institutions to turn to, and while I don’t have custodianship of these institutions, the people who do are doing damage that my generation is going to have to repair. Ken Gurnick’s Hall of Fame ballot must be condemned because it still counts.

And while you can hand-wave to a certain extent because in the grand scheme of things baseball doesn’t matter that much, sports mirrors culture. Sports mirrors culture in the way we talk about race, gender, sexual identity, economics and mental health, and our society is worse off because we don’t confront and defeat bad arguments before they can influence people.

If you take nothing else from this post, take this: our society is determined to die on the cross of false equivalence. We think all opinions are valid, even when they carry no philosophical or empirical underpinning worth discussing, and often those arguments influence policy in spite of flying in the face of what we know to be true. It’s why children are dying of preventable diseases when their parents are swayed by patently fabricated claims that vaccinations cause autism. It’s why tens of thousands are disenfranchised by voter ID laws that aim to combat cases of election fraud that number so few they’re dwarfed by the margin of error. It’s why we cling to a healthcare system that shuts out those who need care the most because those who profit off our sickness are out to convince us not to use our collective bargaining power to bring costs under control. It’s why we don’t have gun control or marriage equality when such things would practically cost us nothing and would provide happiness and safety for millions. It’s why hundreds of thousands of Americans go without food and shelter in the name of the welfare queen canard.

We don’t have these things because we’re too jaded or too polite to set aside diversions and confront self-serving, cynical and intellectually unjustifiable arguments when we see them, whether in baseball, where the stakes or low, or in matters of public policy, where they couldn’t be higher.

We can’t be afraid of math. We can’t be afraid to learn. We can’t be afraid of context. We can’t be afraid of criticism. And most importantly, we can’t let others be afraid of those things, no matter the forum.

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50 comments

  1. Diane

    January 07, 2014 09:17 PM

    Thanks so much for this, especially the last 3 paragraphs.

  2. dale

    January 07, 2014 10:08 PM

    You had me till the lefty junk at the end. Where does that come from?

    If we want talk about false equivalency, I wonder where your “tens of thousands” of disenfranchised people are. Please count them all. The shouting is on both sides.

    The tropes you repeat are projections (we don’t have the gun control laws you want because a majority doesn’t want them — that’s the way the cookie crumbles).

    Close mindedness is a damning thing, Michael. Bill Baer bans commenters who disagree with his twitter rants. It’s his prerogative, but I can’t help but see the hypocrisy at work here. Can we way opposing arguments without hearing what the other side is saying?

    Shouting out others helps whom?

  3. dale

    January 07, 2014 10:11 PM

    *way=weigh in that second to last para. I’m tired

  4. Bill Baer

    January 07, 2014 10:18 PM

    And a majority of Americans (and a majority of NRA members) want gun control.

    link

    As for banning people who disagree with me, I guarantee you’re being hyperbolic. If you’ve been blocked on Twitter or banned from the comments here, you likely earned it by being a jackass.

  5. BradInDC

    January 07, 2014 10:23 PM

    LOL @ Dale for the NRA-type gun nonsense – Majorities in this country want reasonable gun regulations and those regulations didn’t stand a chance in the US House of Representatives after 20 children were murdered by legal firearms.

    Just LOL, bro.

  6. dale

    January 07, 2014 10:59 PM

    I respectfully reply, here. But the hyperbole begins immediately — we’ve jumped from thousands to hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised people.

    The article you cite, Baumann, provides no firm number on people who want to vote but are barred. It talks of population numbers and extrapolates from there. I want hard data, for this equivalency comment of yours to take hold on me.

    Really, this is not a silly argument to have. I do not advocate for Voter ID laws, in fact (its a tiny number of infractions), but I see your glass house and may I say it is beautiful!

    Brad and Bill — this is simply untrue, in practice. Poll spikes happen, certainly (the Connecticut shooting being a strong influence on the poll you cite IMMEDIATELY in the aftermath). Witness the demise of gun control legislation in the Senate with the passage of time: reason.com/poll/2013/05/29/poll-two-thirds-of-americans-want-senate

    BradinDC (weirdly excited to see you commenting on here! I laugh at your corny PP box score comments) and Michael and Bill — I’m a fan of your work on baseball. This discussion is not related to baseball.

  7. dale

    January 07, 2014 11:13 PM

    An interesting article from HuffPo, on the evolution of gun control polling:

    “Gun Control Polls Find Support Sliding For Harsher Laws”
    www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/21/gun-control-polls_n_3963958.html

    But that’s not my point.

    Really what I am saying is these things which are incontrovertible facts, to you three, are less so. It’s all so much noise, emanating from that place where we find firmness in our beliefs.

    Our convictions cloud our ability to see other views. Sounds kinda familiar, right?

  8. Bill Baer

    January 07, 2014 11:18 PM

    As is typical of HuffPo, the headline is hyperbolic.

    Headline: Gun Control Polls Find Support Sliding For Harsher Laws

    From the article: “However, both surveys found that support for stricter laws remains higher than it was before the Newtown shooting.”

    If your point is that poll results shouldn’t be taken at the peak of a recent incident that will bias sampling, that is a valid point. But if you’re arguing that gun control isn’t something a majority of Americans want, even the articles you’re citing say otherwise.

    Anyway, I generally don’t like to have political discussions pop up in the comments here because everyone picks their sides and their sources beforehand, but it’s interesting and germane to Baumann’s point.

  9. Bob

    January 08, 2014 12:03 AM

    I stopped watching baseball for about 5-10 years because of the steroid use. I wasn’t going to spend my time or money supporting the owners who rode its wave to higher profits and the union who turned a blind eye towards it. It was evident that the players were using PEDs to anyone with a shred of common sense. This whole era and its attendant stats are tainted to me. I’m more than fine with a more limited HOF for this era.

  10. Pat

    January 08, 2014 12:34 AM

    It’s melodramatic and honestly kind of off-putting to see you equate the false equivalency argument for the HoF to some of the other societal ills you cited. Fights against Jack Morris for the hall aren’t any nobler because they’re combatting outdated thinking. They’re still arguments about a stupid game (one which I love, but still…).

    If you want to make a difference in the other arenas you cited, stop writing about the HoF and spend more time as an advocate of causes you find worthy that actually make a difference in this world. You have every right to write about what you want, but don’t pretend it’s more important than it is.

    I say this as someone who agrees with the opinions you stated on almost all the topics in this article, but the tone is extremely self-important and that just bothers me.

  11. Phillie697

    January 08, 2014 12:52 AM

    This is the only political statement I will make in the spirit of MB’s article, but I will then stop.

    “If we want talk about false equivalency, I wonder where your “tens of thousands” of disenfranchised people are. Please count them all. The shouting is on both sides.”

    So if what you say is true, that the problem the voter ID laws are trying to fix is so low AND the people they affect are so few, why the F do we have such a law? In a free society, you need a REASON to put up restrictions. You just made MB’s point for him with that statement.

  12. WayneKerrins

    January 08, 2014 06:03 AM

    Your problem is your system. Some of the ills you cite are a direct corollary of it. I’m unconvinced that the change you advocate will be sufficient to alter the structures and associated conventions enshrined in your Constitution: the problem appears intractable.

    Re the baseball content of your treatise I agree entirely.

  13. Ryan

    January 08, 2014 08:45 AM

    I’m not sure why you’re equating some jackass’s HoF ballot to why society is all fucked up. It’s just not a strong enough corollary. People do stupid shit and make bad arguments all the time. That doesn’t make these things related–it just means that there are plenty of stupid people.

  14. RMD

    January 08, 2014 09:01 AM

    Larry Walker has a lower bWAR and JAWS score than Glavine. He also had a lower ERA in the postseason than his regular season (which is something that Roger Clemens can’t say). If season and postseason numbers are inconvenient, let’s hope for the sake of math that Walker had the better numbers in Spring Training.

  15. Machonorris

    January 08, 2014 10:25 AM

    Excellent post.

  16. Ryan Sommers

    January 08, 2014 10:26 AM

    That’s probably why he said he was allowing for a qualitative and/or emotional influence over that choice.

  17. Gabor Kari

    January 08, 2014 11:44 AM

    Bill!
    I have been reading your posts for years.
    I love baseball, and how you (and your site) write about it.
    I am simply elated to read your last few paragraphs, though they have nothing to do with baseball.
    Thank you!

    Gabor

  18. jonny 5

    January 08, 2014 12:10 PM

    The fact is that Morris did play alongside steroid users and to deny Maddox for the very same reason is definitely troublesome. But this is what the HOF gets for going to the opinion of hundreds of sportswriters (some who don’t know much about baseball anyway). It’s all opinion and people base that opinion on anything from advanced metrics to how many times they dropped the soap in the shower this morning. There will always be unjustified ballots in the HOF voting until they change who/how the vote takes place.

  19. Bill Baer

    January 08, 2014 12:45 PM

    @ Gabor

    Thank you for the kind words, but they would be better directed at Michael Baumann, who wrote this fantastic piece.

  20. Jacob S.

    January 08, 2014 01:06 PM

    In fairness to Baumann, he stated from the outset his essay would be insufferable. So if you find it to be so, way to go! Pointing it out is unnecessary.

    I think the HOF voting is broken, but we also need to keep in mind it is a Hall of FAME, not a Hall of Sabermetrics. Fame is (currently) unquantifiable (SABRists, GO!), so if you want a Hall that only inducts based on WAR you are looking in the wrong place. We don’t have one of those. And we never will, unless we figure out a way to kick out those who didn’t deserve election (based on their stat lines) in previous generations.
    I think a HOF that doesn’t include Clemens or Bonds is silly. But I also think a HOF that includes Tinker, Evers and Chance is silly, on the basis of career or peak WAR. But name 20 other players from their era that an average baseball fan would recognize. Chances are, all those guys are in the HOF too. My point being, yes the voting system sucks, yes we would like to make the criteria more clear and objective, but no matter what there will be a high degree of subjectivity no matter what. When you all grow up to be the next gen fat old white guys who are voting we’ll hate your votes just as mu h as you loathe the current writers’. Except for me, cuz unlike Baumann I do have institutions I care about way more than anything related to silly ole baseball. ????

  21. Jacob S.

    January 08, 2014 01:10 PM

    ???? Is supposed to be a smiley-face to show my comments are light-hearted, but WP doesn’t like my html apparently :)

  22. BeninDC

    January 08, 2014 01:42 PM

    I don’t fully understand the commentary that baseball’s hall of fame voting is broken. It approaches the question of the Hall of Fame as if there is An Answer. The fact is that the HOF is better for the varied opinions from the voters including nonsensical ones from the guy who voted for Morris alone. If everyone voted like national columnists, then there would be no selectivity about who should or shouldn’t be in the HOF. I have long believed that HOF voters have a constituency. There are two ways to look at why writers publish their HOF ballots. One is for transparency. The second reason is to publish your votes to your constituency and a broader audience (especially if you always vote for the maximum number of players). That way, players court you because they may have a better chance, apart from their stats, of receiving your HOF vote.

    I have read many complaints recently about the voting limit of ten votes per ballot. Voters – Jayson Stark and others – seem to be complaining that they have too few votes available and so they strategize their votes. I haven’t done the statistics on this supposition because I have a day job, but I would bet that one of the ancillary benefits to limiting the number of votes is to force upon the voters a lower selectivity for the HOF. What I mean is that the HOF typically votes in between one and four players a year (sometimes none). The HOF wants to keep the selectivity to the best of the best, and haven’t they done that for the most part (recognizing again that selection isn’t perfect because a HOF isn’t perfect or scientific – if it was… why bother with voters… ask a computer to choose). Limiting the number of votes means that there are going to be players who can’t receive votes if they are borderline, or if there is an ideological basis (i.e., PED use) to keep an individual out of the HOF. The HOF makes a strategic decision to say we want to keep the number of inductees in any year to zero through four because we think that is an institutional way to week out anomalies (like PED users). So, if they limit the votes a voter has, they do it systematically rather than ideologically. They let the voters have opinions, and their opinions shouldn’t be uniform.

    Personally, I think the HOF and the voters get it right generally. The players that have been left out, right now, are ones hwo played most recently. There needs to still be perspective on the PED era and how those players should be treated. Let it play out. Leave voting and induction to the marketplace of ideas. That’s likely how Blyleven got in. Folks made the case for him and persuaded HOF voters. But I really wish there would stop being a drumbeat to fix the broken system. Get rid of this system, and another will have other problems. This one, by and large, has worked.

  23. John K

    January 08, 2014 01:50 PM

    As stated above, this was an excellent read. I’ve been a long time fan of the articles on this site (and Phillies baseball) and the objective criticisms found in the posts and comments, but I can say that this one sticks out.

    Also, couldn’t agree with you more about HOF voting being broken. Is there any way in the foreseeable future where the criteria for voting someone in will be more defined and the ten vote rule finally be lifted?

  24. Gabor Kari

    January 08, 2014 02:02 PM

    Indeed. Sorry.
    Eventually I’ll learn how to read.

  25. Scott G

    January 08, 2014 02:18 PM

    BeninDC,

    I’ll let someone else point out the people who are currently in or out that should actually be out or in. However, don’t voters openly admit to being more or less likely to vote for eligible candidates based on personal experience with them? Were they open to talking to me? Were they nice when they spoke to me? Did they give me material for the best stories?

    It’s my opinion that it’s ridiculous to say these type of nonsensical votes are acceptable criteria for who should/shouldn’t make the HOF. It has no bearing on the question at hand: who are the elite baseball players?

  26. BeninDC

    January 08, 2014 02:48 PM

    @Scott G,

    The fact is that much of the baseball commentariat seems to think that there is an easy answer (maybe not even an easy one), to your question of “who are the elite baseball players?” I don’t think there is one, and the HOF voting process takes into account the fact that there isn’t an algoritm to provide such an answer.

    I also don’t really understand the stock placed in a unanimous vote. Does that make the player better? It certainly doesn’t change the stats. I think Baumann is exactly right that ridicule is the wages of stupidity. Gurnick voted as he chose to vote, and his reputation is paying a price. It speaks volumes that colleagues have to come to his defense and rest on personal vouching.

    Nonetheless, I don’t think Gurnick’s vote changes Maddox’s reputation. Is Glavine less deserving or less elite because no one suggested or no one believes that he should be a unanimous choice? Is Blyleven less of a HOFer because he was voted in on the 15th ballot? The fact that there are so many voters accommodates outliers, like Gurlick, and that shows how robust HOF voting is. That’s where I disagree with Baumann a bit. If voting and opinions were monolithic, there would be no capacity to change minds about the nature of someone’s eliteness. Blyleven wouldn’t have ever been elected (I suppose he’s my exemplar of how the voting process is robust through public debate).

    Baumann makes a great point that bad arguments and inconsistent rationales must be called out for being bad and inconsistent. That’s fine. But a vote like Gurlick’s is an example of how robust the HOF voting is. Not an example of how it is broken. That the United States, for example, manages to trudge along despite ignorance and hatred within the borders, and the fact that the arc of history continues to bend towards justice shows how robust American democracy is. It may be messy, sure, but we survive.

  27. Derek

    January 08, 2014 03:04 PM

    BeninDC,

    Why should anyone assign the same weight to a nonsensical opinion as to an opinion that has been carefully considered? What is the benefit?

  28. JDS

    January 08, 2014 03:47 PM

    Stay out of politics. You’re not good at it. Stick to sports. Voter ID laws disenfranchise folks by requiring ID to vote? That’s just silly. We can require ID to bank, fly, buy smokes and beer but not vote? BTW Al Frankin won his senate seat through voter fraud – so as small as you think fraud is it has an affect.

  29. Bill Baer

    January 08, 2014 03:52 PM

    Banking, flying, and buying cigarettes and alcohol aren’t rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

    Requiring ID to vote disproportionately affects the poor and historically disenfranchised minorities (of which the poor are a significant subset). Let’s use a driver’s license as an example. Many poor people can’t drive so it makes no sense for them to have a driver’s license. They’re likely so hard-up financially that they’re working not just one job but two or three, thus they have to take off from work (sacrifice pay) to go get a valid form of ID. Getting a driver’s license requires travel, which is very difficult for the disabled and elderly. Women who marry and take a new surname or hyphenate are either not allowed to vote or have to apply for new credentials. The common thread throughout these groups? They heavily tend to vote Democrat. Those not affected by Voter ID laws? Able-bodied white men, who tend to vote Republican.

    The Republican Party admitted that Voter ID laws aren’t about curbing voter fraud, but about suppressing Democratic votes (e.g. the poor and minorities). (link)

  30. ass_dad

    January 08, 2014 04:36 PM

    It was refreshing to see a couple of public ballots this year (Ray Ratto and Richard Griffin’s come to mind) that included support for Jack Morris under the simple rationale of being a Big Hall voter. I actually have no problem with this argument, even though I disagree that Morris deserves a vote over others on the ballot like Mussina. The problem is that the Morris evangelists over the years have tried every logical fallacy in the book over the years, including appeal to authority, ignorance, and anecdote. This kind of stupidity and false equivalency is what made Gurnick’s nonsense insufferable and why it was rightly called out for what it was.

    I saw Jack Morris pitch in his prime too. I rooted for him. I have a weird handmade portrait of him somewhere in my childhood bedroom that my aunt procured for me at a flea market for reasons that are still unclear. I’m willing to have a conversation about why I don’t think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I’m not, however, willing to engage in that conversation with someone who wants to first call me a stats nerd, or imply that I don’t enjoy the game on the same level, or decry my insufficient outrage about PEDs. I’m not a big fan of Brian Kenny’s approach but it’s an understandable reaction to the subset of BBWAA members who retreat to smarm and turf-protecting when confronted with new ideas.

  31. Scott G

    January 08, 2014 06:32 PM

    BeninDC,

    Let’s take a hypothetical baseball player has the best stats in every category of any player who ever lived. Everyone knows for a fact he never used PEDs. Now, just enough of the members of the BBWAA believe he was a complete dick because he refused to speak with them after games.

    He’ll never get into the Hall of Fame because they won’t vote for him for something that is completely unrelated to his abilities on the baseball field. There’s one example of just letting people vote all willy nilly to decide what “elite” means.

  32. Ben

    January 08, 2014 07:00 PM

    Agreed Baumann. But I would go a step further And suggest that is not just allowing bad and unreasoned arguments to be made, its a lack of reflection on the nature and gensis of those arguments.

    I would be fine if you policed bad and unreasoned arguments (baseball, pop culture, political, or otherwise). But that policing requires hard, probing, almost neuroitic levels of reflection. Good luck. I’ll be praying to my absent God for you.

  33. Oliver

    January 08, 2014 07:05 PM

    I’d be interested to get you guys’ opinion on Deadspin’s gifted ballot. Aside from being a well-executed publicity stunt I think I’m not against some proportion of the ballot being fan-driven.

    I’m also disappointed that Palmeiro fell off the ballot this year.

  34. Phillie697

    January 09, 2014 08:36 AM

    Bill,

    I promised not to make another political comment, but I figured it’s safe if I directed at you :)

    The most serious problem with voter ID laws isn’t the disenfranchised voters; that is a serious problem as well, but not the most serious. The most serious problem with them is that they are an attempt to distract voters from real issues that need fixing. Politics are about misdirection, and voter ID laws are easy ways to win votes for doing absolutely nothing. THAT is the real issue; the obvious negative affects hundreds of thousands, but the not-so-obvious one affects hundreds of millions.

  35. BeninDC

    January 09, 2014 12:56 PM

    @Scott G,

    What’s your remedy to 25.1% of the voters not affirmatively voting for that player? What is the meaning of such a vote? How do you know, positively, that the voters aren’t voting for that player for his dickishness alone? I fail to see how there could be coordinated action/collusion on the part of the baseball voters. I’d be very curious to know if there have been examples (that you can actually name rather than speculate about) of collusion among the voters to get a player into the HOF or keep a player out of the HOF; I bet such collusion would be exceedingly difficult. And, this also comes back to the fact thay you seem to believe, as do many people perhaps, that there is such a thing as a Hall of Famer apart from those players voted into the Hall of Fame, akin to a Platonic Hall of Famer. I don’t believe in Platonic ideals, unfortunately. What I’m left with is an imperfect system that takes into account, aggregates maybe, varying perspectives and comes to some sort of conclusion – not from god on high, but writers who spend their lives dissecting baseball and who have or should have some semblance of independence/integrity, stemming from their journalist roots or simply a track record (8 or 10 yeras writing before a baseball writer receives his/her first ballot) making the writer a known quantity – about a player and his worthiness to enter the HOF.

    Let me also state that I would imagine that the HOF would want, very much, to prevent vote fixing. Perhaps it is another reason that voters should stop proclaiming this transparency nonsense and divulging their ballots, and voters should simply vote in secret to jealously preserve the integrity of their independent unpressured ballot.

  36. Scott G

    January 09, 2014 01:12 PM

    BeninDC,

    I read half of your first paragraph and noticed the second paragraph had the same point, so I stopped reading.

    It wasn’t about collusion. I’m saying if a player chooses to never speak to any member of the media, and they independently decide they’re not going to vote him in for that reason, it’s completely absurd. It has not bearing on the player’s abilities which should be the barometer.

  37. Phillie697

    January 09, 2014 01:25 PM

    @Scott G,

    I think his point is that if we ever get to a state of things that 25.1% of such a massive number of voters decide to do such a thing, we might be in bigger trouble than simply stupid voters.

  38. Scott G

    January 09, 2014 01:59 PM

    So it’s realistic/okay for one voter to think this way, but unrealistic/suddenly problematic if 25.1% of the voters suddenly happen to independently think this way?

  39. Phillie697

    January 09, 2014 02:26 PM

    @Scott G,

    I think MB is right, ridicule the man; he deserved it. But I also agree with BeninDC, this in and of itself is not an indication that the system needs fixing. I mean, in this day and age we still got 46% of certain voters in a state that either thinks interracial marriages should be illegal or are not sure if it should be legal. (source: www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/interracial-marriage-deep-south_n_1339827.html). FORTY SIX PERCENT!!! IN 2012!!! Does that mean democracy is broken?

  40. SocraticGadfly

    January 09, 2014 04:54 PM

    Other than me being a “small Hall” guy, and a strong one, I like a lot of this.

    In my day job, I’m a community newspaper editor, and I’m doing a column for next Monday about HOF voting, the HOF and baseball as myth vs. the HOF and baseball as reality, and how this all relates to American life.

  41. jonny 5

    January 10, 2014 11:53 AM

    OT @ Bill.

    If a person is able to get 3 jobs without I.D., surely they can go out and obtain 1 I.D. Laziness when it comes to obtaining official identification is not reason to allow people to vote who may or may not be eligible to do so. If it’s too much work to get an I.D. then voting would be just as difficult. Voter fraud ran rampant previously and we all know it. The fact is that some people don’t want voter fraud resolved so it’s now a “discrimination issue”.

    www.truethevote.org/news/how-widespread-is-voter-fraud-2012-facts-figures

    If we want to fix the problem we need identification of voters plain and simple. And if it’s too much work for someone to get one then they don’t want to vote too badly.

  42. Phillie697

    January 10, 2014 01:55 PM

    @jonny 5,

    These are the same people who have to work 3 jobs because they can’t afford to buy their kids a $5 Christmas present. You want to try again before you call them lazy? I want to see you live in that kind of abject poverty before you can be qualified to comment on whether they are lazy or not.

    “We all know a guy who knows a guy who gave change to a bum only to see him later drive off in a Cadillac. We’ve all seen the grocery store receipt showing steak and lobster purchased with food stamps. We all want to think that we hard-working people are being swindled by freeloaders living the high life on our dime, because then we don’t have to feel bad that we allow our fellow human beings to live in soul-crushing poverty.”

  43. jonny 5

    January 10, 2014 02:34 PM

    @Phillie
    “Laziness when it comes to obtaining official identification”

    Please don’t try embellishing my statement for kicks. I said something completely different from what you are accusing me of. And furthermore I did grow up poor. I started working full time during summer vacation at 13 years old to help out a single parent make ends meet. A single parent who even though so poor their 13 year old had to help pay the bills but they still had valid ID. Just because I think the ID issue is a ridiculous one doesn’t make me some sort of uppity money grubbing monster. Get a grip please.

  44. Phillie697

    January 10, 2014 03:14 PM

    It’s this kind of “oh I can do it that must mean other people can too” attitude why we have such a law in the first place. You’re no more qualified to judge whether they are lazy or not than me or Bill. Categorical belief that “anyone who can’t do X must be lazy” is why politicians can convince the likes of you that a small problem is really a big problem. I have worked EVERY election as a election monitor since 2007, and I’ve logged one incident (involving 4 voters) of questionable voting behavior, and that was when the polling place denied 4 minorities the right to vote because they allegedly showed up 15 seconds late to the polling place. If there is rampant voter fraud, I want to know where it is happening.

    Even the link you posted reported 99 cases of “potential” fraud it uncovered. Last Presidential election a total of 129,231,960 votes were cast. That’s 0.00007.7% of the votes cast. If that’s your idea of “rampant” voter fraud, there isn’t much anyone can say to change your mind I suppose.

  45. jonny 5

    January 13, 2014 08:47 AM

    “You’re no more qualified to judge whether they are lazy or not than me or Bill. Categorical belief that “anyone who can’t do X must be lazy”

    Phillie, Again. I’m not calling people lazy, I’m saying “Laziness when it comes to obtaining official I.D.”

    Again, stop embellishing my statement. Try to comprehend that the most motivated person in the world can be lazy when it comes to putting their socks away. This does not make them lazy. You seem pretty smart, you should understand this.

    Just because I believe people should prove to be US citizens eligible to vote before they do so is no reason to judge or twist words to make me look like I’m saying something I’m not. In other words, try not being such a jerk.

  46. Phillie697

    January 14, 2014 02:41 PM

    @jonny 5,

    This is your premise: “Because person X does not have an official ID, it must be because person X was too lazy to get it.” Is that not confining your logic to just that one particular thing?

    Bill gave you 10 reasons why it’s not laziness, even when pertaining to that ONE particular thing. You just decide to categorically reject all those reasons and went to “lazy.” I’m not being a jerk. I’m calling it like it is. I’m not quite sure you understand how offensive you sound for using that word to begin with.

  47. jonny 5

    January 15, 2014 09:14 AM

    Well Phillie, you do realize I was addressing “a person who works 3 jobs” don’t you? And I said again “laziness when it comes to obtaining offical ID.” I don’t consider a person with 3 jobs lazy (how could I?), whatever you want to draw from my words in YOUR head is all that matters in your mind I see. You are being a jerk. You are trying to put a false meaning to my statement. And to be honest I don’t really care if I sound offensive to a person such as yourself. You see, you offend me. And you don’t care if you do. All over my difference of opinion. You are no better than I even if you were correct about what I meant. Which you aren’t.

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