Tuesday, January 5, 2016
By BARRY MILLMAN
Hall of Fame voting results for the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America to which I belong will be announced Wednesday; and in the interests of transparency and absent any ballgames to watch or deals to write about (and probably also to tweak a select group of judgmental folks a wee bit) I present here my ballot.
Rather than make a point-by-point case for each of the choices I've made -- an approach that's been pounded into dust by many baseball writers far more meticulous than me and still didn't save them from a thrashing -- I'll just preface my ballot with three FYIs that hopefully will explain the names that follow. Please read them first, and then you can raise your Louisville Slugger in righteous indignation and beat me like a pinata with a clear conscience. You may not agree with me but, hey, I still believe MLB's pace-of-game rules were just a plot to curtail between-inning bathroom breaks and save wear and tear on stadium plumbing. So I'm used to being on the minority side of great debates.
First FYI: Be advised Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines are prior inductees by the IBWAA and therefore no longer needlessly languish on our ballot like they have been on the Baseball Writers Assocation of America ballot awaiting their rightful places in Cooperstown; creating excuses for blocking still other worthy players. So when you don't see them here, that's why.
Second FYI: I'm an unmerciful stats guy and I believe the Hall is for the best of the best for an extended period, not for the very goods or for the guys who flashed or for the what might have beens. I don't discount counting stats because I believe a long career is an asset, but I do believe one-trick ponies better have some mighty impressive underlying metrics to go along with them, and if hanging around too long hurt those than it hurt those counting stats too. And unlike some, I give extra credit for wins, playing under the glare of big markets and in big moments, postseason success and, wherever applicable, for versatility because, at the end of the day, the game is all about winning and doing whatever it takes to get your team there. Stat mavens like to say there's no such thing as too much data, and those factors to me represent a type of excellence data even if it's not player-independent or doesn't neatly fit into a useable metric and so gets dismissed as small sample minutiae or simply folded into an existing metric and diluted into irrelevance. All things being equal, give me two guys with the same stats and metrics -- one being the best guy on a going-nowhere team; the second being the third-best guy on a championship team -- and that second guy is who I'm picking to play with in an offseason pickup game. I already know he's a winner, and who can say he wouldn't beat that first guy out for his job if they both had to compete for the same job on a new team next year? Baseball isn't a board game.
Third FYI: When it comes to all the performance-enhancing stuff, you should know right up front I consider myself a big picture guy and pretty forgiving; and if you want to come at me about the unfitness for induction of guys whose numbers you believe are inflated due to pharmaceutical or otherwise artificial means, then your list of names better include every player already in the Hall known or suspected to have done the same and your willingness to remove them first -- and that list better include every guy who ever took a pill, an injection or a swallow of something from some doctor, trainer or buddy who led them to believe it would help them play better, get over an illness faster or return from an injury sooner whether it actually did the job effectively or not.
Mind you, I'm all for getting the PEDs that are known to cause irreparable harm to players out of the game. But I believe the Hall is a place to recognize and preserve historic career achievement; and after more than a century and a half of unchecked usage, I find it hypocritical the way many would-be jihadists are suddenly treating the institution like a deranged caliphate where some all-time great players must get beheaded on the doorstep based on the twisted argument that it possesses a nonexistent purity within its walls requiring protection from infidels.
And if it's not the stats and just the idea that cheating in general makes a player unfit under the character clause that "other" voting body (the BBWAA) hypocritically clings to, you obviously are unfamiliar with the rogues gallery of miscreants who have earned induction despite blatant violations of the rules of both the game and society since the beginning of time .
Personally, I would be tempted to join the zealots if they re-directed their daggers in the far more worthwhile battle to achieve segregation of the perpetrators and supporters of baseball's longtime war on men of color -- a far more malignant form of cheating that impacted stats on a far grander scale than all the drugs, doctored balls and bats and thrown games combined ever did -- through either an appropriate notation added to their plaques or a physical repositioning together in a symbolically darkened corner of the Hall; along with a concurrent push to encourage the Hall and MLB to fully subsidize the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City out of their ample coffers.
But as I'm aware the Museum itself is vehemently against segregation of any kind anywhere, I'll just take an even strain with the zealots and let my ballot and the record book have the final say.
Without further ados or adon'ts, here's the guys I checked on my ballot ... and because I'm jonesing for spring training and the promise of a new season on a chilly day at the moment, I'll present my choices by way of their rookie cards when they were all full of promise and nobody knew what amazing careers yet lay before them:
I went back and forth on a couple of the other guys on the ballot, but to me, these were the guys who were all slam-dunk no-brainers. Maybe I'll feel different about the bubble boys next year. And maybe I'll learn to pee faster and love the change of pace rules. You never know.
Congratulations to all this year's inductees. It's a heck of a gauntlet one has to run to get in, and in many ways an arbitrary one. So it's important to remember that no great player ever needs a hall to be famous -- and it's the record book and not writers that ultimately makes players immortal.
You can email Barry Millman at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @nyyankeefanfore.