Your Hall of Fame Ballot Doesn’t Suck

Over the holidays, I watched Monday Night Football with some friends at a nearby bar. During one of the 325 commercial breaks, the subject of the Baseball Hall of Fame came up and naturally, we began a debate. For the next 25 minutes I argued with two very intelligent sports fans about why Tim Raines was more deserving of induction than Trevor Hoffman.

The next morning, I emailed them a detailed resume for Rock, totaling all of his hits, runs, stolen bases, WAR and OPS+ as well as comparing him to all of the other left fielders in the Hall. I then went into attack mode on Hoffman, admitting he was a great reliever while also making the argument Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner and Lee Smith were all equals or better. For good measure, I put Hoffman’s career WAR (28.4) up against fellow borderline candidates Mike Mussina (83.0) and Curt Schilling (80.7).

Game, set, match.

After a few emails back and forth, one of them finally relented (I think the other got bored). I had won the argument, but I also felt incredibly lame.

Debates like that one are playing out all over the Internet as the Hall of Fame plans to announce its next class on Wednesday, January 18th. Despite a crowded field, long-time voter Murray Chass submitted a blank ballot to spite fellow writers who criticized his past selections.

ESPN’s Keith Law, one of the leaders of the movement to hold Hall voters accountable (and one of Chass’s adversaries), uses his Twitter account to call-out voters who are either unqualified or unreasonably biased in their voting. Barry Svrulga of The Washington Post gave new life to an old adage that writers have no business voting for any awards, because of the inherent conflicts of interests at play.

Whether you tend to side with Chass, Law, Svrulga or somewhere in between, I’m here to tell you: we’re all wrong.

The Hall of Fame’s annual induction period is meant to be a celebration of the game’s history and its players, not an opportunity to tear down their accomplishments or destroy the memories of the fans who support them.

Unfortunately, over the last 10 years, that’s the approach many writers and fans have taken in the run-up to the announcement. If general incivility wasn’t enough, some of these arguments even contain unsavory undertones of ageism and/or racism.

The message for 2017: stop arguing over a stupid museum you’ll probably never visit. You’re not “With Her” or hoping to “Make America Great Again.” This is about putting a plaque in a tiny little town that’s 80 miles outside of Albany.

As fans, do we gain any real pleasure from keeping Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire out of the Hall of Fame? The only people who stand to gain or lose from that proposition are the millions of fans who came back to the game and still hold fond memories from the summer of 1998.

If enough people get the warm and fuzzies over Jack Morris and Edgar Martinez, put them in. If listening to “Hells Bells” sends shivers down your spine because that meant Trevor Hoffman was coming in for one of his 601 saves, then let’s find a place for him, too.

If you’re a Red Sox fan who will always remember Manny Ramirez as the MVP of the 2004 World Series, then who am I to demean it? If you happen to agree with Curt Schilling and don’t believe in evolution… wait… never mind.

In an era where we are surrounded… nay, BOMBARDED with negativity and cynicism, what’s so funny about injecting a little peace, love and understanding into our national pastime?

There are 34 former players on this year’s ballot: instead of arguing about why they aren’t great, let’s just try to enjoy that brief moment in time when we could all agree at the very least, they were pretty good.

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