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The "fun" of filling out a Hall of Fame ballot
So today's the big day. Hall of Fame announcement. I'd say Roberto Alomar is a slam dunk. Bert Blyleven? An eight-foot jumper. I'd be surprised if anyone else received as much as 60 percent of the vote.
Here's a column I wrote, detailing things I've learned about Hall of Fame voting. One point that I really want to emphasize is number two, "Ignore noise."
Why should I worry about what people thought of the player back in the day? Isn't the whole point of the five-year waiting period to shake off such an impressions and take a fresh look at the candidate?
As a parallel analogy, my friend Bob Klapisch recently purchased me a copy of "The Godfather," which I've never seen, a fact that Klap divulged to the Twitterverse. I can't wait to watch it. But I'm going to draw my own conclusions about it, right? I'm not going to say, "It won three Oscars; therefore, it's great."
Or would anyone say that "Dances With Wolves" is the superior film to "Goodfellas"? They did in 1990, when Kevin Costner beat Martin Scorcese for the Best Picture Oscar. Now, I defy you to find someone who would make such a contention.
Anywho, I'm digressing, as I'm prone to do. What I want to discuss, as we prepare for the big news, is the sentiment I've seen from some of my fellow voters: That the Steroids Era has taken the fun out of filling out a ballot because of the tough decisions that must be made. Because of new factors that must be considered.
I don't know. To me, the Steroids Era adds to the fun. It's intellectually challenging to figure out how the issue should be addressed - or not addressed. I obviously have an opinion on how it should be addressed, but as long as you come up with a consistent, defensible philosophy, then we're all good.
I do think, however, that, as we move further away from the pre-testing period, it's worth assessing the alleged "damage" inflicted upon the game by what went down. For if we look at the nuts and bolts of it, perhaps it won't appear so daunting?
What really happened? What happened most dramatically is that the home run records _ both career and single-season _ changed. The single-season list changed rather drastically, as Roger Maris went from first all-time to seventh over the four-year stretch of 1998-2001.
That's not good. Look at that linked list again, though. Keep going after Maris. The next four names (Babe Ruth 1927, Ruth 1921, Jimmie Foxx 1932, Hank Greenberg 1938) came within an 18-year period _ a longer period than four years, yet still a relatively contained period of time. Tied with Foxx and Greenberg with 58 are Ryan Howard, who took and presumably passed drug tests in 2006, and Mark McGwire, who almost certainly was using steroids in 1997.
Every number has a story. Every statistic has context. Has "taint," if you want to go in that direction. Nothing is accomplished in a vacuum.
Was the game "ruined" by what transpired during the Steroids Era? That's preposterous. Revenues continue to rise. Competitive balance has room for improvement, but that has nothing to do with steroids. Is anyone out there saying, "I don't follow baseball anymore, because the home run records have been messed up"?
Did the players' union mess up by not agreeing sooner to testing? Well, sure, it would've been nice for them to have moved more quickly. But you have to remember the immense distrust that existed between the players and teams for such a long time.
Yes, the "clean" players suffer now. I'm not sure that should really bother us, though. Just as I have to accept the results of the Hall of Fame ballot - last year, I voted for seven players, and the only player who got in was Andre Dawson, for whom I didn't vote - the non-users have to accept the fact that there wasn't enough support among players for testing until the 2002 collective bargaining agreement. I choose to accept that reality when voting on the era.
Maybe if we appreciate the fact that the game was only bruised, not beaten, by what went down, then this won't be such a harrowing process for voters.
--Interesting piece by Amazin' Avenue about the Mets' pitching staff for 2011.
--I'll certainly be back later to discuss the election results. And at 4:35 this afternoon, I'll be on MLB Network Radio, with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden, to talk about the same thing.