The Breakdown: Hall supposed to be about history
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Summit County, Colorado
I’ll admit it, I was ecstatic when Andre Dawson was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame last week. Not only was he a star on my favorite team (and we Cub fans usually have little to get excited about, at least once the regular season is finished each year), but he was also my all-time favorite player. Hands down.
The Hawk’s Starting Lineup figure was perched on my bedroom shelf all through my childhood, and I usually tried to snag the
No. 8 jersey in Little League growing up (although numbers, at least for my teams, usually went by height, and being a bit vertically challenged as a youngster, I was usually relegated to numbers five or lower).
Needless to say, I felt he deserved to be invited to Cooperstown a lot sooner than he was.
Now, I don’t bring this up to gloat about Dawson getting elected (well, maybe a little bit). My real reason for this column is the problems I have with the Hall of Fame – or at least the way in which people are selected.
With recent “revelations” coming from Mark McGwire in the past few days, the debate over being a Hall-of-Fame-worthy player has resurfaced for the second straight week.
Well, let’s think about what the Hall of Fame actually is for a second here.
In its mission statement found on its official website, this is how the organization describes itself: “The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an independent, non-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its impact on our culture by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting its collections for a global audience as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to our national pastime.”
Basically, it comes down to the Hall of Fame being a format to chronicle the history of the game.
The interesting thing here is that nowhere in that mission statement does it say that the purpose of the Hall of Fame is to either a) compare across generations or b) honor the best players who also happen to be the best people.
Somehow, that seems to be the two main ways the primary voters (the Baseball Writers Association of America) seem to use the induction process.
This is why the writers who vote seem to reserve the first-ballot induction for only the “best-of-the-best” players. And that’s why, somehow, Dawson was deemed worthy in his ninth year on the ballot rather than the first eight years, even though his stats, career and character had been exactly the same since he retired in 1996.
If someone is a Hall of Famer, shouldn’t it be obvious their first time on the ballot?
It seems that these writers use their vote to editorialize about how a player stacks up against past generations, despite the fact that it’s impossible to compare and most of the writers never saw those past generations in person anyway.
This is also why the character issue has become so important to the writers. By excluding any good player from the “Steroids Era” of baseball, the writers are supposedly protecting the integrity of the Hall and those already in it. Of course, they don’t care that Babe Ruth played in an all-white league, Hank Aaron played during the amphetamine era or that Sandy Koufax actually used steroids for his ailing pitching arm.
Still, more often than not, the right people get in, but that’ll soon change in the next few years when players like Bonds and Clemens come up in the voting.
Major League Baseball (and Bud Selig, in particular) have tried their hardest to make people ignore the sport’s biggest mistakes. As journalists covering the sport, the writers have a duty to make sure that future generations know exactly what happened in the past.
That’s their job, and that should be the way they use their Hall of Fame vote.
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