The Hall of Fame is Dead

I grew up an Orioles fan. My favorite player of all time was Cal Ripken Jr. I collected every baseball card of his. I met him once, and got his autograph as a kid after a game at Camden Yards. I was there the day he tied the consecutive games streak, and I have the shirt that says “I was there” to prove it. I watched the next night from home when he broke the streak. I drank milk because Cal Ripken did milk commercials. When Ripken eventually retired, I said that my first trip to Cooperstown would be when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

I’ve still never been to Cooperstown.

Ripken retired at the end of the 2001 season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. By the time 2007 rolled around, I didn’t care at all about the Hall of Fame, even if it meant seeing my favorite player’s induction ceremony. I didn’t care about this for one reason.

The Hall of Fame is dead.

There are two purposes for a Hall of Fame. The first purpose is to serve as a museum. In theory, if a person didn’t know anything about baseball, they could go to the Hall of Fame and learn anything they wanted to learn. The second purpose is to honor the best players who have ever played the game. These are the players who tell the story of baseball. Without their inclusion in the Hall, you can’t accomplish the first purpose. The problem today is that modern technology makes the first purpose irrelevant, and the second purpose has become a mockery.

A Museum of Baseball

When I was a kid, we had an Encyclopedia set. You might remember these from “How I Met Your Mother” jokes, back when HIMYM was a funny show, and not a weekly highlight reel of funnier jokes from previous seasons. And if you went to school before the internet, you might remember these books as the books you’d turn to when you had homework. Anytime there was research to be done, you could find the information in one of the 26 books that your mom bought from a person who sold these books door to door, because that was how you bought things like this back then.

I’m not sure if there’s a market for Encyclopedia sets today, but I can’t imagine there is with the internet. You could open up the “Index” book, find the book you were looking for, then flip through that book for the answer. Or you could just pull up Google and type your question.

The Hall of Fame is a museum of baseball history, but you don’t need to go there if you want to learn baseball’s history. You can find anything you want to know on the internet. The truth is that the Hall of Fame doesn’t even tell the history of baseball. The Hall of Fame tells the censored history of baseball. It’s like watching a favorite movie on network TV. You can’t really enjoy it because your favorite line comes up, and it gets censored in a really awkward way that makes you realize that there’s a better version of this movie. That can also usually be found on the internet, but I don’t want to condone piracy or anything.

The Hall of Fame isn’t telling the story of baseball. You can’t tell the story of baseball without Pete Rose. You can’t tell the story of baseball without The Black Sox. And you can’t tell the story of baseball without steroids.

We’re now entering the point in time where players during “The Steroid Era” are eligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Already we’ve seen Barry Bonds shut out, even though he holds both of the major home run records (season and career). He accomplished this thanks to steroids, but he’s still the home run leader and one of the best hitters in the game. You can’t tell the story of the game without him. Also, if he was inducted, I can finally use my “Which hat will he wear? The size 7 or the size 10?” joke.

Bonds is just one example of the many accused or proven steroid users who won’t get in the Hall of Fame. That’s a problem, not just because these players tell the story of the game, but because steroids tell the story of the game. The biggest story over baseball for the last decade has been steroids, and steroids were a part of the game for at least one additional decade. MLB might not like that, but it’s true. Every top performer is viewed with skepticism. Every star player seems to be guilty until proven guilty. And top players are constantly being linked to steroids, or even suspended for steroids.

The solution by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America has been to sweep it under the rug. Don’t vote for steroid users, or even suspected users, and leave them out of the history of the game. In turn, that eliminates a huge time period from baseball’s history. And it’s not like steroids are going away. Why would players not use steroids? MLB might suspend you for 50 games, but you still keep the money you’ve already made, and when you return, teams will still pay you millions of dollars — as we’ve seen in the last two years with Melky Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta. It’s funny that the BBWAA is harsher on steroid users than MLB.

The Hall of Fame might have once been considered a museum of baseball’s history, but it in no way tells the true history of the game. I’d say this would be like the Smithsonian leaving out horrible parts of American history (which they don’t), but we’re only talking about baseball here.

Honoring the Best Players in the Game

The Hall of Fame is now more of a post-career award than a history of the game. It’s this view as an award that has really tainted the voting process. There are so many things that don’t make sense involving the voting process.

The biggest problem is that there is such a thing as “First Ballot Hall of Famers”. Shouldn’t everyone in the Hall of Fame be a first ballot Hall of Famer? The fact that players aren’t seen as Hall of Fame worthy one year, and are later inducted into the Hall of Fame is ridiculous. How can someone not be a Hall of Famer one year, then suddenly be worthy the following year after making zero improvements to their playing career?

A big reason for this comes from the rule that limits writers to a maximum of ten players on their vote. I don’t know where the rule of ten came from. I assume this is to limit the amount of players who can be inducted into the Hall, but isn’t there already a limit with the 75% vote requirement? If you get a 75% majority saying that more than ten players are eligible for the Hall of Fame in a given year, then more than 10 players are eligible. Nothing about that cheapens the Hall of Fame. It just means that given year had an exceptionally strong class.

Another reason why “First Ballot Players” exist is because players are often compared to other players on the ballot, rather than looking at their actual numbers. Sometimes that means a player is left off because he was number 11 on the list. This is why Craig Biggio wasn’t inducted this year. He fell two votes shy, with multiple writers saying they would have voted for him if they would have been allowed to vote for more than ten players. Often players are left off because many writers don’t believe in voting for ten players. Or you’ve just got situations where writers won’t vote for a guy as a first ballot Hall of Famer, but will vote for him in following years.

The biggest problem with the voting process is the Baseball Writers Association of America. For some reason, this group holds the entire vote. I believe this started in 1939. It was definitely during a period where baseball writers were the only guys covering a team closely. Now we’ve got TV, radio, internet radio, internet TV, blogs, online-only newspapers, podcasts, Twitter accounts, and so on. The fact that the Hall of Fame vote goes to one form of media is kind of ridiculous.

What’s even worse is that many in this group have gone power crazy with their vote. The vote has become more about the voter, and less about the candidates. The BBWAA just banned Dan Le Batard from voting, after he gave his vote to Deadspin readers. Meanwhile Murray Chass and Ken Gurnick both voted for Jack Morris and no one else, all out of spite, and they both keep their votes. Le Batard’s vote was actually credible, but if you’re going to punish him for tarnishing the process, you have to do the same for the others.

The problem here is that the BBWAA doesn’t see there’s a problem. There have been some discussions inside the BBWAA for changes, but obviously no changes have been made. The entire system needs to be blown up. This current system isn’t working.

The usual comeback to anyone questioning the BBWAA is that they’re a “stat nerd” who is jealous that they don’t have a vote. That’s not me. Sure, I’m a stat-nerd. If I had a Hall of Fame vote, I’d probably start with the stats first, and my vote would be largely based on the statistical results of a player. But I don’t want a vote. I wouldn’t want to be one of the people who decides who goes into the Hall of Fame. I don’t want to be a member of the BBWAA. I just want to see a better decision making process that has less to do with the voters, and more to do with getting the best players in the Hall of Fame. You might believe the Hall of Fame should be a museum of baseball history. You might believe the Hall of Fame should be an award for the best players who have ever played the game. The current voting process means that the Hall of Fame is neither of those things.


  • If you go on just numbers A-Rod would get in the HOF when he is eligible , To me he’s no worse than guys that have already been snubbed. Character should be a huge part of the criteria . If your not a good teammate or role model you shouldn’t get in. If that meant guys like Cobb not getting in, so be it. He once nearly beat a fan to death for calling him a half wit.

    • Isn’t what Cobb did a lot worse than A-Rod? So we’ll punish A-Rod, but not Cobb since he’s already in the HOF?Frankly, I hate the morals clause because of how it has been used: it gives voters way more power than they should have to exercise their suspicions when they have no proof at all of any “wrongdoing.” I don’t like keeping guys out based on having little or no factual evidence that they used. That’s how you get ridiculous accusations against guys like Piazza, Bagwell, and Biggio where there is really NO evidence at all that they took PED’s. And even if they did, there wasn’t a rule against them to begin with! To me, the steroids scandal is like baseball’s version of the Salem Witch Trials: all you need is one person to say “hey, this might not look right, even though I have no evidence,” and everyone automatically believes and it just rolls out of control.
      To your point above though: agreed Rose shouldn’t be in. See, that in itself to me is the crux of PED’s vs. gambling. Rose gambled on baseball when it was long established that there were severe punishments. The guys who took (or were suspected of taking) PED’s then had no laws or rules they were breaking.

  • Just re-read Tim’s blog and everyone’s comments.

    I know I am new to this site but here are
    some thoughts on all of this.

    1) Tim, you should be really proud of this site.
    A great blog followed by some of the most
    insightful thoughts and comments that
    you could find anywhere on any topic.

    2) To all who have read and commented.
    Thank you! Such great insights.

    3) Maybe what MLB and the HOF needs
    is to actually get a group like this to sit
    down in a room and work out a solution.
    I am not sure what the solution is, but
    put a group from across generations
    who are fans of the game and see what
    the result may be.

    Again, thanks to everyone!

  • The real problem is letting most of these writers vote at all. You can follow every game and still not know or respect it enough to be given a HOF vote. A lot of writers and reporters do more damage to the game than help it. A lot of reporters are worried more about their own agenda’s . most of them have no clue what it’s like to play the game…. Too many people over analyze the game. Make it too much about new statistics that were ever needed when the game was a much purer sport. There needs to be a better criteria for picking voters anyway. Lebetard didn’t belong anyway. The history of baseball can be told without letting guys like Bonds and Rose in it. They cheated and disrespected the game.

  • I think a lot of people here have a little bit of confusion on the difference between amphetamines, steroids and HGH!

  • Tim,

    Very good article overall. As a history major who got their master’s in Archives/Museum Studies, I’m very much with you that when preserving history, the whole story needs to be told…you can’t just talk about the good stuff, and ignore the bad. I don’t think there is much that MLB could do if the HOF decided to have a Black Sox or Pete Rose exhibit; hell, I think if they put their mind to it, the HOF could do a pretty damn good job with exhibits like that.
    As I’m from upstate NY (30 mins from Cooperstown) I’ve been to the Hall probably a dozen times or so. And while there are certainly different ways to find baseball history with our updated world, it really is an interesting place to see (as well as a beautiful town), even if it is the sanitized version of baseball. One thing I will note for those who haven’t seen it; in the last couple of years or so, the HOF released a virtual, online exhibit called “Dressed to the Nines,” which examines all of the jerseys used by every team since 1900. Covers much of the history of baseball, and you can even see the Federal League as well.
    In regards to HOF in/out, one thing I will take issue is your thinking in how sometimes a player is unworthy by a writer one year, and the next year he is voted in. I don’t have a problem with that. Sometimes it takes a good amount of time to judge how good a player is. Where’s the fire? What’s the big deal about waiting? Why do we have to decide in one ballot whether a player should make it or not?
    Peter Gammons explained it best as far as him leaving a player off one year, and voting for him the next. Sometimes he had formed an opinion about a player and thought the player wasn’t worthy of being included. But looking at other people’s arguments showed him that maybe he was wrong in his initial assessment of the player. Isn’t that a good thing if a writer is persuaded by newer methods? Or not even newer statistical methods…a writer who is willing to hear other arguments with an open mind?

    • NastyNate82 – I’m not sure what you mean by “I don’t think there is much that MLB could do if the HOF decided to have a Black Sox or Pete Rose exhibit”. They do have information about Jackson, Cicotte, the other six men out and Rose as part of the 20th century timeline. You’ve been to the HOF a dozen times. So, how did you miss it? That’s the part of Tim’s post that he’s wrong about – the museum isn’t telling a censored story of baseball history. It’s all there, even the ugly stuff.

      • Buccoguy1979,

        As I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for the last 7 years, I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to the HOF. Its been a long time since I’ve been there, so I guess its due to poor memory that I missed it. Anyway, I’m talking about an in-depth exhibit on both of those features of baseball’s history, not a blip on a timeline. That kind of mentions it and giving a quick head-nod to it, and moves on.

      • Also, I’m talking about how the HOF isn’t chained to MLB’s wishes, but they kind of act that way. That’s the larger point. They could show a lot more of the ugly history (whether its Black Sox, Pete Rose, Cap Anson’s huge role in making baseball segregated for 70-odd years) if they chose to do so.

  • Hank… Some really quality ideas.
    You included ideas I had not fully
    considered related to baseball’s

    Piraddict… Sorry, I do not agree
    with your hall of shame. Who
    decides who would be put there?
    After all, how many have actually
    been convicted of a baseball related
    crime? Also, how many from the
    early 20th century had personal
    behaviors (criminal or personal)
    that would have qualified them
    for a hall of shame?

    • dr dng, The baseball public would vote on who is elected to the Hall of Shame, but a more difficult question would be who would make the nominations (who gets to cast the first stone)? The only Court for baseball related crimes is the Court of Public Opinion. A lot of players have already been convicted there, After all, moral judgments are already being made by excluding ball players with qualifying statistics because of moral concerns. Establishing the Hall of Shame is a means of ratifying that purpose. It isn’t fair, as many others have pointed out, that some early 20th century players with personal lives that exhibited moral problems are included in the HOF whereas modern players are excluded for similar issues. Maybe the way to rectify that would be to include some existing HOF players in both wings. Being totally transparent the HOF could say that in the light of historical perspective perhaps some players shouldn’t have been included originally and to correct the oversight they are included in both wings, the HOF and the HOS.

      One could be tempted to say, why not throw out the moral qualifications altogether and only vote on statistics. But that way has a big downside in that it begs the question why have rules and umpires at all? The statistics are only meaningful if all those compared played by the same rules. You can’t make a meaningful comparison between those who hit with corked bats and PED pumped arms with those who didn’t. It is apples and oranges in spades.

  • Lots of worthwhile comments from both perspectives. Would the problem be solved by erecting a Hall of Shame wing in the HOF (or a separate building on the outskirts of Cooperstown) that included players with HOF statistics but character defects of all sorts: PEDs, gambling, other bad habits of all sorts.

    This would tell the history of baseball more robustly, while providing a means of censuring the conduct that you wouldn’t want your kid to engage in. There was a time when athletes were icons to be looked up to and admired by kids, and used as role models. I don’t think that’s the case so much today, and that is a loss to society.

    If there was a Hall of Shame it might be something that players would be loathe to be elected to, to be immortalized as a less than admirable person who achieved greatly without attaining greatness. Just a thought.

    Regarding who would vote players into the Hall of Shame, that’s a difficult issue. I certainly wouldn’t want to entrust the duty to the Baseball Writers. Better to have the general baseball public vote on Internet ballots with both a high minimum number of votes (certainly more than 10MM) and a high percentage of balloted votes required in order to demerit entrance.

  • The HOF has become a complete joke, and I don’t think many fans care about it any longer. What bugs me is that writers are holding moral judgment on players based on rumors, guesses, feelings, etc. They are basically punishing the guys who they think used PED’s. Well who is punishing the people most responsible for the era, i.e. the commissioner, the owners, and the players union? They had the power to slow down the nonsense, but all turned a blind eye to what was going on for decades. It is shameful to keep on attacking the players while not holding the powers that be reseponsible for their negligence.

  • My family said for years, we were boycotting the HOF until Maz got in. I went up the day of his induction, the rest of my brothers & their families went a few weeks later.

    As for who gets in. I vote Bonds, Sosa, McGuire etc in unless someone can prove to me the pitchers who faced Bonds, Sosa etc were NOT using steroids (I believe they did). & Vice versa. Parker? As a Pirate fan, just look at his numbers…

    That leaves us with Rose? Thats a tougher one for me.
    What are your ideas?

  • Bonds, Clemens, et all, are demonized for steroids. However, why does every commentator whine about Tim Ravines not getting in? As I recall, he slid headfirst to protect his cocaine.

  • With all due respect, I’d recommend visiting a place before condemning it. All those things you mention are in the Hall of Fame, even if the individuals are not in the small part of the Hall that contains the busts. In fact all that and lots and lots and lots more. Yes, you can get information online, but seeing the artifacts in person is a different experience. Just like reading about dinosaurs on the internet is not the same as visiting the Smithsonian.

    And as a librarian, I can tell you that while there is no end of information on the internet a lot of isn’t true. No, really. And the difference between our students who rely only on the internet and who use actual research materials is the difference between a C+ and an A (or junior executive and the corner office, for those in the corporate world).

    And you didn’t even mention the incredible research materials in the HoF’s library and archives. Most of those were what the information you enjoy on the internet was derived from, and it has only exploited the tip of the iceberg!

    • Well said– the last time I was at the HOf I spent five and a half hours there, and I felt I rushed through a lot of exhibits. It’s a great place, and I would urge Tim to take some time and actually visit; Cooperstown is worth a visit in and of itself–I’ve been there several times without settting foot in the Hall.

    • Curtis – I agree fully. Before passing judgement on what the museum part of the Hall of Fame has to say on steroids, Tim should visit it. The museum part of the hall of fame does not tell “the censored history of baseball” as Tim put it. The part of the museum that focuses on the modern era has PED usage as part of the display/story. The museum also has a lot of information about Pete Rose’s career and the Black Sox, even though Tim wrote that it doesn’t. Tim is 100% incorrect when he suggests the Hall of Fame excludes Rose, the Black Sox and PEDs. Those stories are all there and readily available to the (paying) public.

      The research library is fantastic. Its understandable why its a ‘closed rack’ library, but it would be awesome just to meander through it sometime. While it is true a lot of information is available on line, nearly every research related baseball book I’ve read in the last five years has credited the library and the staff at the HOF for their help in providing materials.

      I agree with much of what Tim wrote regarding the voting process. But his dismissal of an institution that he hasn’t visited and clearly is misinformed about is puzzling.

  • I have been to the HOF twice. Lovely country. I highly recommend it.

    As to the voting…like Tim, it has almost become ‘dead’ to me. Not unlike the Rock N Roll HOF.

  • Tim, you could not be MORE wrong about the Hall of Fame regarding the exclusion of players with drug related histories!

    I too come from 1943, when people could not only name the first five Presidents of the United States, but could also tell you something about all of them! Then, people went to church on Sunday instead of the local Dunkin Donuts for brunch. Then, people mentioned God and Country in the same breath in movies, on radio and TV and in newspapers.

    Now we have more so-called freedom. We’re to “tolerate” those who purposely fail by breaking laws, committing crimes and using illegal drugs while playing professional sports.

    I don’t want Barry Bonds nor Pete Rose in the HOF! Understand, their records will stand, tainted though they be, they will stand. No one can take away what they accomplished under a cloud of drug abuse and/or illegal bookmaking.

    But I don’t want to reward these criminals by allowing them into the HOF. And please don’t come up with the liberal argument that “they all do it”! They don’t ALL do it. Cal Ripken didn’t use drugs; didn’t bet on the Orioles to win or lose. Neither did Roberto and Willie for the Pirates. Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams and Stan Musial didn’t cheat. These guys were genuine heroes, as pictured on their baseball cards.

    Thank goodness most of the sports writers still have some conviction to just say NO to Bonds, Rose and the rest of the players who broke the rules again and again.

    The HOF is not perfect. There are guys in there who were great players, but complete bums as human beings, as husbands, fathers and men. But that’s life. Break the rules and you pay the penalty for life.

    Judge Landis, from my era, was right to throw Shoeless Joe and others out of the game for the 1919 scandal. I fear that today’s liberal judges/baseball commissioners would never take such action.

    Please stop confusing the issue by saying they all do it. Please stop confusing the issue by saying Rose has suffered long enough. Stand up tall, be a man and have some convictions for the great game.

    Yes, the HOF has a problem in selecting some players who, upon further reflection, should not have been elected, including the likes of Rabbit Maranville, Phil Rizutto and our own Pie Traynor. The place is far from perfect in focusing on the greatest players of all time.

    Otherwise, your work on the Pirates has been nothing short of stellar. I salute you for bringing us closer to our beloved Pirates via your scouting reports and daily missives. Keep up the good work!

    • Amen, Candy. Well said. Please people, don’t compare the use of greenies with steriods. Nobody taking greenies ballooned to a cartoon character and went from 30hr/year to 65. Allowing everyone in the Hall based on performance no matter what would put in guys like Sammy Sosa who was skinnier than Bonds but suddenly ballooned to a 60+hr per year bomber. But couldn’t remember any English when asked about it. And got caught corking his bat. And Rafael Palmero who gets traded because he lacked power, which he suddenly found in spades in Texas when teammates with Canseco. And he tested positive. Also, saying “everyone did it” is a major overstatement and would be offensive to the players who were complaining about it at the time.

      I believe the process should be changed but not because the cheaters aren’t getting in. LeBatard said he made his protest because people don’t agree with him on who should be in, calling the “stupid”. That’s not the right reason.

      • If roids had been available then they would have been used by a lot of players who used the Greenies. Your diluting yourself if you believe players didn’t do whatever they could to get an advantage legal or illegal. The reason those pills were there is thy help with the performance on the field. Baseball let Gaylord Perry in and everyone knew he cheated every game. The only differnce today from yester years is the amount of money to be gained by cheating. Back in the old days your career could be lengthened. Today cheating can lead to millions upon millions of dollars.

        • I don’t often agree with you, IC Bob, but in this case I do. Just because the science was better in 1998 than it was is 1978 or 1928 doesn’t make it worse. The intent is the same – to gain an advantage through means that were illegal in the US (without prescription) and specifically banned by the league.

          Athletes are receiving PRP injections to recover from injury. Perfectly legal, and without a question performance enhancing. HGH occurs naturally in the body, so does testosterone, so do blood platelets. You can artificially inject yourself with a super dose of one of these, but not the other two. How is that not inconsistent?

    • I think this site’s awesome, I read nearly every article on here (even if I don’t post often), I tell people about the site, I listen to the podcasts, and I’ve bought books for myself and as gifts. I’ve been a supporter of the “build from the ground up” principle since before I came to Pirates Prospects & read it as WWTBD?

      But I totally agree with candyfan, burghdood, & others on this issue.

      One thing worth mentioning is that there is a difference between moral conduct and cheating the game. People have made comments about wife beaters, thieves, etc. in the HOF. That’s not the issue; the real issue is whether the players cheat or not on the field. It’s mostly simple; you cheat, you don’t get into the HOF. There are grey areas, such as Vaseline pitchers, but I think those are some good guidelines to start from.

      To me, this is a slippery slope argument. People say that guys who did greenies are in the HOF, so anyone who does any type of drugs should be there, too. I think that’s working backwards; rather than looking at the body of work (who’s already in the HOF), people should start from the original premise: “cheaters should not be in the HOF” and judge potential candidates from that point.

      I agree completely that steroids users tell the story of baseball. But from recent days (and in different ways), so do John van Benschoten, Derek Bell, Randall Simon, and others. Dock Ellis trying to hit every Reds player…and that minor leaguer who threw the decoy potato to 3rd to tag the runner out at home with the ball…these all help tell the story of baseball, but these players don’t deserve a plaque in HOF.

      BTW, I love going to the HOF to see all of the “stuff” from the game–baseballs from the 1870s, uniforms of Clemente & Wagner, the ticket booth from Ebbets Field, etc. I think it’s worth seeing.

    • Cato the Elder
      January 10, 2014 11:26 am

      This breathless glorification of about a time when the country and its past time were so openly racist and bigoted strikes me as 1 part hilarious and 2 parts depressing. Roberto and Willie would not have been allowed to drink from the same water-fountain as Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio let alone play on the same baseball field. 1943 and its knowledge of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe can suck it! I’ll go enjoy my donut now, thank you very much.

      • Cato the Elder
        January 10, 2014 12:26 pm

        Yike! Should have proof read that before posting. Long story short: 1943 wasn’t with out its own shortcomings.

      • 1943 was interesting for the fact that all copper was being used for the war effort so the US Mints made steel pennies. And Jefferson hated clergy and organized religion. Didn’t go to church. Not sure if he ate donuts though.

        I haven’t been to the HoF since 1994. But I enjoyed in immensely and it’s a far cry better than the NFL’s HoF in Canton. I can see Bonds and Clemens getting in down the road because of their “pre-steroids era” performance and the fact that 10 years from now there will be some younger voters with different criteria.

        I did think that if anyone had the potential to be Seaver’s 98.8% it would be Maddux. Too bad Chass, didn’t allow that to happen due to their short-sightedness.

        That said, I don’t have an issue with noting that some HoFers are 1st ballot and others aren’t. There’s “absolutely dominating” and there’s “great careers”. Maddux is in the former, Biggio in the latter. But IMO, they’re not equally qualified. If someone really wanted to change that, then make the ballots unlimited, but you only have one year to vote for that person.

  • weltytowngang
    January 10, 2014 3:23 am

    Voting for someone or not voting for someone should be based on performance, not character. Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, etc., should go in – judge performance, not character. Booze was illegal way back when which means many of the players in the HOF were breaking the law through most of their careers. Many of the players who I would rather have on “my team” are not in the HOF. The players in the HOF are there based on someone else’s vote/opinion, not mine. As long as character is part of the criteria, everyone in the HOF is flawed.

    • Maybe it should be, but the voting rules explicitly include character, sportsmanship and integrity. Different writers will interpret that differently, which is how we got the cast of characters we have in the Hall now. Clearly writers were willing to look past the transgressions of Cobb, Ruth, Mantle, Marichal, Alomar, Hornsby and others. So there’s always hope that in time they will do so for Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and other steroid era players, if you believe they belong in.

  • I’d say go anyways, if you’re interested in the game at all (& I assume anyone who reads this blog most surely has at least a passing interest)…NOWHERE ELSE will you be able to see such cool memorabilia, under one roof, such as an entire windowed booth full of Clemente stuff, including his uniform, glove, rare photos & a nice writeup about his deeds & accomplishments. It’s worth the price of admission alone. Then, there is a wall of Babe Ruth stuff, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, all the past legends that we never got to see live. A big section on Barry Bonds & Pete Rose already exists within, complete with stats & discussions of their “Issues”; so they indeed are still exhibited…SO MUCH STUFF TO BE SEEN that I never even got to the room with all the Inductee Busts that are housed in a separate room! I was in there already for almost 2 hours & couldn’t take it all in [was working near Cooperstown & stopped in over a free weekend]. SO, If you like history, are mature enough to get beyond the level of the kid who said to Shoeless Joe “Say it ain’t so Joe” (even SJ is in there) & put your cynicism aside for a day; DO YOURSELF A FAVOR & CHECK OUT COOPERSTOWN! Even the town is pretty cool, with neat little restaurants & bars, packed with their interesting baseball bric-a-brac. Just remember,like the USA, we can appreciate all the warts, bruises & bad times of Baseball & still dig the rich history that’s way bigger than a few bad apples & eras!!!

  • Well written and truly disappointing. The self righteousness of some of the writers speaks to some of the issues. I had no idea that two writers only listed Morris. To me thats way more egregious then what Lebatard did. His ballot was probably one of the better represented ballots turned in.


    Tim. You’ve got a great site and I visit daily and enjoy your work immensely. Much of what you write about the Hall I can walk a mile with.

    But on the steroid issue, I cannot, cannot abide it. An entire generation of players used illegal substances to cheat in the years after the baseball strike that damaged the game so badly. And so badly did MLB want to recover that they turned a blind eye while the likes of Bonds, Sosa, McGuire, Clemens… Cripes probably a majority of players entered the nuclear arms race that was the roid era.

    I remember the time that the Roid-Ripped New York Yankees came to Pittsburgh for a three game set one year. All the scrawny losers from Pittsburgh just got kicked like dogs. I often wonder about the two decades of misery in Pittsburgh and how it very neatly coincided with the Roid Era. I watched the Red Sox come in and just mash us. You could SEE it. With your very own EYES. And I was mad as hell. Disgusted.

    I appreciate that “The Story of Baseball” needs to be told in all its colors. That IS why I have google. Not, to me, why I have Cooperstown. If Bonds went in the hall, I’d be there dropping syringes at his bust. Maybe the hall could open a Roids Wing.

    I also know first hand what steroid abuse does to human beings and it is a dark and ugly place. See Brian Giles allegedly beating the baby (babies?) out of his girlfriend.

    No. The Steroid Era needs to be remembered. NOT enshrined.

    Thanks for all the great work you do. This is the top baseball destination for all the Asylum inmates.


    • Yea….Brian Giles never used a roid in his life….right. It’s commonplace, I’m sorry, but there’s no way around it. Sooo many people were on them at that time, and roids or not, nobody was on Bonds’ ability level. Also, as a side note, way more guys get caught with it in football and nobody cares…

  • PiratesForever
    January 9, 2014 10:13 pm

    I agree I don’t care about the Hall of Fame anymore my dad wanted to take me there for 2 years and I said no because I thought about it and I thought it would be boring I mean it would be cool and boring at the same time that is what I think of the Hall of Fame.

  • Cato the Elder
    January 9, 2014 10:05 pm

    Aren’t the baseball writers who keep out suspected steroid users generally the same “journalists” who were covering baseball during the steroid era? Where were they then? No suspicion? No investigation? No actual reporting?

    Since baseless accusations are the name of the game, I think it is fair to assume that every BBWA member who was covering baseball during the steroid era was complicit and ought to lose their voting privileges because either they knew and did nothing, or were derelict in their duties. All this post hoc grandstanding strikes me as classic overcompensation.

    • That might be painting things with too broad a brush, Cato. The Grantland article is a great read on how the media covered the story at the beginning of the steroid era and covers a number of writers by name. Many of them did turn a blind eye, and actually tried to sabotage the journalists who were asking questions. But you have to keep in mind that newspapers have common standards where they won’t print allegations without an eye witness source – often two. Otherwise it’s a lawsuit. So while everyone KNEW what was going on by 1998 (Olbermann kept a notebook of players who he suspected), no one could prove it. No player or trainer was naming names, and no one was stupid enough to roid up in front of a journalist. It took BALCO and FBI stings to provide the smoking guns.

      And by the time the story was out in the open, papers were assigning investigative journalists to do the reporting so the beat guys – who are the BBWAA members- could keep their focus on the field.

      It really is a fascinating read and goes a long way toward explaining why the story was under reported for so long.

  • Tim,

    Have you looked at this from a law of numbers?

    From 1901 to 1950 there were 16 teams in major league baseball. Now there are 30 teams. Just out of shear quantity, there should be more Hall of Fame inductees if the sole measure is the greatness of a player compared to his predecessors.

    It does not appear that the baseball writers have caught up – they elect between 1-3 players to the hall every year even though the game of baseball has doubled in participation size.

    And really this was a banner year for inductees. The last time the writers sent 3 players to the Hall was 1999 (George Brett, Nolan Ryan, and Robin Yount). The last time 4 players were sent was 1955 (Dazzy Vance, Ted Lyons, Gabby Hartnett, and Joe Dimaggio). Five players were sent during the first induction in 1936 (Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb).

    • I’m not sure your logic works here Frank. The truly elite talents would almost certainly have been playing if there were still only 16 teams. I could actually counterpoint you by saying having twice as many less talented players in the league dilutes the overall talent and makes very good players seem great.

      Just because there are twice as many players in the league doesn’t necessarily mean there are twice as many great players.

  • I was born in 1942 so I grew up in a different time than a lot of you.
    I grew up loving this Country and the Flag and what this country stood for.
    I believed that World War II was a war against true evil and that the USA really was the only nation on earth that could stand up like a big brother against nations that wanted to conquer and subjugate all the peoples of the world.
    I have lived through the Korean War, Viet Nam, the murder of a President and other leaders, the Hippies, Watergate and sex scandals of a sitting president.
    Over the years I have got over my naivety and seen what this country is, a harsh and bitter place with no room for people who want to lift up the standards of people around them.
    Young people no longer know the history of this nation. They read World War II as World War Eleven. They don’t have a clue about the people who founded this nation and what the Constitution is and means.
    This is a long way around of getting to the baseball HOF.
    I believe the HOF was meant to be a place to honor the greatest players
    of the game and to make those players be examples for young people to follow.
    I don’t believe that people like Bonds and Clemens are what the Hall was founded for but since I have lost all my faith in what I thought this country was all about and now that in a short amount of time I will no longer be around to care I leave it to you keep lowering your standards because you alone will get what you reap.

    • I meant sow not reap.

    • PirateMike, I’m very sorry to read that you’ve become so jaded about the great country we live in. Certainly there are flaws, as the country was founded by and is governed by humans, and we all know about the chances of perfection in any human. My only response to you would be that while all of the defects you list are real, they are present in the U.S. at a much lower scale than anywhere else in the world. And while saying “Everyone else is worse” is usually not a valid defense, in this case it’s acceptable and really the best any of us can ask for.

      While we should strive for perfection, we cannot give up when it’s not achieved

      • Sticky , I appreciate what you’re saying and I do not want to bring politics into a sports blog and I can’t answer you without doing that so I’ll just repeat what my point is.
        It is easy for people to say “well this subject is to hard or complicated to address so lets just put everybody who put up great numbers into the HOF regardless of how those numbers were attained.
        Yes, there may be people who get in because they managed to avoid being labeled as a known user but with that thinking every criminal should go free because there are those who weren’t caught.
        People should not lower their standards just because they may be wrong some of the time.
        Without high standards what is the use of awards and honors.
        If everybody gets an award that makes the award meaningless

  • I agree 100% with your position Tim with regard to the fact the HOF is no longer a museum nor a place of honor for the games all-time greats. But to play devil’s advocate, the only way to penalize those who did artificially inflate their resume by taking PED’s is by keeping them out of the HOF.

    Due in large part to PED’s, many of the greats from the last 20+/- years benefitted financially by having their prime years artificially enhanced and extended. Some won championships they otherwise wouldn’t have because of PED’s. What exactly do you propose Tim as a consequence to their illegal actions, if it’s not withholding a HOF vote?

  • This is a logical point of view, and a well written and supported one at that Tim. But as someone who has visited the Hall on two occasions I must say that from an emotional and nostalgic perspective there is something very special about the town and the museum. I absolutely understand what you’re saying but I personally look forward to visiting this year, the 75th anniversary of its opening, which coincides with my 50th birthday. Thanks for your great work on a site that is a must check for me every day!!

  • I really could not agree more. Really logical and truthful piece here Tim. Thanks for voice of reason!

  • Nice post, Tim. I’ve read two other insightful articles this week about the HOF and voting – this morning on Fangraphs ( and a couple days ago on Grantland ( that add a little bit of nuance to the demonization of BBWAA members.

    I can live with writers disagreeing on the criteria for induction; everyone brings his (because it’s almost exclusively “his” and not “her”) own litmus test, whether it’s “most dominant/feared of his era” (which I’ve heard applied to Jim Rice), “came through in big games time and again” (Jack Morris), career achievement marks (Don Sutton), 20th Century counting stats, WAR or just “feel” (which I’ve heard used to deny Tim Raines and Mike Mussina). I can live with writers’ differing opinions on the Steroid era – even Ken Gurnick’s – because again, different criteria. To me there’s no way to say “you’re wrong.”

    The problem to me is the voting is it’s too narrow of a body: llimited to a fraternity of old media types who pontificate for a living and often treat their votes as crusades (moral or otherwise), get to keep voting decades after they retire from active baseball coverage, keep their votes largely anonymous like it’s the Papal Conclave, and represent only a small portion of the spectrum of baseball analysis.

    To me the problem isn’t that Ken Gurnick has a vote, or that he choses to vote for Jack Morris but not any of the superior players on the ballot, it’s that there aren’t hundreds more knowledgable voters to drown him out.

    The voting membership should be expanded to include living Hall of Famers (including enshrined managers), radio & TV broadcasters, SABR chapters, and internet writer/bloggers. Set a criteria threshold – 10 years of active service – and once you retire, you stay on for no more than 5 years (so that you can at least vote for the class of players who retired when you did).

    Oh, and every vote should be made public.

    More voters might not change the voting outcomes significantly, but it would more effectively isolate the outliers, and at least would represent a greater share of the community voice.

  • The fact that Bonds is not in the Hall of Fame is ridiculous to me. He is the best player I have ever seen. The best of the steroid era should be in just like any other era. Probably 80-85 percent were doing it and almost all the accused never failed a test. People like Jim Thome, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey jr. will get in because they weren’t linked to steroids but Bonds, Mcguire, Sosa etc won’t because they were linked. It’s ridiculous! Nobody can tell me Bagwell and Thome weren’t doing steroids. Easy solution, raise the bar a little higher on the stats in the era to make it but the best of the era should make it. The deadball era had poor batting stats but players still made it. Just adjust the numbers in the era as to who were the best of the era. Also pitchers were doing it as well and Clemens not being in is also ridiculous.

  • Very well written, Tim. I completely agree with you. Most people who are Bonds and Clemens haters don’t realize that Willie Mays and Hank Aaron admitted to doing amphetamines and Babe Ruth injected himself with testosterone. Bonds and Clemens never tested positive for anything and they both won their perjury trials. There is absolutely no evidence that Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens used steroids. Bonds is at least a top 5 player of all-time if not greatest of all-time and Roger Clemens is at least a top 5 pitcher of all-time. It’s also ridiculous that Rafael Palmeiro will no longer be on the ballot. He is one of only three players with both 500 homers and 3000 hits. Those are not stats that I usually use, but both of those numbers are usually bench mark Hall of Fame numbers. People say that if these guys get into the Hall, it will be tainted. I think the fact that they’re not in, the Hall is tainted.

    • Rob, I agree Bonds and Clemens should be in the HoF. They were great before steroids. However, I hope you’re not naive enough to think just because they weren’t convicted means they didn’t use. No one puts up the #s Bonds did after age 35 without some help.

    • Bonds is a cheat. Just like Pete rose, shoeless joe Jackson etc. I hope bonds or any of the other juicers never make it into the hall. There are repricussions for what people do. You can not destroy the integrity of the game.

      As far as the hall of fame. My dad took me there back in 1982. It is an amazing place. I’m more of a football fan, but way more impressed by the baseball hall of fame. Cooperstown is a great town. Need to get back there again someday.

      • The integrity of the game? Please.

        Gaylord Perry threw an illegal pitch for his entire career.

        Mike Schmidt and Hank Aaron admitted taking amphetamines regularly, including after 1971 when they were not only against the law but also banned from baseball. Heck, the word “juiced” was associated with amphetamines decades before it became code for steroids.

        Ty Cobb illegally sharpened his spikes and slid into second base with intent to injure.

        Cobb and Tris Speaker were implicated by Dutch Leonard in game fixing.

        Rogers Hornsby had a gambling addiction throughout his playing and managing career that contributed to his being fired multiple times.

        Mickey Mantle showed up to the ballpark drunk or hung over more times than he could count. He didn’t cheat to gain an advantage, but he didn’t show his team or the game much integrity those days.

        Babe Ruth corked his bat.

        John McGraw tried to bribe an umpire.

        All of these players and managers cheated or otherwise acted without regard for the integrity of the game.

        Tom Yawkey held out for 12 years before the Red Sox – against his wishes – finally let a black man play. And even after integration, he consistently traded away his talented black players (Reggie Smith, Ben Oglivie) for lesser white players. He knowingly protected his clubhouse manager – a pedophile – for 20 years.

        Kenesaw Landis famously lied to journalists in 1942 that there was no ban on black ballplayers when he actively prevented Bill Veeck from signing Negro League players to the Phillies that same year.

        Pat Gillick actively participated in collusion that led to a $280M judgment against MLB owners.

        Charles Comiskey knew his players were throwing the 1919 series and actively participated in a coverup. He also participated in banning players from the league who were even THOUGHT to be black.

        All of these owners and executives put either money or prejudice above the integrity of the game – refusing to improve their team, or the entire league, by keeping out talented players.

        And let’s not forget that the Hall of Fame board of directors didn’t even want to recognize players from the Negro Leagues well into the 1970’s. Bowie Kuhn had to appoint a special committee to nominate players because the Hall wouldn’t let the BBWAA vote on them.

        The “integrity of the game” is a myth perpetuated by sanctimonious writers and executives who have shown time and again that they don’t have any integrity themselves. Trust me, Bonds, Clemens, Rose and Shoeless Joe would have plenty of company among the cheaters, liars and criminals in the Hall of Fame.

      • Great info Stephen. I would only add that Shoeless Joe Jackson has almost certainly been falsely punished. His stats from the 1919 WS (.375 BA, no errors, outfield assist) indicate he wasn’t in on the fix. He was illiterate and many feel he was manipulated while the scandal was being investigated.

        • Bridgevillebuc
          January 10, 2014 11:08 am

          Jay Bell hit 38 Homers in 1999 and just so happened to get “too big” to play shortstop that that Arizona had to move him to second base at the tender age of 33. In his “prime years” with Pittsburgh (mid to late 20s), he averaged 12 HRs a year. If steroids functionally doubles to triples your home run output, would Bonds/Sosa/McGwire’s 65-70 HR years been more Pedro-like at 30-36 HR’s a year?

        • I would suggest you read Eight Men Out before you blithely assert Jackson’s innocence.

          • I’ll just wait until they make it into a movie.

            Seriously, I’ll gladly admit I don’t know all of the facts of the case, but as I understand it, there are some serious questions of facts depicted in Eight Men Out. It’s just one view of the scandal, not a definitive documentary.

      • I may be mistaken, but didn’t Pete Rose bet that the Reds would win? Essentially putting his ‘money where his mouth is?’
        I realize that you can’t have someone in control of a team betting in any manner, either for or against, that just opens up a box of worms. But IMO a lifetime ban for the player who holds the career hits record because of something that was done as a coach is ridiculous, moreover, he was betting that he was going to do the job he was hired to do. That’s a disservice to baseball fans everywhere.

        As far as Shoeless Joe and the 1919 Black Sox, and the whole steroid-era players, to not include them in something that is supposed to be ‘telling the story of baseball’ is too, IMO, ridiculous. It is censorship. If one of the main reasons for the Hall is to tell the story of the league (which it is), you can’t only tell the success stories (including players who did cheat, but never were caught) w/o telling the stories that baseball may not be ‘proud of’ so-to-speak.

        Idk what the solution is, however my only opinion would be a case-by-case analysis on whether a player should have an asterisk next to his name indicating there is very ‘solid, without a doubt type evidence’ (much like a court hearing) that he has indeed cheated. But again, that’s my opinion.

    • rob-

      Although I won’t argue with most of what you said, you can’t suddenly get into “evidence-based” decision making and then loosely throw around statements like “Baby Ruth injected himself with testosterone”. Did he test positive? You have the needles?

      You’re trying to create some sort of standard to hold cheaters to….while arguing that cheaters that you like should be overlooked, or that you feel they are ‘good enough/clean enough’ — whatever.

      It’s just a mess — but if you want ‘your cheaters’ to get in, then what does that really say? In my opinion it says that you really don’t care about cheating.

    • Your facts are incorrect. Bonds actually admitted to using steriods but said in court he didn’t know it was roids. And it was reported he tested positive during a prelliminary testing period where the results were not supposed to be public. Bonds was a great player before sterioids. That is the only reason he should possibly be in the Hall. A lot of the other cheaters like Sosa and Palmiero would have been just above average without roids.