The Baseball Writers Association of America, an embarrassingly ragtag and shamefully absurd group (this analysis is based solely on the basis that I am allowed to be a member), issued the annual ballot for the Hall of Fame Monday, and there is good news.
The bitching, whining, proselytizing and tub-thumping will be every bit as fevered and tedious as it always is. In a world in which the ozone layer is being replaced by rampant gasbaggery, this is clearly the gift that keeps on taking.
But there it is anyway -- 35 names on a sheet of paper, 400-some-odd eligible voters of different ages and experience levels, geographic areas and social strata (nerd, old coot, geek, contrarian, nimrod, mathdroid, drunk, science-based drunk – you name it, they’re all there), and over the next six weeks almost all of them will steal cheap columns of slow news days to disguise as actual work.
Like this one.
Point is, while the system has become slowly more flexible without actually achieving true flexibility, the assaults on the public have not. For every useful analysis, there are three to five “I’m voting for these guys because I’m smart and everyone else is human garbage, and don’t @ me because I’m really important” pieces.
Well, I will provide neither. Last year, my opinion counted for barely two-tenths of one percent of the electorate, and the number will probably be about the same this time. I release my vote on election day every year, and that’s good enough for you hyenas.
Instead, I'll use this space to remind you of a few things that may help you hate the process a little less. Not a lot less, mind you – we like hatred in our sports discussions, which is one reason why the meteor cannot arrive too soon.
But here’s a reminder on why the real lure of the Hall of Fame is all the ways the Hall of Fame annoys.
VOTES ARE OPINIONS, NOTHING MORE
When someone explains to you with undue haughtiness why their ballot is the zenith of the intellectual process, that person should be ignored as though he or she were a drunk trying to pick a fight with a goat. When in doubt, your argument should speak for you, not the other way around. But that’s in an ideal world. In this one, people tend to like acting like gods so that they can shout at all the other gods.
NOBODY NEEDS TO BE ON EVERY BALLOT
This isn’t the North Korean Politburo. If someone doesn’t vote for Mariano Rivera, then someone doesn’t vote for Mariano Rivera. He still gets in, so un-knot your delicates. Opinions aren’t worth having if they require agreement with everyone else’s opinions. I mean, did Jacob deGrom feel less joyous about the Cy Young Award because he didn’t receive all the first-place votes? No. He’s probably still hammered today. In other words, don’t be a bully for the hive mind. Let another viewpoint live. Let a thousand pot plants bloom.
VOTERS DON’T FORM BLOCS TO KEEP YOUR FAVORITE GUY OUT
Maybe your guy just isn’t that popular, or that good. Yes, as ridiculous as it seems, you might actually be backing the wrong horse, and in honesty, that’s okay. You get to do that. Besides, the only places voters ever meet is at the bar, and mostly can’t remember what they talked about an hour later. Of all the Halls of Fame, this is the one that colludes the least.
NOBODY IS WRONGED HERE
No promises have been breached, no contracts has been violated. It’s an award, not a hereditary peerage guaranteed by law. It would be nice if your favorite player got a plaque and a weekend in upstate New York, but not everything is an injustice, let alone an outrage. That is, until it’s your guy.
THE HISTORY/SHRINE ARGUMENT IS PLAYED OUT
Those who want the Hall of Fame to be a museum that accurately portrays the game for all its good and bad don’t get what they want, which is a profound disappointment for those of us who think Arnold Rothstein hasn’t gotten his due. Rather, the Hall of Fame is marketing wrapped around promotion, like all Halls of Fame are. More people in a position to decide these things want it to be a profitable shrine. They are of course wrong, but hey, if you don’t like the Hall of Fame, go make one of your own.
OKAY, THE SYSTEM IS FLAWED, WE GET IT
But its biggest flaw is all the whingeing about how it is flawed. Could it use more voters without becoming the People’s Choice Awards? Yes. Could it use more spaces on the ballot? Sure. Does there really need to be a time limit on eligibility? Not really. But a voting system without quirks is a voting system that passes without notice, and the truest truth about the American electorate is that we love democracy because it allows us to bitch about democracy.
And don’t forget about Arnold Rothstein, especially when baseball embraces gambling for the piece of the action it can take from it. Rothstein wasn’t just a rank criminal. He was also a visionary. If anyone has a plaque coming, it’s him.