Baseball Hall of Fame’s flaws put on display again with 2020 class
Derek Jeter shined in every way. On the field and off. In New York and in the clutch.
He wasn’t good enough for one Hall of Fame voter.
Jeter received 396 of 397 votes on Tuesday, earning a near-perfect score on his way to Cooperstown. He also failed to match former teammate Mariano Rivera, who remains the only unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer in baseball history. Even though Jeter never coughed up Game 7 of a World Series.
And if you’re not sated by outrage just yet, note that Brad Penny, J.J. Putz, Adam Dunn and Raul Ibanez each recorded one official Hall of Fame vote.
Whenever your blood boils over media-created absurdities like these, remember that Halls of Fame are just museums. They are filled with questionable recipients, unworthy recipients and political appointments. They are not meant to be taken seriously. At least not by those on the outside.
But the accompanying message is insufferable. In recent days, countless media members have spared few adjectives while describing the heinous Houston Astros, a baseball team that badly damaged baseball’s credibility by stealing signs and skewing the playing field.
And yet this same body of media has delivered five Hall of Fame votes that are tinged by corruption and compromised in some small way, votes that are considered precious in hands of voters with an obligation to the truth. Five votes cast for selfish agendas.
Jeter should be unanimous. That’s obvious. Same with Hank Aaron, Randy Johnson, Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey Jr., etc. Except the Hall of Fame’s record book is a mess. A joke. Just like the statistical records.
For years, the unanimous honor was withheld from even the most elite baseball players because it would set a bad precedent. Because no one had ever been unanimous before. Because 11 voters once left Babe Ruth off their ballot. Because 23 voters once said, “No” to Willie Mays.
The logic has always been hot garbage. Just because previous voters were daffy or scandalous does not give current HOF voters the right to be wrong, to double down on the duplicity. And once Rivera busted through the glass ceiling, you would’ve thought the game-within-the-game had finally changed.
But no. And there are other issues.
Curt Schilling deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He’s one of the best big-game pitchers in history. He co-aced the Diamondbacks to a riveting World Series title post-9/11. He bloodied a sock to help Boston break a curse. It’s a no-brainer, except Schilling has no shortage of enemies nor polarizing opinions. His personality and political expressions surely hurt his Hall of Fame tally.
There are voters who play judge and jury with performance-enhancing drugs. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are getting closer to induction with two years of eligibility remaining while Sammy Sosa doesn’t have a shot, despite his 609 career home runs. There are no consistent standards and no rules of engagement.
Yes, cheating sucks and cheaters shouldn’t prevail. But is this a fair process? If a player makes the Hall of Fame ballot, shouldn’t he be judged on what he accomplished on the field, leaving the morality to others?
Major League Baseball allowed Bonds and Mark McGwire to work as hitting instructors, earning paychecks after they desecrated the record book. But the Hall of Fame is somehow different? More discerning?
In the end, this is yet another case of Hall of Fame voters skewing the playing field with their own private biases, using the vote for their own bully pulpits and their own displays of power.
Personally, I’d rather watch 500-foot home runs.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.