Tuesday night is a big night in the baseball world, as we will learn who will be voted in as members f the 2019 class for Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. This voting season, which runs pretty much all winter, has been controversial. Of course, that’s nothing new and has been the case for the better part of a decade, at least. The process is still a headline grabber and a massive point of discussion among baseball fans, but much of it is for the worst possible reasons. Once upon a time, the Baseball Hall of Fame was the pinnacle of the sports world and for one weekend every summer the history of the game took over headlines. The celebration of the game’s past was always fun. Today, the process is such a watered down joke and a place for some BBWAA writers to flex how moral and how smart they are. This is not something that just started this year, and this has been building literally for years, but at this point there is little reason for me to care about Hall of Fame voting for the foreseeable future.
To be clear, this is not me saying no one should care about this stuff. If this is still an important process to you, do you. I mean that sincerely. On top of that, it is not me saying the Hall of Fame in general sucks. Quite the contrary. If you’ve never been up to Cooperstown, I couldn’t recommend it more highly. The room with the plaques is no longer something I hold in any esteem, but that is just a tiny part of the experience. The Hall of Fame is a massive museum and it is, frankly, dope as hell. It is always changing and the exhibits are incredible. I’m not even a huge history buff, but this stuff fascinates me and it’s all extremely well done. I’ve actually been trying to carve out some time to get back up there at some point, but that’s besides the point.
So, yeah, the museum is phenomenal. That little room with the plaques that we all think of when we think of the Hall of Fame, though? Well, I’m done with that room. There’s a lot of issues I have with the last decade or so of voting, but unsurprisingly it really comes down to how the “Steroid Era” has been dealt with. The false sense of morality around this specific issue is just infuriating, particularly for the voters who try to just guess which guys took them and which didn’t. That hasn’t been an issue as much recently as it was in the past, but when guys like Jeff Bagwell were on the ballot and voters thought his muscles were too big to be natural, the joke had reached its peak.
Even beyond the guessing, though, the simple subtext of these votes have become extremely clear: That entire era should be essentially wiped from the one area of the Hall of Fame that most immortalizes an era. That would be frustrating in any context, but it’s particularly frustrating on a personal level because that is the era of baseball on which I grew up. I started watching baseball during this time. Having a handful of baseball writers tell me that my formative baseball watching years were invalid or unworthy is trash. If we’re fine with letting pre-integration players — undoubtedly a more shameful era of the game — or even the drug users of the 70s and 80s, it’s beyond time to get off the high horse with the late 90s and 2000s. That’s not even mentioning the mind-bending logic to use the morality clause to keep guys like Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Roger Clemens off the ballot but still vote for the objectively bigoted Curt Schilling. I think your moral compass might be a bit off.
The steroid stuff is certainly what has brought me to my wit’s end with this entire process, but it’s not the only issue. The ten-player limit on the ballot is entirely illogical and helps keep worthy players off the ballot. It causes some voters to have to play these weird games to leave obvious candidates off their ballot to “strategically” vote for guys who deserve to get in but may fall off the ballot if they don’t get more votes. Just make it unlimited. It’s very simple. The idea that we’re probably never going to get a unanimous election is absurd too. This could look very stupid in just a few hours because there’s a chance Mariano Rivera gets 100 percent of the votes, but chances are at least one voter will decide we can never have a unanimous election. (Edit: Welp!) If Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, et al didn’t get in with 100 percent of the votes, no one can. Because, you know, once something is done incorrectly we are never allowed to fix it. Them’s the rules!
Anyway, this is just a long rant that comes down to this: I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t need a room of plaques to tell me who was great, because it’s clearly not focused on doing that job anymore. For example, David Ortiz will probably get in when he’s up for vote, but if he doesn’t I’ll still know what I saw. I know what I saw with Ramirez and Bonds and Clemens, too. I don’t have kids, but if I did and I took them to Cooperstown I’d tell them about those guys. I’d tell them about the 1998 home run chase and about how my mother woke me up to watch the celebration when Mark McGwire broke the record. I’d tell them about how that was how seven-year-old me first fell in love with the game, and I’d tell them about how the sport is trying to erase that era. I’d tell them that’s not how you do things. Everyone has parts of their lives that they aren’t proud of. The key is to acknowledge them and learn from the mistakes. Running and hiding is never going to be the answer.