The hype surrounding the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot certainly hasn’t disappointed thus far. No matter which side you’re on everyone seems to have an opinion one way or another on integrity of the game, steroids, and the players themselves. But perhaps we need to take a step back from all the controversy and look at things from a macro level before we can evaluate at a micro one. We have to remember induction into the Hall of Fame is the single greatest individual achievement any player can receive. It should be reserved for the absolute top tier of players; anything less is a dilution to the reward and the Hall as a whole. So why are we so up in arms about a shutout? Well it’s complicated.
To begin before, the pre-PED ballot era if you will, the fundamental discussion was focused on the stats and merits of a player. Was player X good enough? How did he compare to his era? How did he compare to his league? How does he compare to inducted HOFer’s? So on and so forth. But now writers are faced with questions of integrity of how real are these fundamental stats, if at all? The whole landscape of voting has shifted; writers are now dealing with stats versus integrity battle as opposed to the former stats versus stats. Which writers have to play ghost detective and make stabs in the dark surrounding steroid era players without much more than rumors and whims to make judgment upon.
This leads me to my next point of complication. How do we define cheating? Does the magnitude of cheating matter? Are some forms of cheating more acceptable than others? And can the intentions justify the means of cheating? These are all very complicated, controversial, and subjective questions of which answers will no doubt vary from person to person. Achieving any type of consensus is nearly impossible. If you haven’t already read up on Bryan Grosnick’s piece on cheating; he goes a lot more in-depth with the matter.
As if this wasn’t enough to figure out, there’s the ever on-going battle of old school versus new school. This battle doesn’t present its self so much with the steroid era players but more so along the likes of Morris, Raines, McGriff, Martinez, etc. Analytics have greatly improved player evaluation and continues to shift the game in ways we thought we’d never imagine before. As much of a fan I am of Sabermetrics, they don’t tell the whole story, nor do traditional stats and evaluations. However all the information combine should help us come to a firmer and concrete answer, but nevertheless a complicated answer.
So what can we make out of all these complications? Well if there is anything to take out of this ballot it’s this is a process. The ballot is full of controversy from the players on it to the ideologies we use to deliberate the players with. We also can’t take the shutout for face value because that hardly means any of these players won’t be Cooperstown bound someday. The likes of Foxx, Niekro, Sutton, Sutter, Berra, DiMaggio, and even Cy Young all weren’t first ballot Hall of Fame guys. Sure there was a shutout this year, but we could be looking at as many 7 guys inducted next year! As well as tons of talent on the next few years of ballots.
We lived through one of the most incredible and controversial periods in sports ever. Quite possibly the best from a talent perspective. So rather than be upset we should embrace that we’re able to have these types of fascinating discussions. It’s these types of complications that make baseball the best sport ever.
I shall conclude with a quote a from my Business Ethics professor last year, "Ethics is in place to make things complicated and not black and white. Some things don't necessarily have a right or wrong answer, but nevertheless deserve careful time, consideration, and deliberation."
Perhaps the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot should be treated the same way.