Haudricourt’s Ballot and the Hall of Fame Mess


Well we’re right in the thick of it, folks.

The Hall of Fame elections are right around the corner, and this year will be the coming out party of the so-called “Steroids class” on the 2013 ballot.

Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee’s resident member of the BBWAA with voting privileges, wrote a column today describing his ballot and voting process. Usually, this is a fun behind-the-scenes look at how people justify their selection process.

This year, it simply brings to light the problems with the process.

This man passed over the Steroid Issue for years. Now it’s passed to the writers. Who will they pass it off to? (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

To his credit, Haudricourt had made – and made public – a few choices that his colleagues have loudly shouted down in recent months. He checked off the names of Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens despite the suspicion surrounding them. From his article:

"Remembering the “innocent until proven guilty” foundation upon which our nation’s legal system is based, I checked off all four names."

But what’s odd about this sudden stand on principle is where and how he left names off previously. He voted for Jeff Bagwell this time around, even though prior to this season he had left him off because, as he says:

"On suspicion alone, I passed on Jeff Bagwell the past two years because he fit the profile of a user with his massive bulk and monstrous home runs. But, after listening to and reading compelling commentary from highly respected baseball writers, I decided mere suspicion was not enough to exclude Bagwell and cast a vote for him this time around."

He fit the profile. That’s important phrasing, and should not be ignored. Because if Haudricourt is saying it, you can bet your ass that there are plenty of other BBWAA ballot holders with the same idea in their head. ‘Fit the profile,’ in this context, should be right up there with ‘character clause’ as words that ought to be banned from the column-inches of BBWAA writers from here on out.

Because they’re useless.

They don’t mean anything substantial and only serve to further cloud the argument. They are placeholders used to keep kicking the can down the road so that no one has to deal with this period in baseball in any meaningful way. And there’s nobody in this that’s not culpable.

Take the writers who have come out and publicly announced that they sent in empty ballots. That is not a solution to the issue – that’s washing your hands of an era in the sport that you know you helped to create. That’s making people like Tom Haudricourt solely responsible for the mess, so if these people get in (and that’s still a big ‘if’ by the way) they can sit back and say, “dont yell at me, I didn’t vote for him.” It’s childish.

I’m not going to stand on the soapbox and say that the Hall of Fame vote is a massive responsibility. It’s largely arbitrary and fairly meaningless in the grand scheme of things, which makes running away from it all the more stupid. The BBWAA, in concert with Major League Baseball, made this bed.

Now they think the mattress is a little too lumpy for their liking.

Nobody can say that they’re worried about this decision. It’s simply false. There was over ten years worth of discussion to be had – ten years of meetings, a Congressional hearing, and countless opportunities to come to some sort of decision. That decision process was completely ignored, either purposefully or otherwise. So this, from Haudricourt’s article, is the process in which people like him have to live now:

"With all of that to consider, this is what it came down to for me. With no guidance from the Hall of Fame or BBWAA as to how to categorize those who played in the “Steroid Era,” it put me in the position of having to be judge, jury and executioner. So, I decided I would either vote for all of the suspected frauds or none of them. Which would it be?"

Now, I have to ask you, why is it that there should be no guidance from the Hall of Fame or the BBWAA, or Major League Baseball for that matter? Am I the only one that sees an inherent problem for years to come on this?

Major League Baseball was late to the party in dealing with Performance Enhancing Drugs. The BBWAA was blind to the issue, and then sacrificed (to some degree) journalistic instincts in promoting themselves and the sport they covered. The Hall of Fame, in their personal attitude, remained and will likely continue to remain silent on the issue entirely. It’s a system of hand-washing that leaves the problem unsolved.

Haudricourt ended his column with this:

"Just to be clear, I’m not saying I feel good about it. Not by a long shot. I formerly considered it a privilege to vote for the Hall of Fame. Now, it has become an exercise in hand-wringing.What a mess."

The obvious solution would be to use your position as a ballot-holder to effect change. To ask yourself why it needs to be hand-wringing. You can’t change the past, obviously, but you can effect the future. By having the discussion. By not running away. By not accepting the fact that you don’t like it as part of your job. To bring your fellow writers together to come to a real, meaningful decision on this era in baseball history. Because it’s not going away ever again.

I think it’s unfortunate that the writers as a group – being the so-called ‘judges and juries’ of the sport – refuse to have a meaningful discussion. Instead, scattered and individually, they shout over each other as if they are only one with the right answer.

When it’s entirely possible that everyone is wrong. But that’s another discussion. One I highly doubt will ever happen.