I’ll admit it: usually I look forward to Hall of Fame season. The arguments can be fun, you get to make fun of people for silly votes, and sometimes someone puts forward an argument that makes you appreciate a former player in a new light. Heck, it even gave me the excuse to write about medieval witch trials last year. This year, however, that’s not the case. Part of the reason for that is fatigue with arguments that never really change, but a good chunk of it comes from the realization that so many absurdities result from structural deficiencies in the process itself. Most of all I simply find myself wondering a rather simple question: If the Hall of Fame doesn’t take itself seriously, why should I take it seriously?
Think I’m exaggerating? Then answer me this: what sort of self-respecting institution would not only completely outsource it’s most visible form of decision making, but would continue to stand idly by when that process became as absurd as the Hall of Fame voting process we have today? And yet, that’s exactly what the Hall has done with the way they’ve handed over so much authority to the BBWAA. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to cast a pox on the writers outright here, because for the most part I think that they’re better than advertised, but the rules they’ve concocted for voting on the Hall of Fame are absurd on the face.
The basic problem is the combination of a 10 year waiting period to get a vote, combined with the lifetime tenure of voters. Taken alone, neither one of these things is necessarily offensive, but taken together they’re just downright farcical. If talented and smart BBWAA members who actually cover the game but haven’t had their cards for a decade are deemed unworthy of voting, how does it make sense to give a vote to someone who hasn’t covered baseball in years? And if we aren’t even going to require that voters actually be involved in covering baseball in some sense, why are we demanding that they be BBWAA in the first place? Heaven knows I’m not his biggest fan, but even I think that Bob Costas is imminently more qualified to vote on the Hall of Fame than an Olympics writer who apparently hasn’t covered baseball since before I was born.
Of course, I don’t really expect this to happen anytime soon, because a) I don’t see any evidence that the Hall cares about it whatsoever and, b) I doubt that anyone other than us baseball nerds really cares. But that’s no reason for us to ignore the ridiculous situation this somewhat sacred trust has fallen into.