Time to put Hall of Fame vote on shelf, overhaul system

Chipper Jones will be in Hall of Fame one day. But how does Fred McGriff get only 118 votes while Craig Biggio gets 388? (AJC photo)

Chipper Jones will be in Hall of Fame one day. But how does Fred McGriff get only 118 votes while Craig Biggio gets 388? (AJC photo)

Junk it. Fix it. At the very least, put all of this on a shelf for a while and let it breathe.

Maybe the whole system needs to be blown up. Maybe the voting populace needs to be redefined, or at least shrunk to a more workable size (enough to fit into small boardroom).

Maybe the powers of baseball and the Hall of Fame can issue some sort of declaration like, “This is what qualifies as cheating. That is what doesn’t.”

Or, “Frankly, we don’t care who did what.”

But right now the system stinks. It’s broken. When Craig Biggio gets more than three times as many votes as Fred McGriff, it’s totally broken. Something needs to change or everything needs to change. The only certainty is that whatever needs to be fixed won’t be done before 2014 ballots being mailed out.

So take a year off from elections. Maybe two years. Let it breathe — not like a fine wine, more like an old meat locker that needs disinfecting.

The only people who really would be upset about such a move would be those who are becoming eligible and obviously deserve to be honored, including Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine 2014 and John Smoltz in 2015.

They can wait. They’ll have their day. This is more important.

The results of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame election were unveiled Wednesday. Nobody got in. The only winner was the U.S. postal service. Junk mail has had more impact than the 569 ballots that were mailed in.

Nobody can agree on Barry Bonds, who received 36.2 percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility, less than half the amount needed (75 percent). Nobody can agree on Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or anybody else associated with performance-enhancing drugs to varying degrees.

Nobody, inexplicably, can agree on guys like McGriff, Jack Morris or Tim Raines, all of whom were checked on my ballot, but not enough.

The thumbs down given to Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens and other suspected steroid users was one thing the voters did right.

The thumbs down given to Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens and other suspected steroids users was one thing the voters did right.

Too few (18.6 percent) again checked the box next to Dale Murphy, despite the consecutive MVP awards and the fact he was fueled on nothing stronger than milk and Froot Loops.

Murphy was typically classy Wednesday. He thanked family members, fans and some media members for support. He was grateful for this year’s voting “bump.” But even he cracked, “Maybe I should’ve retired after 1988 — I would’ve had a better chance. But I played through some injuries. I could’ve gone to the American League as a DH, but I wasn’t thinking about the Hall of Fame, I was thinking about winning.”

If the Veteran’s Committee ever votes Murphy in, he should get his own wing.

The top vote-getter this year was Craig Biggio. Craig … Biggio.

How many times did anybody watch Craig Biggio play and think, “Now there goes one of the all-time greats”? How is he named on 388 ballots and McGriff on 118?

We need more time to let the PED issue play out. We need clarity on the voting process and the criteria. It’s clear that 569 voters were on 569 different pages.

If the Cooperstown gatekeepers seek to take the vote away from the baseball writers association, I’m completely OK with that. The media’s job should be to provide coverage and perspective on news, not be the news. It’s why most major newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, no longer allow writers to vote in college football polls or season awards. The Hall of Fame has been an exception because it’s a post-career honor. Besides, what’s Dale Murphy going to buy my vote with — a cheeseburger and fries?

Between suspected steroids-users Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire and (to a lesser degree) Jeff Bagwell, Hall voters rejected winners of eight MVP awards, seven Cy Youngs and eight home run champions. Bonds (1), Sosa (8), McGwire (10) and Rafael Palmeiro (12) rank among career home run leaders.

Michael Weiner, the players union’s executive director, reacted as you would expect a shill would: “To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens is hard to justify. To penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings … is simply unfair.”

Not really. If they cheated the game, all bets are off. That’s my opinion. Obviously some disagree. We need a uniform set of criteria. We need better than what have. And there should be no rush to get to the next vote.

By Jeff Schultz

329 comments Add your comment

Najeh Davenpoop

January 9th, 2013
5:22 pm

Babe Ruth and other pre-1947 players had more of a competitive advantage (not having to play against non-white players) than anyone in the steroid era. If it’s just about competitive advantages, penalizing steroid users alone makes no sense without accounting for the competitive advantages that players in other eras had. And if it’s about other things, like character, then there are plenty of worse human beings than Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in the HOF.

Not that I or any other fan should really care… it’s not like Pete Rose isn’t recognized for his greatness just because some museum in upstate NY that nobody visits doesn’t have his face in it.

Jonathan

January 9th, 2013
5:30 pm

Why Jack Morris? If Lonnie Smith doesn’t fall down, are we even discussing him? I understand the arguments for him, but they seem to be false flags.
1. Most wins in the 1980’s. Ok, who won the most games in the 2000’s? Randy Johnson, Roy Oswalt, or Andy Pettitte?
2. 14 opening day starts. Is this even a stat? Do we know how many opening day starts anyone else had?
3. 3.90 ERA is the highest ERA that would be in the hall. Dave Stieb has a better case than Morris.

DCBravesfan

January 9th, 2013
5:33 pm

Agree with the thrust of your article, but entirely disagree with dismissal of Craig Biggio. Perhaps 3,000 hits is an arbitrary marker, but it’s still impressive. And the fact that he was able to produce as much offensively as he did at three prime defensive positions adds so much value to his case.

And, I obviously agree with you about Murphy, but Biggio also played the game “the right way,” albeit in a different sense of the word. Play hard every day, take a HBP, never GIDP, and play the position you’re told to play and still manage to get 3,000 hits – that should definitely be Hall of Fame worthy.

Shaun

January 9th, 2013
5:41 pm

More historian types and types that have actually published some sort of research should have a strong say in who gets in to the Hall of Fame. Members of the BBWAA are mostly baseball reporters, essentially, and aren’t paid to have a historical perspective or to evaluate players.

People who know baseball history and people who think like baseball front office types are the people who should have the loudest voices, people who understand that Tim Raines deserves to be enshrined and why, people who understand why Biggio was so valuable to his teams and why.

Macon Fan

January 9th, 2013
5:48 pm

Well Murph is in my Hall of Fame.

[...] of Fame CandidatesNew York TimesA baseball game nobody winsCNN InternationalLos Angeles Times -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -Dallas Morning News (blog)all 2,510 news articles » This entry was posted in [...]

rastusbrown3

January 9th, 2013
5:51 pm

Do you ever agree with anyone?

Vince

January 9th, 2013
5:54 pm

The system isn’t broken. Those that deserve to get in will, and those that don’t deserve it, won’t.

Typical reactionary column by typical reactionary columnist. ’nuff said.

Shaun

January 9th, 2013
5:55 pm

Vince, Tim Raines is still waiting while Jim Rice is in. That’s a problem.

PMC

January 9th, 2013
5:55 pm

Maybe they should take the vote away from Aaron Sele’s dad.

Marvin Mangrum

January 9th, 2013
5:56 pm

You write and thank you for that, but are lamenting to us that you are saddened by the absence of the roid boys getting in, because if you are then you and the Hall should shut down. Period. Biggio it dont matter how many votes he got, he was way short. It will work, it almost always has.It always will. I loved Murph, he wasnt HOF. But neither were any of the roid boys, so I really dont get it. I suspect in a year or two Murph will make it. The shame, the true shame is Joe Jackson and Pete Rose arent in. That was, is a shame. And look here my family spent 6 hours there one day a while back. Have you been?

Vince

January 9th, 2013
5:57 pm

It’s not the ‘Hall of Very Good’ it’s the Hall of Fame. Dale Murphy is a great guy, but he isn’t in b/c he wasn’t good enough to merit induction. If his numbers were, there would be a ton of other players with similar stats in as well. Get over it and stop being a homer.

PMC

January 9th, 2013
5:58 pm

Most Baseball writers are senile anyway. It’s a dying sport.

Vince

January 9th, 2013
5:59 pm

Shaun, Raines will almost certainly get in. Jim Rice is a HOFer in my opinion, and the writers agreed.

Close it down........

January 9th, 2013
6:00 pm

Close it all down as far as I am concerned before you let the likes of Clemens, or Bond, or Rose, or McGwire, or Sosa – and just forget about Murphy – good guy but not great…….only STELLAR ROLE MODEL stars should be allowed in……and if you are just good, then TOUGH TINSEL.

Aaron Sele

January 9th, 2013
6:02 pm

I think the real reason the system needs to be overhauled is become some knucklehead voted for me.

Ken

January 9th, 2013
6:08 pm

Biggio and “crimedog”:McGriff both deserve a lot of votes, Jack Morris and Raines too. But, something is wrong when none of them can get in, and the cheaters get a huge pile of votes.

Tomahawk Schultz for a change!

January 9th, 2013
6:09 pm

Jeff, Not a single person was deserving this year! Period! And yes the most deserving was Biggio. He was a solid to great player for years (which as a proud Braves fan I hate to say…Murphy was not. Which has been his undoing). None of the steroid freaks should be admitted! Baseball has been built by statistics over the years and those players must have felt they weren’t good enough and thus must be juiced. So its our turn to squeeze them for awhile now. Next year some will be admitted – on the first ballot entry no doubt! Maddux and Glavine. Two guys with nothing great but who worked the plate to get the stats needed for consideration and great seasons that followed…and nobody has ever wondered whether they miraculously got better and were roid freaks. The writers deserve a pat on the back for getting it right!!! Not criticized for putting the juicers in their place. McGriff was a pretty good first basemen…but hall of fame worthy? I’m a die hard Braves fan, but even I couldn’t in good faith put him in the hall. Being good is not what the hall is for! Being Great is supposed to be the criteria. Great job writers – excepting Jeff Schultz (just this once Jeff…normally I enjoy your articles! :) .

Dave

January 9th, 2013
6:13 pm

I’m not sure what your point is. All of the people you listed in one of the late paragraphs cheated and you and your fellow writers decided they shouldn’t benefit from their cheating. Dale Murphy on stats was to many, most, borderline at best. I can’t explain Biggio. Democracy I guess. You like some of what happened and don’t like the rest. Seems to me that the unspoken criteria is no to drug folks and no to marginal folks. What’s wrong with that?

Hillbilly D

January 9th, 2013
6:16 pm

According to Baseball Reference, excluding the original class, there have been 39 (if I counted right) first ballot HOF’s since 1937. Actually it’s since 1962 because there were no first ballot guys from 1937-1961. Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan were the 2 highest vote getters at 98.8%. The two lowest were Robin Yount and Jackie Robinson at 77.5%. Rickey Henderson was the last first ballot guy in 2009, and there have been roughly 10 in every decade since 1980. It appears to have stabilized after loosening up in the 80’s. There were 4 in the 60’s and 5 in the 70’s.

Biggio goes in, in a year or two, that’s really nothing new.

Personally, I think Murphy, Morris, McGriff and Tim Raines are deserving. The reality is that if you don’t get in, in your first 3-4 years of eligibility, you probably aren’t going to make it. That’s the way the system works and it’s been that way a very long time.

Alex

January 9th, 2013
6:17 pm

Biggio is a Hall of Famer. He may have never been a highlight play type of guy, but he was a hell of a player.

oldfart

January 9th, 2013
6:17 pm

If any of the ‘roid rascals do make it I propose their busts be placed in the bathroom stalls in the hall.

And was it just coincidence that Biggio’s numbers fell way off after they finally started testing?

DP

January 9th, 2013
6:18 pm

Agree that Biggio shouldn’t be in but I don’t think Morris, Murphy or McGriff should either though McGriff is the closest call of those. And I’m glad to see the obvious steroid cheats like Bonds, Clemens and Sosa not even get half the required votes.

I would have a more restrictive Hall of Fame voting standards. I think it should be for really great players who either sustained it over a long career or were off the charts great for a shorter period of time like Sandy Koufax. I wouldn’t vote in the guys who pile up numbers by playing forever but weren’t really star players for most of their careers, like Biggio, Phil Niekro and Don Sutton.

Dawgdad (The Original)

January 9th, 2013
6:24 pm

If Dale Murphy and Crime Dog Fred McGriff aren’t good enough for admission, they ought to just shut it down. Biggio should be there as well, catcher, second baseman, center fielder, team leader, 3000 hits, why shouldn’t he be there?

They knock Murphy for lack of longevity, but no one said a word about Sandy Koufax and his short career. The Standard should be were you a dominant player in your time.

Game Time

January 9th, 2013
6:26 pm

What’s up with you and Biggio? The guy was a player for goodness sakes. Just reinforces how little you know about things outside Georgia – and even within the state your judgment and assessments are suspect. Where have all the good sports writers and journalists gone? Atlanta deserves better!

DunwoodyDawg

January 9th, 2013
6:26 pm

I do think there should be some automatic qualifications for the BB HOF. 300 career wins for a pitcher, 3000 career hits, maybe 500 career home runs. 500 saves for a relief pitcher. If you’re playing baseball at its highest level, and you are around long enough to hit those milestones, you should be in the HOF.

Mike A

January 9th, 2013
6:27 pm

Biggio was a better player than McGriff when one considers position. Biggio is, in fact, very comparable to Alomar and Sandberg. Granted, the HoF hasn’t always been kind to 2nd sackers – see Lou Whitaker – but Craig is clearly deserving of the Hall.

While Biggio is likely a top 10 2nd baseman, McGriff probably just sneaks into the top 30 of 1st basemen. One could make a semi-decent argument for Fred getting in the Hall (think Tony Perez), but he should be on the back burner until the more deserving players (Bonds, Clemens, Raines, etc) get in.

And Jack Morris shouldn’t even sniff the Hall of Fame. He just wasn’t that good.

oldfart

January 9th, 2013
6:27 pm

OT comment to Jeff. At great sacrifice I just did a non-scientific test and I can load a Ukrainian porn site’s home page with over 200 pictures more than three times faster than any of the AJC pages. It has become almost unbearable to try to join you guys in a live blog as of late.

Hillbilly D

January 9th, 2013
6:28 pm

The Standard should be were you a dominant player in your time.

The late baseball writer, Joe Falls, said he always based his vote on this question (paraphrase), “Was he a dominant player, at his position, in his era, and did he maintain that level over a period of years?”

I think that’s a pretty good criteria.

DP

January 9th, 2013
6:29 pm

Comparing the best years of Dale Murphy with the best years of Sandy Koufax, are you kidding? There are no more than a handful of pitchers who ever put together a 5-6 year stretch in the neighborhood of what Koufax did: Maddux, Pedro Martinez, maybe a couple of the ancient guys like Walter Johnson and Christy Matthewson. There are dozens of position players who put together extended stretches that were better than the best of Dale Murphy.

DunwoodyDawg

January 9th, 2013
6:31 pm

By the way, is there anyone with 3000 career hits who hasn’t made the HOF? Besides Biggio obviously.

DP

January 9th, 2013
6:31 pm

Hillybilly D, I agree completely with the position of Joe Falls that you cite.

Joey M

January 9th, 2013
6:36 pm

@Najeh Davenpoop I’ve heard that argument about Ruth, Cobb, Johnson, Young, etc not having to play against non-white players and I’m about sick of it. There were 8 teams in the AL and NL each. Are you seriously going to tell me the league would have had enough black or Hispanic players to alter statistics that much? Stop feeding me this line of garbage. There would have been at most 5 black/Hispanic players per team. That’s 40 in the AL and NL. Not many minorities played sports back then. Not every player in the Negro Leagues would have been a MLB player. A lot would have been, but not all of them. And how many would have pitched? 1 or 2 per team at most. Who’s to say that Ruth wouldn’t have hit more home runs or Cobb get more hits if they had minority players to play against? The door swings both ways.

Now that I have that off my chest, McGriff and Murphy should be in the HOF. It’s a joke that they are not.

1966 Atlanta Braves...

January 9th, 2013
6:36 pm

Henry Aaron will always be the all time homerun king, the strongest substance he used was a cold can of beer! Keep these fakes OUT!

Felix

January 9th, 2013
6:39 pm

Shut it down for a while. One part of it worked this time though – they kept the cheaters out.

I hate it for Murph.

Georgia

January 9th, 2013
6:39 pm

Maybe baseball does tell us who we were and are. But we all found out that we love baseball first, because even the most traditional fan shut up when he saw Jackie Robinson tear up all those bases, and all those baseballs. We love winning baseball most of all. We should talk about ourselves through baseball. Look at us back then never having seen a better angel on the basepath.

Now, lets all join hands and kill the designated hitter rule.

Mike A

January 9th, 2013
6:40 pm

Hank Aaron admitted to taking an amphetamine to boost his performance when he was struggling. Who’s to say he wouldn’t have taken steroids had they been readily available? Morals didn’t change, the drugs changed.

"Chef" Tim Dix

January 9th, 2013
6:43 pm

I really believe that we the public know more about the voters from their stump than the players that are eligible.

When did the voters become the stars?

Darryl Blackberry

January 9th, 2013
6:43 pm

Biggio should’ve gotten voted in, actually. Should McGriff have gotten more consideration? Yes, but Biggio was more valuable, considering the positions at which he played.

As for the rest, why overhaul the system? The fact that Bonds and Clemens didn’t crack 40 percent is a bit of a referendum on their cheating, don’t you think? There’s no guarantee that their numbers will rise (McGwire’s haven’t) as they get older.

If we must complain about anything, let it be the absence of Dale Murphy from so many HOF ballots. Perhaps both Murphy and McGriff were too modest over the course of their careers for their own good. So be it.

DP

January 9th, 2013
6:45 pm

Yes, Najeh’s blather about Ruth, Cobb, etc. is beyond absurd. The steroid cheats made the conscious choice to cheat. The players prior to 1947 didn’t make the decision about whether non whites could play or not, the commissioner and owners did. Babe Ruth had years in which he hit more home runs than most of the teams of the league did, and he would have been a Hall of Fame pitcher had he not switched to the outfield. And his career batting average was only .25 behind Ty Cobb, a singles hitter who had the highest batting average of all time. The idea that his inclusion in the Hall of Fame is somehow tainted is about as stupid as it gets. I don’t see how there can even be a reasonable case made that he wasn’t the greatest baseball player of all time when you combine his hitting and pitching careers.

ER Steve

January 9th, 2013
6:45 pm

Take away the vote from these writers. You are exactly right Jeff, they are becoming the story. Throw out the steroid thing for a second, basically they said, you need a certain threshold to get in (no to Morris, Murphy, Raines) but if your numbers are too good, you likely cheated (Piazza, Bagwell). That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard.
And to me there is no excuse for not putting in Bonds and Clemons. The will always be legends, even if their numbers might be inflated. It is not a hall of fame without them.
Finally I think the writers hold grudges against players they didn’t get along with, and have a conflict of interest because they benefit from this being a story that no one got in.

Attention Media Members!!! You can’t ignore the story while it happened in the 90’s and then act so mortified now!! I am disgusted.

Ken

January 9th, 2013
6:49 pm

About Biggio – the best thing about him was that he was not spectacular, but produced huge numbers, hits, runs and steals and a few home runs. He was a mainstay of my fantasy team, back in the days when we had to pay a service for stats. I always drafted him first or protected him. Never hurt, always produced, he was just low key when it came to the “being a star” game.

SoWeGa Fanatic

January 9th, 2013
6:53 pm

Very good column, Jeff. The cheaters need to stay out of the HOF, but your column should go in.

faninva

January 9th, 2013
6:54 pm

DunwoodyDawg – Palmeiro and Rose.

Ken

January 9th, 2013
6:56 pm

And don’t forget Biggio’s doubles. He was huge in that area.

"Chef" Tim Dix

January 9th, 2013
6:57 pm

Bonds (1), Sosa (8), McGwire (10) and Rafael Palmeiro (12) rank among career home run leaders.

PED’s or POS, either one enough to keep these poster boys out.

Najeh Davenpoop

January 9th, 2013
6:58 pm

“I’ve heard that argument about Ruth, Cobb, Johnson, Young, etc not having to play against non-white players and I’m about sick of it. There were 8 teams in the AL and NL each. Are you seriously going to tell me the league would have had enough black or Hispanic players to alter statistics that much? ”

Well, there’s an easy thought experiment we can do to try to figure that out.

Assuming there were 25 man rosters back then (I don’t know whether or not that’s true), there were 400 players in MLB back then. (25 * 16 is 400.) There are 750 players in the MLB now.

Now take the top 400 players in MLB today, subtract out all the minorities (no Pujols, no Cabrera, no Heyward, no Stanton, no Gio Gonzalez, no Johnny Cueto, no Felix Hernandez, no David Price, etc.), and replace them with the best white players you left out. Most of those will be mediocre players at the end of benches (like Tyler Pastornicky, for example) and the rest will be triple A players.

Are you ready to tell me that a pitcher facing the Braves would put up the same numbers facing Pastornicky, Janish, Hinske, etc. as he would facing Prado, Heyward, and Bourn? Are you ready to say that a hitter facing the Nationals rotation wouldn’t put up better numbers if they replaced Gio Gonzalez with someone like Joe Blanton? Because that’s the effect of barring a group of people from the game. The door doesn’t “swing both ways” unless you think the best Negro League player was worse than the worst MLB player. And from what I know about Josh Gibson (among others), I am pretty sure that is not true. Don’t think there’s any way you can say the pre-1947 era didn’t have a competitive advantage.

Tap Out

January 9th, 2013
7:01 pm

Change the name to “Hall of Those Who Didn’t Get Caught”.

Najeh Davenpoop

January 9th, 2013
7:01 pm

“The steroid cheats made the conscious choice to cheat. The players prior to 1947 didn’t make the decision about whether non whites could play or not, the commissioner and owners did.”

That’s a valid point, but that is an argument about character, not about competitive advantage. If you are going to rely on that to exclude steroid users, then character has to apply across the board to all Hall members. Does taking amphetamines make someone ineligible because of character issues? Does being a virulent and vocal racist make someone ineligible? Where is that line drawn and what is the justification for it?

Stuart

January 9th, 2013
7:03 pm

Jeff, Excellent article. The HOF is quickly turning into a joke. But you failed to mention the greatest injustice of them all: Pete Rose, the All Time Hits Leader. Anything Rose did that was seen as “damaging to the game” occurred AFTER he retired as a player.