Thursday, January 26, 2012

4 comments Murray Chass Has Thoughts About Hall of Fame Voting, as Long as it Doesn't Interrupt Dinner

We all know how much I love Murray Chass. I use the word "love" sarcastically, of course. He's close-minded and set in his ways. There's nothing I love less from a sportswriter than that. He also has a bizarre bro-mance with Fay Vincent, to the point he quotes Vincent religiously in his non-blog posts. Anyway, because the world hates me, Murray Chass has a vote for the Hall of Fame and he talks a little bit on his non-blog about Bud Selig (who he hates), Jack Morris (who he loves) and Hall of Fame voting (which he loves doing, as long as it leaves time for dinner).

This column wasn’t going to be about Bud Selig so that’s all I will say about him. Well, one more thing.

Bud Selig took over as acting commissioner once Fay Vincent was forced out. Murray Chass considers the forcing out of Vincent as one of the great tragedies of modern life, up there with the assassination of JFK, World War II, famine in Africa, war in the Middle East, the advent of the Internet age which led to the people who read newspaper columns to actually be able to give feedback and the cancellation of "Party Down" and "Arrested Development" while Ashton Kutcher and Rob Schneider are still free to smirk their way into viewer's hearts.

(Maybe that last one is just me)

After the owners forced Fay Vincent to resign in 1992, Selig became acting or interim commissioner because he was chairman of the executive council. Selig, however, denied that he was acting or interim. He also denied repeatedly that he was interested in being the commissioner.

It's a good thing this happened twenty years ago and Murray has let this drop.

He accepted the job in 1998, and now he will accept a new term instead of retiring. He is nothing if not consistent.

Yeah, Selig lied by saying he was retiring and now he isn't retiring. He lied, everyone knew he wasn't retiring, but the owners wanted him back so that has to mean something in the long run.

I want to write about the terrific, unexpected increase in Jack Morris’ vote total, but there’s another aspect of the writers’ vote that cries out for attention.

I would take out the word "terrific" because I don't know if I consider this terrific. Morris is still a borderline Hall of Fame candidate to me and any player that we aren't sure is one of the greatest players in MLB history shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame in my opinion. Morris was really good, but not dominant during his career.

Six players received no votes at all: Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan, Terry Mulholland, Phil Nevin, Ruben Sierra and Tony Womack.

Why were they on the ballot?

Because they met the criteria to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. I don't think he deserves to get in the Hall of Fame, but I can't believe Ruben Sierra didn't get one Hall of Fame vote. I'm not saying Sierra deserved a Hall of Fame vote, and it probably is a good sign the voters are actually thinking about their votes, but I am surprised Sierra's early career statistics didn't sway a voter into giving him one vote.

Did the writers honestly believe Lopez and Young belong in the Hall of Fame? If so, how did those writers last long enough covering baseball – 10 years – to qualify as voters?

Murray Chass is really going to question the validity of a Hall of Fame voter's ballot? As you will see later, Murray doesn't seem to take his Hall of Fame voting too seriously.

The writers get enough criticism for voting for legitimate candidates or not voting for players fans think belong in the Hall of Fame without incurring criticism for voting for players with career records like Lopez and Young.

Here is the major issue I see...which player is a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame and who is not? Is Tim Salmon (he received 5 votes) more of a legitimate candidate than Lopez or Young? I am sure some people don't think Mark McGwire is a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame because he used PEDs. Maybe I'm picking nits, but I don't think Larry Walker is a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate and yet he appears on the ballot with 131 votes.

This is the way the system works. A screening committee of six members of the Baseball Writers Association receives a list of players eligible for the first time and nominates those they think should be placed on the ballot. Any player who is named by two or more of the six writers goes on the ballot, joining players who had been on the ballot in previous years.

Obviously, the screening committee would rather a player go on the ballot and then get zero votes then have "screen-out" a player who may end up getting a significant amount of votes during the actual Hall of Fame voting.

Considering that players need 75 percent of the votes to be elected to the Hall, I would think that newly eligible players should need at least 50 percent of the screening committee votes to get on the ballot.

My response is, what does it matter? Why does it matter that six players got zero votes? Who has it hurt to have these players on the ballot and then they ended up getting no votes? Six writers is a pretty small sample size and I could see a candidate not getting three votes to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot when that candidate could be a "legitimate" Hall of Fame candidate. I don't see as how it matters really. Better safe than sorry. Murray's beloved Jack Morris had a small vote total 13 years ago when he was originally on the ballot. I'm not saying Morris could have gotten left off the ballot by the nominating committee, but the committee would rather be safe than sorry. So I see why only two votes by the nominating committee are required.

I asked O’Connell if players might be embarrassed by being on the ballot but getting only one vote or no votes.

Say what you want about Murray Chass, but he does not have his pulse on what makes athletes tick. Why would a player be embarrassed by having his name on the Hall of Fame ballot, but not get any votes?

On the contrary, he said, players are flattered simply by having their names on the ballot.

Exactly. Sportswriters aren't the only ones who get off on seeing their name in print.

At this stage of his ballot history, Morris wants more than a piece of memorabilia. The pitcher has gone through 13 elections, and this year came closer than ever, falling 48 votes short with 66.7 percent of the vote.

I can only assume Morris' dramatic increase in vote total this year was the result of the Hall of Fame voters' drug use. If PED users aren't eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame, then the BBWA voters shouldn't be allowed to use drugs and vote for Hall of Fame players.

Such a high percentage has always meant subsequent election, but Morris has only two years left on the writers’ ballot, and each year could present built-in problems for the pitcher.

Oh no! What if more qualified candidates come along and cause Morris not to receive an honor he may not deserve to receive anyway? The horror!

So basically, players who are actually qualified to be in the Hall of Fame may come along and cause Morris' vote total to reduce? Isn't that how it is supposed to be? Those who actually deserve to be in the Hall of Fame earn induction, while those who don't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame don't receive induction? Or did I miss something and borderline players are supposed to be receive election because they have been on the ballot longer?

In two years, two certain first-timers will be on the ballot, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. It’s unlikely that writers would vote for those two pitchers and Morris, though they could consider that it would be Morris’ last year on the ballot.

Why wouldn't the writers vote for Morris if he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Is there a "no more than 2 pitchers on one ballot" rule I'm not aware of?

The past several years the voters have overwhelmingly rejected Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro for their use of performance-enhancing substances. Some voters, however, might have rejected them without the steroids link, believing their careers did not merit Hall of Fame election.

This is very doubtful. I think McGwire gets in without the steroids link. I find it hard to believe only 19.5% of voters think McGwire deserves induction in the Hall of Fame without the steroids link. Clearly, McGwire was rejected because of the steroids link.

Sosa and Piazza have never been convicted by testing or their own admission, but they may find it impossible to overcome the circumstantial evidence that has grown around them.

Just like with Jeff Bagwell, suspicion and circumstantial evidence shouldn't prevent a player from receiving votes for the Hall of Fame. Also, Sammy Sosa has tested positive for steroid use and he was caught using a corked bat. Sosa isn't in the same class as Piazza or Bagwell because he was caught.

I also want to add much of the "suspicion" around Mike Piazza comes from Murray Chass and his suspicion of Piazza's bacne.

If, on the other hand, writers vote for some or any of them, they may not want to add Morris to their ballot.

Honestly, I think Morris' numbers are going to be put in a negative light compared to Glavine and Maddux next year. Just compare their numbers side-by-side one day. You will see what a Hall of Fame pitcher looks like compared to a Hall of Very Good pitcher looks like.

When I voted for the first time, I submitted a full ballot, all 10 lines filled with names. By the time I voted a year later, I had reconsidered what I had done.

It does cause for a moment of reflection when you vote for 10 (what you perceive as) qualified candidates into the Hall of Fame. It's good of Murray to repent for this crime. You may ask yourself why Murray reconsidered filling in all 10 lines. Fortunately, Murray tells us. It's a doozy.

In voting for 10 players, I was saying in essence I wanted to see 10 players inducted into the Hall at the same time.

Very few things can get past Murray Chass. Brilliant deduction.

How foolish, I realized. Having 10 players enter the Hall at the same time would detract from the honor for each player.

Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn't. 10 players being elected into the Hall of Fame at one time could potentially dilute the honor of what being in the Hall of Fame represents. I'm not sure if 10 players were elected at one time these players would think it was less of an honor because the class was large. Unless these players didn't want to sit through an induction ceremony involving so many speeches and players...but of course who on Earth would complain about a long induction ceremony for such an important honor being bestowed on these players. Well, about that...

In addition, the induction ceremony would take forever and require a break for dinner.

It's good to see Murray takes his Hall of Fame voting seriously. A break for dinner? What is this the People's Choice Awards? (Hi-fives Fay Vincent)

"Sorry Jack Morris, I think you deserve to be in the Hall of Fame because I couldn't vote for you this year because if more than 6 players were elected to the Hall of Fame in one year it would require a break for dinner. I neither have the time or the stomach to handle eating dinner during the Hall of Fame inductions. Not when my Crockpot makes such a delicious BBQ chicken meal and there is an 'NCIS' marathon on USA. Sorry about that and I hope you understand."

It appears Murray Chass' considerations when voting for Hall of Fame candidates go this way in order of importance:

1. What would Fay Vincent do?

2. Would voting for this player require a break for dinner at the induction ceremony?

3. What would Bud Selig do?

4. Does this player have any ties to PEDs, steroids, etc?

5. Have I heard this player's name used in the same sentence as "PED" or "steroid?"

6. How would this affect Jack Morris' induction?

7. If it does affect Jack Morris' induction, would voting for Morris cause there to be a break for dinner at the induction ceremony?

8. Would voting for this player piss off the "new-age statistics" crowd?

9. How many wins did this pitcher have in his career?

10. What was this player's batting average?


104. Based on this player's career statistics, does this player measure up as one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, thereby deserving induction into the Hall of Fame?

On subsequent ballots I placed an X next to three or four names at the most, sometimes only one or two.

Depending on how hungry Murray predicted he would be at the ceremony. One year Murray Chass actually didn't vote for anyone. It was during his famous "Starving January" during the winter of 1992 when he just couldn't seem to get full after eating his breakfast and lunch. Even snacking didn't help!

I have not voted for McGwire or Palmeiro and don’t expect to vote for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa or Piazza next December.

At least Murray is open-minded and hasn't already made his decision without seriously considering these player's candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Plus, if Murray voted for six people (seven, including Morris) it would require a break for dinner during the induction ceremony.

It really does stink to hear Murray not only has made up his mind about next year's Hall of Fame class, but would limit his ballot to a certain number of players to avoid having to sit through a long induction ceremony. It's sad to hear how non-seriously many of these Hall of Fame voters take the process. They want the honor of voting, but none of the responsibility of being open-minded and attending the actual ceremony that goes along with it.

I will vote for Morris.

Unless the ballot gets too big of course. That Crockpot at home will be calling.


Justin Zeth said...

The instant Jack Morris gets voted into the Hall of Fame next year, I am firing up the Orel Hershiser bandwagon and slamming the gas pedal to the floor. Who's with me? Who's bloody with me!?

Bengoodfella said...

Justin, I am going to work the Dennis Martinez and David Wells wagon in a few years.

I'm not a Hershiser fan, but in all seriousness, imagine the debate around Pettitte in a few years. It's going to be worse than Morris I think.

Justin Zeth said...

Those guys are waaaay overqualified by the Jack Morris Standard, though. We need to work for the little guys that were also better than Jack Morris. Like Frank Tanana and Chuck Finley.

Bengoodfella said...

Justin, good Frank Tanana reference. I have to see if Mark Langston was better than Morris. That may be pushing it a bit though. Frank Viola!