Election Day Baseball Hall of Fame Now a Cause for More Sadness


Baseball Hall of Fame Election Day is a time to celebrate our great game. But unfortunately it has also become an annual exercise of regret, doubt, condemnation and doubt.

And boy, is there a lot to complain about again this year.

Scott Rolen deserves our congratulations. He’s a fantastic two-way third baseman who made it into the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, and rightly so.

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Todd Helton should also be very pleased with the results. He is trending on the right track, and history tells us that next year will probably be his year.

So is Billy Wagner, who was arguably the greatest left-handed reliever ever and one of the most interesting cases (more on that below).

Congratulations to everyone who guessed well. But no congratulations to the writers, who like to pat ourselves on the back but continue to ficklely lead the competition (more on that below, too).

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Baseball’s Hall of Fame is by far the largest of all halls, and it’s an overall plus that it sparks conversation and controversy for days. But it also brings sadness, especially about what could have been.

Alex Rodriguez
Anthony J Causi

The four most talented players on this year’s ballot finished outside the money. PED talk has certainly waned with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens falling off the writers’ mood, but steroids (and scandals) linger.

Alex Rodriguez is a three-time MVP and all-time great, Manny Ramirez an unstoppable offensive force, Carlos Beltran one of the greatest switch hitters ever and Gary Sheffield one of the most feared hitters ever, finishing eighth, ninth, tied for sixth and fifth, respectively, thanks to steroids, steroids, technology-stealing signage, and a trash can, and steroids again.

Beltran will probably make it for the next several years as stealing plates didn’t help his grades (he flat out stunk in 2017). It feels like a one-year sentence is about right for his involvement as a league-documented instigator of the Astros scandal. I promise to vote for him in December (and I suspect plenty of others will too).

If history is any guide, A-Rod and Manny never make it, which is a shame, because they certainly had the knack of doing it without chemical additives. The odd one is Sheffield, as he is fourth best of these tainted players, yet better plumbed than Beltran, A-Rod and Manny. Sheffield was a BALCO client who sent money to Victor Conte, yet more than half the electorate now votes for a man whose career is just over the border, steroids or no steroids.

He is trending even better than his friend Barry Bonds did at this stage. I suspect that Bonds got too good on steroids, attracting extra attention through his exploits and his files, while Sheffield helped his case by acting disapprovingly when he was publicly linked, and blaming Bonds.

Forever I have defended the voters (myself included). It’s a good system, I say in the face of the avalanche of criticism.

But it turns out we’re sleepy. We are far too easily influenced.

We aim to please. And as a result, the mood has taken some strange turns.

Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds

Take the 2019 vote, when Rolen, Helton and Wagner received 17 percent of the vote. And Jeff Kent got 18 percent. Rolen is in today, Helton is in next year and Wagner is on his way to the election, while Kent is now officially off the vote after receiving less than 50 percent support.

Much can be said about Rolen, Helton and Wagner. They all have a solid case. But from here, that first vote where that trio got about the same number of votes as Kent is closer to reality. They are all very good and very close. (Full disclosure: I voted for Kent and Rolen, but didn’t quite come out with Helton or the former Met Wagner, who always had great course stats, but fell just short of me as a one-inning relief specialist who didn’t’ don’t have either huge bulk numbers or large moments.)

As for Rolen, Helton and Wagner, you don’t have to be a math genius to understand that more than half the electorate changed their minds in four short years. The question must be asked: why did Rolen, Helton and Wagner rise as fast as just about any candidate ever while Kent experienced a negligible bump?

It’s most likely about strong opinions on Twitter, people getting convinced and in some cases no doubt feeling the pressure. I’m all for transparency. But it seems to have triggered groupthink.

Perhaps subconsciously, but at least some voters are embracing the crowd-driven narrative that focuses on rate metrics over real impact. As the overall vote goes, perhaps the Cooperstown Museum should be renamed the Hall of New Stats.

Kent, the leading home run hitter and RBI man for a second baseman, never got a thumbs up from the public on Twitter. Nothing against Rolen and the rest, but Kent’s omission is one more thing to regret on a day marked by celebration.



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