In losing Baseball Hall of Fame vote, timing the only bad thing – Chicago Tribune
It seems that my time is up.
As a Hall of Fame voter, that is.
Hall officials, who have ultimate authority over the selection rules, announced last week that anyone who has not covered the game actively for the last 10 years no longer would be eligible to vote. The Hall made this change after consulting the Baseball Writers of America, according to Jack O’Connell, secretary/treasurer of the BBWAA, whose approximately 650 members are the electorate.
Of those members, 20 percent, or 130, no longer will be eligible, O’Connell said. That group includes me, a lifetime honorary member.
That move will delight the anonymous Twitter trolls who have hectored me every year to give up my vote because they apparently are upset that I roundly dismiss the candidacies of players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, whose use of PEDs was apparent, admitted or both.
My only regret in losing the vote now is not having a further voice in shutting that crowd out of Cooperstown until their 15 years of eligibility is over. One can only hope that 26 percent of the 520 or so remaining voters will continue to bar the door.
Truth be told, excluding those who are not covering Major League Baseball on a regular basis seems a reasonable move, even if many of us in that category devoted considerable time and thought to the task.
That one can make a more knowledgeable decision while watching a player regularly affected my consideration of the late Mark Belanger, whom I covered for four years with the Baltimore Evening Sun.
Yes, Belanger was a .228 career hitter. But he also was the best defensive shortstop I ever have seen (eight Gold Gloves, second all time in defensive wins above replacement), and he played during an era when teams valued shortstops for defense, not hitting.
Looking only at his numbers was uninformative but undoubtedly the reason why Belanger got just 3.7 percent of the vote during his one year on the ballot. That low total means even writers actively covering the game find it hard to assess players they see infrequently.
To me, voting was a serious responsibility, often requiring double-digit hours of internal debate, statistical study and consultation with people whose knowledge of the game was peerless.
It also was fun for me while it lasted, which in my case will have been from 1983 through last December.
And there is a delightful irony in my losing the chance to vote on who makes baseball’s Valhalla.
I am in the Hall, or at least something I wrote is, displayed for 20-odd years on the front wall of the “Scribes and Mikemen” exhibit. In a Tribune essay marking the resumption of play after a brief strike in 1985, I said, “Baseball is the only game you can see on the radio.”
Every year, it seems, a friend visiting Cooperstown sends me a photo. Even if it is removed one day, having been included will always be, like the baseball of my essay, a dream that won’t go away.
Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune
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