And the winner is… no one.
For the eighth time in the history of the institution, and the first time since 1996, the Baseball Hall of Fame elected zero players this afternoon. No Barry Bonds, no Roger Clemens, no Craig Biggio, Tim Raines, or Jack Morris.
Essentially the Baseball Writers Association delivered a loud and clear message about how they regard a large chunk of the 80s, 90s, and oos today, essentially electing an invisible Hall of Famer that will stand as an example to all players.
Who is this invisible Hall of Famer? Well, he’s pure as the virgin snow (sorry Rocket, Raffy, Sammy, Barry, and Mac) and does more than pass the sight test (meaning he didn’t get muscular enough to arouse suspicion… like, say Jeff Bagwell). He’s also a dominant player throughout his career and regarded as the best in the game for an impossibly long period (sorry Alan Trammell and Tim Raines).
In addition to that, he’s always courteous with the press (Barry, again), his achievements have to be of a certain type (sorry Lee) and he has to accumulate them while playing a certain position (Edgar…) and he can’t do it while playing in a certain stadium (blame it on Blake Street, Larry).
The invisible Hall of Famer has to be well rounded, he can’t just be a slugger (Crime Dog), and even if he is well-rounded, it’s still really unlikely that he will make it in on the first ballot (Craig Biggio), even if he’s the best hitter who has ever played his position (Piazza). It’s about career numbers that hit a certain threshold (Schilling), but you can’t be a compiler (that means you Morris).
The Invisible Hall of Famer has to check all of these boxes, he has to be perfect, and he is always going to be impossible to find.
Next year’s candidates are impressive and less controversial than this lot, but still, they all have their flaws. Will any of them match up to the Invisible Hall of Famer?
Will they win the favor of the BBWAA? After all, that’s what the Hall of Fame is about now. It isn’t about the game, or the men who play it, it’s about the moral arbiters and these keepers of the flame who allegedly vote with their conscience, unless they have a personal grudge or don’t take their role seriously… I’m looking at you, guy who voted for Aaron Sele.
This year, more than ever before, it is about them. It’s about them and who they allow us to put on a pedestal. They are the ones who are, quite literally, writing baseball’s history and they have decided that a portion of that history needs to be under-represented in the hall.
Now, some may say that this is a good thing. That the writers are just defending the sanctity of the game, but with the ridiculous bias against first ballot candidates, the arbitrary view of what a Hall of Famer should be, and a willingness to punish every player that ever come within a country mile of a PED allegation, they are helping to make the game irrelevant.
The PED era isn’t going anywhere, the Ryan Braun affair and Melky Cabrera’s suspension show that, and as the years go by and the writers work hard to keep the hall “pure” and nearly vacant the walls of that great institution will begin to look archaic.
My father’s guys are on those walls: Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, George Brett, Paul Molitor, Steve Carlton, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Mike Schmidt and the like. My guys? Not so much and that is a damn shame.
See, the Hall of Fame isn’t just a museum and it isn’t meant to only live as a reflection of the past — the Hall of Fame helps to strengthen the games future by inspiring awe and nobody draws awe from non-existent plaques and invisible Hall of Famers.
Click here to see Jason’s look at this years ballot and which players he would have voted for.