Cooperstown Debate Rages On
Cooperstown is broken, and not because it is a small town with the stereotypical “Main Street” that politicians reference in their vomit-filled debates every election and primary season. Cooperstown, which is a stereotypical small town (outside of crazy nomadic fans filling the town and its surrounding areas to support their enshrined heroes every July), is broken because of a flawed system of voting, one that has been escalated by the public release of stupid (Ken Gurnick and Dan Shaughnessy, in particular), and the outcry for change by many, including new internet hero Dan LeBatard, who gave his ballot to Deadspin to allow the fans to vote on his behalf.
Gurnick, in particular, said that he wasn’t going to vote for anyone from the Steroid Era. If that is true, what happens to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, two sure-thing, first-ballot Hall of Famers, when they are eligible? Will he then go with the “I’m not voting for (insert name here) in their first year of eligibility because no one has ever had a unanimous vote” card? Was Mel Ott a Hall of Fame player if Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and other superstars weren’t off fighting in World War II and lessening the competition for half of an era? Would Lou Gehrig‘s numbers have passed the “eye-test” that Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza are receiving for producing incredible numbers in an offensive-heavy era? Keep in mind that when Gehrig was 24 years old, he had 52 doubles, 18 triples, 47 home runs, and 175 RBI, with a 1.240 OPS in 1927, so what was he on, given today’s “eye-test”?
All of this fuss over a museum, and while it is a museum for the fans and the history of Major League Baseball, it is a privately held museum that was designed to preserve history, honor excellence, and connect generations, the motto of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which sits at the top of the www.baseballhall.org website. The preservation of artifacts, the hall of fame voting, and the education of baseball seem to be the priorities of the organization, based on that motto, so when did Cooperstown become more about individual personalities and not about individual accomplishments?
There aren’t any museums that leave out the history of Nazi Germany because genocide is a horrific act. There aren’t any museums that decide what is worthy of being told as the story within our history, and while the “cheaters” are represented in Cooperstown due to their accomplishments (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Pete Rose, specifically), it doesn’t change their contributions as players in whatever era they played within. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson didn’t appear to be throwing any games by hitting .375 in the 1919 World Series, and Pete Rose didn’t appear to be gambling away games when he was collecting 4,256 career hits and plowing over catchers in All-Star games, so who are we (or baseball writers) to judge their off-the-field issues?
There are already character flaws with plaques in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, so why is the integrity of the museum being outweighed by the supposed integrity of the game?
It’s time for a change.
While it is unlikely that I can go on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and receive a loan from Mark Cuban, what is stopping someone from creating a Hall of Fame that is by the fan and for the fan? Sure, there may still be that random vote for Jacque Jones by the lone Jonesin’ for Jones Fan Club member, but fans seem to do a pretty good job. Just look at Deadspin’s fan vote from the “dreaded” LeBatard ballot:
Sure, some people will always be stupid, but when that exists in the supposed “expert world” of baseball writers, how much worse could the fans really be?
It would be difficult to prevent stacking the vote, like Yao Ming’s Chinese presence in the NBA All-Star fan voting, so there would have to be some pretty bold NSA-like monitoring of this vote to keep it realistic and valid. I know the government won’t have any issues getting involved in something like baseball – have you seen the Mitchell Report? Your tax dollars and my point rest their case.
It could be an in-person vote, where hand stamps, fingerprints, entrance cards, or eyeball scans are used to verify an individual’s single vote – but I’ve seen a lot of movies and a lot of 19-year-old girls drunk at clubs from licking off their large X’s in the bathroom…
While this seems harder than it looks, the system in place shouldn’t be this difficult. In a game that is based on numbers and the analysis of those numbers, the numbers are all that we have. Production on the field should be the sole decision maker in production of a plaque. Take the personal vendettas out of the picture. Take your attention-whore needs and leave them for Pro-Am Night at the local comedy club. My museum doesn’t need the stupidity of so many baseball writers.
Unfortunately, there are many fans out there without the cushy, press box jobs who can provide a lot more value to the storytelling of baseball, current and past. Voting for only Jack Morris is a story that I’ll tell my future grandchildren, as they take their annual trip to my make-believe Hall of Fame, located in my basement, where statistics and my own experiences allow me to describe the greatness of Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, and if any of my friends choose to not vote for them on their first ballot, you can bet your house on the fact that they won’t make it through the eye-scanner the next year.