Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot, Part II

This will be a much shorter post. I feel that the Veterans Committee ballot is largely unnecessary and probably a bad thing for players. Say, for example, that with the influx of new blood on the ballot in the next couple of years, or as a result of the sabrmetric push against him, or bad luck, or what have you, Jack Morris does not get inducted into the Hall of Fame this year or next and he falls off the ballot. Can he be at peace? Can he say, "Oh well, I came close, it would have been nice, but now I can get on with my life"? No, he can't, thanks to the Veterans Committee. Sometime in the future he will be reconsidered yet again.

Is this a bad thing? I think it can be. Look at poor Ron Santo. He passed away before he was finally inducted. I know that there was much, much more to his life than induction into the Hall of Fame but how many interviews did he have to endure about the subject, how much did he fret, how much did others fret for him (especially Cubs fans) wondering if he would ever be inducted at Cooperstown? And now that he is in the Hall of Fame, is the memory of him and his play that much better for it? Or were people more aware when he was probably the "best third baseman not in the Hall of Fame"?

From a player standpoint, I'm against induction through the Veterans Committee. Players had their chances before and while the process is quite flawed, unless there's some groundbreaking reason to reconsider the player, a reason of which kind I cannot even think of an example at the moment, my personal belief is that once a player falls of the BBWAA ballot, he should no longer be considered a candidate for the Hall of Fame as a player.

So that eliminates Wes Ferrell, Marty Marion, Tony Mullane, Bill Dahlen, Deacon White and Bucky Walters from consideration for me. Although if any of them were inducted outside of Marion (who really does not seem qualified in the least to me), it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world (and it turned out that Deacon White was elected. Whoopie!).

That leaves non-players for consideration. I think this is where the Veterans Committee has a responsibility to consider those who impacted the game without playing it. I am hard pressed to feel that owners, even early owners, should be in the Hall of Fame unless they also served as executives (such as a general management position). Having money and writing checks isn't a Hall of Fame ability. Gauging talent, building ballclubs, doing something like integrating the game or developing farm systems or something that improved the sport would merit consideration. I don't particularly feel like Jacob Ruppert or Sam Breadon did those things so I would not vote for them (the voters felt Ruppert merited induction, though).

Al Reach deserves special consideration from me because he was involved in the publishing and sporting goods worlds as well as being an early ballplayer. But I don't think he really did enough and if you compare him to Albert Spalding (a rather valid comparison given the backgrounds), he falls way short in terms of his impact on the game.

That leaves umpire Hank O'Day as the remaining possible candidate. My first thought seeing him on the ballot was that if he is elected (he was), John McGraw would turn over in his grave (he was the umpire who called Merkle out on his infamous play). O'Day was behind the plate for the second most games in history (of course, that is much more achievable (but by no means easy), in an era of two-man umpire crews instead four). In the end, though, I wonder what the point is. We don't truly know how much better (or worse) he was than his peers. We have hearsay and newspaper reports of player and manager opinion. But I couldn't tell you, and I don't know that anyone really can, that Hank O'Day is a Hall of Fame caliber umpire because I don't really know what means.

In the end, my Veterans Committee ballot is empty but three of the ten men on it are actually being inducted. Color me unenthused.

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