Reusse's Reality Script: Episode 3 (Hall of Fame voting)
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The World Series was played in Toronto in 1992 and 1993. During one of the stays, my friend Mark Whicker from the Orange County Register mentioned to a Toronto sportswriter that he would be going to the Hockey Hall of Fame the next day.
The Toronto guy looked at Whicker and said: "Just visiting, or are you being inducted?''
That was a Canadian view of the standards established for admission into hockey's Hall of Fame in Toronto.
We also have one of those on our side of the border: It seems as if the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. receives a complimentary letter about a player, coach or administrator, that individual winds up being enshrined.
What it takes to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio remains a mystery _ mainly, because the selection process involves closed-door wrangling of a reporter from the cities of each franchise, plus a few others trusted as experts by the NFL.
The most-difficult and most-democratic system for choosing Hall of Famers comes in baseball. The selection is made independently of Major League Baseball, through an agreement between the National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).
A reporter who is a member of the BBWAA for 10 years earns the right to a ballot, even if he has stopped covering baseball or retired. There were 569 ballots counted this week, with 75 percent needed (427 votes) for election.
This is a very tough standard to reach, and no one on the ballot made it. Craig Biggio, in his first year of eligibility, led with 68 percent. Jack Morris, in his 14th and next-to-last year, was right behind.
The BBWAA is getting blasted by fans, by members new media, and even by Hall of Fame voters unhappy that their opinions did not hold sway.
Some of those voters hold the minority view that steroid users should be judged only by their numbers, since it was an era when "everyone was using steroids,'' or because t is impossible to differentiate between the known steroid users and the many users who were never caught.
My standing as an active member of the BBWAA goes back so far that it frightens me annually when I'm handed the new card for the year. I'm not sure of the total number of active members today, but the cards are numbered by seniority, and I was No. 11 in 2012.
The countdown is like watching your trip to the grave.
I didn't vote for any of the great producers of numbers with known links to steroids _ not Bonds, not Clemens, not Palmeiro, not McGwire, not Sosa. The four candidates I did vote for were Biggio, Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines.
Here are the controversies and my responses:
*How can you not vote for Bonds and vote for Bagwell, who has his own steroid suspicions?
A: I've been saying it all week on the radio. It's the American way. If you get caught, tough luck. If you don't get caught, you're innocent and collect the spoils.
*How can you not vote for Mike Piazza and admit that much of the reason is that it was his first year of eligibility? If you're a Hall of Famer, you deserve a vote in Year 1 as much as in Year 2, 3, etc.
A: First, I do reserve the first-year vote for players that I consider to be slam-dunk Hall of Famers (such as Biggio).
Second, I don't see Piazza as a slam dunk because he was a liability as a catcher. It doesn't impress me to be reminded that Piazza hit more home runs as a catcher than anyone. He was a hitter who happened to play catcher.
Jeff Kent will be another example of this. People will ask voters to make the historic comparison in offensive numbers between Kent and other second basemen. I'm not going to do that with a guy who wasn't adept at second base but simply played there.
I also find curious the fact that people are willing to scream about a very productive baseball player _ a Biggio, a Piazza _ not making it to Cooperstown in his first year, but when receiver Cris Carter waits through five years without being elected to Canton, the popular reaction is: "That's the way the voting works.''
*How can Jack Morris not have been elected this year?
A: I have voted for Morris since his first year of eligibility. I've done that because of great admiration for both Morris' career and his extra ability to finish his task as a starter ... to win a game 1-0 or 7-5, whatever it took.
I also realize that "pitching good enough to win'' is no longer an acceptable idea to the numbers people that populate the baseball media. And many of those voters are going to look at Jack's numbers and say, "He's a tad short of being a Hall of Famer.''
I don't agree with that opinion, but respect the right of voters to hold it. As I said, baseball's Hall of Fame vote is a democracy, not the result of arm-twisting behind closed doors.
I also wonder: Why are Minnesotans bad-mouthing the BBWAA voters for not giving Morris the 75 percent needed in 14 years, but hardly made a whimper when the football voters never came close to putting Mick Tingelhoff, the all-time great Vikings center, in that Hall of Fame?