This year, for just the second time in 41 years, the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to elect a single new member of the Hall of Fame. I’m quite frankly not going to waste my time looking at who was on the ballot in 1996 to see if the BBWAA had a decent point that season. What I do know is that this ballot included Craig Biggio (20th all time in hits in MLB history), Jeff Bagwell (career .408 OBP), Mike Piazza (greatest hitting catcher of all time), Tim Raines (.385 career OBP, 808 SBs), Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell and Sammy Sosa, among others. On top of that, the second highest vote total this year was for Jack Morris, who has absolutely no business in the Hall of Fame.
The BBWAA failed in dealing with two issues: (1) the steroid era; and (2) advanced statistics. Reasonable people can disagree about the steroid era, as there are reasonable disagreements about the effect of steroids on power numbers in the late 1990s and early 2000s as compared to general better fitness of players, smaller ballparks, and a relatively weak era of pitching. But the fact that a player like Craig Biggio, who with 3060 career hits clearly meets all old school standards for induction, has to wait because an era may be tainted is ludicrous. Players who are attached to no suspicion aside from having played during a certain timespan should not be viewed through the prism of having potentially done steroids.
The advanced statistics issue is evident in the fact that Tim Raines’ progression is so slow (he moved up about 4% to 52% of the vote), and Jack Morris has a shot at getting in next year. The problem Raines’ has is that so many BBWAA voters just don’t care about OBP. And Jack Morris has been the anti-sabermetrics guy. Without even an impressive ERA, Morris is even less impressive when you look at his peripherals, which include incredibly mediocre strikeout (5.83 K/9) and walk (3.27 BB/9) rates. All Morris actually has is a lot of wins (254), which is solely an indication of the fact that he played on a lot of good offensive teams and that he was able to stay healthy a long time.
But the guy who got it the worst is Bagwell. First, despite the fact that he’s never been linked to a steroid report he is viewed as “suspicious” because he gained muscle from his 20th birthday on. What a shock, considering he also played in the first era where ballplayers lifted weights. Second, because without 500 homers to his name (he has 449), the real reason he is a Hall of Famer is because he got on base for more than 40% of his plate appearances in his career.
In short, this year’s Hall of Fame vote is a joke, and the BBWAA needs to do something to fix it in the future, or the BBWAA’s power in voting for postseason awards and the Hall of Fame needs to be made much more limited.