It’s finally over. Thank God. Yeah, three guys got in. Yeah, Craig Biggio missed by two votes (thanks Ken and Murray!). Yeah, Rafael Palmeiro dropped off. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But the Jack Morris war has ended. I, for one, am grateful. Morris leaves behind a slot on 61.5% of ballots, and it’s an open question whether voters will transfer that slot elsewhere or whether it will just evaporate. With Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz coming along next year, however, the future for Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina, despite Morris’ departure, is mostly cloudy and in the 20s for 2015.
The furor is over Biggio, of course. But the biggest loser might be Mike Piazza. Biggio will get in next year, no doubt. But with Biggio still on the ballot and three strong new candidates, Piazza seems unlikely to come up with a thirteen percentage point increase over 2014. Not when his increase over 2013 was only five percentage points. To have a shot, he probably needed Biggio and Morris to each clear out and leave him as the undisputed best-man standing. Hard to say whether Murray Chass’ stage-whisper steroids campaign has actually affected his support. I doubt it has because I don’t think the other writers who see Piazza as “tainted” are listening to Murray in particular. But Piazza does have the strong advantage of being the only catcher on the ballot and an obvious all-time great catcher at that.
It’s not terribly surprising that all the other major candidates lost ground: the newbies were just too good. What may seem shocking is the degree to which the electorate split on Tim Raines. According to Baseball Prospectus’ Lewie Pollis disclosed ballots on the BaseballThinkFactory.org gizmo gave Raines twelve more percentage points than undisclosed ballots. Also, undisclosed ballots were more than half a name stingier with their votes than public voters. And with the exception of Mark McGwire, undisclosed voters were also less likely to vote for a steroids candidate. But they were significantly more likely to vote for 1980s guys Don Mattingly and Lee Smith, and they held serve on Jack Morris. Were undisclosed voters penalizing Raines for cocaine use? For being a sabermetric darling? (Sabe-fave Alan Trammell also had less support among the secretive group). Who knows with these guys?
The raging controversy over Dan Le Batard’s Deadspin ballot continues to ripple after his one-year suspension and permanent disenfranchisement. Regardless of Le Batard’s punishment, it was sure nice to contribute to the process. Thanks, Dan. The combination of his ballot, the secret blank ballots, and the continuing questioning of whether guys who don’t actually write about baseball anymore should be culled out of the electorate does highlight a point that only makes sense: the ballots need to be public. All of them. If only to be consistent with all of the BBWAA’s other awards votes. Ken Rosenthal made that point today as part of a column about the results. Interestingly, Rosenthal also supports culling out inactive writers. We at the HoME think Rosenthall has it about as right as any BBWAA member could. If his organization is the only one with a vote, at least keep the vote to members of his group who actually pay attention to the game.
I don’t know the inner workings of the BBWAA, but in addressing the Le Batard suspension, president La Velle E. Neal III stated this: “The BBWAA regards Hall of Fame voting as the ultimate privilege, and any abuse of that privilege is unacceptable.” Is it not an abuse to use your ballot to make a political statement, like voting for Jack Morris and nobody else? Is it not an abuse to use you ballot to out someone for PED use who’s tied in no way to PEDs? Neal’s is a fairly entrenched-sounding position, and one that could allow the BBWAA’s Board of Directors to strip members of a vote they won’t want to give up. At the same time, full public disclosure might also prove embarrassing to some of those some members. Courtesy votes, behind-the-times votes, and downright silly voters will be unmasked. At the very least, we’d be privy to an interesting glimpse into the minds of a group of people who have been mystifying us for years now. At best, the quality of the voting might be improved.
Ah well, the BBWAA proved its members were generally sentient by voting in the big three at the expense of Jack Morris. That’s good. Now if we could just clear out about another ten names, and come to a reasonable place on steroid guys, we might be able to return to arguing about players’ qualifications instead of their pharmacological disqualifications.
Miller and Eric