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Can we go HoME now?: Getting relief from the Hall of Fame rancor

I used to love this time of year.

For several years there, I enjoyed getting all riled up about the lousy selections the BBWAA was making. I liked being part of the in-the-know crowd and supporting Rich Lederer’s Bert Blyleven campaign with occasional letters to the voters. I had a good time snarking about the Jack Morris movement, kvetching about the war of WAR and the Gutenberg-era thinking of the baseball writers in the google epoch. Schadenfreude is fun. Until it isn’t.

All of this was fueled by the absolute crush I have on baseball and an abiding love of the Hall of Fame. I grew up a couple hours away and have been there at least four times, including one induction ceremony. This fuel burned and burned, but the problem is that emotions, as it were, run hot. The more you get to know something you love, the more invested you become in it. The more invested I became, the more idealistic and protective I became. Last year that fire roared at the BBWAA shutout. This year it nearly burned me out.

Talking about players has been wholly replaced by talking about electoral politics, steroids, voting reform, players’ character, voters’ arrogance. All of these need a good airing out, it’s true, and many, many people are having good discussions. On the other hand, reading another 200+ posts about PEDs has worn me out. So have Ken Gurnick and Chass v. Neyer. It’s my fault, not theirs. No one told me to obsessively check and recheck the BTF Balloting Gizmo, read all that I read, and post when I did. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. No one told me to, but me.

Miller and I agree on many things, and we disagree like crazy on a few things. I haven’t actually talked to him about this, but I think we’re both a little tired of talking about the electoral path of a player rather than the merits of the player. It’s two very different discussions.

Tim Raines is eminently qualified for the Hall of Fame. This is not a s.w.a.g. or a radical opinion. When you look at his record, when you put it into context, and when you compare him to both his contemporaries and his predecessors, the case is clear. But seeing Raines’ path through the BBWAA requires advanced degrees in Kremlinology and social psychology plus a dash of clairvoyance. Rolling through scenarios that get Raines into the Hall before his eligibility expires is no longer fun. For me, it’s just frustration. Frustration at the voters’ inability to distinguish greatness, and certainly not in a timely fashion; frustration that the discussion is so balkanized that talk about Raines (or any number of players currently in a similar position) is nearly impossible to hear over the rest of the shouting about now-stale topics; frustration, most acutely for me, that I’m powerless to change anything. Well, so nearly powerless that I might as well be powerless. I still write letters, here and there. And Miller and I write this blog.

I’m not writing this piece to stump for a particular brand of BBWAA reform (though I think the electorate could use some modernization and some deadheading). Nor am I writing this piece to tell all those baseball writers I disagree with how wrong they are. I’m writing it to tell you that if you’re glad this vote is over, you are not alone.

I, obviously, shouldn’t care so damned much. It hurts to care. But once you love something, when you care about it so much that it’s too much, it’s hard to let go. I’m a human being being human, and as a general rule, people aren’t great at acceptance. At least so I’ve found. Miller and I are doing this project in due part because the idea of the Hall is great, but the execution is pretty damned spotty. Because we each love the concept of a Hall of Fame, believe in it, and want to do better. And I’m probably in it, too, because I really am jealous of the BBWAA’s enfranchisement. I’m generally too proud, but not too proud in this case to admit that Murray Chass is right about my enviousness.

I ought to bookmark this piece for next December so that maybe next year, I’ll finally take my own hint and chill out a little about the Coop. But for now, thankfully, it’s back down to the business we set this site up to do. It’s good to be HoME again.

—Eric

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