Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Complications make Baseball Hall of Fame voting less fun than it used to be

Voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame will always be one of the elite privileges I've had. It's just too bad it's getting so complicated and controversial — and a lot less enjoyable.

Each year, we 550 or so voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America are faced with making additional and increasingly uncomfortable decisions that force more lines to be drawn. And often well beyond the standard framework many of us apply: whether a player was truly dominant in his era.

The conversation has expanded — and the debate and accompanying criticism amplified — to create a series of questions without necessarily right or wrong answers, and it will hit a crescendo this afternoon when the 2011 results are announced.

Among the issues:

• Steroids: Clearly the biggest point of controversy, and one that will only grow in coming years as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens join the ballot. There are hard-liners who won't vote for any player even suspected, others for whom it's a nonissue. (And others who question how different steroids are from amphetamines of earlier eras.)

I've been open, voting for Mark McGwire each year under the premise that use was widespread and it's not possible to determine how much impact it had on his performance (he claimed it was to recover from injuries).

But I decided I couldn't vote for Rafael Palmeiro, who joined the ballot this year with overwhelming numbers (one of only four players with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray). The line I eventually drew was that Palmeiro failed a drug test — he knew there was testing and got caught anyway. Plus, he offered lame excuses and the defiant finger-pointing in front of Congress.

• Stats: Obviously no player has improved his career since joining the ballot. But the increased use of advanced and comparative stats and metrics, and the expanded (and aggressive) circulation of such, often by Internet proponents, has effectively led voters to re-evaluate.

Players benefiting most from these campaigns are Bert Blyleven, who might get in today after falling five votes short last year, plus Tim Raines and Jack Morris.

As a reporter, I'm not going to argue against including more data. But the over-analysis, such as the score of the games during the innings Morris pitched (to justify his high ERA), can be too much.

• Specialists: For years, closers were excluded, then in the past eight years Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage were inducted, with Lee Smith (478 saves) and John Franco (424) still on the ballot and Trevor Hoffman (601), Mariano Rivera (559) and Billy Wagner (422) coming.

But now there's another debate building over DHs, as the best ever, Edgar Martinez, got only middling support in his ballot debut last year (36.2 percent) amid discussion over the impact a DH can have.

• Character: Vote for Roberto Alomar, despite him spitting in the face of an umpire, but weigh past drug issues in not voting for Raines or Dave Parker? Vote for some admitted/suspected steroid users, but also vote for Fred McGriff because he did what he did without?

I told you this wasn't fun.

Marc Topkin can be reached at

Hall of Fame announcement

When: 2 p.m. today TV: MLB Network


Marc Topkin's ballot

Voted for

Roberto Alomar

Jeff Bagwell

Barry Larkin

Fred McGriff

Mark McGwire

Lee Smith

Thought lots about






Thought some about

Harold Baines, Kevin Brown, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez,
Tino Martinez, Don Mattingly, Dave Parker, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker

No need to think about

Carlos Baerga, Bret Boone, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Al Leiter, Raul Mondesi, Dale Murphy, John Olerud, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago, B.J. Surhoff

Complications make Baseball Hall of Fame voting less fun than it used to be 01/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 7:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger


    The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

    Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In …

  2. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season


    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  3. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pirates stadium


    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32, was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with Rays broadcasting director Larry McCabe when he …

  4. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater


    Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Pirates game

    The Heater

    Corey Dickerson is doing everything he can to garner All-Star votes heading into tonight's voting cutoff, going into play Wednesday leading the AL with 101 hits and rapping two more his first two times up, and scoring two more runs.