Sports Outside the Beltway

Selecting Selectors

Today is the scheduled announcement of the new inductees to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. JC Bradbury has a few comments on Mark McGwire getting left off a number of ballots. Keith Law has been keeping a running tally of published votes. The selection of retired players to the Hall, as well as active players for awards is fraught with controversy. Witness the choice of Frank Cooney for NFL MVP.

Curiously, baseball’s big selection coincides with a big election, as the more politically obsessed in our culture, formerly including your humble correspondent, seek to divine what lies beyond the horizon in Presidential politics using the combined reason and wisdom of the tiny hamlet of Dixville Notch. Flinty Granite State voters (and truthfully, who would trust such an important job to the unflinty Granite State voters?) will bask in their share of the political spotlight tonight. Then the POTUSpalooza ’08 National Tour packs up and high tails it for just about anywhere else in the Republic. Even with the unseasonable non cold this week has offered, New England in January is hardly the most welcoming of climates.

The confluence of national election and Hall of Fame selection raises the time worn questions regarding the Hall and its method of inducting new members. The pundit class debates the value of Iowa and New Hampshire and their elevated importance in the primary/caucus process, while baseball fans stop and ponder questions of cosmic importance this time of year. In particular given the frequent complaints about sports writers among the more serious fans, they ask, “Why do writers, who may have knowledge of the players under consideration, have the final word on admittance to Baseball’s museum of famous players?”

No system, whether statistically derived or based on observation, can truly create an objective selection criterion. But the abundantly vapid reasons for excluding Tim Raines (who belongs in the Hall based on his accomplishments) detail a subjectively sanctimonious attitude that if spoken by Mike Huckabee would warrant hisses from the same writers. Raines had a problem with drugs. Had is the appropriate word. Ty Cobb and others in the Hall of Fame were unrepentant racists. We accept Cobb and company, rationalizing that the Hall celebrates the accomplishments on the field. Is Raines somehow an inferior selection because he cleaned himself up? Heavens, what are these people thinking?

This space has previously advocated for Mark McGwire, largely because his unsuccessful appearance on the ballot last year provided soapboxes for the writers. Quoting myself (because it’s fun – small grammatical errors have been cleaned up in the reproduction of this drivel):

Baseball writers are folks who cover teams regularly. They hear whispers and see things in their access to the club that fans don’t see. It is their responsibility to break stories. And steroids have been around as a big story for nearly twenty years. The first edition of the late and lamented National Sports Daily I bought in 1989 has a cover story expose on steroids in sports. This is not some new phenomenon that challenges sports. It’s been around for a long time.

These writers who turned a blind eye to the stories they knew about are now attempting to reclaim the moral high ground by scolding the most likely candidate for inclusion in the Hall of Fame who has been tied to the steroids scandal.

I assert that writers turned a blind eye to the scandal as it played out in the clubhouses. I stand by that claim. Either the reporters were unwilling to report the story, indicating complicity, or were unable, indicating either incompetence or a higher up power’s complicity. Reporters function as gatherers of information and aid in dissemination of it. Whenever they are taken off guard by a story, a natural question is worth asking, “Why didn’t they – the self-proclaimed expert – know it was going to happen?”

Ignorance of the story is not an acceptable defense, because their job is getting those stories. If they don’t get those stories, they cede the theoretical mantle of objectivity and become little more than fountains of hype, from which we expect little revelation and even less depth. Until the Hall voters step up and discuss in frank terms what they knew and why they did not seek to publish what they knew, they are not fair arbitrators of the game, and unworthy of the right of selection.

Related Stories:
Recent Stories:
Tags | Uncategorized
| | Permalink | Send TrackBack


Comments are Closed


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.