Why does Hall of Fame voting matter to us so much?

Doug Pensinger

Every year, a process that has no bearing on actual, real baseball drives fans crazy. Why is that?

I've never been to the MLB Hall of Fame. Closest I ever got to visiting was looking at hotels in the area surrounding Cooperstown and deciding to be lazy and not bother. So why did this place I've never been enshrining a bunch of people I've never met cause me to be so angry this week? Honestly, upon seeing that only three players were inducted and Mike Mussina getting a paltry 20 percent of the vote I was in an angry mood all day at work. It was impossible to concentrate as statistics and memories concerning the nominees ran through my head. After my rage settled into a subtle low-burning annoyance, I asked myself an obvious question: why does this process mean so much to us baseball fans? Is there even a shred of logic behind it?

Perhaps it's a feeling of needing to honor the game properly. Many screeds have been written and hours of talk radio consumed regarding the concept of "preserving the integrity of the game". But how much of an effect on integrity does a plaque (or a lack of one) have on a sport that's well over a hundred years old? Especially one that's been filled with racists, gamblers and scoundrels of all kinds? The Hall doesn't seem to have any intention of reviewing the integrity of candidates after they're already enshrined, so it seems that it's only a half-hearted attempt at ensuring a pristine hall. It may just be as simple as nobody wanting to reward someone they feel deserves more scorn than applause.

Or maybe it's an issue of merit. I don't think anyone likes to see somebody get a fancy ceremony and accolades when there's a more deserving candidate out there, no matter how significant the honor is. But even then, it's not like becoming a Hall of Famer would be some sort of life-altering distinction for these players. It might be a nice exclamation point on Craig Biggio's career, but it won't change his contributions to the game. It probably won't even alter his life much. How much does the cherry on a great sundae actually matter?

Another possible reason is one that's mostly self-serving. We want to see the players get in that we believe belong. We want our perceptions of how good or valuable a player was to become accepted by all other writers, announcers and fans. "I know that Mike Mussina is one of the best pitchers of all time, and him being enshrined is proof to all doubters that I was right!". Or it could serve as validation in how to evaluate players' careers properly in the old stats vs. sabermetrics debates. Everyone wants to the Hall of Fame to reflect their own personal views on the game and the players that participate in it.

In my case, I'm still not sure why I got so mad. Maybe it was a combination of a whole bunch of things mixed with an obsession over everything baseball. Or maybe I (like most of us) was just dying to have some important baseball matters to discuss while Spring Training is so far away. I do feel fairly confident, however, that I will get just as ornery next time when all this relatively silly stuff starts up all over again in a year.

So what say you? What makes you care about the Hall of Fame voting?

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