Next month, the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced to great fanfare and nostalgia. In the meantime, current Hall of Famers will publicly proselytize over who should and shouldn’t be included in a museum dedicated to the history of the game; BBWAA voters will debate aloud which 10 players on a ballot full of excellent choices are the most worthy; plus comment threads around the internet are chock full of shouting matches between strangers.
Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less about any of it.
The Hall of Fame, largely, is nonsense. Cooperstown as an institution was built as a way to boost economic activity in a town devastated by the Great Depression. It currently occupies its primacy in baseball historians mind because it was first, despite other museums, like the Negro League Museum in Kansas City, objectively being better caretakers of the sport’s history.
The leading cause of my apathy isn’t the facility itself, but the laughably incompetent way they elect inductees every year. The BBWAA’s qualified writers submit anonymous, subjective ballots with zero accountability or explanation. Certain writers chose to make their ballots public and explain their decisions, but the Hall itself unilaterally blocked the BBWAA’s agreement to publicize all votes.
The reason for this continued secrecy probably boils down to the embarrassing votes cast by less-active that would shine an even brighter light on the joke the voting process is. Anecdotally, Dave Cameron on an episode of Effectively Wild last week talked about voters who haven’t covered the sport in a decade or more requesting file folders on players they’d never heard of who were up for consideration. That’s changed in recent years, but the lack of transparency persists.
Of course, the biggest problem with Cooperstown is the nebulous definition of what a Hall of Famer is. Changes in player usage and expectations, as well as the almost-purposefully vague criteria, have left voters and fans at odds over obvious cases for induction. Talent and skill should obviously be the key differentiation, but that rarely if ever happens. Mike Mussina misses the cut because he doesn’t have a Cy Young. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds fail to reach enshrinement because of a hypocritical interpretation of the “character clause”, which of course was never a block on Tim Raines’ candidacy.
I don’t want to use this platform to rehash the same old arguments, though. I want to use it to push the position that we should all stop caring about the Hall of Fame. Whether you believe that PED users should be inducted or not, at this point you won’t convince the other side, so stop the argument. If you think that BBWAA voters should publicize their votes, it’s going to be pretty futile to try and talk the other side out of their preference for secret ballots. Most importantly, if you spend your baseball energy focusing on players from fifteen years ago, you’re probably going to miss a lot of the extraordinary baseball that’s being played now.
This is the best time in history for baseball fans. The talent pool at the major league level is deeper than it’s ever been, with stronger and faster players being drawn from all over the world. Revenue sharing and the competitive bonus tax has leveled the playing field to such a degree that half the teams in baseball could legitimately see themselves as contenders every year, which would have been unheard of in the 1950s or 60s.
Internet streams, social media and cable packages have increased the visibility of all players too. That means an East Coast kid can be exposed to the greatness of Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, today’s best players, rather than having to discover the talent only when their Hall of Fame eligibility roles around.
Let’s cool the heated emotions over which old former baseball player gets a terrifying likeness placed in a hallway. Baseball is great right now, and it’s more accessible to all of us than ever before. Gleyber Torres, Ronald Acuna and Vlad Guerrero Jr. are going to light the sport on fire within the next couple years. The future is bright, join me in washing our hands of the Hall of Fame and the never-ending, unsolvable fighting that follows.
By the way, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should be in the Hall. Enough already.