Cooperstown Crier - Your Source for Hometown News - Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame

July 18, 2013

Getting a plaque is not supposed to be easy

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Cooperstown Crier

---- — The Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual Induction Weekend is by far the biggest event in Cooperstown each year.

However it is hard not to question how many people will show up for this year’s event since, for the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers Association of America elected no one.

Some have made comments on the Hall’s Facebook page that suggest they will boycott the Hall because there was nobody elected. Some argue that the voting process needs to change and the privilege should be taken away from the writers. Words such as “judgmental,” “sanctimonious,” “complicit,” “corrupt” and “clueless” have been thrown around.

But why, because they kept a man who hit 762 home runs (Barry Bonds) out? Because a pitcher who won seven Cy Young Awards (Roger Clemens) wasn’t elected? Because a man who hit 609 home runs (Sammy Sosa) only got 12.5 percent of the vote?

It was announced Sunday that former catcher Mike Piazza will be inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame this fall. On Jan. 9, Piazza gained 58.7 percent of the required 75 percent vote to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame and was denied entrance along with fellow first-year candidates Craig Biggio (68.2 percent) and Curt Schilling (38.8 percent).

Does Piazza belong in the Mets’ Hall of Fame? Absolutely, he was the face of the team for many years. However, not even Joe DiMaggio was a first-time pick for Cooperstown. Piazza was rightfully one of 37 players who were denied entrance to Cooperstown in January. Although Piazza left a boatload of memories for Mets’ fans to carry on his legacy, his ties to the “steroid era” will be tough to shake.

The baseball writers stood up for integrity. Although they were presented with a star-studded Hall of Fame ballot, they kept those connected with steroid use out. They did not reward cheating, and we hope they continue to do so. Now it is the Hall’s job to provide a reason to come. Yes, it has been dealt a bad hand as far as having any big names to  attract a large crowd, but is that really what it is all about?

The Hall’s Senior Director of Communications and Education Brad Horn has said he doesn’t see it as a catastrophe for Cooperstown or the museum, but more like a statistical variance.

“The understanding is that to earn election to the Hall of Fame is very difficult,” Horn said in January. “To earn 75 percent of the vote is meant to be hard. Part of the process is 600 ballots went out, and 569 were returned and only five were turned in blank. For the most part, a lot of guys got votes and are in the 15-year process of being reviewed.”

Horn is right; being a member of the Hall should be the ultimate honor. It should not be easy to become a member of such an elite group. If it were, where would the integrity go? It would take away the meaning and gratification.

Each year, more and more voters are ignoring the ballot’s “character” clause. It needs to be taken more seriously or taken out of the guidelines, if not.

Why reward the cheaters? And why be so quick to change the process? It is not the first time nobody has been elected. In fact, this marks the eighth time. It does not mean Cooperstown, from this day forward, will be the Hall of Ordinary, the Hall of Alleged Saints or the Hall of Echoes. Take a look at who will be on the next couple of ballots. We may in fact be in store for some big years.