Bradford: Where Hall of Fame voters got it right, wrong

Rob Bradford
January 23, 2019 - 7:52 am

In 2008 I was cruising along toward a Hall of Fame vote. Three years in the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Then something happened. I took a job in what was perceived as the fly-by-night world of the internet. 

The way it works is that you need 10 consecutive years in the BWAA in order to get a chance to offer your formal opinion on who belongs in Cooperstown. And since I was booted that clock was immediately pushed back to zero, a reality that made even more frustrating the next year when a tidal wave of writers moved to the internet and kept their cards.

About three years later I asked back in, mostly just so I didn't have to request a media credential on the road. The doors re-opened and my 10 years officially started ... again.

Why am I telling this tale of woe? First off, it always feels good to remind folks of that ridiculous decision made by somebody at the BWAA. But most of all I want to punctuate how seriously all of these voters should be taking this Hall of Fame vote. It is going to take me 15 years to get the opportunity to cast one of these ballots, so when there is a hint of apathy toward locking in which baseball players should or shouldn't be recognized as Hall of Famers I'm putting the whole ball of wax under my microscope.

I've heard all the defenses and reasoning when it comes to these ballots, and some of them I can agree to disagree with and move on. Others? Not so much.

Before we get into specifics, for a baseline, here are some of my foundation pieces when looking at the entrance in the Hall of Fame: 

- I am judging baseball players solely on what they did as baseball players, not commentators, tweeters, political activists or possessors of jerky personalities. If somebody was mean to me I wouldn't care. If I was offended by a certain view on the world that wouldn't factor in.

- My jumping off point for looking at how dominant a player was is to view Top 10 MVP voting for position players and Top 5 Cy Young voting for pitchers. Because of the steroid era, numbers are all over the place when comparing players. It is hard to look at things being apples to apples. This allows defining dominance in an era. Jim Rice finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting six times over a 10-year span. He was dominant. This isn't the be-all, end-all and there are exceptions, but it's something I like to begin with.

- I'm voting in guys who are linked to performance-enhancing drugs. There is already way too much room for interpretation and guess-work. I can live with those who think differently, but the exhaustion of trying to figure out who did and who didn't, while then deciphering how much PEDs might have helped simply isn't worth it. 

- I'm not a fan of giving nice guys a Hall of Fame vote. I had to earn my right to vote, they have to earn their right to get it. Sorry, Placido Polanco. 

All of that said, here are my takeaways from this year's vote as I continue to press my face against the window:

THIS CURT SCHILLING THING IS RIDICULOUS

Monday night I tweeted the question ...

The responses gave me my answer. Politics. Rhode Island. Journalists. Ropes. Trees. Etc.

But is any of those real answers. Not in this case.

I would ask this: If a player of the stature of a Mariano Rivera lived the same sort of controversial existence of Schilling how many fewer votes from the 100 percent the reliever ended up receiving would he get? The point is that an explanation for not casting a vote for a sure-fire Hall of Famer is a bit more uneasy than taking a stance on a fringe guy like the former Red Sox pitcher. And for those voters who would say they would give a Rivera-esque-level player the same treatment then I would say they aren't doing their job.

And they didn't do their job when it comes to Schilling.

Maybe there is a case for Schilling to not be classified as a Hall of Famer thanks to his low win total and relatively high ERA. But really the on-field pitfalls don't hold much water anymore thanks to the induction of Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina. Instead of rattling a bunch of comparable numbers, let's just look at this tweet from former major leaguer C.J. Nitkowski:

And that's before diving into Schilling's historic postseason numbers, or his three second-place finishes in Cy Young votiing.

Let's be honest if pitchers' wins are your best salvo when it comes to voting for Mussina and not Schilling then you might want to ask for a mulligan.

Schilling got 60.9 percent of the vote. That was just under 16 percent less than Mussina and slightly shy of 25 percent fewer than Halladay. If you are voting for this stuff the right way, there is no excuse for that.

HOW DO ROGER CLEMENS AND BARRY BONDS NOT HAVE IDENTICAL VOTE TOTALS?

Clemens got 253 and Bonds hauled in 251. Normally you might be amazed at such an identical total. But think about it: How does anyone justify voting for one and not the other? For baseball performance, there aren't two bigger certainties. The only thing keeping them out is the PED thing. Nothing else. 

Somebody is going to have to explain this one to me.

LARRY WALKER SHOULD BE VIEWED DIFFERENTLY, BUT SO SHOULD GARY SHEFFIELD

Walker probably will miss his chance to get in, getting 54.6 percent on his ninth try. It was a huge jump from the 31.1 percent he got a year ago, but is probably too little, too late.

I would vote for him.

He was a top-11 MVP vote-getter six times (yes, I extended it to 11 this time to fit my argument). His career batting average was .313 with a .965 OPS and 383 home runs. He also won seven Gold Gloves. So why didn't people vote for Walker? They suggest his numbers were a product of Coors Field. OK, but you have to offer proof that he couldn't approach such accomplishments if wasn't in Colorado. You can't. Case closed.

That leads us to Sheffield.

The slugger is stuck on 13.6 percent. That is crazy. This is a guy who hit .292 for his career, finished with 509 homers and a .907 OPS. He was also a Top-10 MVP finisher six times. Schilling's vote total, while flawed, isn't a mystery. Sheffield -- even with his ties to Bonds and PEDs --  is another story.

WHY DON'T YOU MAKE YOUR VOTES PUBLIC?

There is a very clear box on every ballot asking voters if they wish to make their votes public. How can you not check that? But there were plenty who didn't want to be transparent. Again, explain the reasoning ... please.

The internet ... it giveth and it taketh away.