|

Baseball needs to rethink Hall of Fame voting

by Dave Wiggins

Mike Piazza, the former Los Angeles Dodger and New York Met great, hit more home runs (427) than any other catcher in MLB history.

Piazza’s .308 career batting average is third among catchers all-time; his 1,335 RBIs are third-best for any backstop. And Mike was an All-Star 12 times.

Thirteen catchers are currently enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Mike Piazza is NOT one of them.

Word is, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — which votes new members in — is punishing Piazza and others for not being whistle-blowers during the steroid era.

What’s wrong with this picture? MAS knows.

For starters, the wrong people are doing the selecting.

Secondly, the admission process is lacking of late. The writers are becoming much too selective — it’s now almost impossible for many deserving players to get the 75 percent of votes needed for Hall entry (none were chosen this year for the first time since 1950).

Let’s first address the matter of improper selectors.

With all due respect to my fellow carpal tunnel syndrome-afflicted wretches of the keyboard, baseball writers have no business being judge and jury as to who is worthy of induction into such a hallowed place.

Simply put, we are mere journalists and not informed enough to make such lofty, not to mention subjective, decisions. We just think we are. There are others much more qualified to pick and choose for baseball’s highest honor (suggestions will follow).

Our knowledge of the game is most often only what we can glean from the ballplayers, managers and front office types whose brains we pick.

So, who made journalists God in this situation anyway? Someone way back when, for the sake of expediency — that’s who. This outdated notion needs changing.

I am living proof. Let me explain.

MAS was a .300-plus hitter in high school, college and semi-pro ball and was scouted by MLB teams. Alas, he was deemed to not have enough foot speed or plate power to be successful at the next level (possessing three of the five “tools” needed — hitting for average, fielding and throwing — was not enough).

Lacking as MAS was in the ability department, however, he is still — conservatively — in the 90th percentile among all sportswriters as far as actual achievement playing the national pastime.

Because of his fairly extensive baseball background, though, MAS always considered himself to be pretty darn knowledgeable about the game . . . until he began interviewing pro players and managers.

When MAS started to talk with the likes of Bobby Valentine and Joe Torre, Holy Schmoley! His head was spinning.

I discovered that baseball knowledge is a like a pyramid of learning: you start at the top (with Little League — the tip of the iceberg) and the farther down you move toward the base (MLB), the more vast and complicated that body of learning becomes.

There is much more beneath the surface than there appears (just ask the Titanic). MAS truly learned the meaning of the saying: “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

Thing is, we ALL have a tendency to pick up a little bit about a certain subject and begin to think we know much more about it than we actually do.

And this is the case with baseball writers — and the reason they should NOT be the sole selectors of Hall members. For them to judge big league abilities based mostly on vicarious experience is just not fair to the players.

They can be part of the process but judge and jury — no way!

What MAS would propose is that the voters come from different areas of baseball life.

First, Hall enshrinees should be able to vote. Then, all players who were at one time a member of the players union could elect representatives who would vote on their behalf.

As things stand, ballplayers respect the Hall honor but not the selection process. Players know best who was best — and they are fair.

The ballclubs would also have voting rights via elected representation, as would the writers. And, finally, even the fans should have a say based on a closely monitored polling method.

However, the latter three groups would carry much less voting weight.

These five components — Hall of Famers, players, teams, writers and fans — would be charged with constructing a Hall of Fame Constitution that would include entrance requirements and grounds for exclusion (regarding Pete Rose, Mark McGwire, et al.).

In the Hall’s Bill of Rights, the percentage for induction would be lowered to 51 percent. If that’s enough to elect a US president, it’s plenty for Cooperstown entry. This would correct the far too stringent 75 percent policy mentioned earlier.

By establishing this more democratic methodology, rather than one employing autocratic writers, the Hall of Fame would be something we could ALL feel good about — instead of the mess it now is.

Were these changes to come about, the first group of inductees would surely include Mike Piazza.

Contact Man About Sports at: davwigg@gmail.com