One of the reasons I admire the crew at the Baseball Hall of Fame – aside from the obvious awe that's reserved for people who seemingly have the best job in the world – is that they have virtually without exception kept the mandate of their charter first and foremost in their day-to-day operation of the shrine at Cooperstown.
That’s just a clumsy way of saying that their efforts are always directed at promoting the history of the game of baseball and enhancing the stature and integrity of a facility that is essentially the prototype for virtually every Hall of Fame – sports and beyond – in existence.
If that seems rudimentary, then you’re not paying close enough attention to life in modern America. Institutions frequently lose focus and direction, often seeming to completely stray from their charters’ often lofty and laudable goals and aspirations.
What prompts this HOF observation is the continuing tinkering with their Veterans Committee voting procedures, which have been altered either subtly or dramatically so many times in the last 30 years that it’s hard to keep track of all the various permutations.
But that’s the point: the HOF officials keep trying to find that perfect balance between honoring the very best players (and managers, executives and umpires) in the game and maintaining a bar high enough to ensure that only the very cream of the crop is admitted.
And so the latest revisions turning the veterans’ fate over to three distinct eras rather than chopping them up between roles – players, managers, executives, umpires – sounds like it’s a step closer to the happy balance they have pursued for so many years.
I’ll concede that it’s just barely possible that the reason I like the newest incarnation so much is that I suspect it places greater pressure on the probability of Marvin Miller getting elected.
By lumping the great labor leader onto the same ballot with slam-dunk Hall of Famer George Steinbrenner, it seems to me that voting the latter in while once again leaving Miller out would create a level of cognitive dissonance that might make someone’s head explode.
The 12-man Expansion Era ballot was released the other day by HOF officials and it includes the following: players Vida Blue, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Al Oliver, Ted Simmons, and Rusty Staub; former manager Billy Martin; executives Pat Gillick, Steinbrenner and Miller.
So you see the dilemma. The Boss has to go in – and given his recent passing, the question of sooner rather than later would seem to have been decided – but how could any sentient being install the one without including the other? They are two sides of rather important coin.
The 16-member panel that will do the voting includes eight Hall of Fame players, four major league executives and four veteran sportswriters. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall during those deliberations during this years Winter Meetings.
A total of 12 votes are needed for election, and it’s understandable that a major league executive – by way of hypothetical example – might have some lingering animus with the labor union giant who essentially smoked them for so many years. But that animus can’t extend into the committee voting, or else our hypothetical executive would have to relinquish his slot.
Simply put, it shouldn’t be possible to even consider installing any major league executive whatsoever from the Expansion Era if Miller hasn’t already preceded them in earning a plaque.
I’ll take a peek at those eight players on the ballot tomorrow, but as you probably suspect, there are no slam dunks there.
How sad that I would feel constrained to use a basketball metaphor for our national pastime.