Hall of Fame ballots are due at the end of every year, so right around the holidays, there are a barrage of writers who feel compelled to share their ballots with us. And I love it. It's not exactly a guilty pleasure, but it's something close to it.
There are all sorts of different varieties -- the anti-steroid bunch, the seriously-anti-steroid-to-the-point-of-being-really-bizarre bunch, the statistically inclined bunch, the statistically inclined who prefer stats from 1964 bunch, and my favorite, the guy from a paper like the South Pecormo Sasquatch who accidentally draws attention to himself by innocently voting for Bret Boone.
There's nothing too different about this batch compared to previous ones. You'll have curious ballots, like that of Barry Bloom, who decides that Jeff Bagwell is just a little too close to Steve Garvey to vote for him ("449 homers to 272" -- what's a couple hundred homers among friends?), which is an odd argument for someone who voted for Garvey in 2007. And you'll have majestic columns from powerhouses like Joe Posnanski, who make you reevaluate every candidate through a different set of eyes.
Hope you're enjoying it. It's a fun time of year for people who like to argue about this sort of stuff. But this isn't a happy-go-lucky article to convince you how awesome Hall-of-Fame arguments are. It's a public service and a reminder.
This year is fun and games. Next year will be something different.
A partial list of first-time eligible players:
And you've already started going through your canned food. Good, good. That's exactly the right reaction. Because it isn't just enough to think about a Biggio, a stathead-favorite who might not get enough attention. Just Biggio alone would normally be enough to fuel a cold-stove league debate for months.
Then you add in Schilling, a candidate so controversial that he makes statheads tie their wrists together and have "Beat It"-style knife fights. Add in the idea that Schilling is an outspoken media maven, a former player who is alternately lauded and criticized for his outspokenness, and you can be sure that there will be a number of choice arguments both for and against him. There will be 334,219 different articles written about his qualifications.
That's not enough. You'll have Mike Piazza to deal with. Jeff Bagwell is already leading the wave of "Well, just look at the guy" candidates, but Piazza is certainly the king. He hasn't been busted for performance-enhancing drugs. But there have been whispers. And just look at the guy. I mean, just look at him. Bagwell is a good case study, but he also isn't a 12-time All-Star who was clearly the best hitter to ever play his position. Piazza is a clear first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in any year before 2003. Now … just look at the guy.
Oh, and then there are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa. If there were a Mt. Rushmore of steroids, those would be three of the four faces on it. That's 1,371 home runs, 354 wins, and 100,000 pounds of baggage coming right at you. There was no other way -- they had to come on the ballot at the same time.
To appropriate the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, it's time to realize that writers are building a better soapbox and hoping the world will beat a path to their door. These soapboxes are going to be magnificent, garish things -- Rube Goldberg contraptions that will threaten to swallow us all. Writers will put hydraulics in their soapboxes and bounce them the hell down Crenshaw, staring at people who are paying too much attention and cursing the people who aren't giving them enough attention.
Barry Bonds for the Hall of Fame. Roger Clemens for the Hall of Fame. Sammy Sosa for the Hall of Fame. All in the same year. You'll need to relearn a lot of things if you're planning to avoid this one. You'll have to remember what it's like to use a paper map to get directions. You'll have to remember what it's like to try a restaurant without pulling up Petey541's review on Yelp. You'll have to avoid the Internet entirely.
And canned food. Always the canned food.
This debate has been spirited. Next year's will be the Hallpocalypse.