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Friday, January 09, 2004

Rose, Baseball Writers, and the Hall
Though the air has been filled this week with the praises of Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor, the Pete Rose controversy has overshadowed the latest HOF election announcement and dredged up - again - all the oft-stated arguments for and against his reinstatement and HOF election. Only one of those topics actually matters.
While I respect the Baseball HOF, what it intends to stand for, and the names of the players enshrined in its halls, the Baseball HOF means nothing to the game itself. As with the Oscars, baseball's HOF election process, debates over the eligible candidates - mostly over those slighted, and induction process are merely more overblown, self congratulatory ritual processes allowing a money-making business to publicize itself through the promotion of its now-retired but beloved "talent." The Oscars mean absolutely nothing, yet legions of not-so-serious and some serious journalists spend countless words speculating and reporting their nomination and outcome.
I am aghast at the gaggle of self-important baseball writers who tell us how earnestly they struggle with their votes, and then explain the "gut-wrenching" process they endure annually to make the "right," HOF selections based on numerous (but completely and thoroughly ambiguous, and often capricious and pararochial) criteria.

We hear that, yes, Mr. So-and-So's numbers look good, as good as other HOF'ers, but he was surly with the baseball writers so that hurts their election chances. [I thought it was about their baseball achievements? Tell me again about the voting angst of the baseball writers!] And a look through past HOF elections - dominated by NY media in the mid-20th century - reveals a number of questionable chad counts among the Gods rightly elected. Everyone enshrined in Cooperstown is, essentially, equal regardless of your actual achievements. You are simply a HOFer or you are not; all HOFers are created equal; they have no lesser Gods. Paul Molitor is on the same pedestal as Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays.
Like the Oscars, the Baseball HOF is just ceremonial fun - no more meaningful than the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. No matter how eloquently baseball writers try to raise it to a ritual akin to a Papal election (and thereby also elevating their own importance), voting for the baseball HOF has no more social value than the vote I cast for last year's (also meaningless) All-Star Game - and far less real value than the vote I cast at the polls last fall for School Committee.