The fans have spoken, and, well, for now, let’s leave the Hall of Fame voting to the Hall of Fame voters.
According to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, 49 percent of fans surveyed think Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame while 52 percent think Bonds’ records should be taken away.
While these numbers are within the poll’s five-percent margin of error, I have to wonder: If Bonds’ records are taken away, what are his Hall of Fame qualifications? All around nice guy? Mr. Baseball? Not exactly. I guess the 49 percent who think he should be in the Hall aren’t among the 52 percent who want his records erased.
Meanwhile, these numbers are down from last summer when 57 percent believed Bonds should be in the Hall. Again, I’m left wondering: What changed? In my opinion, nothing.
As The Onion aptly pointed out last week, everyone who has ever watched a baseball game knows that Barry Bonds’ body has changed drastically over the last eight years. At an age when he should have been on the decline of his career, Bonds somehow topped every single season home run record known to baseball fans and is well on his way toward 756.
A year ago, everyone knew Bonds’ production wasn’t natural; they focused on the lack of concrete evidence. Now that two authors have synergized the evidence that was largely available last year and put in an easy-to-digest Sports Illustrated form, the majority of fans will no longer accept Bonds. While I am no defender of Bonds, public opinion sure can be fickle.
This Bonds controversy ties in nicely with another issue floating around the Internet. It’s the age-old debate on who should vote for the Hall of Fame. A few weeks ago, the unfortunately named Peter Schmuck, president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, penned a column in defense of the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame voting. While many newspapers do not allow their writers to vote for awards, Schmuck concluded that the writers should keep on voting:
The Baltimore Sun and several other major newspapers have decided that they would prefer to have their employees simply cover the news and let someone else make the newsworthy decisions on who should win certain awards or gain induction in the Hall of Fame.
I accede to that authority, but I believe that the baseball writers charged with voting on the postseason awards are uniquely qualified to render those decisions while still meeting the ethical standards of the journalistic profession.
I feel even more strongly that the BBWAA is the proper body to choose the inductees for the most revered of the various professional sports halls of fame.
In short, it’s a difficult job, but there is no one better qualified to do it.
Needless to say, those of us who didn’t like seeing Bartolo “Wins” Colon walk away with a Cy Young last season were nonplused, to say the least. Over at Armchair GM, a new Wiki-baseball site, Dan Lewis issued a rebuttal in the form of an open letter to Schmuck. Lewis advocated a system similar to that found in the presidential nominating convention system:
The BBWAA should, in its effort to democratize the election process, choose regular fans as delegates. Allow people like myself to apply for the job of Hall of Fame voter. Give us the opportunity to demonstrate to you our resume of fandom, our knowledge of the game, etc. We watch game after game, crunch stat after stat, and root for (and against) players and teams year-round. We know the game backward and forward. We are perfectly capable of making informed decisions. And you are perfectly capable of identifying us.
Just don’t ask us who we’d vote for. Let us approach that in our own way. Your job, again, is to frame the debate, and to convince us to vote one way or the other.
You already have the power of the media. You don’t need the power of the vote. The fans need a voice. Don’t keep all the power to yourselves.
While Lewis’ proposed system is intriguing, I am doubtful that fans can vote in players with any more rhyme or reason than the BBWAA. Would fans vote in Bonds? Since a player needs 75 percent of the vote, Bonds wouldn’t make it today. Would fans who are chosen as Hall of Fame voters opt for Bonds? It depends. In five years, we may know that Bonds cheated his way through a successful career, but we may also know that everyone else playing in the late 1990s did too.
So in the end, we’re left with our imperfect system. The Baseball Writers can take their holier-than-thou attitude one day while I still believe that any number of baseball beat writers could have blown the lid of off the steroid story any day from 1996 through 2002. The Baseball Writers who are supposedly looking out for the best interests of the game and are paid to know about baseball could vote.
Or the fans, the true arbiters of the game, could vote. The fans see the game through the lens of the media whether that media be Bill Plaschke’s inanities, Baseball Prospectus’ insight or the lyrical prose of some of the more prolific baseball writers.
Everyone, it seems, is fickle. Fans sway with the media. Bonds is persecuted one year, evil forever after. Awarding Hall of Fame voting to the fans, as these poll numbers show, won’t solve anything.
Meanwhile, as Barry Bonds took all of four Spring Training at bats to launch his first home run, baseball has a bigger problem on its hands than fan opinion and a dialogue over Hall of Fame voting. As Bonds nears Ruth and Aaron, baseball is left with a commissioner discussing an investigation or whatever Bud Selig feels like conducting.
While those of us who watch baseball may have our opinions on Hall of Fame voting and the highly questionable legacy of the Steroid Era as it relates to Cooperstown, it is time for Selig and players union head Donald Fehr to step up and solve this steroid problem. Targeting anyone as a scapegoat isn’t fair, but those in positions of power in Major League Baseball need to make a strong statement whatever that may be.