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Thoughts on the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame

Everything about the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot implied that this would happen. 

I'm not in any way shocked that no player received the necessary 75% of votes in order to reach Cooperstown. Actually, I would've been shocked to see WHO would have made it in, if there was indeed a selection. However, despite my emotions, it doesn't mean that I am in any way agreeing with the results. We saw this not too long in 2013, and as our country continues to wrestle with the moral compass it wishes to use as its guiding light, the same can be said within the realms of baseball. 

After all, this ballot was all about the grey area. Long gone are the frivolous debates of whether DHs were Hall of Fame worthy and if the process of the voting ballot was efficient for selecting players. We're even further removed from those simpler days of - hey, is this guy a Hall of Famer?!

This ballot carried with it everything that surrounds the game over the past two decades, and most importantly, causes those who defend themselves as the rightful gatekeepers of the Hall of Fame, BBWAA writers, to take on the fullest extent of that responsibility in gauging character and integrity along with the impact on the field. 

Be careful what you wish for. 

Because the ballot is littered with questionable selections, interesting comparables, and yes, hypocritical narratives. The ballot was a perfect storm, ripe for everything that has been this pandemic period, exposing the false idea that the Hall of Fame is indeed untouched from these issues - the Hall only has the most upstanding human beings who happen to really play baseball really well!

The deeper, most salient issue of this ballot is its uncomfortableness. It brings about a hoard of receipts that baseball as a sport and culture is not ready to digest, but will be forced to reckon with. Because, this - THIS - is not going away. The 2022 Hall of Fame ballot brings about even more questionable selections, interesting comparables, and hypocritical narratives. Headlined by names such as Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, and Jimmy Rollins - ranging from controversy, heroism, and undervalued to excessive baggage we'll be forced to unpack at this time again next year. Force to confront the convictions of this game's past, and the narratives we pretend to uphold to make it all better. 

And of course, there is the need to address precedent when it comes to this morality. Digging up the ghosts and skeletons of the past. Every. One. Of. Them. 

Baseball wanted none of it. They aren't ready to embrace it all. We saw that from these results. 

Here are some other quick thoughts on the Hall of Fame Results: 

MY BALLOT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN EMPTY

The sending in of empty ballots this year bothered me. I know the easy response for that is - well, they did not see any Hall of Famers on the ballot. But the range of voting from empty ballots to certain players receiving sympathy votes from writers who covered their careers highlights the flaws in the selection system. Or maybe, the lack of instructional guidelines of what quantifies a Hall of Fame player. 

I don't have a credible vote in this ordeal (that is obvious), but long before it became a trend to disclose ballots, I've been sharing who I would select each and every year, for as far back as the HOF reaction posts have gone back to. 

Here is who I (would have) selected: 

Barry Bonds - I've touched on this. For the 9th year in a row - Bonds is the best player I've ever seen. And of course, performance enhancers are part of the processing of him as a selection. But Bonds has never failed a test. I find it extremely hard to punish someone who didn't break rules (MLB didn't ban the substances), never failed a test, and was part of the culture MLB created. And again, why are Bonds and Clemens taking the public beating for this era? 

Roger Clemens - See: Barry Bonds above. 

Todd Helton - The numbers are there. Spare me the disqualification of "he played in Colorado". If this is the case, and will forever hang over the head of every player who competes in Denver, then we might as well pack up the Rockies and move them elsewhere. 

Jeff Kent - One of the best second basemen ever. EVER. 

Scott Rolen - An all-around third baseman who doesn't get his due. Again, the numbers are there. The only drawback would be the number of games played. I'll give you that. 

Curt Schilling - Worthy of the Hall of Fame based on his playing career. More on this below. 

Gary Sheffield - So undervalued in the evaluation of his career. Sheff is a Hall of Famer. 

Those still simmering in my thoughts:

Andruw Jones - I can literally debate myself and convincingly persuade myself  to either conclusion in reviewing Andruw Jones's career. I have done it. Many times. He's such an anomaly. 

Sammy Sosa - See Bonds and Clemens. I have a tough time with Sosa as well. And yes, it's based on the same hypocrisy that plagues this system - not wanting to get it wrong. I admit guilt to that. Baseball took a lot from Sosa, and never gave him credit. See one of my podcasts on it. It's a shame the way the game has cast him aside. He'll probably be back on my mock selection next year. 

Billy Wagner - We need to reevaluate the qualifications for relief pitchers going into the Hall of Fame. The game has changed, and this needs to be reconsidered. Wagner is an all-timer in that aspect.

I'm decided on:

Manny Ramirez: He failed multiple tests, AFTER the grace period that was everything that was the steroid era. Along with this thinking, I'll say the same for A-Rod in 2022. Can't give a pass to users who knew the system, and actively tried to beat it. In my opinion, there is a clear difference in using with no system in place, and routinely trying to circumvent what MLB has mandated as cheating. 

After all of that explanation of my moral grounds, Ramirez received 28.2% on the ballot - make it make sense, y'all. 

Omar Vizquel - Great player. But I just can't go over the top to say he made it. I can't convince myself enough to do so. He took a considerable dive this year in the percentage of votes. Maybe others are coming around to it as well. 

Amazed they're still there:

Andy Pettitte - I obviously love Pettitte. But again, it's all about narrative. We forget he was busted for HGH use. And even if we put that to the side, I don't think he quite passes the bar. He's a guy you want in the Hall of Fame, but really, you know it'll never be. 

Mark Buehrle - Another Andy Pettitte - sans the drug-use (that we know of). Another great guy and ambassador of the game, but it's just not happening. 

SCHILLING CONTROVERSY

Look, Curt Schilling is a shitty person. An asshole, really. That's just the truth. 

However, where this gets murky is obvious - separating the artist from the art. 

Because while we hold these men in the highest of regards, some of them are just, yes, shitty people. See Aubrey Huff and his wonderful Twitter account. 

Unfortunately, the Baseball Hall of Fame places the standards of "character" on that of the writers. And that is unfair. If the National Baseball Hall of Fame wants to have this as a qualifier, then it needs to do so before providing the writers with eligible candidates. It passes the buck, because, again, no one wants to take this on. 

And it strikes me as intriguing that now the HOF wants to filter its selection with "character" tag lines. After all, there are far worst men already in the Hall of Fame. Racists. Cheats. Drunkards. Druggies. Horrible Parents. And on, and on. 

Maybe they are afraid of what Schilling would say, or really, the backlash that would present itself at an induction ceremony? Or even, the event issues that would hit little Cooperstown, NY. I don't know. 

That's the end of me defending, in any form, Curt Schilling.

Schilling's response, however, is so 2021. Blame the media for his shortcomings, disregard personal responsibility, and attempt some type of end-around in getting what you think you deserve. 

It's the shitty type of thing a shitty person does. It's the a clear reminder (and enforcing thought) why you don't want him near a podium in July. So yeah, I do get it.

But what is interesting here is that 71% of the voters had him on the ballot. 71%! So of course, his conspiracy theory is already out the window (aren't most of them as of late?). He's going to get in next year. And it's going to be really interesting the amount of pride he's going to have to swallow when he accepts the induction - you know, from the media, those bankrupt frauds. And yes, that scene on stage is going to be a must-see spectacle.

ONE LAST TIME

A 2022 ballot of Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa is going to present the ugliest of sports discourse next year. Can't wait for it. 

With that said, for Bonds and Clemens, they have to get in, right? If not, what was the point of the last decade of increasing votes?

And if they do, double down on that must-see spectacle. 

BIG PAPI, SI O NO?

Big Papi vs. Sammy Sosa. I'll just say this, it's not as easy as you think. We can have fun with this one for a full year. Examine it all. 

And finally...

NOTHING BUT LOVE

AJ Burnett, you will always be remembered in my heart for that Game 2 performance in the 2009 World Series. No, love on the ballot (not one vote), but you definitely will be remembered by this Yankee fan for that series-changing outing. 

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