Hall of Nothing

The fine line between enshrining and enshrouning
Share |
Seattle honors Edgar as it seems fit

Photo © KellBailey, used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the members of its 2012 class on January 9. If all goes according to plan, one or a few inductees will get phone calls from some suit in Cooperstown and they will cry. Then word will be leaked our way. We will sing the praises of the chosen, pour one out for Edgar Martínez, and begin anew the cycle of arguing about what greatness is, how you measure it, and how you deal with the fact that sometimes greatness is built on a foundation of bullshit.

One of the players on the ballot is Jeff Bagwell. Bagwell is among my all-time favorites. As a kid I owned more of his cards than anybody else’s, and even somehow acquired a tin can with his face on it. An actual tin can. In part because he played during the steroid era and in part because his counting stats aren’t especially gaudy, Bagwell is unlikely to enter Cooperstown. In theory this should sadden me a great deal. After all, by some well-respected statistical measurements, Bagwell is the best player on the Hall of Fame ballot this year.

But I’m not saddened by the possibility that Jeff Bagwell will never be a Hall of Famer. What saddens me is seeing his career reduced to a referendum on steroids or on statistical analysis. What saddens me is watching everything that made people appreciate Jeff Bagwell—his stance, his glove, his huge goatee—get buried under the piles of moral and analytical shit thrown around in the debate over his Hall candidacy.

Ironically, Bagwell would be better served if we treated him like the guys lower on the ballot, the non-candidates. These are the players who, despite seeming blatantly inadequate, we remember in all three dimensions of fondness. Brad Radke who once gave up 732 home runs in a single season. Vinny Castilla, who in 1998 seemed like he might actually become a serious candidate for this office. Tim Salmon. Tony Womack. Jeromy Burnitz.

And then there are the real candidates, the Barry Larkins, who bring with them the air of boardroom caliber discussion, the season of high horse rides and vacant statistical argumentation. By Christmas things have heated to the point of daily newspaper columns, context-free tweets that make perfect sense, and rampant speculation over the air and radio waves. These days the big story is the drugs. You can lock Barry Bonds up in his mansion for months on end but you’ll never contain the hand-wringing Hall prose that he and his sacrilegious ilk wrought. But let’s look beyond that.

Incessant arguing about who is better is a fact of every baseball fan’s life. I’ve found myself yelling across a bar to strangers about Todd Worrell’s effectiveness more times than I care to remember. But arguing about who is better is different from arguing about who is X level of arbitrary, undefined Great. There is no official statistical barrier for entry into the Hall of Fame. A player need only be sufficiently perceived as worthy. And yet this time every year we turn ostensibly fun conversations into frustrating arguments about what a bunch of writers whose opinions aren’t any more valid than our own should or should not perceive.

So what if Edgar Martínez has a higher career WAR than Andre Dawson? What’s interesting about that conversation? What gets lost under all the ritual groaning about milestones and performance enhancing drugs are the interesting points. Edgar Martínez is more than a bundle of offensive productivity and more than the evidence or answer in an argument. He is the possessor of the most uniquely beautiful swing any right-handed batter has ever displayed in a professional baseball game. He is responsible for a double to beat the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS that stands as the single most important moment in Mariners history. Mariano Rivera supposedly called him the toughest batter he ever faced. And hell, he has his own line of mezcal.

Consider Tim Raines. He is the poster-child for Hall of Fame advocacy in the age of the internet. He was an undeniably great ballplayer. In Rock, he had a cool nickname. If I voted, Tim Raines would have been inducted inducted already. But for whatever reason—maybe because he doesn’t have those 3,000 hits—Tim Raines remains a long ways from that 75 percent threshold. Leading Expos nostalgist and 21st century baseball maven Jonah Keri has made a million compelling arguments in favor of Raines’ nomination and even helped create a website dedicated to his Hall candidacy. As if anybody outside of a Port St. Lucie hotel bar in March ever had a kind thought about the Baseball Writers Association of America, Keri has called Raines’ stalled candidacy a “damning statement on the cognitive abilities and biases” of the voters.

What’s obvious in all this is that it should not require high-level statistical analysis to appreciate Tim Raines as a special ballplayer. Nor should Raines’ legacy require the paternalistic approval of a bunch of writers who after a long season spent spinning melodrama from banality make it their business in the winter to draw sacred lines at some arbitrary point between goodness and greatness. Like all of the awards in baseball, induction into the Hall of Fame is purely subjective. The wall that Keri and company are banging their heads against on behalf of Tim Raines is invisible. And the best outcome of all that banging exists entirely apart from the Hall of Fame. The best outcome is that baseball fans are reminded—or even informed for the first time—about the dynamo that was Tim Raines.

It’s not lost on me that if the Hall of Fame stakes weren’t there, the Tim Raines appreciation society might not get the same amount of public attention. But that’s exactly the problem. Instead of appreciating baseball for all it offers and enjoying its stars for all they give us—which really is so much—we chose to give ourselves ulcers over the injustices committed by the BBWA. Yes, there is something to be said for tradition. Ballplayers emoting on the podium in Cooperstown in August makes for stirring television. Though not nearly as stirring as the thought that Ron Santo, who by all accounts wanted enshrinement more than anything, had to die before finally getting enough attention to merit entry via the backdoor that is the Veteran’s Committee.

For perspective, let’s turn back to Bagwell, who seems to have recognized that a bronze plaque does nothing to change anything:

Would I be honored to death to be in the Hall of Fame? Of course I would. But it doesn't consume me at all. I loved every single part of what I did as a baseball player. But I've got my kids, I've got my family, and getting in the Hall of Fame isn't going to affect my life one way or the other. And it won't make me feel any better about my career.

All that absurd moralizing about steroids. All those man-hours spent reducing careers into arguments for and against inclusion in an undefined statistical subset. All the agonizing Januaries for Ron Santo. All for a big nothing.


Share |

Comments

Outstanding blog you guys have preserved there, I totally valuate the effort. Clash of Lights

In fact no matter if someone doesn’t know then its up to other people that they will assist, so here it happens. QuickShortcutMaker

Thank you very much for writing such an interesting article on this topic. This has really made me think and I hope to read more. casino codes

I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business. buy ethereum in Nigeria

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here. Mr khan

Amazing! I like to share it with all my friends and hope they will like this information. UAT training courses

This text is worth everyone’s attention. How can I find out more? guitar chords

I am happy to find this post very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I always prefer to read the quality content and this thing I found in you post. Cardio exercises using fitbit

Watch 100s of full Japanese Adult Videos streaming at JAVRedlight.com including in VR! Just what you want on demand. Web Development Cyprus

I have bookmarked your website, the articles are path superior to anything other comparable sites.. a debt of gratitude is in order for an extraordinary online journal! best criminal defense attorney

I am happy you take pride in what you compose. This makes you stand way out from numerous different scholars that push ineffectively composed substance. ACT test preparation

Hi all, here every person is sharing these kinds of know-how, so it’s nice to read this website, and I used to go to see this blog daily. Ceramic Car Coating

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. http://lamoosh.siterubix.com/top-pet-games-ten-pet-toys-your-pet-should-have

I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. display chest freezer

That’s really a pleasant video mentioned within this article about how to write a post, so i got clear idea from here. Extreme Landings Pro

This is my first time go to see at here and i am genuinely pleassant to read everthing at one place. essay writing service

Thanks for the cool informative post. Keep up the great work :) online chat rooms without registration

I have read your article, it is very informative and helpful for me.I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. Thanks for posting it. Situs Togel

It’s going to be finish of mine day, except before end I am reading this enormous paragraph to improve my knowledge. apk141fun

Awesome review, I am a major devotee to remarking on web journals to educate the web journal scholars realize that they’ve added something beneficial to the internet!. essay writing tutorial

Thank you a lot for providing individuals very spectacular possibility to read critical reviews from this site. Bandar ceme Indonesia

Awesome review, I am a major devotee to remarking on web journals to educate the web journal scholars realize that they’ve added something beneficial to the internet!. TRTC Stock

Your blogs further more each else volume is so entertaining further serviceable It appoints me befall retreat encore. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Ceme Online

I appreciate you sharing this blog post.Thanks Again. Great.
run4 game

Very quickly this website will be famous among all blogging people, due to it’s fastidious articles or reviews medical symptom diagnosis

I think this is a really good article. You make this information interesting and engaging. You give readers a lot to think about and I appreciate that kind of writing.

Darel Lynwood Long

Hi all, here every person is sharing these kinds of know-how, so it’s nice to read this website, and I used to go to see this blog daily. whittier ca financial advisor

Wonderful, what a blog it is! This webpage provides useful data to us, keep it up. brockport blackboard

This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. This is very nice one and gives indepth information. Thanks for this nice article. http://www.indigo.co

This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. This is very nice one and gives indepth information. Thanks for this nice article. tablete za potenciju u apotekama

This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. This is very nice one and gives indepth information. Thanks for this nice article. Phen375 at GNC

I would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. Get Patent in India for Idea or Invention

I would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. Patent Assignee Search

I would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. Information Disclosure Statement (IDS) Support & Services

Great post! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here. perdido keys charters

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here. weight loss

Pleasant post. I was checking continually this online journal and I am inspired! To a great degree accommodating data uniquely the last part I watch over such information a considerable measure. I was looking for this specific data for quite a while. Much obliged to you and good fortunes

Cbd Anxiety

I am continually amazed by the amount of information available on this subject. What you presented was well researched and well worded in order to get your stand on this across to all your readers. شركة نقل عفش بالجبيل

Ahh. Simple and interesting. Beautifully Plot. I like start and end of this article. I will visit again this site. Just keep Posting. Roadrunner email support phone number

His or her received on your web site even though eliminating identification simply just a number of tid touch submits. Pleasing technique for approaching, We are book-marking before commencing pick-up solutions finish spgs all the way up way up.

encryption

I read that Post and got it fine and educational. If it's not too much trouble share more like that... 5 MSP AIRPORT CAB

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon! ice cooler

I think this is a really good article. You make this information interesting and engaging. You give readers a lot to think about and I appreciate that kind of writing.

social trade biz

What’s up, this weekend is good in favor of me, as this time i am reading this fantastic educational article here at my residence.
Saigon Mystery Villas Quận 2

I found your this post while searching for some related information on blog search...Its a good post..keep posting and update the information. Copper Vessel

I am truly grateful to the holder of this site who has shared this great piece of writing at at this time. SCR888

Very quickly this website will be famous among all blogging people, due to it’s fastidious articles or reviews tips on cycling

If some one wants expert view on the topic of blogging and site-building after that i advise him/her to visit this website, Keep up the fastidious job.
see more channels

Outstanding blog you guys have preserved there, I totally valuate the effort. ce qui rapporte le plus

In fact no matter if someone doesn’t know then its up to other people that they will assist, so here it happens.
Bruce