Don’t see any Hall of Fame votes for players who normally went by the first name “Cliff”. Fiscal Clifford Earl Torgeson got 0.7% of the vote, and Fiscal Clifford Carlton Cravath peaked at 1.2%.
Hall of Fame voting, and the subsequent discussion, is becoming something that’s grueling to witness. It’s becoming not fun anymore. Everybody loves a good sports debate—and by “debate,” I mean “ a meaningful exchange of considered, reasoned ideas,” and it’s sort of sad that “First Take” has required me to remind people what “debate” means—but what’s happening with the Hall of Fame voters isn’t a debate: It’s people making intractable stands and then yelling about how the other side is not only wrong, but peppering them with personal invective. This is happening on both sides. Those who think sabermetrics should be the center (if not only) tenet in evaluating players believe the BBWAA voters who don’t use advanced stats are unworthy of a vote, and the BBWAA voters who insist on the value of their own eyes claim their detractors are just haters who wish they got to vote. No matter which side you agree with—or, you know, if you’re a normal human being who sees values in both sides, a.k.a., “probably not a person who writes about sports for a living”—you find yourself leaving all “discussions” wishing for a pox on both houses. People are screaming past each other, and not paying the least bit attention to the readers, the fans … the people they ostensibly write columns for.
It’s becoming impossible to deal with. It’s turning something as fun and meaningless—and talk all you want about the sacred nature of the Hall of Fame, let us not forget that it’s just a building in upstate New York with weird-looking bronzes of people who used to run around and swing pieces of wood for a living but now do awkward local commercials and put their name on car dealerships—as deciding who’s a legendary ballplayer and who isn’t, and it’s turning into an endless political debate between two parties who have no interest in taking the slightest step forward toward the other. I no longer believe any side in the debate anymore. They’re either trying to advance an agenda (the BBWAA still matters! Old sportswriters are terrible!) or they’re holding some time-worn grudge against someone who was mean to them in the clubhouse, or they’re just blindly throwing in the top 10 guys in WAR to prove a point, or whatever. It’s not fun to read about, it’s not fun to write about it and it’s not fun to talk about.
That’s a serious problem. This is the Hall of Fame. This is the ultimate sports debate. This is how we’ve always classified guys, how we’ve organized the world of baseball for years. We’ve never thought of the Hall of Fame as “just a building” because it was supposed to mean so much more. It was supposed to be fun. But not now. The discussions about the Hall of Fame, and the actual ballots, are turning into the fiscal cliff debate, with people operating in bad faith, abusing their power, making decisions for reasons that have nothing to do with how good of a baseball player a certain guy was. It’s like watching politicians. And sports should never, ever be like watching politicians.
I’m not sure how this gets turned around. But I’ve never enjoyed the Hall of Fame discussions less than I have this year. And it’s just going to get worse. This is not helping anybody. If you take the fun out of the Hall of Fame, you just have a dusty old building. That’s to say: You have nothing.