The Commish Online www.thecommishonline.com
Veterans Committee's Shutout No Surprise
February 27, 2007
Once again, the Veterans Committee failed to elect anyone into the Hall of Fame, most notably leaving Ron Santo on the outside looking in. All of a sudden, now there is talk of reworking the process since the committee is too "stubborn" to let anyone in. What I can't figure out is why everyone is trying so hard to give borderline Hall of Fame players another chance, even though they already had their fair shot.
Regardless of whether you think Santo and other are deserving, it can be agreed that these are players with borderline credentials. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be about the absolute best, and it would always be better to err on the side of greatness than mediocrity. In Gene Wojciechowski's article on ESPN.com, he spends half his time citing Santo's impressive stats and the other half qualifying them with a statement about having diabetes. No offense to Ron Santo, but a player with 342 home runs and diabetes is not more deserving than the same player with 380 home runs and no illness. Numbers aren't the only thing that should be judged, but credit Santo for any positive influences he provided (leadership, etc.) while in the game, not for an illness he kept to himself his whole career. Jim Abbott did something just about every single MLB pitcher couldn't do (pitch and compete with one hand), but in the end, he was still merely a good player, not a Hall of Famer. The argument here, however, isn't about Ron Santo's career achievements; it's about giving these players "do-overs" after the voting is done. Sure, there are less deserving players already in the Hall of Fame, but that doesn't mean we should throw everyone in who is better than the "worst" Hall of Famer. A better idea would be to let the Veterans Committee un-elect a non-deserving Hall of Famer, but that seems a little cruel. Can you imagine Phil Rizzuto being forced back to Cooperstown for a "don't let the door hit your behind" speech?
In the end, there will always be some players that should be in and should that should come out. There will always be a bias for Yankees players (Rizzuto) and a lack of notoriety for players in lesser known markets (Andre Dawson, etc.). The best gauge for their Hall of Fame inclusion, however, is the tally from voters five years after retirement because those are the people who saw these players play. For the same reason a 30-year-old sportswriter shouldn't be making a decision on Ron Santo, I wouldn't expect a young writer in 2037 to have a solid grasp on what Andre Dawson meant to the game now.
As for the veterans, they are the peers of Santo, Gil Hodges, and others. They voted against them earlier in their careers, so why would they change now? Santo keeps gaining votes every couple years, likely because newly inducted players are voting for him, not because they saw him play, but because of the huge marketing push by Santo's friends and Santo himself. A Hall of Famer becomes one because he is voted in, not because people THINK he should be voted in.