There are few—if any?—genres of baseball writing that are more entertaining across the board than the Hall of Fame ballot explanation column. That’s not to say these columns are good; they usually aren’t, and they’re frequently the opposite. They’re often cranky or self-righteous or defensive, and yet they can be weirdly charming in a way that a bad ballot on its own never can. The canon got a wonderful addition yesterday from Alan Greenwood of the Nashua (N.H) Telegraph.
Yesterday! Most voters, if they’re going to share their ballot and write a column about it, do so in the weeks or days leading up to the Hall of Fame’s announcement. A few do it immediately after. (This year, according to Ryan Thibodaux’s wonderful annual vote tracker, 243 writers shared their ballots before the Hall’s statement and just 19 did so after.) Saving it for the Sunday paper that follows the Wednesday announcement, as Greenwood did? Special.
His headline is good: Shhhhh... confessions from a conniving Hall of Fame voter. His introduction is better:
In answer to the conspiracy theorists who are still quivering with rage because Edgar Martinez remains a mere Hall of Fame candidate, one voter feels compelled to fess up.
It is true – treachery is afoot. And here is how one treacherous member of the Baseball Writers Association of America commits his annual attack on motherhood, fatherhood and Old Glory:
Oh, hell yes. Unfortunately, Greenwood does not spend any more time discussing these conspiracy theorists; while there are many people who thought Martínez should’ve been voted in (including me), I didn’t see anyone claiming, like, election interference as the reason that he wasn’t. But Greenwood does describe getting his ballot in the mail, opening the envelope, finding a pen and marking his votes: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling. That’s two of the inductees (Guerrero and Jones), with the other two absent (Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman). He explains his logic by using the column to respond, one at a time, to some of the replies he received after tweeting out his ballot last week. First-ballot selection Thome? Just hit a lot of home runs in an era when a lot of guys hit a lot of home runs. Hoffman? Just racked up a lot of saves, which, statistically speaking “have as much nutritional value as a head of lettuce.” (Well, that last part’s fair.) Voters who rely too much on stats in general?
Still, anyone who relies solely on statistical analysis is equally foolish. This became clear when number-crunchers began touting the incredible notion that there is no such thing as a clutch hitter. Or that fielders’ [sic] can only be measured by the number of errors they make, divided by the number of chances. Derek Jeter’s incredible, all-time web gem against the A’s in the 2001 playoffs is a ststitical [sic] flyspeck.
He ends by speaking directly to a Twitter user named Ants, who asked Greenwood why he only used six of his 10 votes.
“You have 10 votes you dingus.” Ants.
Old Ants is correct. Voters are allowed to choose up to 10 players on the ballot.
Does that mean a voter should pad his ballot by selecting under-qualified players?
You got me on that one, Ants. I haven’t, and I won’t.
Conspiring with common sense is a nasty business.
Thank you, Ants, for your service in advancing the dialogue here.
Greenwood didn’t have the strangest ballot of the year—that might be Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News, who voted only for Vlad Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman and Omar Vizquel, or maybe Juan Vené, who voted for the four inductees and then Fred McGriff—but his explanation column is certainly among the best.
Even better than that of Bill Livingston, of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, who voted only for Thome and Vizquel and wrote the sentence, “But the heart of the fan inside me, which we sportswriters try to subordinate to objectivity in service to the great god Journalism, will go where the heart will go.” Maybe better than that. I think.
Update (9:32 p.m. ET): Ants has spoken.