Hall vote epitomizes the essence of election
The Hall of Fame voting process is not broken. It is simply more difficult than it used to be.
There was considerable gnashing of teeth two years ago when the voters elected no one. It was unfair, it was unjust, it was maybe even un-American. It wasn't much fun, either. Elections are generally not held with the expectation that no one will win.
But we are on ground that seems much solid today, as the voters in the 2015 Hall of Fame election, eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, most of the same individuals who elected no one in 2013, elected four completely deserving candidates; Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.
Being one of the voters in this process for more than two decades, I may not be completely impartial in this judgment. But I thought the outcome of this election made perfect sense, at least in some ways.
Let us examine that premise in three categories of results in this election.
1. In the cases of the four players who were elected, there shouldn't be any serious dissension about any of these Cooperstown-bound individuals. And the voters didn't exhibit any first-ballot hesitation. The three newcomers to the ballot were all received on the basis of merit, rather than their status as rookies in the Hall voting process.
This is the toughest Hall to enter in North American professional sports. In any given year, there will always be viable candidates who aren't elected. This is the nature of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The election of four candidates for the first time in 60 years shows that the election process, while still very difficult, has not lapsed into the impossible.
2. Two candidates, who had Hall-worthy credentials but who have been damaged by rumors of performance-enhancing substance usage, finished with a majority of votes, but not the 75 percent necessary for induction.
Rumors shouldn't be enough to disqualify a candidate, which is why Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell get my vote on an annual basis. In the absence of factual evidence, the presumption of innocence should still apply. Piazza gained considerable support from last year to this year. Both of these candidacies should eventually prevail.
3. Then we have four more players associated with the use of performance-enhancers, including one admission of usage.
Two of the most prominent performers of their era, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, continue to receive less than 40 percent of the vote for their third straight year on the ballot. Mark McGwire is down to 10 percent of the vote and Sammy Sosa narrowly retains ballot eligibility at 6.6 percent.
But this is where the difficulty enters, no matter which side of the argument a voter chooses to take. These candidates all have Hall of Fame credentials. So these cases require a voter to make not a baseball choice, not a statistical choice, not even an advanced analytics choice. These cases require a moral choice.
These cases require the voters to at least contemplate the rules of this election, which include this prominent passage:
"Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."
Integrity, sportsmanship, character; I don't find that there is any room in there for steroid use. But there are people for whom I have great professional respect who vote the other side of this issue.
These sorts of disagreements are what make elections, and horse races, and in a larger way, democracies. Voting in this election remains a rare privilege and a solemn obligation. It is now a more complex undertaking than it once was, but that doesn't mean it is no longer a workable process.
We all have candidates who we wish would receive more votes. There will always be arguments that the Hall is not inclusive enough. That is the nature of every Hall of Fame election. But this year's election illustrated that the underlying process still makes sense and still remains viable.