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Blank Ballots Skew Hall Of Fame Vote

By Phil Jackman
 
If this had been a normal year as far as Hall of Fame voting is concerned, three -- maybe four -- of the nominees probably would have been passed into Cooperstown, N.Y. The final tally, as you probably know by now, was zero. Zip. Nada. And it might be years before we can use the term "normal" again while discussing the vote.

For openers, second baseman Craig Biggio, with his 3,060 hits and multitude of other talents, would have been a shoo-in. Pitcher Jack Morris would have been approved on his 14th try. And sluggers Jeff Bagwell and first-year nominee Mike Piazza would have been right there, too.

But, as we know, we're headed full steam into the years when steroids seemed to be as much a part of baseball as the infield fly rule (which people still don't seem to fully understand), and the vote will probably be messed up for decades.

The appearance of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa on the ballot threw the electorate into a dither, as though voters couldn't simply leave them off if they so chose and continue to fill out a full ballot (10 allowed choices).

Rules of the election dictate that Hall members need 75 percent of the ballots cast, and the fact that charmers such as Bonds and Clemens are being considered really shouldn't have anything to do with the other nominees.

But then along come these righteous types who espouse some sort of protest, and they submit a blank ballot that figures into the overall approval rating. In other words, to make up for the five blank ballots sent in, Biggio, Morris and company would have to score on 15 other ballots to offset the blanks.

Several years ago, with a half-baked idea to delay or stop the election of Gaylord Perry to Cooperstown, a bunch of New York writers mailed in empty ballots, because, holy mackerel, here was a guy who threw a spitball. Imagine this coming from a bunch of guys who watched a crafty little left-hander by the name of Whitey Ford, whose catchers doctored baseballs for him for years.

Next year, another dynamite class -- Greg Maddux (355 wins), Tom Glavine (305 wins), Frank Thomas (521 home runs and two MVP awards) and Mike Mussina -- joins the ballot, and the parade goes on. In addition to the holdovers from this year, there are others deserving of consideration, such as Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker and Fred McGriff.

Ah yes, McGriff. Check out what he did during 19 seasons: .284 average, 2,490 hits, 493 home runs and 1,550 runs batted in with a 50.9 percent slugging percentage. Imagine a guy like that barely able to garner 20 percent of the ballots cast year after year. And we are wondering why Bonds' head and feet got so big during the late '90s.

***

OK, now that the Baseball Hall of Fame voting question concerning the steroid era has been cleared up, here's another problem you might want to ponder until pitchers and catchers show up at spring training next month.

What gang of nitwits came up with the order of baseball legends concerning percentage of votes received?

Two pitchers, Tom Seaver (98.84) and Nolan Ryan (98.79), lead the way, and you say to yourself: "Hey, these dudes played only every fifth day or so, and they're judged to be more deserving than the schlubs who played every day? Unbelievable."

The electorate partially made up for it by listing a guy who appeared in the lineup every game for about 75 years -- Cal Ripken Jr. (98.53) -- as No. 3.

Wait, there's more. You know that guy most people agree is probably the best of all time, the big strapping guy who got that way by swilling beer and eating hot dogs, Babe Ruth? He didn't even make the top 10, finishing tied for 11th with Honus Wagner (95.13).

Embarrassing.

The injustice goes on. Willie Mays (best I've ever seen) is 14th, three ahead of Reggie Jackson, who is one ahead of Ted Williams and two ahead of Stan Musial. Huh?

You can bet that Jim Palmer (92.57) and Brooks Robinson (91.98) are happy with their 21st and 22nd standings on the list. The same probably can't be said for Frank Robinson, who checked in at No. 28, although Joe DiMaggio (29) and Mickey Mantle (31) are behind him.

Don't get the idea that pitchers got the best of it, with Seaver and Ryan at the top of the list. Sandy Koufax doesn't show up until No. 35, and Walter Johnson isn't recognized until No. 57. More embarrassment. We could go on and on, but you probably get the idea by now.

***

To tell you the truth, I think the dugout-bullpen phone should have been outlawed years ago. Think how many games have been lost because of the use of that contraption. But, then again, that's a story for another day.

Posted Jan. 10, 2013