The Hall of Fame is a politically-driven organization that deems players of prowess entry into immortality…with strings attached.
“You can't do this,” “You can't do that,” “Keep your nose clean,” “Put up awesome numbers but don't be negative about Major League Baseball,” and, most of all, “Appreciate the opportunity you have been given.”
I feel that all baseball players who have played the game, whether at the highest levels of the sport or a mere Little Leaguer, have enjoyed that sensation, that moment where their adrenaline shoots excited blood through their veins at light speeds, what it means to be “a ballplayer,” to have truly experienced that time and place.
If someone were to be slighted because of life style, relationship with the press, or for whatever reason did something to upset a decision-maker, so be it. The people who cover the games - either for the newspapers, the networks or prominent blogs - may be experts at writing and broadcasting, but have they ever fielded a ground ball in the playoffs or a pennant race?
Have they ever had to stand on a mound of the opposing ballpark before 48,000 not-so friendly fans? Have they ever broken a record and received a two-minute standing ovation that felt like an eternity? Perhaps some, but most have not. Yet, they receive the privilege of voting the players into the Cooperstown.
Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 2011 proceeded according to rules most recently revised in July of the previous year. As in the past, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from a ballot of recently retired players. A new Veterans Committee convened to select from a list of long-retired players and non-playing personnel who made their greatest contributions to the sport since 1973, the "Expansion Era" ballot.
I have a lot of friends who are outstanding baseball writers whom I enjoy and often agree with a great deal of their thoughts and insights. That said these voices should not be alone in the conversation of doling out immortality. They think they “get it,” what it takes to play on the major league field, through interviews and observation, but it’s different when you are there, on the “field of dreams” and what the player can withstand through all those enormous pressures to perform at an elite level.
We, the players, are etched in stone, through the media, the Library of Congress, cyberspace, of baseball cards that pass through the hands of generations, those 8x10 color glossies we send fans with our signatures.
Don’t get me wrong, the players haven't been slighted. We have been blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime to participate in this great Game, fulfilling childhood dreams of entertaining fans with a shutout, a walk-off home run, a World Series appearance.
It’s time we begin the discussion of adjusting the mechanism for induction into Cooperstown, time to hear from an additional group of voices for the selection process.
The voices of all the men who actually played the game, every single one of them, needs to be heard. The voice of the men who were there, not simply the elite of the elite, not simply a select few, and most certainly, not simply observers.
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