Larry Rocca’s strange (if defensible!) Hall ballot

Criticizing individual Hall of Fame ballots is, in one sense, pointless.

For one thing, you’ll need a while to find a ballot that would mirror yours exactly. More to the point, there are so many Hall of Fame voters that one ballot is, nearly all the time, irrelevant. This year, Mike Piazza came closest to being elected without being elected; he finished 28 votes out of the money … and will almost surely make it next year.

In a larger sense, though, strange ballots do hurt the credibility of the process. Strange voters, too.

I mention this because the BBWAA published 141 of the 549 ballots cast, and one of those 141 belongs to Larry Rocca, and Larry Rocca voted for only two candidates: Tim Raines and Alan Trammell.

Last year he voted for those two, plus Hideo Nomo and Jack Morris. Nomo and Morris weren’t on the ballot this year. Which left only Raines and Trammell. Rocca’s reasoning? He’s "not voting for anybody who played the bulk of his career in the "Steroids Era."

Granted, there are a couple of OBVIOUS problems there, as both Raines and Nomo did play most of their careers during the Steroids Era, which by any reasonable measure began in 1987 or ’88.

Aside from that obvious flaw in Rocca’s thinking, though, I do want to defend him. Because any voter who thinks he can determine, with any degree of confidence at all, which players in that era were using and which ones weren’s, is almost certainly fooling himself. I think if I felt like I couldn’t vote for any steroids guy, I might just skip all of them, too. Because nobody is beyond suspicion.

Credibility-wise, Rocca sure isn’t helping, though. And not just because of his odd ballot. He covered baseball for roughly a decade, and stopped covering baseball roughly a decade ago. I’ve been researching baseball and writing about baseball for a living for more than 25 years, always with utterly reputable, long-lasting organizations, and yet I’m approximately as far from having a Hall of Fame ballot as Jonathan the Tortoise. And as near as I can tell, nobody associated with either the Hall of Fame or the Baseball Writers Association of America considers that any problem at all.