Snub of Alomar exposes flaw in voting
I’m angry, too.
Angry that Roberto Alomar did not get elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Angry that my organization, the Baseball Writers Association of America, will be ridiculed for such an absurd snub.
I voted for Alomar. Almost everyone I know voted for Alomar. When a scout asked me Wednesday, “How could people not vote for the best second baseman of the last quarter-century?” I had no answer.
There is no answer, other than this:
Our membership is too bloated, too riddled with voters who do not take the process seriously enough to educate themselves properly.
Oh, we usually get it right, and we’ll surely get it right next year with Alomar, who fell short by only eight votes. But the eligibility requirements for voters need to be tightened before worse mistakes are made.
To vote for the Hall, a writer must be a 10-year member of the BBWAA. But one sports editor from each outlet also is eligible, and so are feature writers and current or former columnists who rarely attend games.
The sports editors should be eliminated immediately; they simply do not develop the same feel for the game as writers who cover the sport regularly. Drawing the line on feature writers and columnists would be more difficult; many columnists, in particular, are astute observers of the game. But somehow, the local chapters need to police their memberships more diligently. There has to be a better way.
I’m still trying to figure out why 143 voters failed to endorse Alomar, leaving him just short of the 75 percent required for induction. Alomar was not simply a Hall of Fame player; he was one of the best second basemen in major-league history. I do not need to list his qualifications. If you watched him play, you understood his brilliance, knew he was worthy of Cooperstown.
So, what was the problem?
Well, some voters simply refuse to vote for players the first time they are eligible, or reserve that honor only for those whom they deem to be the very best. I disagree with such positions, but respect those who adopt them. I just doubt that all 143 voters who declined to check Alomar’s name adhered to a strict first-ballot philosophy.
Alomar’s one major indiscretion — his spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck in 1996 — clearly hurt him in the balloting. Marty Noble of MLB.com cited the spitting incident as one reason he did not vote for Alomar; his other reason was Alomar’s uninspiring play for the Mets in 2002 and ’03.
Hirschbeck forgave Alomar and made peace with him. The two even became friendly. For one regrettable moment, Alomar failed to demonstrate character, integrity and sportsmanship, the three subjective criteria that the Hall instructs voters to consider. Perhaps some voters withheld first-ballot approval as “punishment” for Alomar. But if Hirschbeck could move on, then the voters should move on, too.
Alomar could be moody. He did not play past age 36. His decline with the Mets might have cost him votes with several New York voters, not just Noble. Put it all together, and it’s easy to understand why he might have lost small pockets of support. But 143 “no” votes? Sorry, that number is too high to make sense.
Virtually every voter I know is honored to participate in the process. Virtually every voter I know considers the ballot a tremendous responsibility. It’s the voters I don’t know — the ones I never see at ballparks — who worry me. I fear that some do not give the candidates the consideration they deserve.
The BBWAA has done a fine job in recent years of adding Web-based writers, including several whose work is strongly influenced by sabermetrics. The next step is to go the other way, trim the fat from the membership, purge those who do not study the game closely enough to warrant Hall of Fame votes.
The Alomar snub is an embarrassment.
If people’s feelings get hurt, too bad.