Hall of Fame voters got it right — because there is no wrong answer

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

The Hall of Fame voting is in and Baseball Writers’ Association of America got it right.

Greg Maddux is in. Tom Glavine is in. Frank Thomas is in. Barry Bonds is not. Roger Clemens is not. Craig Biggio is not. Jeff Bagwell is not. And neither is Mike Piazza.

The vote, the process and the ambiguity of how to interpret the rules are all perfectly flawed and reflect a game, particularly in recent years, that’s just the same. There is no right or wrong answer. And the irony? It’s always been this way to a degree — and that makes it perfect. It keeps us all contemplating things bigger than merely statistics. It keeps us thinking about importance. It keeps us thinking, to a degree, about life — the right way and the wrong way. And for those on the ballot, from the guy with the most votes to the guy with none, baseball was life.

And the Hall of Fame vote — no matter what we may think — is what it is. It’s a reflection of the messes of life — the good times, the bad times. It’s a reflection of the achievements, it’s a reflection of the flaws. It’s a reflection of the opinions of many — even those who might trade two Ryne Sandberg cards for a Jim Sundberg,

Unfortunately, all these messes do negatively affect one thing for dealers, card companies and collectors the most —  they hurt the hobby. Every time there’s a star who excels, there are many of us who invest our dollars, our time, our energy into putting something into our collection that we find appealing. When bad news happens — whether it’s PEDs, stupid decisions, injuries — it takes away from the appeal, the confidence to invest once again. It makes it harder to do as time goes on — and it undoubtedly discourages some newcomers to dig in.

But a day like today isn’t about the Clemenses, the Bondses of MLB and its history books. It’s a day for the Madduxes and the Glavines. It’s a day that may become harder and harder to have in the next few years. Unlike last year, this summer we’ll have someone inducted into Cooperstown and a player or two who collectors can consider collecting once again.


Most players’ cards from the 1980s and beyond aren’t what they used to be in the wake of overproduction that first came on cardboard and then, in many instances, artificial overproduction on the field. The excesses made their times lively, their times vibrant and generated plenty of interest as well as cash for MLB, for card companies, for dealers and even us collectors.

Now, though, it’s a different story in many ways as there is plenty of economic wasteland made up of acres of once-valued cardboard, but there’s also plenty of fertile ground for a collector — someone who wants to collect, say, Maddux. For example, he appears on 11,159 cards in the Beckett.com database, and excluding those too rare to price they total $142,796.28 to collect them all. That’s far from a disappointment — and it’s still far behind Bonds’ $273,100.50 for 11,914 cards.

But just imagine how much stronger it all might be had the excesses been better managed or even prevented? Imagine if we could still have a shot at a new single-season home run record every few years?

Things would look much better — and the hobby would undoubtedly be different — but I’m not sure I’d want it any other way.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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  1. @Jaypers413 8 January, 2014 at 15:06

    “No wrong answer”. So I guess this means the LA beat writer who voted for Jack Morris and left the remainder of his ballot blank was in the right as well. Uh huh.

  2. chrisolds 8 January, 2014 at 15:10

    That’s his choice — just as much as it’s your choice to collect X instead of Y or Z. There were 15 other writers who didn’t vote for Maddux, either.

    “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.”

    That can be interpreted in many ways.

  3. Oldgoldy97 8 January, 2014 at 15:17

    Why writers are the ones who vote doesn’t make sense. It should be a committee of retired players/coaches/gms, not decided by failed athletes. Most writers in any area can’t be objective.

  4. Carmine DiPaolo 8 January, 2014 at 15:25

    I’m glad to see Frank Thomas made it. I always thought that he was a down to earth guy. I have collected many of his cards and actually have him in my organize as his own separate entry. Way to go Mr. Thomas (Big Hurt)!

  5. chrisolds 8 January, 2014 at 15:28

    Old: And players are? The Veterans Committee got a major overhaul in the past because of cronyism — some of the worst Hall of Famers were added to the Hall … by players picking their buddies.

  6. J.R. Lebert 8 January, 2014 at 15:34

    Chris, while I respect the sentiment, my issue with HOF voting is solely this: HOF voting is about the players, not about the voters.

    When a voter such as Ken Gurnick “send a statement” by only voting for Morris, and for choosing to, in a blanket fashion, not vote for any players who played in the “PED Era”, he has, in fact, undermined his own supposed message. He has taken the focus off of the players and placed it solely on himself. That’s not the point of having this privilege to vote!

    And, oh by the way, Morris’ career overlapped with Maddux’s for NINE seasons, 1986-1994. It was in THIS time of his career that Morris won 20 games two times, had his excellent postseason success, and won more than half of his games. I just don’t understand his “statement.”

    I couldn’t be happier for my favorite player of all time, Frank Thomas, former Met (sort of) Tom Glavine, and even former nemesis and insanely great Greg Maddux, but I find myself just as disappointed for Craig Biggio, falling just 2 votes shy. If writers like Gurnick focused more on voting for the most qualified players and less on themselves and making “statements,” Biggio would not have to unfairly wait one more year to enjoy this honor. Hopefully next year, Bags and Bigs can go in together!

  7. Jason K 8 January, 2014 at 15:35

    “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.”

    Note it says PLAYER. Some PLAYERS haven’t been given the opportunity to be on the ballot (Pete Rose). I understand the ban, and I somewhat agree with it. But, the HOF doesn’t necessarily have to adhere to that ban (because they are not affiliated with MLB.

  8. Charlie 8 January, 2014 at 15:36

    I wish there wasn’t a limit of 10. I’ve read countless posts where a writer left guys off the ballot he wanted to include. More than 75% of the 2013 voters think Biggio is a Hall of Famer, but he’s not in because of that rule. It’s an arbirtrary number that doesn’t make sense to me.

  9. Zeprock 8 January, 2014 at 15:50

    It’s not the Hall of Players with Great Statistics. It’s not the Hall of Integrity. It’s not the Hall of Really Good Players. It’s the Hall of Fame. The players represented should be famous. The MOST famous. The Mickey Mantles. The Willie Mays, Babe Ruths, Sandy Koufaxs, Ty Cobbs, Nolan Ryans, Pete Roses, Hank Aarons, Joe DiMaggios, Derek Jeters, Barry Bonds, . . .

  10. The Card Investor 8 January, 2014 at 16:02

    I’ m most surprised by Palmeiro falling off the ballot for future consideration. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle for him, but he may very well turn out to have the most stacked statistical career numbers and not make the Hall (without being actually banned that is).

  11. Bkatto 8 January, 2014 at 17:37

    I agree with Ed. Great article Chris. Well put, with great perspective and insight.



  12. Mike 8 January, 2014 at 18:21

    While I’ll agree that Maddux,Glavine,and Thomas were HOF worthy,I disagree with the supposed system of election.It’s no secret writers vote for those they like and don’t vote for ones they don’t like.The writer who says “I refuse to vote for any player from the steroids era”,is bias and the voters aren’t supposed to be.It points out how flawed the system is.The “rules” for consideration to the HOF are interpreted by each voter,but should it be that way? Shouldn’t there be an exact system? Players are voted to All-Star games by fans and peers,but are voted into the HOF by writers.I don’t know what the answer is,but the current way seems out of date to me.I understand the steroid era,but just because you played during that time shouldn’t mean you’re left off some voters’ ballots.Maybe put up a separate section in the Hall for steroid guys,I don’t know.Whether tainted or not it’s part of baseball history and isn’t that what the HOF is supposed to be about? There will be people 10-20 years from now who won’t know who some of those guys are,just like there’s people today who doesn’t know who Pete Rose is.(Should be in the HOF hands down.He bet as a manager,not a player and since there’s separation of players and managers;Pete Rose the player,should be in.) The whole system is ridiculously absurd.

  13. rocksoldier 8 January, 2014 at 18:25

    Zeprock – I’m sorry but that is just absurd. Tim Tebow is famous, should he be in the NFL Hall of Fame? Eddie Gaedel was famous at one time, should he be in the Hall of Fame, 1 at bat and all? How famous is Al Simmons these days, should he be kicked out of the Hall of Fame??

  14. Jeorge hibz 8 January, 2014 at 18:28

    Hey ‘ did u all see that New Building being built just down the road, it says “Comming Soon” GREATEST MODERN DAY ” former MLB Players ,

  15. chrisolds 8 January, 2014 at 18:57

    Jason: Easy solution for Rose came years ago — don’t bet on baseball. And the rules there were well-known.

  16. chrisolds 8 January, 2014 at 18:59

    J.R.: Read the rules. A voter can interpret them any way that they want. There are no other criteria for election.

  17. chrisolds 8 January, 2014 at 19:00

    Charlie: That sentiment may be why 16 voters did not choose Maddux. They knew he was getting in and cast their vote elsewhere.

  18. chrisolds 8 January, 2014 at 19:01

    Investor: Failed drug test and lying to Congress aren’t on any other resumes on the ballot. They were on Palmeiro’s.

    Mike: Are you in favor of a statistical plateau formula? X about of X stats gets one in? Under that model, all the cheaters would prosper — or players would hang on as long as they could to get to their magic numbers.

    Interestingly, there are two Halls of Fame for Japanese baseball. One does this — and the other follows the same formula as Cooperstown.

    Also, do you see any flaws with the annual All-Star voting? I do.

  19. bill johnson 8 January, 2014 at 19:51

    all 3 of these gentlemen deserved to be in the hall. being a frank thomas fan an collector this is a great day for me and all thomas/glavine/maddux fans. i dont see what the fuss is about one voter not voting for maddux. he still got in. and he serves to be there. next year biggio and hopefully piazza will be there.

  20. Mike 8 January, 2014 at 22:54

    Chris- I’m not saying there should be a magic number.Although,the in general rule of thumb is 500 HR,3,000 hits, or 275-300 wins.That’s why some players hang on to hit those numbers.I think the whole career should be taken into account.Defense and offense.Those magic numbers often over shadow what a player has or hasn’t done.I’ll give an example off the top of my head.Adam Dunn.If he hangs on he should get to 500 HR.As a whole is he a HOFer? I don’t think so.Omar Vizquel.One of the best defensive SS to ever play,but his lack of wow type numbers probably will never get him much of a chance.I believe in looking at the whole body of work.

    My original point was,the voting system is flawed.There’s writers who won’t vote for someone regardless of whether the player has had a HOF career.It goes towards what you said about Maddux.People might not have voted because they figured others would.I wonder if they thought that about Biggio? 2 people who may have thought their vote would have no bearing,did in fact have bearing on him not getting in.Now I’m talking about players who there was no doubt played clean.The steroid guys,imo,should have a separate section.They are a part of baseball history.Maybe give fans the chance to vote on those guys.Maybe 1 per year gets added.I’m for promoting the history of the game in the HOF and deserving players,who were never thought to be on steroids, should be on every ballot.Maybe doing a detailed round by round by round voting to determine let’s say 10 players.Then vote on those 10,make everyone vote for 1-3 of those 10.The top 3ish gets in.Have some of the older players who’ve fell victim to the system be voted on with yes or no and majority vote determines. I don’t have an exact system,but the current one’s flawed and lies totally on voters who are bias.

    The All-Star game.Flawed,yes.The starters should be picked by the fans.The reserves should be among the best group of players during the season to date.It was meant to be a fun game to thank the fans for their support.I agree on every team being represented.I also think that if a team only has one player there,that player should play.There’s some fans who paid all the money to be there to see their guy,he should play.If a pitcher has just pitched and can’t play,replace them with someone who can.

    Lastly,sorry for the long read.I noticed your stance on Pete Rose.Yes he bet on baseball and lied about it.He always bet to win so he didn’t cheat by shaving runs or throwing games.He did it as a manager,not a player. Pete the manager broke the rules,not Pete the player.There’s players in the HOF that did much worse.He’s been punished long enough.He deserves to be in the HOF,but as long as Selig has any say he won’t be.

  21. chrisolds 9 January, 2014 at 11:41

    Sorry, others’ transgressions don’t make Pete Rose’s any less criminal. In fact, MLB has had rules about gambling for decades — unlike steroids/PEDs.

  22. Zeprock 9 January, 2014 at 12:43

    rocksoldier – I was referring to the “most” famous. Not players who had 15 minutes of fame or someone like Tebow who’s had just a few years of it. The players with enduring fame. Many players had a few years of fame (Mark Fidrych, Fernando Valenzuela, Bo Jackson for instance) but their fame was fleeting and did not last for their entire career. Ted Williams or Stan Musial on the other hand were truly famous. Those are the type of players that belong in the Hall.

  23. J.R. Lebert 9 January, 2014 at 13:08

    Chris, I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with whomever WAS or was NOT voted for. I see arguments for many players on the ballot, either for or against them being HOFers, which is fine. That’s the beauty of the process. But the argument should always be about the PLAYERS, not the voters.

    My question for Burnick would be this: If you are ONLY voting for Morris because of his career accomplishments, fine. But if part of your argument is that you have decided that you cannot vote for players in the PED era, how do you account for Morris’ latter half of his career?

    Making no judgment on whether or not Morris did ‘roids (I would argue not, but with no proof either way), he DID play in the PED era. Canseco was a rookie in 1985, but he certainly is reported to have starting using before 1994, Morris’ last year. He also most likely wasn’t the FIRST to use. Wouldn’t that also mean that Morris played in the PED era?

    Also, please explain to me how Gurnick NOW thinks Morris a HOFer despite not voting for him in 2011? Did his stats change? NO. Did he have a hard time deciding who to whittle down his ten check marks to? NO. In 2011, he voted for 2 players, Lee Smith and Bert Blyleven. But wait… in 2012, he left Lee Smith off and, like this year, ONLY voted for Morris. Did Lee Smith suddenly lose saves?

    I understand that voters can interpret the ballot however they choose, but doesn’t there have to be some sort of consistency with their logic & voting process?

  24. Jason 9 January, 2014 at 16:15

    People need to stop complaining about the voting process. They’ve gotten it right all of these years. Can you name a guy who is no longer eligible who should be in? No Dale Murphy and no Jack Morris does not make the hall worse. Every “list” needs a cutoff. They are the guys where the line was drawn.
    The real problem is what do we do with PED users. Leaving that up to the voters isn’t fair. Idelson and Selig need to stop passing the buck to one another and actually realize they are in this together and make a decision and give direction on PEDs.

    And for the guy who mentioned Pete Rose only betting on his team, that is fine. But what people fail to realize is the dangers of gambling. The rule is there to protect games being thrown. Any gambler who gets into enough debt will have their weak moment, let’s be happy Rose got caught before he owed enough that he fixed a game.

  25. Matt 9 January, 2014 at 21:47

    I’m going to get a lot of hate from all the people obsessed with stats, but I’m disappointed Jack Morris didn’t get in

  26. Mike 10 January, 2014 at 00:03

    Chris-Pete’s aren’t criminal.Was it against the rules? Yes.Is it as bad as guys playing while they’re drunk,on illegal drugs,or cheating by using steroids? No.Maybe that’s my argument.To put Rose on the same stage as the cheaters isn’t right.A-Rod gets 200+ games suspension for cheating,again,lying about it,and trying to buy his way out of it and undermining the investigation.Rose has gotten 20+ years for a far less offense.However all these cheaters will keep making millions and MLB will keep making millions off of the cheaters.It shows how flawed the whole MLB rule system is,not just the HOF system.Which was changed to specifically not allow Rose entry to the HOF under the direction of MLB.The rules were changed/formally written down at/about the time he would’ve been eligible for both committees.It’s sad when a guy who played with cocaine in his pocket is allowed to be voted upon,but Rose isn’t.Imperfect system.

    Jason-Rose was riddled in debt.He sold quite a bit of memorabilia to help cover some of that debt.The Corvette he was given by Marge Schott for breaking the hits record was sold and bought by a local card shop in Cincy.I got the chance to see it and other items bought by the shop.It was actually pretty cool to see.As for someone who deserves it,imo based on total body of work, but isn’t in,(besides Rose),Dave Parker,Al Oliver, Lave Cross,Steve Garvey,Fred McGriff,Jim Kaat,and Gil Hodges just to name a few.

  27. Redwings1997 10 January, 2014 at 21:38

    The thing that all the Pete Rose supporters keep failing to mention is that he was given chance after chance after chance to fess up to his wrong doings before his lifetime ban…and he chose not to. That is on him and no one else. He made his bed and now he has to sleep in it.

  28. Mike 12 January, 2014 at 15:28

    Redwings1997- Pete Rose wasn’t banned in the sense of a suspension.He agreed to it as a settlement of the issue after it was taken to court.Neither side could 100% prove their case.MLB’s report wasn’t totally accurate and they knew they couldn’t win straight up.Just as Rose didn’t know everything MLB had and wasn’t sure he could win straight up.So they struck a deal,under the premise that Rose would be allowed to apply for reinstatement after 1 year.However,the request was denied and hasn’t received an answer since each time he’s applied.It’s no secret Bud Selig doesn’t like Rose or his attitude and has shut down every outlet Rose has had or tried to get and refuses to even consider a reinstatement.Regardless of the good press it would bring.Bottom line the man deserves to be enshrined as one of the greatest players to ever step onto a baseball field and as long as Selig has any say,it will never happen.

  29. Redwings1997 13 January, 2014 at 13:09

    Mike-That is interesting. I never knew that MLB didn’t have enough evidence against him. I just always assumed that they knew he was a great ambassador for the game of baseball and therefore gave him chances to fess up so he could continue to remain close to the game. This makes me hope they come out with a movie at some point so I could get MY facts straight, but it probably won’t happen till after Rose is gone. Chris Olds-Is there any talk anywhere of someone making a movie about this whole ordeal?

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