Strawman Sportswriter’s Hall of Fame Ballot

Howdy, folks. It’s that time of year again, when the BWABBA entrusts me to be one of the proud voters for the Baseball Hall o’ Fame. The ballot instructions are clear: “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.” Some voters like to assign numbers to each of those categories and do some sort of math thing. Even if I knew how to use a calculator, which I don’t, I don’t think you can decide the value of anything based on a number. That would be like going into a restaurant and choosing your meal based on the price. I don’t want to know what food costs. I just want to eat it. That, my friends, is a J.G. Taylor Spunk Award-winning analogy, which is why I know I’m in line to make it into that Hall one day for my writin’ ablilities. The Spunk Award will one day be mine. Where were we now? Oh, yes, the ballot. Here we go.

A lot of talk this year about BARRY LARKIN. I don’t really understand it. Did he bat .300? Nope. Career .295. I don’t want to dilute my hall with people who couldn’t get a hit at least 300 out of every… wait, how do we do the batting average again? 300 hits out of every 100 times at bat. Yeah, that sounds right. So, .295, which is like 500 fewer hits every season… I say no. Besides, he didn’t even come close to that magic number of 300 wins. He had, um, I think it’s zero. So, it’s a no. Although I will revisit next year if we find out he did drugs or something. That might explain the shortfall and give me a reason to vote for him.

As long as he’s been on the ballot, I’ve been voting for JACK MORRIS, and in fact I’ve often tried to vote for him twice. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the mustache, but Jack Morris always screamed winner to me. In fact, he often screamed winner right *at* me, when I was covering those Detroit Highlanders back when he was their ace starting catcher. That’s right, I remember a playoff game where he pitched, he caught, and he hit seven five-run homers. In fifty-two innings of hard-fought baseball. That’s the kind of legend Jack Morris was, is, and always will be. He gets my vote. Twice. Eight more spots on the ballot to go.

And none of them go to old LEE SMITH. Longtime closer for the Astros, sure, I can see why he’s stayed on the ballot all these years. 2.67 earned run average, 216 career saves, and a 17th-place finish in the 1986 MVP voting. My kind of player. Did you know he struck out more batters than he hit with pitches, every single year of his career? Extraordinary. And Dave — I liked to call him Dave, even though the ballot says his given name was Lee — even started a game back in ’82. That’s the kind of sacrifice Hall of Famers make for their teams. Starting a game even when you’re a finisher. Sportsmanship and character, in spades. But when it comes down to it, he balked a few too many times for me to check that box. Borderline call, but he continues to be a no for me in 2012.

Now, JEFF BAGWELL is a tough one. I never saw this one play, but I have heard stories. He apparently sold steroids to over three thousand of his fellow players, or so the rumors go. Look, the truth is, Bagwell walked too much. I like my players to run, not walk. You want to get to first base? Run there! Don’t be a lazy bones, and let the pitcher put you on. You gotta earn it. Too many walks, too many home runs — give the fielders a chance, man! — and far, far too many total bases. Good grief, it’s like he wanted to be the best hitter on the team or something. That’s terrible sportsmanship. Also, he didn’t bat .300, so, just like my good friend BARLEY LARKING, he doesn’t quite make the cut.

TIM RAINES. “When it Raines, it Poors,” I’ve always said. But I don’t see a player named Poors on the ballot, so I don’t know quite what to do. He’s known for stealing bases, which, again, affects my judgment on his sportsmanship, since thieves don’t make very good sports. But he was also caught a good number of times, so hopefully he learned his lesson. I’m tempted to give him a special dispensation from my .300 rule, because of all the triples he hit. If you count each triple as three hits, which a math person told me is okay to do, his batting average ends up at a whopping .319, which is, of course, monumental for a player his size. So, Tim Raines, you get my vote. That makes 3. Morris, Morris, and Raines. Onwards and upwards.

Next we have EDGARDO MARTINEZ, who split his career between the Mariners and the New York Mets. Love that batting average, and those IBRs. Sure, some people call them RBIs, but to me they’ll always be In-Batted Runs. Makes more sense, doesn’t it? With IBRs and STDs (Singles+Triples+Doubles), I hoped to revolutionize baseball terminology, but they never quite caught on. (Derek Jeter is, of course, the active leader in STDs.) So, yes, a vote for Martinez, no question.

Perhaps now is the right point to mention my write-in vote for CARL YATREMSKY. Every year I look for his name on the ballot, and it’s never there, and it’s just not right! Yatremsky hit over 450 home runs in his career with the Boston Braves, and it’s as if he’s been entirely forgotten! He should have been on the ballot years ago, and he should have already been put in the Hall of Fame, no question. It’s a travesty that no one but me has been championing this cause. Heck, he’s so famous, they even named my great-granddaughter’s birth control pills after him. If that doesn’t count for integrity, I don’t know what does.

5 votes down, 5 to go, to get to the ballot minimum of 10. And who’s next to consider? ALAN TRAMMELL, who is on the ballot for consideration as a manager. Trammell managed the Tigers for three seasons, and the team went 186-300, for a winning percentage of .383. Wow! That’s well over my .300 threshold, so it’s really a no-brainer. Trammell gets my vote!

LARRY WALKER. Come on, now. Walks are in his name! Automatic no. Won’t even consider it.

Next is the Whopper himself, MARK MCGWIRE. I’m so tempted to vote for McGwire and his 583 round-robins, but, oh, that batting average. I just wish he would have made some kind of effort to increase that average above .263. If only he had taken some sort of substance to improve his strength, or ability to tolerate a workout, then maybe he’d be worth considering. If only there was some evidence that he had tried a little harder, injected himself with just a little something, then I think he could get my vote. But, for now, it has to be a no on McGwire.

And it’s also a no for his brother, FRED MCGWIRE. Sure, he had everything you want in a first sacker. A good smile, big balls, and a huge GDP. (He even led the league one year!) But, as it so often does, it comes down to sacrifice hits, and Fred only had two of ’em, his entire career. What kind of sportsmanship is that? What kind of on-field performance? I can’t ignore the evidence. I can only try my best to understand it and make good judgments. So for Fred, it is a no vote, no dote. Hey, that rhymes. Wait, isn’t there a silent ‘b’ in there somewhere? Vobte? Never mind. I should take another one of my amphetamine pills. Okay, here we go.

DON MATTINGLY. Now there’s a .300 hitter. .308 to be slightly inexact. And not too many of those selfish walks and homers. Donnie Baseboards had a delightful career, with a ton of Golden Globe awards for his efforts at first base. Those are the people’s awards, and they can’t be ignored. Gets my vote, just like he has every even-numbered year he’s been eligible. That’s 7! Will this ballot ever end???

My favorite team growing up in the 1920s was the Kentucky Bourbons, and no player better exemplifies the spirit of the Bourbons than ol’ DALE MURPHY. Murphy loved his bourbon, and his crack. Always willing to share, always a great teammate, and hardly ever getting hit by a pitch. It’s too bad he was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald. I don’t know who I’m talking about anymore, but when I hear Dale Murphy, I think of a walrus being eaten by a wolf, on the roof of the Baseball Hall of Fame. So I can’t deny a vote to this one. Eight down, one more makes ten, I am on a roll. And also eating a roll, because I’m hungry.

RAFAEL PALMOLIVE is my favorite player-slash-dishwashing liquid. He even won a Gold Glove one year when he hardly played the field. That’s commitment for ya. And so what if he was in Viagra commercials? What do I care? No, the reason I can’t vote for Raffy Ballgame is his lack of durability. 20 seasons, and he missed substantial time on the disabled list in 0 of them, meaning I just can’t quite pull that trigger. It’s a no for Palmolive, at least until he gets injured or something.

JUAN GONZALEZ. Just short. If he’d been a little taller than 6’3″, I think I’d give him my vote.

And now, the newcomers to the ballot. I’d never heard of any of them, since I lost my hearing in 1991. But I had one spot left on the ballot, so I knew I had to give them each a fair consideration. I eliminated ERIC YOUNG right away, since, by policy, I don’t vote for anyone whose last name starts with three vowels in a row. And don’t be sending me hate mail about how Y isn’t really a vowel. I’ve dealt with that issue in the past, and I won’t get into it again. RUBEN SIERRA is out because I don’t vote for sandwiches, and TIM SALMON for the same reason (what– you don’t like your salmon in a sandwich???). A bunch of the other guys had names that were too long for me to remember, so I was left with two options: JAVY LOPEZ or PHIL NEVIN. Javy Lopez — or, Davey Lopes, as he used spell his name before all this political correctness — was quite a player. Phil Nevin played almost every position. So of course I wanted to vote for Nevin. But then I forgot, and submitted my ballot without his name on it. Oh well, who cares, I’m old.

Which leaves me with the following ballot– and don’t tell me it’s not better than ESPN’s Peter Pascarelli’s!


(And next year’s going to be a doozy, with Jeff Cirillo and Bob Wickman on the ballot for the first time. Wickman 2013!)

Jeremy Blachman is the author of Anonymous Lawyer, a satirical novel that should make people who didn't go to law school feel good about their life choices. Read more at McSweeney's or elsewhere. He likes e-mail.

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10 years ago

You missed Tony Womack, but luckily I did that one for you: