You are a writer with a Hall of Fame vote. You've worked hard to get where you are, and you've written thousands upon thousands of words about baseball. You've watched tens of thousands of hours of baseball. That's three hours a pop for about 180 games a year or so. And if you have a vote, you've been writing for at least 10 years. Assuming one game per day during the season, that's a minimum of 225 full days of around-the-clock baseball.
You've earned this. And you take pride in it. You take pride in selecting the very best baseball players and telling future generations that those players were baseball. More than almost all of their peers, these players defined baseball for you. So you take this responsibility seriously.
But there's a problem: The Internet is horrible. Like, seriously, the worst.
You will submit ballots that won't be popular with everyone -- if everyone loved every single Hall of Fame ballot, what would be the point in voting in the first place? That's the whole point of this. There are supposed to be debates and disagreements.
Things might be different this time. The BBWAA released the MVP and Cy Young ballots for the first time this year. If they do the same with the Hall of Fame -- or if you actually write about how you voted -- well, the Internet is going to come after you and your stupid picks. They'll tweet at you. They'll e-mail you. They'll e-mail your editor. They'll blog nasty things about you, and in the comments of that blog, people will write worse things about you. All you want to do is vote for a baseball player, but you'll have unleashed the fury of annoying keyboard warriors everywhere. It's easily the worst part about having a Hall of Fame vote, I'm sure.
So I have a proposal for you. It's simple, and there's really no way you can say no. It makes too much sense. Here goes ...
If you vote for Alan Trammell and Tim Raines, I will call off the Internet. Regardless of how many stupid picks you make, and even if you use a crayon to write in Bobby Bonilla, all you have to do is vote for Trammell and Raines, and no one on the Internet will harass and/or annoy you.
Do you realize the kind of freedom that would give you? You can vote for Jack Morris and write that you did so because "you like rugged individualism, mustaches, and a passion for winning", and no one will say a peep. They'll just let it go because you did the right thing and voted for Trammell and Raines.
You can refuse to vote for any player who might have accidentally shared a straw with someone who did steroids. Barry Bonds? A horrific cheater. Jeff Bagwell? Too muscular. Mike Piazza? No one has that kind of opposite-field power. Edgar Martinez? Sure, he fits. Kenny Lofton? Beady eyes. Keep out anyone who played in 1998 because you just can't be sure. And when you submit a ballot with Raines and Trammell on it, you can lean back, put your feet up in the air, and enjoy the silence that comes with people on the Internet finding better things to do.
This is something of an urgent matter. See, the Hall of Fame ballot is really crowded now, and it's going to get a lot more crowded next year. There's a chance that these two will be ignored or, even worse, soon fall off the ballot completely. That's what happened to Lou Whitaker, who might have been more qualified than Raines or Trammell.
Trammell is the best shortstop not in the Hall of Fame, but he's dinged because Cal Ripken was one of his contemporaries. Raines isn't the best outfielder out of the Hall of Fame, but he's close. And he's dinged because Rickey Henderson was one of his contemporaries. You might not think they're worthy of the Hall, but they are. That's the best part. By doing the right thing, you're still getting the Internet called off.
This leads to an obvious question: How exactly will I call off the Internet? Let me worry about that. I have dozens of Facebook friends, a Twitter account, and a sharp mind. I'll figure something out. And you have my word on that.
Fill out your ballot however you see fit, and leave a little room at the bottom for Mr. Trammell and Mr. Raines. That way, you can go about your business without ever having to confront the stupid opinions of people who think differently than you. Just vote for the perennial All-Stars, the players who helped define baseball in the '80s, and no one gets hurt. Or, at least, no one's feelings get hurt. You can have it both ways: the responsibility of a Hall of Fame vote without any of the scrutiny. This deal expires before next year's ballot, so act now. Take advantage of this opportunity.
Or you could just vote for them because they deserve it, you twits.