Well, it's not the worst Hall of Fame ballot ...

Bob Levey

As you undoubtedly know, Murray Chass is a baseball writer of long standing who has, since leaving The New York Times a few years ago, taken advantage of his freedom to become journalism's most loveable predictable curmudgeon. He also writes the occasional solid blog post column, when he's not busy vilifying sabermetrics or sports drugs.

Alas, this is not one of those occasional columns:

The Hall of Fame ballot sits on my desk, just to the left of my computer. Of the 36 names on it, three have the boxes next to their names marked with an X: Jack Morris, of course; Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine. A fourth box, the one next to Frank Thomas, may also get an X upon further review.

The boxes next to these 10 names will not get an X: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Eric Gagne, Paul Lo Duca, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa.

These non-exes won’t get my vote because they were proved to have cheated, admitted they cheated or are strongly suspected of having cheated. I have not voted for any player in those categories and am not prepared to start doing so now.

Chass actually devotes the great majority of his blog post column to questioning the ostensible double standard of electing modern managers to the Hall of Fame while rejecting their steroids-fueled players. Which I already discussed in this space at length.

About that ballot, though ... Look, it's very clear that Murray Chass has a steroids fixation. It's been very clear for a long time. It becomes only more clear when Chass includes non-viable candidates like Gagne and Lo Duca among his list of steroids-disqualified candidates; mentioning those two in the same breath as Barry Bonds and Rogers Clemens is merely more proof that Chass is obsessed with moralizing.

It's odd to see Chass place Craig Biggio among players who "were proved to have cheated, admitted they cheated or are strongly suspected of having cheated." Strongly suspected by ... whom, exactly? I've never seen anything in print about Biggio. I've not heard any rumors, either. Chass is welcome to his opinion, of course. But if he's not willing to cite the existence of even anonymous sources, he should at least admit that he is the one doing the strong suspecting.

So far, we've got two problems with his ballot:

1. He's not voting for Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, and
2. He's not forthcoming about his Craig Biggio suspicions.

But there's a third, arguably bigger problem with his ballot: Murray Chass doesn't seem to have any sort of handle on the greatness of baseball players.

There is one advantage in leaving off the acknowledged and (strongly) suspected steroids users: That leaves plenty of room for other candidates. And yet somehow Chass, in all his intellectual glory, has found room for only three of them. One of whom is (of course) Jack Morris. Meanwhile, he can't seem to find room on his ballot, or in his heart, or deep within the recesses of that powerful intellect, for Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, or Larry Walker.

It would have been so easy for Chass to satisfy his moralistic impulse and still vote for seven or eight or nine excellent candidates. And instead he's voting for three, or maybe four if he can somehow convince himself that Frank Thomas ranks among the all-time greatest hitters.

Oh, and I should mention AGAIN that Chass remains among the vast legion of voters who simply refuses to make a meaningful distinction between the steroids of the 1990s and the amphetamines of the 1970s and '80s (and '90s). Frankly, I cannot take the steroids argument seriously until someone does make that meaningful distinction. I've been waiting for some years now.

The good news is that Chass says this is the last time he'll vote. The bad news is that there are many, many more voters just like him, and they'll keep voting until they're stopped by death, senility, or long-overdue change in the procedures.

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