A few words from a jealous non-voter

Leon Halip

Last week, an experienced baseball writer named Murray Chass published his Hall of Fame ballot. He didn't vote for a bunch of great players because he suspects they used steroids. This list includes Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza, neither of whom are known to have failed a drug test, been hauled into a drug trial, or anything else that got them publicly linked to steroids in a meaningful way.

Anyway, I wrote about Chass's ballot. So did Craig Calcaterra.

Thursday, Chass responded. He used most of his ammunition on Craig, who forgot something he wrote three years ago. Chass seems to find this surprising, that someone would forget something from three years ago. Chass also, for the first time, offers some semi-evidence that Biggio did use steroids; he claims to have spoken to six players who said Biggio used steroids.

I don't really care much, for reasons I wrote about earlier this week. I do care a little, and so I'm glad that Chass has favored us with ever slightly more evidence. Just as a matter of historical record, I would like a full accounting of the players who used (and didn't use) steroids. It would help us place their careers and their talents in greater historical perspective. Alas, we're never really going to know much at all. I believe that a significant number of players used steroids and the like, but that many of those players used them just briefly.

I wouldn't vote for Biggio, but mostly because there are 10 candidates I think were better baseball players. Including Mike Piazza. Anyway, Chass did save a few bullets for me. Not that I blame him, since I'd taken a few shots of my own. Here's the fun part:

Rob Neyer is another blogger who has a problem with me. As if he had nothing better to write about – and if he didn’t his employer should dock him a day’s pay (I receive no pay for this column so don’t suggest the same for me), he wrote his entire column about my Hall of Fame ballot.

That actually is a popular exercise among bloggers because they are jealous of the baseball writers who get to vote. They think they can do better, but they can’t vote and it pains them.

Anyway, Neyer doesn’t think I voted for enough candidates. Even though I said I wasn’t voting for steroids-related candidates, Neyer wrote, 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.”

Well, Rob old buddy, sorry to have to say this, but my standards apparently are higher than yours. I considered those players and concluded they weren’t Hall of Famers. When you get to vote, vote for them and anyone else you want. When you get to vote.

Still not sure what a blogger is, old buddy. I do exactly the same thing you do, except a lot more often. Do I think I can do better with a Hall of Fame ballot? Sure. Don't we all? Doesn't every single baseball writer think his Hall of Fame ballot, whether real or imagined, would be at least slightly better than the next guy's? Otherwise, why not just ask the next guy if you can copy his?

I suppose it's true that Chass's standards are generally higher than mine. You know, if you ignore his insistence on voting for Jack Morris, who doesn't have nearly the case that Mike Mussina has. I applaud high standards. My issue with Chass's standards is that he's trying to invent a new Hall of Fame in which there's not room for players like Mussina and Trammell. The Hall of Fame's a self-defining institution; you're a Hall of Famer (or should be) if your performance falls within that definition. Mussina's and Trammell's clearly do, which is why I would vote for them.

Are we jealous of Murray Chass? I don't know. Maybe a little. But it's possible to have philosophical and intellectual differences that aren't motivated by jealousy. Attributing jealousy and mocking someone for not having been a member of the BBWAA for 10 years is one way of not grappling with the real argument. It's not a good way. But it's a way.

My other issue with Chass, of course, is that he seems to see the world, or at least this little part of it, utterly in blacks and whites, in zeroes and ones. If Murray Chass thinks you used steroids, you're out. If you're a manager who managed players who used steroids, you're out. Greenies, totally in. Steroids, totally out. And while he's never said this, mustn't this rule also apply to general managers? So no John Schuerholz, Dave Dombrowski, Walt Jocketty, Brian Cashman, or (heaven forbid!) Billy Beane in the Hall of Fame, either.

This seems to me a very strange, monochromatic way of looking at the world. This little part of it, anyway.

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