Berry Tramel

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Baseball Hall of Fame: Time for full confession

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 9, 2014 at 10:15 am •  Published: January 9, 2014
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Berry Tramel said it shouldn't be up to writers to decide whether or not Frank Thomas (pictured) deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Berry Tramel said it shouldn't be up to writers to decide whether or not Frank Thomas (pictured) deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Everyone is all worked up about the Baseball Hall of Fame voting and Dan Le Batard giving his ballot to Deadspin.

Le Batard is an ESPN television and radio host, and a Miami Herald columnist. He allowed Deadspin readers to fill out his ballot because, he said, he had become disenchanted with the voting process. Basically, Le Batard is upset that so many voters are ignoring the steroid crowd — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, etc.

I think Le Batard was wrong, but in the name of full disclosure, let me share a story. Back in 1990 or 1991, when I was sports editor of the Norman Transcript, I gave my vote to my readers. Even then, the Heisman voting struck me as rather lame. So why not make some PR hay?

This was in the day before email. So I told readers the hour or two when I would be in the office on a certain day, and they could call and give me their vote. And I would go with whatever the electorate decided.

I can’t remember who they went for, other than OU tailback Mike Gaddis ended up on my ballot. But whatever. I thought it was a fun way to involve the fans. I didn’t vote for the Heisman much after that. I quit voting for anything. Not in the polls. Not for all-conference awards. Not for awards — Hall of Fame, Heismans — that can immortalize.

I like this way much better.

But Le Batard was not trying to have some fun. Was not trying to connect with readers or listeners. He was trying to make a point.

I disagree with his point. I think Steve Bartman deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame as much as Bonds does. Roger Craig deserves Cooperstown more than does Roger Clemens. Yes, they were great players before steroids. But they stained the game. Staining the game should be an automatic disqualifier.

I do think Le Batard has a point if he’s trying to say the writers ought to be out of the voting business.

And not because they’re not qualified. Baseball isn’t football. In football, us lay men know what happened. But we don’t know why something happened. Quick. We’ve all dissected the Sugar Bowl as much as any football game in recent memory. But who played well on the OU offensive line? We don’t know. We barely know who played well on the defensive line. That part of the game is hidden to us.

But it is not hidden in baseball. The hows and whys of baseball stand before us in their birthday suits. We know who is great and why they’re great. We know how runs are scored and runs prevented. We know who is a great player and who is not. Baseball’s intangibles have been revealed. Not just revealed, but calculated. Not so much in basketball and not at all in football.

But baseball? Fans and writers who really care know baseball. They know, sometimes even more than baseball people, who is a great player. Some baseball people are mired in the old ways of looking at somebody’s swing or somebody’s batting average or somebody’s footspeed and declaring them a certain kind of player. But new-age thinkers — and frankly, it’s not all that new, having been around more than 30 years — can identify the level of a ballplayer’s contribution to winning, almost immediately.

So baseball writers are as good a group as any to vote.

But they shouldn’t. Journalists should report the news. Not make it. Journalists should comment on the Hall of Fame voting, not decide the Hall of Fame voting. Journalists should tell everyone the facts and figures of Hall of Fame candidates, not decide whether those candidates will walk the shores of Lake Oswego in the summer.

I don’t have a Hall of Fame vote. Never been a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. But if I was a member, I shouldn’t have a vote. I’ve got other responsibilities that trump the ego status of deciding Cooperstown.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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