Beyond Golf — 04 August 2015 by Jim Street
New HOF voting rule is way off base

One of the rotten things about getting old(er) is that you never know when you’ll be informed that you no longer are worthy of doing something you have done diligently and honestly for the past 32 years.

Such was the case a few days ago when I received an email from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY notifying me (and many other former Major League Baseball writers) that our days as voters for the HOF are numbered – in my case, five years.

Until this past Tuesday, BBWAA members who had been in the organization for at least 10 consecutive years were granted lifetime Hall of Fame voting privileges, and I don’t know of any of these old codgers who haven’t taken this “privilege” seriously.

I never imagined the HOF would link “retirement” with “death.” One of the few perks of a long-time baseball writer is to participate in the HOF election process and unlike some bloggers and a certain ESPN clown suggests, the “old-timers” still know as much, if not more, about the game than sabermetric fanatics.

But effective immediately, former members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, an organization that I proudly served as National President (in 1998), are on the clock.

When a BBWAA member stops becoming an “active” member, i.e. retires, he or she has a 10-year grace period as an eligible HOF voter. Those people will have the opportunity for annual reinstatement, based on their coverage of the game in the preceding year, but the chances of remaining eligible are slim and nil. Despite covering more than 5,000 MLB games over a 40-year period, and have been a voter since 1983, I will not be allowed to vote for Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey or anyone who retires after the 2015 season, including Ichiro —  I probably wouldn’t vote for anyway — and Felix Hernandez, just to mention a few.

Furthermore, there could be former “inactive” baseball writers who have received induction in the HOF via the Spink Award and they, too, figure to be dismissed as future HOF voters. Really?

This apparently is the brainstorm of the HOF Board of Directors, whose intent is not clear to me. But if they get rid of the most veteran writers, perhaps the path to selection will be cleared for the likes of Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens, Mark McGwire and other PED-linked former baseball players who have repeatedly been denied entrance to Cooperstown, largely because of retired MLB writers like myself who worked during the game’s sullied steroid era. This is one way to make us disappear.

You can bet the farm that if the PED guys do not get elected by the writers, there is no chance in hell that the current HOF members will vote them in.

The BBWAA has a long history of “active” members who never covered a baseball team regularly. To my knowledge, every sports editor in a Major League city is accorded membership if he or she wants. Back in the day, sports cartoonists for major newspapers were BBWAA members. Sure, some of the 650 current voters, such as sports editors who never attend games, could be weeded out. But to make it a blanket “10 years and you are done” policy, including those of us who dedicated our professional lives to Major League Baseball as beat reporters doesn’t seem fair.

Related Articles

Share

About Author

avatar
Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

(0) Readers Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *