Beyond Golf — 20 January 2020 by Kirby Arnold
Honor + excellence = my HOF votes

Countless times as I worked on a story about a player during my career as a baseball writer, I would ask teammates, opponents, managers, coaches and front-office executives a very open-ended question before getting down to specifics: What makes the guy such a valuable part of the team?

The answers varied, but there often was one common response describing the great ones.

“He played the right way.”

That’s it. Five words that speak a volume.

Playing the right way means more than defining a player by the number of strikeouts he records, home runs he hits or WAR he achieves. It also describes his value as a teammate, as an ambassador of a game that always will be greater than anyone who plays it, as someone who plays with a spirit of fairness, character, integrity and sportsmanship.

It’s so important that the National Baseball Hall of Fame includes that in its rules for voters in the annual election.  Rule 5: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I like to follow the rules.

That’s why my 2020 Hall of Fame ballot again does not have checkmarks next to the names of anyone who has tested positive or admitted to using performance-enhancing substances, or whose character is so stained by suspicion that it has cast a dark cloud over their careers and the game as well.

Sorry, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.  Unless that integrity/character/sportsmanship clause disappears from the voting rules, I withhold my vote.

I voted for eight players on my 2020 ballot: Todd Helton, Derek Jeter, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner and Larry Walker. All great players who deserve to be mentioned among the elite of the game.  Jeter probably will be a unanimous pick, and deservedly so.  Walker, held back so long because of the belief that the part of his career in Colorado inflated his offensive numbers, also could make it. And deservedly so as well.

They would be outstanding additions to the Hall. They were among the greatest on the field who, as many would say, played the right way.

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About Author

Kirby Arnold

Kirby was 10 years old when he played his first round of golf with his grandmother on the sand greens of the Versailles Country Club in Missouri, and his love of the game has never wavered. Only one thing stood between Kirby and a single-digit handicap: his job. Kirby worked 42 years as a sports writer and editor at newspapers in Missouri and Washington. He started while a high school sophomore at the Rolla Daily News in Missouri and covered a variety of events, including his own high school basketball games (he made sure his name was spelled right). He was a sports writer and editor for 10 years at the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, covering Southwest Missouri State University football and basketball, Missouri University football and basketball, and numerous motorsports events including the Indianapolis 500 during the 1970s and 1980s. He moved to the Seattle area in 1984, becoming assistant sports editor at The Herald in Everett, Wa., then executive sports editor from 1987-1998, a time when The Herald's sports coverage was recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as being among the best in the nation for newspapers its size. Kirby returned to the press box in 1999, taking over The Herald's coverage of the Seattle Mariners. He covered the Mariners/baseball beat the next 13 seasons and in 2007 wrote his first book, Tales from the Seattle Mariners Dugout. While Kirby pursued a rewarding newspaper career, one of his lifelong goals remained unfulfilled: breaking 80 on a consistent basis. Kirby left The Herald at the end of 2011, moved to Phoenix and immediately began spending more time at the golf course. His only excuse now is a 12 on the stimpmeter.

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