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.