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Ken Gurnick is only the latest example why the Hall of Fame process stinks

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  January 8, 2014 09:03 AM

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How's this for hypocrisy?

On his 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick, he of the controversy for voting for Jack Morris for this year’s class – and nobody else - on the basis of the Steroid Era, filled in not one, but two names.

Morris and Lee Smith.

Let’s set aside for a moment Gurnick’s silly notion that Morris pitched in a baseball era of Pollyanna and post-game banana splits. “Smith,” Gurnick wrote at this time last year, “who retired as the career saves leader but has since been passed, gets my vote for his early dominance, career-long consistency and durability.”

Smith pitched from 1980-97, which would make you believe his later years were knee-deep into baseball’s offensive explosion, no?

It gets better with Gurnick. In 2011, he voted for Bert Blyleven and Smith. No Jack. Apparently, Morris pitched better 16 years after retirement than he did in his first 12 years on the ballot.

Ah, welcome to Hall of Fame election results day, when the general logic of certain members of the Baseball Writers Association of America is exposed in glorious, fraudulent frustration. No other group of professional writers carries itself with more exclusive regard than the BBWAA, the keepers of the gate, the Knights of the Keyboard, boasting some of the most arrogant and misguided members who either want to make the story about themselves, or are just too plain caught up in their organization’s self-importance to make reasonable decisions.

The rub on Gurnick is that his idiocy will prevent Greg Madddux from possibly becoming the first unanimous selection into Hall’s history. But, whatever. Maddux is in, and possibly by a wider margin than Tom Seaver’s 98.84 percent in 1992 (It ended up being 97.2, as Maddux was inducted with former teammate Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas). As the old company line goes, “If Babe Ruth wasn’t unanimous …”

No, Gurnick’s inconsistencies are hardly anything new when it comes to voting for the Hall of Fame. Morris, in fact, may get in this year, 19 years after last throwing a pitch in the major leagues. Last year, he received 66.7 percent of the vote. In 2011, 53.5 percent.

In 2000, his first year on the ballot, Morris received 22.2 percent. Blyleven was in his third year on the ballot that year, and only received 17.4 percent. He was nails the next 11 years though, even though he didn’t pick up any semblance of rawhide before being inducted in 2011.

Same goes for Morris, who could swing almost a 300 percent increase in votes from his first until his final year on the ballot. Look, I love Morris, and always thought he should have been inducted, but that’s insane (Ends up, Morris received only 61.5 percent of the vote).

BBWAA members will tell you that’s the result of processing the information and resume of a certain player over a period of time. What, like five years after retirement isn’t enough?

As for the likes of Gurnick ignoring the Steroid Era, perhaps they can also deliver the exact date that the asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. I suppose, based on his Morris logic, that Gurnick believes steroids became prevalent after the strike in 1994. That’s like walking into “Bambi” 15 minutes late and telling everyone you know how great the movie is for anxious toddlers. If you believe that, you’re simply blind, ill-informed, or just ignorant. Or maybe you just really, really, really, still want to believe baseball is the whimsical game that was preached to you on “The Baseball Bunch.” Maybe you still have the stale smell of Topps gum emanating from your fingernails.

Wars happened and we talk about them. Why shouldn’t baseball fans have the right to witness history, and the game’s best, in the museum dedicated to preserving its past? Because a certain segment of writers – who ignored the problem for years in the first place – feel their youth is now jaded? That’s pathetic. Then again, when you hear some writers profess what a truly difficult decision it is to vote for the Hall of Fame, you wonder if any of them ever had to face a real-life one in the first place.

If I had a vote: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Maddux, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, and hesitantly, Craig Biggio. Can’t ignore history, no matter how badly the BBWAA insists that we must.

“Morris has flaws,” Gurnick wrote in his defense of the former Tigers, Twins, and Blue Jays star, “a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for more than a decade of ace performance that included three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Player Award votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won't vote for any of them.”

Lee Smith, Ken. Lee Smith. And I’m willing to bet your beloved Morris as well.

But when you have your head as deep in the sand as the BBWAA tends to, it’s easy to make judgments and opinions with no basis. That is, after all, what they do.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.


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