In light of a handful of this year’s BBWA members opting not to vote for Cal Ripken Jr. or Tony Gwynn’s enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in their first year of eligibility, the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan (above) asks “why hasn’t anyone ever been a unanimous selection?”
The primary reason, we are often told, is that some members of the voting body have a personal policy not to vote for someone the first year he is eligible. I cannot begin to comprehend the depths of such idiocy. I fear a few of these Neanderthals are still entrusted with a vote, and it’s their intellectual company I do not wish to keep. Please be advised that I am not one of them. In fact, I am certain no Globie is. We may have our faults, but clinging to a foolish policy such as that one is not one of them.
The other reason not to vote for an obvious candidate on the first ballot is judgment. If one is not demonstrating obstreperousness by simply refusing to vote for a man in his first year of eligibility, then he does not vote for someone because he honestly feels the man is not worthy of inclusion.
The foolishness began in the very first election back in 1936 when neither Ty Cobb nor Babe Ruth was voted in unanimously. Who can possibly imagine what was going on inside the heads of the four gentlemen who did not vote for Cobb, or, even more amazingly to me, the 11 who declined to vote for Ruth, who, one year into retirement, was the single most influential player in the history of the game and who remains so even today, 71 years after playing his last game and 58 years after his death?
So the standard of obstinacy and/or ignorance was set. Why did 20 people not vote for Ted Williams in 1966? Why did 23 people not vote for Willie Mays in 1979? Why did nine men not vote for Hank Aaron in 1982? Why did nine men not vote for George Brett in 1999? And yes, while Tom Seaver did get a rousing 98.84 percent of the vote in 1992, what legitimate reason was there for five voters to say “no”?
It’s almost enough to invoke a Groucho-like dictum: Do I really want to be a member of a club that harbors such nefarious people? It’s appalling to think these people may hold valid driver’s licenses and be allowed to vote for president if they cannot recognize as simple a proposition as Tom Seaver, Tony Gwynn, or Cal Ripken being a drop-dead, first-ballot Hall of Famer.
So there you have it. Brett Saberhagen isn’t alone in thinking the system’s fucked.