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January 6, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

Seeking the Perfect Candidate

by Jim Baker

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In reading the results of the recent Hall of Fame balloting, I was reminded of the Groucho Marx quote, "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."

It's actually a twist on that quote that I was thinking about. It's obvious that, through the years, a certain percentage of those voting for the Hall have created a similar quote that reads, "We are accepting people for a club for which nobody is truly acceptable."

It's obvious that nobody--and I mean nobody--who has ever drawn breath is worthy of being elected unanimously on the first ballot. There are those whose sworn duty, sort of like the Knights Templar with the Holy Grail, is to keep interlopers at bay. No soul shall enter the shrine in a state of total grace. All must be tinged with the blood of imperfection. That is, the imperfection of not being totally accepted. In order to pass through those sanctified gates, one must be humbled while being honored.

What else are we to assume when, year after year since the very concept of the Hall was made a reality, players of clear qualification and, in some cases, monumental stature, are denied access by one and all?

What else can we assume but a conspiracy to humiliate? Otherwise, how, exactly, does one pose a defense of not voting for Wade Boggs for the Hall of Fame?

  • He didn't hit .300 three times?
  • He didn't hit enough home runs?
  • His career-high in RBI was only 89?
  • He was helped too much by Fenway Park?
  • He came up too late?

Look, I don't know. You tell me.

Looking back, how else can we explain the fact that not a single one of these all-time greats--all who became eligible after the ballot had been cleared of the early glut of candidates--got every single possible vote without playing the conspiracy card? If it's not a grand, ethereal conspiracy, then rationales such as these must surely have been used on these "inner circle" Hall of Famers:

A part of me wants to say that the men who didn't vote for Mr. Boggs in 2005 or for the men listed above when it was their first turn don't deserve to vote, but I will say they don't have a clear understanding of this thing we have come to call "baseball." Unless that is, I couldn't be further from the truth. What if they know it better than us all? What if they possess knowledge of mystical secrets to which the rest of us are not privy? What if one of those secrets is that, someday, the world will be blessed with a player pure of essence who shall eclipse every known record? What if these men--these voters, these gatekeepers to that holiest of places--what if they know that when this great baseball messiah comes, then, and only then, will they all be so permitted to vote for him on his first Cooperstown ballot?

Does this not sound plausible? Indeed, what other explanation can there be?

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Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: T... (01/11)
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