Jan. 13 -- My Hall of Fame Regret

What's the most disappointing thing about this year's Hall of Fame voting for me?

Not that Jim Rice got in and Bert Blyleven didn't.

Not that Lee Smith got twice as many votes as Tim Raines, who helped win so many more games.

Not that Rickey Henderson wasn't unanimous. (A truly ludicrous thing about which to be upset, I think. People can vote or not vote however they want, and the people who don't know what it's like to cast this vote have no business haranguing those who do for their decisions, no matter how crazy they may seem.)

No, the most disappointing thing for me is that David Cone didn't get enough votes to stay on the ballot.

A player must get at least five percent of votes cast to remain on the ballot the following year. Cone got just 21 votes in a year when 539 ballots were submitted -- 3.9 percent. His name won't be on next year's ballot, or any of the ballots to follow.

It wouldn't have made the difference (he needed six more votes to stay on the ballot, 384 more to get in), but I wish I'd voted for Cone. No, the numbers don't get him there. A 194-126 record, 3.46 ERA, 2,668 strikeouts in 2,898 innings. Those numbers say "really, really good pitcher." They do not say "Hall of Fame."

But there was so much more to Cone's career. He won the Cy Young Award in 1994 and finished third in 1988, fourth in 1995 and 1998 and sixth in 1999. He was a five-time World Series champion who had a 2.12 ERA in six World Series appearances (his last the one-third-of-an-inning job in 2000 when he relieved an angry Denny Neagle and popped up Mike Piazza to end the fifth inning of Game 4).

During his career, Cone played in 15 postseason series. His teams won 12 of them.

But the thing that will stand out for me, and for so many others who covered Cone, is the guy he was in the clubhouse. He was ever a leader, a spokesman, a go-to guy for media who covered the team. He was as good at this part of the game as anybody I've ever seen.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who's done this longer than I have and covered Cone for many more years than I did, has a regular speech he makes when talking about this aspect of Cone. He says Cone knew the difference between a beat writer and a national writer, between a national writer and a columnist -- that he knew what each person or group of people who stood before him with pen and paper needed and he made sure to deliver.

This may not seem like much to fans who care only about what happens on the field and little about whether the reporters get treated well, but it's a big part of the game. The media, like it or not, are a conduit between the fans and the players. We get to go into the clubhouses and onto the fields and ask the questions fans would like to ask if they had our passes. As a result, the fans' understanding of the game is enriched in a way it can't be in sports (like football) where the access is so much more limited.

Cone was a big part of that, and I submit that the fans' enjoyment of the teams on which he played was enriched by his perpetual willingness to help the reporters who covered those teams write better stories. That's a unique contribution to the game and its history, and I wish six more of us had cast ballots to reward it. David Cone probably wasn't a Hall of Famer, but he is the kind of guy who deserves to have his name on that ballot every year, the way guys like Don Mattingly and Dave Parker and even Harold Baines do.

I wish I'd voted for him, and I wish he'd got enough votes to stay on that ballot. It would have been a nice way to say thanks.


13 Responses to "Jan. 13 -- My Hall of Fame Regret"

Drew said :
January 13, 2009 at 8:21 AM
I think Rice deserved to get in. So what if he wasn't great with the press.
Dan said :
January 13, 2009 at 8:23 AM
I don't think the case against Rice has a single thing to do with his relationship with the press. His numbers aren't good enough. I have never met the man, and therefore cannot and do not hold his personality against him. I have written on this many times, most recently here: http://nybaseballhack.blogspot.com/2009/01/jan-12-week-ahead-hall-of-fame-and.html
Keith Law said :
January 13, 2009 at 9:14 AM
the people who don't know what it's like to cast this vote have no business haranguing those who do for their decisions,

Oh, come on. You're acting as if the Hall vote is some great responsibility, like parenthood. I'd argue it's not even half the responsibility of being in a draft room and having to decide among a group of three players for your first-round draft pick - a million-dollar decision with a clear opportunity cost that can affect the direction of your franchise. Filling out a Hall ballot has tiny consequences (your vote is less 0.2% of the total electorate) and with all of the resources available out there for research, it's just not that hard.
Dan said :
January 13, 2009 at 9:49 AM
While I have nothing but respect for Mr. Law and his work, and nothing but gratitude for the help he's offered me in my work over the years, I feel his comment is more overheated than my post.

Nowhere have I ever compared this responsibility to parenthood (with which I am familiar) or the pressures of making a million-dollar draft pick (with which I am not). My point is that those who have not done this don't know what it's like to do it and shouldn't assume they do.

Of course it's not hugely consequential. But if you take it seriously (and do all the research you're supposed to do), it is hard. And since we should take it seriously (and do all the research we're supposed to do), it should be hard.
FredZeppelin said :
January 13, 2009 at 1:32 PM
"People can vote or not vote however they want, and the people who don't know what it's like to cast this vote have no business haranguing those who do for their decisions, no matter how crazy they may seem."

I'm unsure what you mean by this, exactly. Is it your opinion that since you have a vote (and know what it's like to cast a vote) and I do not, then I don't have either a right to find fault with your selection, or requesting an explanation?

In another paragraph, you're speaking on the importance of sportswriters, stating "The media, like it or not, are a conduit between the fans and the players. We get to go into the clubhouses and onto the fields and ask the questions fans would like to ask if they had our passes. As a result, the fans' understanding of the game is enriched in a way it can't be in sports (like football) where the access is so much more limited." I wholeheartedly agree, the media that covers baseball is indeed a big deal, and thus encompasses a responsibility not only to the game, but also to the fans that follow it. If none of the writers cover a game, we as fans will have less to go on - logical.

So are you, as a baseball writer, above reproach? I really hope (and don't believe) that's the idea you're trying to convey. If you're tasked with the responsibility as a "conduit", then you're tasked with the responsibility of voting in a logical fashion, not with your heart. Rickey Henderson, among countless others prior, should have been unanimous. Who decided that no player should ever be unanimous? I cannot fathom the logical arguement that someone, with any knowledge of the game and player, could give against Rickey for the Hall Of Fame. Not one! What if all writers decided that "Eh, I'll vote for Blyleven this year, and surely all of the other writers will vote Rickey in - that way, there's no unanimous vote!" If that occurred, I'd bet that he was in next year - obviously. But then Henderson isn't considered a first-ballot HOF'er, which is a prestigeous list in itself? Every baseball fan that loves a good, hearty baseball conversation with a fellow fan knows that it is a big deal to be a first-ballot HOF'er, and that only the cream of the crop fall into that catagory. No one would ever put Neikro or Sutton on the same list as Gibson or Spahn, would they (and yes, many all-time greats weren't first ballot HOF'ers like Hornsby, Joe D, and Yogi....and it doesn't make it right).

It's my opinion (for what that's worth) that every writer with a vote should have his logic ready to explain. When your 16 year old daugher asks you why you voted for whomever in the presidential election, do you just tell her that since she doesn't know what it's like to cast a vote for president, she has no business haranguing those who do for their decisions, no matter how crazy they may seem? Not me...I know better than to knowingly upset a 16 year old girl under my roof. All I am saying is explain it, share the research that you did, and let everyone realize that you DID take it seriously (unlike Corky Simpson). Hopefully, that's not asking too much.
Dan said :
January 13, 2009 at 8:03 PM
I wish I always chose my words perfectly, but obviously, I do not. In no way should I have said, "the people who have never cast this vote have no business haranguing those who do for their decisions." That is false. We as voters (and as writers) have to be accountable to our readers and critics, and I believe we are. So I apologize to Keith, FredZep and anybody else who was offended by my post.

My ballot is a matter of public record and is there for the picking-apart. I am here to offer an in-depth explanation for each of its decisions -- the inclusions and the exclusions -- to anyone who wants one. I do not feel that I or any other baseball writer is above reproach or criticism, and it was not my intention to indicate otherwise.

The issue that prompted that portion of my post was the issue of unanimity -- that critics of the BBWAA voting have gone so far as to criticize it for its not being unanimous. I think that's crazy. Personally, I don't see any case against Rickey Henderson for the Hall of Fame. I don't understand why anyone would not include him on their ballot. But I'm not about to say or suggest that the 28 people who didn't are fools, or that they should be stripped of their voting rights because they chose not to vote for him.

In a group of 539 people, it's going to be hard to find any one thing on which they all agree. I think those 28 people have every right to vote in any way they choose, for whatever reason they choose, just as I and the other 510 voters in the field do. And I don't think the idea that there's a "right" and a "wrong" here is justified. This vote is a collection of 539 opinions. All we can ask is that they be fully considered opinions. To my knowledge, with a couple of exceptions that seem to get a lot of attention every year, Hall of Fame voters take their responsibility seriously.

I'm sure that anyone who has held that ballot in his or her hand and checked those boxes has thought longer about what it means to vote for the Hall of Fame and what it means to be worthy of election than anyone who has not. That certainly doesn't mean those who don't have the vote have no right to criticize those of us who do. But in my opinion, much of the criticism is overboard and fails to assume that the voters take their responsibility seriously. As a voter, that perception bothers me.

But again, my apologies for a poor choice of words. I'm here to answer any questions anybody has about my ballot, in as much detail as you'd like. Clearly, I have plenty of time on my hands.
Anonymous said :
January 13, 2009 at 8:59 PM
Dan, while we're talking about Hall of Fame votes, whose hat do you envision Mike Piazza wearing? His stats are slightly better with the Dodgers, but I think he made more of a mark and has a bigger legacy with the Mets. What is your guess?
Dan said :
January 13, 2009 at 9:27 PM
Why not the Marlins???

Seriously, though. Piazza played 726 games for the Dodgers and 972 for the Mets. If they go by that, it's the Mets. But that's close enough that they might leave it up to the player, the way they did with Dave Winfield. I remember speaking with Piazza in his final months as a Met, and he said he wanted to go in as a Met, but that's one of those things players say because they should.

My guess is Mets. He was a big star with the Dodgers, but a bigger one with the Mets, played in a World Series with the Mets and played more games for them. But it'd probably be up to Mike, assuming he gets in.
Michael said :
January 13, 2009 at 10:48 PM
Are Larkin and Alomar locks for next year?

I've been a regular reader of yours for the past few years. Good luck.
Rick said :
January 13, 2009 at 11:13 PM
Is David Cone a Hall of Famer?
My favorite stat for a starting pitcher is his record over .500. Of the 20 starters in the Hall of Fame who spent most of their career after World War II, Cone would be 10th on the list at 68 over .500, tying him with Don Sutton. Above him are Ford (120), Spahn (118), Palmer (116), Seaver (106), Marichal (101), Carlton (85), Lemon (79), Koufax (78) and Gibson (77).
Below Cone would be Hunter (58), Jenkins (58), Perry (51), Niekro (44), Drysdale (43) Roberts (41), Bunning (40), Ryan (32).
I find it amazing there has been a debate about Mike Mussina. He finished his career 117 games above .500, a figure topped only by Ford and Spahn.

Suppose Cone had hung on and finished his career with three lousy seasons with a combined record of 15-40. The result would be a career of 209-166 - matching Don Drysdale.
Keith Law said :
January 14, 2009 at 1:16 PM
It's not that I was offended, but I think that Hall of Fame voting, as a fairly straightforward process, is exactly the kind of thing that people who've never had to do it can - and should - discuss and criticize. At the macro, retrospective level involved in Hall voting, there's little if any information gap between voters and non-voting writers (like me) or intelligent hardcore fans.
Dan said :
January 14, 2009 at 1:32 PM
Michael: I think Alomar is a lock, or should be, and I plan to vote for Larkin, though I don't know how much support he'll get. And thank you for the kind wishes.

Rick: Obviously, wins and losses aren't the best way to measure a pitcher's excellence. (Cone played on great teams for basically his whole career.) But there's no doubt your point strengthens the case that Cone should have at least got enough votes to be back on next year's ballot.

Keith: Understood. The point I was trying to make (poorly) was that there's a difference once you're actually voting. I used to think I'd vote for 10 guys every year, and that I'd vote for people like Dawson, Mattingly, etc. But my view changed once it became a real vote with actual impact. I thought about it differently. And I think, if we take the responsibility seriously (as the bulk of us do), that's the way it ought to be.
January 14, 2009 at 8:17 PM
Hi Dan, you never answered me on another post so I will try here. I am glad to see your writing still, as i didn't know you weren't working anymore until Peter Abrahams blog mentioned it. I hope you might consider adding my blog http://gmarchese.blogspot.com to your blogroll. I already added you to mine. Thanks for your time.

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