Saturday, January 5, 2013


It is what in so many other contexts is frequent and well-known: you can call it The Build-Up to the Let-Down.

Mel and Vince teamed at Variety's date-movie of the week: "Scum on the Run"
That's what we are enmeshed in, here, right now, with four days remaining until the Hall of Fame voting results, amped up by a kind of vexed, vitriolic anticipation unwilling to take prisoners in its headlong pursuit of collateral damage, will have a "black-carpet" opening reserved for only the most distastefully controversial of film projects (think Mel Gibson and Vincent Gallo as escaped prisoners, one of whom is a serial rapist, the other falsely convicted of the same crime, only you don't know which one is which until you've been dragged through 140 minutes of muck).

That is the current state of affairs in the 2013 edition of an selection process that seems determined to exceed the stress level found in 21st-century presidential elections. All variations of the democratic process are subject to flaws, but the biggest vulnerability for any example of that process is for it to be subverted--particularly from within.

The question that critics of the Hall of Fame voting process need to keep asking themselves--even after they've made up their minds about what they think they know about the process and its flaws--is whether that subversion is actually occurring.

The great--and greatly missed--Matt Kostoroff builds things up, then gives us
the letdown in another wistfully sarcastic episode from Whaleocalypse...
Ironically, one conclusion that they most desperately need to draw--namely, that it's too soon to tell if the steroids issue will produce the type of botched voting results that they claim will be the case--is an analogous conclusion that the embattled BBWAA members need to make regarding the impact of steroids on Hall of Fame eligibility.

Critics of the BBWAA voting bloc--from those on the outside (beginning with the original intransigent opponent himself, Bill James) to those who've moved inside the whale's belly itself (the various writers who would like to deny the credentials of the more senior members of their organization who aren't voting the way they want them to)--have become increasingly confrontational. Words like "irrelevant" and "moribund" have replaced the usual terms of derision, such as "moron" and "chucklehead." (Which is too bad: we've always really enjoyed the term "chucklehead.")

They embraced a "science" that they believe explains how the voting should occur, and while much of what they say makes sense, their increasing aggression and escalating vitriol has been backfiring on them.

We keep pointing this out here--seemingly to no avail. Since we are implacable in mirroring back to them some elements of their critique of the BBWAA (these so-called "mediots"--a now-quaint and ironically more polite term of derision coined back in the day before the more arrogant and ambitious of the neo-sabes found entry points into baseball front offices) our words tend to fall on deaf ears.

The obligatory baseball illustration,
with two obligatory targets of bibulous bile...
And that should be a lesson to us all--repeated, indiscriminate vitriol directed at anyone will not change their minds, it will simply cause them to dig their heels in that much more.

That's what happened with Jim Rice, and it's what's been happening with Jack Morris. The jury is still out as to whether Morris will get over the hump (he has one more shot at the "front door" in 2014), but the orgy of hate that has oozed and spewed over his candidacy has undoubtedly been a major contributor to Morris' rapid ascent in voting percentage over the past three years.

My dear old (now departed...) dad always used to say that "like spawns like, and hate spawns hate." While I always thought (and still do) that this was overly simplistic, it nevertheless has a lot of truth in it: by heeding that in situations where one is motivated to be persuasive, it's possible to avoid the escalation of negativity that, if fanned into flames, will surely produce a result opposite of the one that's desired.

The "second act" in this overwrought potboiler is located in the glut of qualified candidates who are coming on to the ballot. There is a strong sentiment among the critics that the combination of the steroids backlash (already evident in the past four years of HOF voting) and the purported lack of evaluation skills will doom the BBWAA to electing no one for a protracted period.

In fact, many of the critics are rooting for this to be the case. That's kind of like going to see that (hopefully fictional) Gibson-Gallo movie and rooting for one of them to be the serial rapist.

The truth has finally leaked out: Mr. Eliot was not bi-polar,
he was tri-polar, and all of his poems were written by committee.
It's worse than that, in fact. It's hoping for upheaval and discord and violent, messy change as opposed to a more rational, but slower-paced set of reforms. It's reenacting a set of adolescent impulses that cynical social manipulators have learned how to put into play, often while only masquerading as "progressives."

In this case, of course, it quickly becomes comical--because, after all, what we are talking about here is an "election" about guys in jock straps. One senses that many of these folk really need to get out of the basement more and try to do something that might be more useful to the world at large.

Given how much of this is driven from adolescent impulses, of course, what you will see in the days after the vote results are announced (and we still have some hope that our earlier projections--the elections of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell--will come through: it's going to be tight, but the current exit polls give us reason to keep fingers crossed) is--to trot out T.S. Eliot, someone with more literary chops than thee, me and Joe P.--not a bang, but a whimper.

Bet it's much too soon for you to be seeing this guy again,
pouting or not...but we'll probably all have an expression like
this when he becomes Commissioner when BS retires!
It will be, in short, a Big Pout. But it will almost certainly have an even bigger reprise in 2014, when three of four players are elected, and the sorting out process that is inevitable in a scenario where there are more viable candidates than at any time since the Hall of Fame was invented will begin to work itself out.

Such a result will be unwelcome only for those who have a vested interest in failure.

And you know who you are!