Posted January 07, 2014

Greg Maddux won’t be a unanimous Hall of Famer for an incredibly stupid reason

Greg Maddux, Hall of Fame, Jack Morris
Greg Maddux, Braves

Greg Maddux won 355 games in his brilliant 23-year career. (Bob Rosato/SI)

No player has ever been elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame and four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux, the most obvious of the many deserving candidates on this year’s ballot, won’t be the first. We now know that for sure thanks to MLB.com’s commendable tradition of posting its writers’ ballots the day before the results are announced. There are 17 MLB.com writers who have been members of the Baseball Writers Association of America for 10 or more years and thus are eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame. Sixteen of them voted for Maddux. Dodgers beat reporter Ken Gurnick did not.

Why not? Gurnick wrote that he won’t vote for any player who “played during the period of PED use.” Not one. So who was on his ballot? Just Jack Morris. That’s the exact same ballot, and the same explanation, almost verbatim, that Gurnick submitted last year. Before you credit Gurnick for consistency, he had Lee Smith on his ballot in 2012 and dropped him last year without explanation, and in 2011 he did not vote for Morris.

Those irregularities merely reveal the internal hypocrisy of Gurnick’s votes. His reasoning is far more problematic, and not simply because he has decided to eliminate an entire generation of ballplayers from his ballot. One need not even wade into those waters to point out that Gurnick’s definition of “the period of PED use” is woefully lacking. Assuming one even could establish a starting point for such a period, it would have come comfortably within the playing days of Morris, Smith and Bert Blyleven, whom Gurnick also voted for in 2011.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume the big bang of PED use in the major leagues was the 1988 Bash Brothers A’s of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, both of whom have admitted using steroids. Well, Blyleven pitched until 1992, Morris played until 1994 and Smith pitched until 1997. Beyond that, former Braves relief pitcher Tom House, who debuted in the majors in 1971, a year after Blyleven and long before Morris and Smith, said he was just one of many players using steroids and human growth hormone in the early 1970s.

I’m not saying that I think Blyleven, Morris or Smith ever used performance-enhancing drugs. The point is that it’s absurd to even suggest that there was no PED use in the major leagues during their careers, even if you consider amphetamines a separate issue.

Gurnick likely won’t be the only voter not to vote for Maddux. Even when Tom Seaver received the highest vote percentage in Hall history in 1992 (98.84 percent), five voters left him off their ballots. Nor will Gurnick’s stupidity alone keep Maddux or anyone else out of the Hall this year. As I noted in discussing Deadspin’s purchase of a vote, no candidate in the history of the BBWAA voting has ever had his induction decided by a single vote. Despite all of that, it’s outrageous for someone who makes his living covering baseball to display such a clear lack of understanding of the game’s history.

That said, I don’t think that Gurnick should have his vote taken away. As much great work as my Strike Zone colleague Jay Jaffe has done to establish an objective measure for Hall candidates, voting remains a subjective act. Even Jay’s (unofficial) ballot ultimately came down to subjective reasoning (or dart-throwing, in Jay’s words) due to the excess of qualified candidates. To take action against a writer for his opinions is both a slippery slope and akin to censorship, which is far more problematic than one ballot out of 600 being absurdly wrong-headed.

That said, Gurnick’s vote, which represents roughly 0.17 percent of the ballots expected to be submitted, could be even further minimized and marginalized by bringing more qualified voters into the process, including broadcasters and writers with sufficient seniority who, for whatever reason, lack either a BBWAA membership (*cough*) or enough seniority as a member of the BBWAA. Start with Vin Scully, John Thorn, Bill James and Bob Costas and work your way down to Jay, myself and our on-line colleagues. There will likely be a few more Ken Gurnick’s brought into the process along the way, but it would be hard to argue with an electorate that is that inclusive. That is not the electorate we have right now, however, and that makes ballots such as Gurnick’s all the more difficult to stomach.

231 comments
TodThompson
TodThompson

Then he will never vote for anyone even again.  Players are still using PEDs and likely some always will.  There will always be ways to beat the tests.

HANSENWT
HANSENWT

Well, when I go vote for the next US President, I am only turning in the name of Jack Morris...and in reality he may actually be the best choice on that ballot sheet.  So in defense I can see where it may be a good idea to just submit Jack Morris's name on a ballot...but the HOF is not....simple going forward if a writer shows some measurable prejudice that is not in keeping with the purpose of the process then they should be disbarred...many folks would like a ballot and try to do the right thing.  Every player should be a simple yes or no and you should be able to vote for every player you think should be in the hall of fame.....the only way the single Jack Morris ballot makes sense is if he was arguably the best candidate for the hall and the only one you agreed on that ballot that has the credentials to get in.  Also just because you write about baseball does not mean you know much about baseball.  There needs to be a process to root out writers that clearly are clueless and Anti-American (penalizing non-PEDS or non-proven PEDS or PEDS before baseball cared (therefore endorsing and proliferating it)...is counter to innocent until proven guilty.  Additionally one could argue that alcohol helped Babe Ruth (I know I bowl better after a few beers)...and the countless other drugs or addictions that other ball players have had over the centuries....If baseball bans them then they don't end up on the vote, if you feel based on a proven PEDS case that the player's career was the making of those PEDS (after MLB outlawed), then great no argument there....after that it is just a simple yes or no they earned the privilege to be inducted based on their metrics and comparison to the HOF standards of the day.  There are no politics on that last statement.

KurtSteinberg
KurtSteinberg

Does Ken Gurnick have Down's Syndrome or something?  What a moron!

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

What's this obsession with "Unanimous?"

The only thing in this country that is required to be unanimous is a criminal jury. 

MarkPeters
MarkPeters

Hmmm....so the writer refuses to vote for anyone that played in the steroid era, so is he effectively giving up his vote?  I agree that if a player is linked to steroids then they don't get the vote, but to not vote for a player who played in that time just because is cowardly.  Maddux was THE best pitcher in that period for a majority of his career, and by every measure he is a HOF'er.  There was no question as to his getting in, for it not to be unanimous is silly.  And that goes for all the sure fire picks, like Aaron, the Babe, Gibson, etc.

ace2
ace2

voting for Morris and not Maddox is a disgrace

ace2
ace2

time to start removing votes from idiots like that

thedaimyo
thedaimyo

Gurnick needs to lose his vote. He is abusing it. There will never be a non-PED's era, further, he is punishing every player who followed the rules because some other guy didn't.

William27
William27

Tom seaver is rated much higher, he wasn't unanimous

why people think maddux should be the first is insane !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

William27
William27

bob gibson was a better pitcher and he wasn't unanimous

William27
William27

sandy kofax should have been unamious

maddux ABSOLUTELY NOT AT ALL

RickDesper
RickDesper

" To take action against a writer for his opinions is both a slippery slope and akin to censorship,"


Huh?  Look this isn't censorship.  It's not close to censorship.  Gurnick is free to have his opinion.  And we're free to say that his opinion is ludicrous.  And the Hall is free to say that Gurnick isn't taking his voting duties very seriously, and therefore replacing him.  

Censorship is the act of preventing somebody from voicing his opinion.  It's not the act of preventing a person with bizarre opinions from holding power.  

billybob
billybob

Strip the writers who don't vote.The game and players are bigger than a writer.

BobWChicago
BobWChicago

Look:  Gurnick has a right to vote, and he has also been outed for his questionable reasoning.  As long as you let people with personal agendas vote, there will never be a unanimous selection.  But their influence is minimized by the total number of voters who are perhaps thinking more clearly.  I can live with that.  Why is unanimous selection important?  Get over it.

KenGurnickhatesbaseball
KenGurnickhatesbaseball

This  writers pathetic decision not to vote for Maddux to me is a bigger metaphor for a unfortunate reality with baseball . Tens of thousands of fans loving every pitch, every run and every out while some intoxicated, either on beer or his own misery, fat gentlemen screams anything that will gain him the most attention, and then of course leaves before the ninth inning.  

givemeglenn
givemeglenn

If this idiot was actually thinking straight, he would give EXTRA credit to Maddox and Glavine for doing so well IN SPITE OF THE FACT they were going up against the "juiced up" batters (such as Bonds, Sosa, and McGuire), and Thomas for doing so well IN SPITE OF THE FACT he was going up against "juiced up pitchers (such as Clemmons and Pettite); NOT HOLD IT AGAINST THEM.



KeysSteven
KeysSteven

Look at it this way, Cliff, we uphold freedom of religion (Church of sabermetrics), freedom from, I'm not too sure ("God Bless America" loyalty test), so why not give same respect to freedom of choice (voter discretion), it's sometimes questionable exercise, notwithstanding?


("Controversy") in a teapot.  Better we'd (MLB) respect the waning right to privacy (voter anonymity).

PAZSKY
PAZSKY

This guys stance that "I don't vote for anybody who played in the steroid era" is about as un-American as you can get- its called innocent until proven guilty, the backbone of our judicial system. To lump EVERY player from that era as a cheater is absurd. His reasoning is cause for his voting rights to be revoked.

muser
muser

What created a bigger distortion in success? The steroid that Clemens is said to have taken or the called strikes 20 inches off the plate that NL umpires gave Maddux?

JimKirkwood
JimKirkwood

This isn't a new issue. Several years ago on The Sports Reporter, Bill Conlin explained why he voted not to admit Nolan Ryan to the HOF. IMO some voters should have their voting rights revvoked

OswaldoLe'mon
OswaldoLe'mon

The real issue with Gurnick is that he only voted for Morris.  Morris is the enemy of the newstats people that generally all think the same way and try to punish those that don't.  Bagwell, Biggio, and Piazza all used steroids.  As did Nolan Ryan.

MarkPeters
MarkPeters

@KurtSteinbergI am not so hungup on unanimous, except when voters say,"No one has been unanimous so I will ensure it never happens"  That is just being foolish.  If you have a player who meets all the criteria, without a doubt, then you have the responsibility to vote accordingly.  There are many players who exceeded the "required" landarks for the HOF and to not vote because you don't want to have a unanimous result is ignorant and disrespects the player.


ScarFace292929
ScarFace292929

@William27 Do you think Maddux should be in the Hall? Is there any doubt? Ok, if you said yes to the first and no to the 2nd, then please explain why Maddux shouldn't be a unanimous selection. This isn't about Seaver, Ruth, Mays, Aaron, or saving your votes for those who might need extra help to get in. It's about Maddux' s career. This nonsense of not voting for locks is idiotic.  

MarkPeters
MarkPeters

@William27well because no one has...I mean some one has to be the one, it is too late for Seaver, and now Maddux.  Now it falls on someone else, like Griffey,Jr. or Randy Johnson.  You know guys who by all measures are HOF'ers, no doubt.  Rickey Henderson is another one.  I don't get the argument that because no one has, then no one will.  THAT is childish.  If you a have a sure fire lock for the hall, then why not vote for him?

thedaimyo
thedaimyo

@William27 Not voting for someone because they should not be unanimous is a horrible reason to not vote for someone. These people aren't voting for whether someone should be elected unanimously, they're voting for whether or not someone should be in the Hall at all. Anyone who can't use their vote for the intended purpose doesn't deserve a vote.

ace2
ace2

he has no right to vote. everything is a right to you people

RickDesper
RickDesper

@BobWChicago No, Gurnick doesn't have a "right to vote."  This isn't a question of citizenship or anything like that.  His place as a Hall of Fame voter is a privilege, not a right, and can be revoked summarily if it's abused.

And he's been abusing it.  

When Gurnick votes for only Jack Morris on a ballot that includes Greg Maddux, he's putting himself ahead of the process.  

Washheightsboy
Washheightsboy

@PAZSKY I don't agree with this methodology, but I understand it.  There were two kinds of players: those who used, and those who clearly saw what was happening to the sport yet did nothing.  I am not comfortable letting either group off the hook.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@JimKirkwood 

And where does it end?  What if a bunch of people refuse to vote, ever, for a strong-but-not-perfect candidate -- should THEY have their vote taken away? And who decides?

The "take his vote away!" hysteria has overtones of authoritarianism.  Scary.

RickDesper
RickDesper

@OswaldoLe'mon No, my issue is not that he voted for Morris.  I would like to see Morris in the Hall of Fame.  He was one of the dominant pitchers of the 1980s and early '90s.  

My issue with Gurnick is that he's decided to disqualify an entire generation of baseball players.  He's applying a standard of "guilt by association."  

josephfinn
josephfinn

@OswaldoLe'monSo....the "enemy" pf people who develop and look at realistic, tested and vetted stats for comparing players that are far better than outdated, nearly meaningless states like Wins and ERA.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@OswaldoLe'mon 

You said it, brother.

Their hatred of Morris (because his numbers as "calculated" by their made-up alphabet-soup stats don't meet their criteria for excellence) is pathological.  And their virulence is shocking.

Someone making the HOF doesn't change my life.  On these discussion boards, I try to counter the anti-Morris hysteria because the stats-dorks are attempting to redefine baseball on their terms, and to demonize anyone who disagrees.

RickDesper
RickDesper

@MidwestGolfFan

"The "take his vote away!" hysteria has overtones of authoritarianism."


Actually it would be the opposite of authoritarianism.  Authoritarianism is when you allow people in positions of power to use their power capriciously without fear of consequences.  

PAZSKY
PAZSKY

@MidwestGolfFan @JimKirkwood No, its called common sense and sadly, too many people don't have it and its becoming an epidemic in our society. The minute you start judging or grouping people as cheaters with no evidence makes you irresponsible.

BNick
BNick

@MidwestGolfFan @JimKirkwood Bingo.  It's their vote, they're given their (vague) parameters, and it's up to them.  All kinds of irrationality, biases, preferences, etc. are involved.  I think Edgar Martinez should have no place in the HOF as a (mostly) DH, but I'm not going to start clamoring for someone's vote to be taken away because they don't care if someone actually plays defense or not. 

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@josephfinn@OswaldoLe'mon 

They're meaningless--because stats-dorks SAY so?

If SABR were a legitimate mathematical discipline, the stats-dorks wouldn't keep revising their equations.  Their methods would get them laughed out of any serious academic discipline.

SABR is pseudo-science for intellectual bullies who want to feel important.

RickDesper
RickDesper

@Washheightsboy

'We all need to face consequences for our decisions"?

Maddux's "decision" was apparently to be born at the wrong time.  

Washheightsboy
Washheightsboy

@PAZSKY @Washheightsboy We all need to face consequences for our decisions, regardless of what country we live in.  Standing by and doing nothing as the record book got raped is inexcusable in my mind.  The timelessness of the records was what separated baseball from every other sport we have.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@RickDesper@MidwestGolfFan  

When someone does something you don't like, and you attempt to 

silence them -- that's authoritarianism.

Nice try on the rebuttal.  Well, it was an attempt, anyway.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@PAZSKY@MidwestGolfFan@JimKirkwood  

"The minute you start judging or grouping people as cheaters with no evidence makes you irresponsible."

And who gets to decide?  You?

It's a vote, not a coronation.  It doesn't have to be unanimous.

jhoya06
jhoya06

@MidwestGolfFan @PAZSKY @BNick @JimKirkwood 


What about American League pitchers? Are they not complete ballplayers because they don't bat? Or relief pitchers in either league, for that matter. Would you dare say that Mariano Rivera doesn't belong in the HOF because he only pitched an inning or so for each game he appeared in?

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@PAZSKY@MidwestGolfFan@BNick@JimKirkwood  

You personify the problem.

In my opinion, the DH is not a real position because he doesn't play defense.  That means he's not a complete ballplayer.  

You don't like my logic, fine.  You demonize me for it -- vicious and uncivilized.

I have a right to my opinion. Just like you have a right to yours.  The difference is, I'm not going to vilify you.


PAZSKY
PAZSKY

@MidwestGolfFan @BNick @JimKirkwood Hate to break it to you, but the DH has been a POSITION in the lineuop for 40 years...its here to stay and to say "You were a DH so you don't belong in the HOF" is ludicrous. So if Edgar hit 600 HRs, he shouldn't get in because he was a DH? How shallow your thinking is.

Momus3
Momus3

@MidwestGolfFan @josephfinn @OswaldoLe'mon  I'm going to reply to this once in case anyone reads your comment and thinks it has any merit.  I will not be replying any further because you yourself are clearly immune to knowledge and just making up whatever **** you want.


"If SABR were a legitimate mathematical discipline, the stats-dorks wouldn't keep revising their equations.  Their methods would get them laughed out of any serious academic discipline." 


This is the exact opposite of the truth and so laughably wrong that you clearly don't even have the tiniest hint of familiarity with stats, math or "any serious academic discipline".  


Mathematical proofs, scientific theories and statistical analyses are constantly revised based on observations and data.  Arguments and discussions happen all the time.  


We don't look at String Theory and say "there.  that's done.  no need to look into this stuff any further".  We don't look at Quantum Mechanics and say "yep, that explains everything - no need to dig any deeper or do any more research".  We don't look at epidemiological studies and say "ah yes, that's why people are fat - moving on...".  


Theoretical models are designed to explain observed phenomena.  When something new is discovered that doesn't fit the model the model has to be revised.  In some cases there are pieces missing to complete the model so guesses are made at what would complete the picture.  Then it is necessary to try to observe that missing piece in reality to validate the assumption in the model.  The Higgs Boson is an example of this type of theoretical piece that was needed to complete a model.


SABR stats are exactly like that.  Exactly.  Like.  That.  They are designed to explain observed phenomena and are revised as new data that doesn't fit the model are observed.  The "traditional" stats are more like a religion - easily understood but of almost no value in explaining what is being observed.


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