The BBWAA as a whole didn't do anything wrong, but several writers within the association took it upon themselves to make an example out of Roberto Alomar. The message those writers sent was "if you misbehave, we will punish you for it".
I know that I've criticized Ken Rosenthal in the past, but on this one he knocked it out of the park. Even Rosenthal understands that a change within the BBWAA needs to be made:
“When a scout asked me Wednesday, ‘How could people not vote for the best second baseman of the last quarter-century?’ I had no answer. There is no answer, other than this: Our membership is too bloated, too riddled with voters who do not take the process seriously enough to educate themselves properly."Obviously, there are voters within the BBWAA who do not follow the game as closely as beat writers, sports writers, and even some of the bloggers. I'll give Ken credit here: he's always down there on the field and in the clubhouse doing his job, so he understands who is deserving of a Hall of Fame vote, and who isn't.
Just like the fans, he is baffled at why certain voters left Roberto Alomar off the ballot. In total, 143 writers decided that he wasn't even worthy of a name mention. Now, I'm not expecting every single person to agree that Alomar should be in the Hall of Fame, but you would figure at least 75 % of them would come to a consensus.
"I’m still trying to figure out why 143 voters failed to endorse Alomar, leaving him just short of the 75 percent required for induction. Alomar was not simply a Hall of Fame player; he was one of the best second basemen in major-league history. I do not need to list his qualifications. If you watched him play, you understood his brilliance, knew he was worthy of Cooperstown."When you think of the best second basemen in baseball, Roberto Alomar should automatically be one of the top three among Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg (maybe even better). If you were a big Blue Jays fan in the early 90's, you were priveledged enough to see Roberto Alomar work his magic day in and day out. Even if we are a little biased towards the greatness of Alomar, there is no denying that he is a Hall of Famer.
So how can this situation be prevented in the future? Well, there's no surefire way to stop it from happening again, but Rosenthal offers his solutions to the problem:
"The sports editors should be eliminated immediately; they simply do not develop the same feel for the game as writers who cover the sport regularly. The BBWAA has done a fine job in recent years of adding Web-based writers, including several whose work is strongly influenced by sabermetrics. The next step is to go the other way, trim the fat from the membership, purge those who do not study the game closely enough to warrant Hall of Fame votes."I hate to admit it again, but Richard Griffin made a good point in his column yesterday:
"The fact of the matter is that once you are enshrined as a Hall-of-Famer, whether it's on the first, second or 15th ballot, you are a Hall-of-Famer, equal with the Babe, Willie and the rest."It's true that when we look back 20 years from now, no one will really care whether or not Roberto Alomar was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, so long as he's in Cooperstown.
That being said, it doesn't mean that certain writers from the BBWAA have permission to turn their ballot into a vendetta ticket. I will single out Jay Mariotti, because he fully admits to leaving his Hall of Fame ballot completely blank.
This is the very same Jay Mariotti who chastised fellow BBBWAA for voting for Rickey Henderson in his first year of eligibility. His argument is that "the first ballot is sacred".
As Griffin alluded to above, whether a player gets into the hall during their first year of eligibility or last year of eligibility, if they are good enough, they are going to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, there is no upper echelon or distinguished wing in Cooperstown for first-ballot Hall of Famers. So what difference does it make whether Jay Mariotti and other voters write down Alomar's name this year or next year?
Then there's Jack McCaffery of the Delaware County Times who openly spoke on TSN's "Off the Record" that he'll never vote for Roberto Alomar because of the spitting incident, yet will gladly vote for Mark McGwire. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
I guess after letting this sink in for the past 24 hours, I am starting to feel like the importance of the first ballot is less and less important, so long as the voters make the right choice eventually.
It's obvious that the BBWAA's voting system is still flawed, and something needs to be done about it. It's just unfortunate that a couple of writers had to ruin it for everybody.