HOF vote disappointment for Santo, Miller, et al.

Here’s a prediction, though I can’t necessarily pin it down to a specific year. The Baseball Hall of Fame will eventually change the way it considers the Veterans Committee voting, because the process currently in place makes it all but impossible to get somebody elected.

This less-than-stunning prognostication comes on the heels of the announcement on Feb. 27 that the Veterans Committee had again failed to elect anybody, once again leaving Ron Santo, Jim Kaat, Gil Hodges, umpire Doug Harvey and Marvin Miller, to name a few, on the outside looking in.

It’s hardly a secret that I’ve been stumping for Hodges, Santo and Miller, among others, for many years, so obviously I was disappointed in the results. But not surprised. As is noted later in my column, the straw poll that we did a couple of months ago turned up reasonably similar results, with nobody really threatening to get close enough to the daunting 75 percent threshold for election.

I can hear the Hall of Fame purists out there now, saying that’s just as it should be. The argument goes something like this: The Veterans Committee represents a “second chance” vote for the players, and the fact that they were rejected by the baseball writers (BBWAA) for a 15-year span means that perhaps our hypothetical candidate is not necessarily worthy of enshrinement.

Even if you accept the argument – and I don’t, for a number of reasons – you are still left with the reality that for the managers, umpires and executives, the Veterans Committee balloting doesn’t represent a second chance as much as it is their only chance. And if the voting process is so onerous that no one gets the nod for six years, including the guy (Marvin Miller) who arguably had the greatest impact on the game since Jackie Robinson, you’ve got to wonder if fundamental questions about fairness haven’t started to dog the equation.

I try to be philosophical about all of this, but for Ron Santo, dogged by health problems and apparently the victim of his own too optimistic expectations in 2003 and 2005, I can’t help but feel bad for him. Under the new voting system, he’ll get another crack at it in 2009; one assumes that’s modest consolation for Santo. For 90-year-old Marvin Miller and 76-year-old Doug Harvey, the idea of waiting another four years for a chance at enshrinement must be disheartening at best.

Despite the obvious realization that life isn’t fair, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that the exclusion of Miller is more egregious because the question of his candidacy seems at first blush to be indisputable.

Even though I plug away for Hodges and Santo, Miller’s situation seems more pressing and even preposterous because his election seems to me to be vital to ensure the fairness and credibility of the Hall itself. If my assessment of his impact on the game is in the ballpark, so to speak, then the Hall of Fame must ultimately include him in the club. All the petulant, mabe even malicious voting accomplishes is to possibly prevent him from ever enjoying enshrinement in his lifetime.

I may be naive, but I believe failing to vote for somebody who deserves election is unconscionable. There are all kinds of lame excuses (i.e. the Hall should be reserved for players only, or the BBWAA decisions ought to take precedence), but the reality is that executives, managers and umpires are included in the ranks, and so to exclude current nominees out of a misguided sense of ideology is simply unfair … and hopefully unsustainable.

No less of an authority than Joe Morgan, a HOFer and vice chairman of the Hall itself, said last fall that the voting process for veterans would likely get another look if, as he feared, no one managed to hit the 75 percent threshold on the 2007 ballot.

I am buoyed somewhat by the realization that Morgan will almost certainly be in the thick of trying to address the problem, but I am saddened that in the meantime one of the game’s giants is denied his rightful place in Cooperstown.

And if any additional evidence of the inherent structural problem with the voting process is needed, we have the corroboration of our own SCD straw poll, which we launched in that Nov. 11 column.

As the following letters illustrate, there was a ton of support for Hodges, but even here, ultimately, not enough. He led the SCD vote with 68 percent, followed by Santo with 55 percent and Miller with 53 percent. As one letter suggests, my views about Miller aren’t quite as universally accepted as I might have hoped.

To the Editor; Here are my final six for the 2007 Veterans Committee Ballot: Joe Gordon, Gil Hodges, Thurman Munson, Al Oliver, Ron Santo and Marvin Miller – one of the most important men in the history of baseball. – Paul Bobersky

* * * * * Easy vote: Gil Hodges – World War II and Bronze Star; member of the “Boys of Summer;” the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers; eight-time All-Star; 370 career homers; more RBIs than any player during the 1950s; manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets. What more do you need? The fact that he was not elected long ago is a joke. – Lex Page

* * * * * Good column – again. My votes: Hodges, Boyer, Harvey, Miller and Williams. Praying for Gil. – Jeff Jordan, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

* * * * * You make a good case for inducting Marvin Miller, Gil Hodges, and others into the Baseball Hall of Fame (SCD Nov. 10, 2006), but please don’t give up on Roger Maris. Maris was much more than one spectacular season (61 in 1961): he held the single-season home run record for 37 years (Ruth’s record lasted just 34), and probably still holds the record for home runs in one season without steroids.

I’m not the first to make this argument, but it’s a point that needs to be repeated over and over if Maris is to have a chance of getting his proper recognition. – Matthew Berke Madison, N.J.

* * * * * My choices for the Hall of Fame are: Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Ron Santo, Maury Wills, Buzzie Bavasi and Marvin Miller Gilbert Raymond Hodges belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. We all know his stats; that he is not there is an absolute travesty. I grew up in the 1950s and the Brooklyn Dodgers are my team. I never saw my baseball heroes play, but you don’t know anybody who loved the Dodgers more than I do. Over the years I have written many letters to members of the election committees for the rightful placement of Gil in the Hall. I truly hope this will be Gil Hodges’ year. – Ebbets Field Stands The Brooklyn Dodgers Live Larry Tucker

* * * * * Always enjoy discussions on HOF voting. My ballot would include: Gil Hodges – But can he make it just as a player? His managerial stint puts him over, but it doesn’t count. His being a good human being should count and should put him in the Hall.

Marvin Miller – OK, you guys have convinced me he deserves to be in. Isn’t he a lawyer though? Who’s next … Tony LaRussa?

Doug Harvey – Good umps don’t get enough recognition.

Thurman Munson – My emotional New York-biased vote. I know he’ll never make it, but he did drive in 100 runs without 20 homers, three years in a row … as a catcher.

Dale Murphy – My write-in vote. Why doesn’t this guy get any support? – Gary Klee Albany, N.Y.

PS – My sixth vote? Still Pete Rose, with all his faults.

* * * * * I read your column each week and find that I can agree with most things that you write. Your column in the Nov. 10 issue about who should get in the Hall of Fame contains some thoughts that I must challenge, however.

To say that Marvin Miller deserves to be in the Hall of Fame is completely outrageous! You stated that Miller’s exclusion was “unfathomable” and that his inclusion was a “no-brainer.” Are you kidding or did you get him mixed up with someone else?

You stated that Miller “had a greater impact on the game of baseball than any single individual since Babe Ruth.” Boy, do I disagree with that statement. Sure, he had a great impact on baseball, a very negative impact! Miller is the reason that baseball players today make more money than they deserve by any delirious dream. These kind of salaries turn people off. He is also the reason that baseball teams cannot build a team and expect to have those players for a reasonable period of time.

His free agency took care of that. He is the reason that a family cannot go to a game today because of the ridiculous ticket prices. Miller and his present baseball destroyer, Donald Fehr, are the reason that baseball has lost much of its glitter. If you can’t see this then you are not in the baseball mainstream of the everyday fan. Including Miller is big-market thinking and not grassroots feelings.

To put Marvin Miller in the Baseball Hall of Fame would be the same as putting Adolph Hitler in the Jewish Hall of Fame. Next you’ll want to put Scott Boras in as well. He is another reason for baseball’s downward spiral of support and upward spiral of ridiculous salaries.

As far as your other HOF selections, I can agree that Gil Hodges, Ron Santo, Bert Blyleven and Jim Kaat deserve induction. I’m not real big on Tony Oliva, but I do like Ken Boyer, Roger Maris, Rocky Colavito and, most of all, Dale Murphy.

My ballot would be as follows: Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Ron Santo, Vada Pinson, Ken Boyer and Paul Richards.

I will keep reading your column but please do not encourage anyone to include Marvin Miller in any HOF. I assure you that I am not the only fan who feels this way.

Thanks for the opportunity to express my feelings. – Jim Fowler

* * * * * The fading of Tim McCarver’s shrill, self-important voice signals the end of the World Series and also marks the start of another equally exciting past time. Welcome to the 2006-07 season of “Let’s Get My Favorite Player Into the Hall of Fame.”

Of course, Gil Hodges is the biggest name out there (like Phil Rizzuto a decade before) as the object of so many people’s campaign. He too, doesn’t belong. He may be as popular as oxygen, but that does not mean he measures up with Anson, Gehrig, Foxx, Murray, Killebrew or McCovey. If my math is correct, he has had 40 some chances (15 with the BBWAA and probably 25 or more with the various Veterans committees) and still has not been found worthy.

I will steal directly from noted baseball author Bill James who wrote that Norm Cash has equal or better numbers than Hodges but there doesn’t seem to be a grass-roots effort on Norm’s behalf. Cash played in the pitcher’s era and still had equal numbers (to be clear, Norm should not be in either).

Perhaps it goes without saying, but is there a possibility that where Hodges played directly affects this misguided sentiment? Somewhere people like Ken Burns and scores of sportswriters are scratching their heads trying to understand the concept of East Coast bias.

And so it goes. One day the fans may exhaust themselves in their never-ending effort to enshrine every player who ever wore Yankee pinstripes or the Brooklyn “B,” but I doubt it. So let’s hear it for Roger Maris (also not a HOFer).

I would bypass all of the players under consideration by the Veterans, and agree with you about Marvin Miller. If Candy Cummings and his curveball are in the Hall as an innovator, Mr. Miller truly belongs for his contribution. Also, I would have no complaint with Doug Harvey joining Klem and company. – Karl Schmid

* * * * * One man’s veteran’s ballot: Joe Gordon, Joe Torre, Ron Santo, Ken Boyer, Thurman Munson and Minnie Minoso.

In my opinion, Hodges, Kaat, Lolich and Tiant belong also, but I’m only allowed six slots. It’s always been my opinion that the HOF has undervalued third basemen and especially catchers. My ballot reflects that. And how is Joe Gordon not in, with his offensive and defensive numbers at second base? I love Brooks Robinson, but if I were choosing a team, I’d take either Santo or Boyer first.

Hodges vs. Minoso for my sixth slot was a tough choice. In the end, the fact that everybody seemed to have big home run numbers in Brooklyn was the deciding factor for me.

Interesting survey. I’ll be looking forward to the results. – Jim Beauchemin Altamont, N.Y.

* * * * * I certainly do enjoy reading your articles. Especially on controversial subjects like HOF selections.

I have written to you previously on Ken Boyer’s election into the Hall of Fame. In the past, I have cited other opinions on Mr. Boyer’s selection. I have mentioned Keith Olbermann, Bill James, and now I add T.S. O’Connell to the list of highly respected baseball authorities who all agree that Ken Boyer should be in the Hall of Fame.

I find it hard to believe that current HOFers such as Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Steve Carlton and Red Schoendienst who saw Ken’s performance on a daily basis along with Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and other HOFers who played against Ken Boyer from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s don’t vote for the best all-around third baseman in the National League during that time period. Both offensively and defensively.

Do the current HOFers have too much jealousy to elect a deserved player, or want to restrict their ‘Club’ to only themselves? I’m not sure, but I have to wonder. Fact: Ken Boyer was the best third baseman in the National League during the above mentioned time frame. He deserves to be in the HOF. – Greg Colbert

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