People didn't expect Edgar Martinez to earn election into the Hall of Fame today. The fact that he didn't wasn't a shock to anyone.
Some eyebrows were raised when his support dropped by a few votes, though.
The arguments for or against his election can be made over and over. We'd be blue in the face and likely see no one from either side sway to the other. We know the numbers, and we know the DH argument.
There's a bigger problem in the room now, though. One that is likely to plague the election process for the next decade or longer.
Writers are forced to play games.
The members of the BBWAA who have a Hall of Fame vote are limited to 10 selections on their ballot. To exasperate the issue, voters are being faced with more questions about steroids, and the Hall of Fame has given them a vague set of rules to consider when casting their vote.
Some writers who would rather be safe than sorry in the case of Jeff Bagwell. With a loaded ballot this year, perhaps they'd rather spend one of their 10 votes elsewhere while also avoiding the steroid controversy.
Another writer voted for Tino Martinez and BJ Surhoff, but not Roberto Alomar or Bert Blyleven. The latter two were elected today. Surely, that writer doesn't think Martinez and Surhoff are more deserving than Alomar and Blyleven, right?
Should voters keep a player out based on a hunch?
Would we be wrong to assume that writer felt confident Alomar and Blyleven would get in, thus deciding to spend those votes elsewhere?
I believe the Hall of Fame has put these writers in an unfair position.
What if these games end up costing a guy his enshrinement? Fans would be angry, but remember that these voters are people, too. They are the ones with the burden to make a decision under these rules.
While I disagree with the stance some of them have to err on the side of caution, it is their right under the current format of the ballot rules.
They then face the dilemma of publishing their votes with reasoning or withholding that information. Either decision would come with backlash from the fans.
This is not court of law. Nor is it a body of congress. Therefore, we can't expect the voters to abide by rules we've come to know in our government. They don't have to see it as innocent until proven guilty and they don't have to represent our feelings with their vote.
I don't feel bad for the pressure put on all of the writers, though.
Dan Graziano of AOL Fanhouse chose not to vote for Jeff Bagwell, because he has suspicions. I could get into why I feel voters should not be playing the role of morality police or directly or indirectly influencing people to form a negative opinion of someone who has not been found guilty of anything.
I'm more concerned, though, with how the Hall of Fame may have unintentionally instilled an inflated sense of power into some of these writers.
In his piece a week ago, Graziano had this to say about his right to vote how he sees fit:
"I could withhold a vote because I don't want people in the Hall of Fame who have blue eyes, or owned cats, or ever played on a Texas team. It's my vote, and the only standards to which I am beholden are my own."
The Hall of Fame's rules are short and vague. Short enough, in fact, that you can see they do not allow a voter to leave a player off because of his eye color or domestic animal of choice. They ask the voters to consider how well the player performed, and how they acted on and off the field while a member of the baseball community.
Would Graziano really vote that way? I'd certainly hope not, but the mere fact that he'd publish a thought like that is concerning. Do either the Hall of Fame or BBWAA care that one of the gatekeepers to this hallowed institution finds that as acceptable, joke or not?
I would think voting for the Hall of Fame is an extreme honor that is taken very seriously. I have no doubt it is to many voters.
Others, though, and the Hall of Fame itself?
Seems like they need to revisit the policies and practices on who is left out in the cold.