By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Ultimately, here’s what I’ve settled on: I’d rather have a Baseball Hall of Fame where no one is ever named on 100 percent of the ballots than a Hall of Fame that streams people through the door as if they were charging admission.
And what we have now is far closer to the latter.
And so, am I happy that Mariano Rivera just became the first player in baseball history to be named on 100 percent of all ballots cast? Yes. Sort of. Rivera deserves it. But we all know that Rivera should never have been the first, that there were many similarly worthy players before him – Ken Griffey Jr., for one – and I fear that what Rivera’s universal acceptance now reflects is a mentality that has turned the Hall of Fame into far more ordinary.
Cooperstown used to be home to a place more like the Four Seasons.
Now it feels like just another Holiday Inn.
Here’s what sent me into orbit last night as I was driving home on the Mass Pike listening to Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson announce this year’s inductees: certainly not Rivera, not Roy Halladay (whom I voted for), not Edgar Martinez (whom I have voted for repeatedly – more on that shortly) and not even Mike Mussina (whom I did not vote for and who is the classic B+ player.) Maybe it’s simply because I knew all of those were coming and because I’ve dealt with such debates before.
No, what sent me into orbit was when I heard the name of a player who jumped from a 34.1 percent approval rating in 2018 to a stunning 54.6 percent this year and who is, by my account, a hack compared to many of the Hall of Famers already inducted.
Larry bleeping Walker.
Are you kidding me with this?
As we all know, Walker played nearly half of his career at Coors Field, which is akin to playing on the moon. In Colorado, he batted .381 for his career. Everywhere else? .282. Now, that is just batting average, but you get the idea. The only people who ever thought Larry Walker was a great player were the fantasy geeks. They probably think Ellis Burks belongs in the Hall of Fame, too. Or Vinny Castilla.
The idea of Larry Walker being a Hall of Famer is preposterous. I’ll say it again. PREPOSTEROUS. And the fact that more than half the voters included him on their ballots is a virtual sign of the apocalypse.
Look, I know what’s coming next: wait a minute, you voted for Edgar Martinez. Couldn’t we say the same thing? Yes, you could. And from the day I first voted for Martinez – in his first year of eligibility, I also made this clear: it was a crusade. Having covered David Ortiz during the bulk of his career with the Red Sox, I always felt that designated hitters were discriminated against when it came time to vote for them for honors like Most Valuable Player and the Hall of Fame. At the time Martinez appeared on the ballot, he was the best designated hitter ever to player the game. Major League Baseball named that award after him for goodness sake. The DH has been in existence for a half-century and there are still old, stodgy voters who discriminate against the DH because they don’t play the field.
But I’ll be honest: I never thought Martinez would get in. I’m serious. And good for him that he will now be enshrined. Maybe it says something that on the day Martinez was voted in – again, a DH – the first 100-percenter was a relief pitcher, the kind of player that older, more traditional voters would have thumbed their noses at in a different era.
Wherever you stand on all this, here’s what I know: the Baseball Hall of Fame is becoming diluted. Walker? Harold Baines? Craig Biggio? Please. They were all good players. They were never the true 1-percenters, which is what the Hall is supposed to be – or what it historically has been. In this age of sabermetric soup, some stat geek can come up with any stat or formula to make just about anybody look like a Hall of Famer. It won’t be long before someone tries to tell me that Jackie Bradley Jr. should get in based on his defense.
Honestly, I don’t know what to say anymore. Maybe I’m becoming – or have become – one of those older, stodgier types who thumb their noses at the softness of our culture. But if I’m someone like Ken Griffey Jr. and I’m watching from the Hall, I’m not sure I’d hide my feelings.
You want me to share a place with Larry bleeping Walker?
No way. Not in a million years.