It’s that time of year again, folks. It’s that time of year where the uppity members of the Baseball Writers Association of America get to cast their votes for the Baseball Hall of Fame. This group of people consisting largely of curmudgeons who hold gripes and grudges from years ago finally get to have their voices heard. I don’t want to lump all voters in one sad group because many of the BBWAA members are well-respected and rightful voters who’s voices deserve to have an impact. But when you have, for example, three people who don’t vote for Ken Griffey Jr. on his first ballot, that’s when the public outrage ensues. When someone doesn’t vote for Mariano Rivera, that’ll be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. They have their reasons such as refusing to vote for first timers in order to save someone in jeopardy of falling off the ballot. It’s all bullshit. The system is grossly flawed and needs to be reviewed.
Jon Heyman is very much a part of the problem. I will tip my cap to him on one thing and that’s the fact that he publicly released his ballot with lengthy explanations for each of his votes as well as who he left off his ballot. All ballots should be public, so I commend Jon Heyman for that and only that. You can read his full thoughts here. It’s a long read, but if the voting system means anything to you, I advise reading to understand one man’s position for and against the candidates. He had the decency to not only make his votes public but also expound upon them, which he is by no means required to do. Most of these crusty, old writers remain completely silent and basically anonymous. The CliffsNotes version comes down to his ballot, which includes the full maximum of 10 members, something he has never done before. His ballot consists of Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Fred McGriff, Trevor Hoffman, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Jorge Posada, Edgar Martinez.
Voting for Pudge Rodriguez on his first ballot makes Jon Heyman a hypocrite of epic proportion. He refused to vote for Mike Piazza each of his four times of eligibility, and you best believe he gave his reasons. Heyman classically deferred to his hope to keep certain guys on the ballot (who need x number of votes to remain eligible) and that he knew Piazza would eventually get in without his vote. That was clearly a cover up. Jon Heyman admitted that there were ZERO ties to steroids when it came to Mike Piazza, but it’s evident that the innuendo was enough for Heyman to abstain from checking his box. Being the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, an upstanding citizen, and the face of a franchise didn’t fit the bill for Jon Heyman. Yet, he cites (multiple times) Pudge’s offensive prowess and lack of legitimate tie to steroids. Everything he’s held against Piazza, Jon Heyman has disregarded (or looked past) for Pudge. The outlier is, albeit no more than speculation, a potential falling out with Piazza; the signs point to a personal issue that Heyman had/has with Piazza, and that could be the primary reason for voting for Pudge Rodriguez and never Mike Piazza.
I fully understand (and respect) that each player on the ballot is vetted on a case-by-case basis. In Piazza’s case, he was, and still is to date, the best hitting catcher of all time. He became the face of the franchise and took the Mets to the World Series (all after unprecedented numbers in a Dodgers uniform). Mike Piazza also had no links to steroids. Ivan Rodriguez was an elite hitting catcher in his own right, and has the defensive pedigree to earn himself a rightful spot in the Hall as well. Pudge won a WS with the Marlins and came damn close to doing so again in Detroit; you could make the case for him being the face of both of those teams during his respective stints. There’s no tangible proof linking Rodriguez to steroids, though the claims and rumors are certainly familiar. They both have outstanding résumés and both belong in the Hall of Fame. Mike Piazza got in on his 4th go around, and Ivan Rodriguez will be part of the elite club soon if not this year. Both players are very deserving of the highest honor in baseball. So why the Piazza hate and Pudge love, Jon Heyman?
Perhaps Heyman was snubbed in the clubhouse once by Piazza before/after a game. Maybe it was years of preferential treatment to Heyman’s colleagues and not him. I don’t know what Jon Heyman’s beef is with Mike Piazza, but the grudge he has held and acted upon is unjust, and his reasoning in favor of Pudge can be applied almost verbatim to MP31. If it’s a matter of not liking him for a personal reason and choosing this outlet as a way to seek vengeance, fine. Through a long career, he’s earned the right to vote for who achieves baseball immortality and who doesn’t. I’m not asking him to own up to it, though that would be lovely, but it’s hypocritical of Jon to base his omission (4 years straight) of Mike Piazza off of steroid innuendo. There are significantly more rumors of Pudge juicing, but at the end of the day, they are nothing more than rumors. Jon Heyman cannot and will not be taken seriously, and I take no stock in any word he says moving forward.
Jon Heyman is voting for Barry Bonds, the face of steroids in baseball. I have no issue with this because his reasoning is fair and most likely accurate. Bonds was headed to the HoF with or without steroids. I agree 100% with his reasoning and his vote in favor of Bonds. His reasoning for leaving Curt Schilling off the ballot was perplexing to say the least. He said he had voted for Schilling every year, and this is the first year he’s excluding him from that list. Jon Heyman explained that he felt there were 10 more deserving players which is kind of a cop out. He said it had nothing to do with his political beliefs or outspokenness, but then he continues to say that Schilling’s endorsement for “lynching journalists” (google it) did not sit well with him. Which is it, Jon? Is it that 10 other players were more deserving or that you took one instance to heart and are holding that against him? Fickle, fickle, fickle.
I could go on for days, but I’m fairly certain I got my point across. The voting system as a whole is greatly flawed and needs fixing sooner rather than later. With the current process, all time great players are not going to get in, and the people voting should be reevaluated on an individual basis. The Baseball Hall of Fame vote needs complete overhaul, though I’m not sure exactly how to fix it. Maybe have current Hall of Famers vote along with players and managers past and present. The Piazza vs. Pudge dispute is only one example in an operation with plenty of imperfections and blemishes. Jon Heyman is certainly a problem, but not the problem. I don’t blame him personally for the way things are, but when you give the reasons that he has for voting for one player (Pudge) and not another (Piazza) it’s hard to be respected and taken seriously.