After the 2013 vote yielded no Hall of Famers, this year’s was supposed to be the one that helped baseball (and its writers) turn the corner.
The whole Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens steroid debates had come and gone, Jack Morris would (finally) be off the ballot after 15 tries and with the likes of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine eligible, Cooperstown was prepared to, once again, burst at the seams.
Then it was time to vote. And all Hell broke loose.
Deadspin announced they had bought a vote (it turns out, they didn’t actually “buy” it, it was given to them for free), Los Angeles Dodgers beat writer Ken Gurnick was crucified via social media for only voting for Morris and Craig Biggio fell two votes short.
In what is just his second year on the ballot, the Houston Astros legend missed the 75-percent cutoff point, tying Nellie Fox in 1985 and Pie Traynor in 1947 for the smallest margin in balloting history. Traynor ended up getting elected in 1948. Fox, was in his final year on the ballot, found himself selected by the Veterans Committee in 1997.
But, back to Biggio and those two votes.
One of the guys who failed to think of the seven-time All-Star as Hall of Fame material…Jerry Dowling. Dowling used to draw cartoons for both The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati City Beat.
Oh, and why didn’t he vote for Biggio? Simply put, Dowling thinks Biggio is a cheater.
Craig Biggio, the Houston Astro second baseman, fell two votes short. One of those could have been mine. I refuse to vote for a guy who cheats, as Biggio did with all that armor on his arm, so he could get hit with pitches and trot to first base as a result. He made no attempt to avoid getting hit and actually stuck that arm out further, inducing the ball to smack him.
That, my friends, is against the rules and umpires should be calling that shit a ball, but they don’t. I once asked umpire John McSherry about that, and he skirted around the question, never answering it.
I imagine you’re wondering who Dowling did vote for? Thankfully, the caricaturist posted his ballot alongside his explanation.
Seven names. And, thankfully, not a cheater in the bunch. Forget about the fact that Bonds and Clemens seem to be the poster boys for steroid use and Mark McGwire admitted doping four years ago…Biggio and his elbow brace? Not. Acceptable.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, didn’t Bonds wear a similar brace? Yes, he did. Thankfully, Dowling had an explanation for that.
Bonds wore it because pitchers would much rather give him one base than a four bagger and Bonds didn’t want a broken, bruised arm. Remember how many times he was walked?
Clearly Bonds had to be protected…you how many times that guy was hit by a pitch? 106. By comparison, Biggio was plunked 285 times and in August 1997, he was hit ten times…the same as Bonds’ season-high.
But enough about that, how can Dowling have omitted Frank Thomas from his ballot? Again…reasons!
He certainly had the numbers. Maybe it’s because I seldom saw the American League after moving to a National League city. Or maybe it’s my hatred of the crosstown Chicago Flubbies carried over to the south side of Windy City.
Why vote for a guy who spent his entire Major League career in the American League if you’re a National League guy? Makes sense to me. It’s not as if Dowling voted for Morris…a guy who spent his 18-year career in the junior circuit.
Wait. He did what now?
Never mind. Morris almost played for Dowling’s beloved Cincinnati Reds in 1995, but couldn’t make the team out of Spring Training.
I hope the Class of 2015 brings us more clarity.