Have you ever been to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame?
It's up in Waco and houses all sorts of information on Texas sports figures, including a great high school section that honors coaches and players from across the state.
There's nothing more personal for people than high schools right? Especially in Texas, home of Friday Night Lights. And yet, I bet no one has gotten too worked up about someone who has been snubbed from inclusion in Waco's hallowed halls.
The NFL Hall of Fame is also very good. I went up there maybe seven years ago and loved it, down to the stadium outside where they play the Hall of Fame Game. It's a great way to spend a day talking and breathing football.
The NBA Hall of Fame is almost forgotten by many people. Have you ever had an argument about someone who's been snubbed from Springfield? Most of the NBA superstars live in a cultural consciousness not dictated by a Hall of Fame. We don't need a Hall to tell us Michael Jordan or Hakeem Olajuwon were the best of the best. We just know.
So why does the Baseball Hall of Fame draw such heated debate, such vitriol in discussions about who should go in and who should be left out?
Is it the age of the institution? The Baseball Hall has been around since 1939 and basically started the concept of Hall of Fames for sports. Canton wasn't dedicated until 1963, the College Football HOF wasn't established until 1951. Heck, the National Football Museum wasn't even established in England until 2001. The NBA just beat the NFL with one in 1959, but all of them were at least two decades behind baseball. (For the record, the Texas Sports HOF was established in 1951).
It's not just age that's made baseball's hall a subject of such passion. People just take baseball seriously when considering legacies. Numbers mean something in baseball much more than they do in football. Of course, as new metrics start to take power, things like a .400 batting average has lost a little luster, but overall, people care about legacy more in baseball than any other sport.
And yet, baseball continually gets it wrong with its voting process. I'm not sure that there should be a better way of doing it, but think about how baseball is handling the Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio questions.
There is a school of thought that the two great Astros should go in together and that Bagwell's voting percentage may nudge over 75 percent next year so he can go into the Hall in the same summer as Bidge. As the Houston Chronicle's Steve Campbell pointed out two weeks ago in a column on Bagwell's HOF chances, that would be a bad deal for both players, as they each deserve a moment to stand by themselves and have each of their careers properly lauded.
Baseball asks over 600 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America to vote each season. Well, members with 10 years of service can vote, that is. They can vote for up to ten candidates that the Hall also sends out, but that's it. The member can choose whether to send in a blank ballot, vote for one or ten players at a time. Any player getting over 75 percent of cast votes gets elected. Simple as that.
Football is different. There are 44 members, consisting of one writer from each city with a football team (including two from New York). There is also a 33rd member from the Pro Football Writers Association and then 11 at-large members.
These 44 get in a room and hear presentations on 17 finalists (15 modern day, 2 seniors) from one of the members and vote yes or no. The list is narrowed down to 10 and then the members simply vote yes or no.
It's not perfect, either, as it asks a lot of 44 people. It really asks a lot of the person giving the presentation on a particular player. However, it's worked remarkably well.
As I said before, there aren't many snubs for the NFL Hall. Sure, there have been some receivers back up now and then. It's a shame Chris Carter isn't in, but considering what receivers are doing right now, can you blame voters? Most of the time, they get things right.
Just take two other Houston players linked together at the hip, Oilers offensive linemen Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews. The two guys played beside each other for 10 years at a very high level. They were linked on the offensive line as few baseball players can be, since an offensive line works so much as a unit instead of individual pieces.
And yet, Munchak was elected in 2001 after retiring in 1993 and Matthews was put in the Hall in 2007 after retiring in 2007. Was there a movement to downgrade Munchak's accomplishments because he played in an era with steroids? Nope, he was elected because he was one of the best at his position. Oh, and each guy got his own induction ceremony, with the other player being able to present them during the induction.
Both players honored separately, but still linked together.
Biggio and Bagwell deserve something similar. They both deserve to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. We'll find out next year whether Biggio and possibly Bagwell get voted in, but it won't solve the larger problems with the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Steroid Era and the glut of players about to be eligible. Those still exist and will continue to fester.
If only we didn't care so much...