To watch a sport I love so dearly continue to fall from grace kills me inside. Baseball has always been there for me. Whether I was playing or watching, the sport has mesmerized me for as far back as I can remember. Baseball, once America’s pastime, has seen its fanbase steadily declining in recent years. However, neither commissioner Rob Manfred or team owners are even bothering to listen to those who left. The vacant Hall of Fame class that came out of the 2021 ballot is just another prime example of why the game is losing so much interest as opposed to other professional sports.
Close, But No Cooperstown
For the first time since 1960, Cooperstown won’t be getting any new faces on plaques. Yes, vacant. None of the finalists selected by the BBWAA made it to the 75% voting threshold needed to be inducted. Needless to say, most people aren’t happy about it.
Former pitcher Curt Schilling, whose numbers increased from last year’s tally, was a mere 16 votes shy of being enshrined. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens finished second and third, with 61.8% and 61.6%, respectively.
Curt Schilling took to social media to express his frustrations. He wrote, “I will not participate in the final year of voting. I am requesting to be removed from the ballot. I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player. I don’t think I’m a hall of famer as I’ve often stated but if former players think I am then I’ll accept that with honor.” Bonds, Clemens and Schilling were each in their ninth year of eligibility. They have only one more chance at being inducted.
Baseball’s Biggest Problems
This debacle has only amplified what is wrong with the MLB. One of the biggest issues starts with consumer accessibility. MLB TV, the league’s streaming service, does not allow in-market viewers to stream games from a city with a different cable provider.
Unlike the NFL, whose broadcasts are mostly available on national networks, many MLB games are covered locally. For example, if you lived in Boston but wanted to catch the Marlins game beforehand, due to two separate entities covering the broadcast of each game, you would not be able to watch the Marlins game. The regionalization of Major League Baseball’s broadcasts has killed its widespread availability all in the name of making a quick buck and appeasing as many cable providers as possible. Exclusive broadcasting rights are more important than a fanbase I guess.
Rob Manfred is easily one of the worst commissioners in all of professional sports. If you are trying to usher in a new generation of fans, the last thing you should do is deny them the opportunity to watch the sport. Most causal fans wouldn’t go out of their way to catch a game. They would simply change the channel to find something else to watch. Take a page out of the NFL’s book, Mr. Manfred.
The Nickelodeon broadcast of the Saints-Bears game was marketing genius. It brought the game to an entirely new generation of fans in a fun and creative way. The MLB needs to get younger generations involved in the sport itself rather than focusing on commercialized efforts to get endorsements. Efforts to make the game move faster, like having a runner start on second in extra innings, haven’t really been effective. The MLB doesn’t seem to want to hear what the fans want. Situations like a vacant Hall of Fame class starts to repel the older audience from watching the game. At this point, I’d say Major League Baseball is between a rock and a hard place.
What It Takes To Get In
Here are the BBWAA requirements to be selected into immortality in Cooperstown. Basically a long grocery list of different accolades, eligibility dates, and what they think should warrant a spot in the Hall. Players get 10 opportunities. From there, they considered by one of the Hall of Fame’s era-based Veteran Committees.
No matter how good you are, if you do not get the seal of approval by each delegation in the number of eligible years you are allotted, you are out of luck. Another example of everything wrong with baseball. An out of date voting process combined with an unusual way of selecting potential nominees equals the downfall of baseball’s older demographic. Players should be evaluated based on skill, not by the era they played in. If a player truly deserves the recognition, they should not be shunned because their tenure of eligibility has expired. It’s simply the wrong way of going about it.
Why Aren’t They In Yet?
Schilling, Bonds and Clemens came from a very raunchy era of baseball. Despite the successes of Bonds and Clemens, their achievements will always be masked with accusations of performance enhancing drugs (Bonds denied knowingly using PEDs, Clemens denied any use at all). That is the main reason they have yet to make the Hall of Fame.
Curt Schilling’s political and personal views may very well be a reason he hasn’t been selected. Schilling is quite the controversial figure. Years of transphobic comments, comparing extremist Muslims to Nazis, and urging the lynching of journalists have all made headlines. Schilling even supported the January 6th siege on the Capitol that threatened U.S democracy. A number of other derogatory comments have cost him various jobs on ESPN.
As polarizing as he might be, Schilling may have the best argument for the Hall of Fame. If Bonds and Clemens hadn’t been involved with of PEDs, they would be surefire entries as well. The MLB, however, aired a live four-hour broadcast to announce that nobody would be making the cut. Textbook MLB move. That would be like going to a concert, catching the opening act just to be told the headliner isn’t performing.
There is plenty wrong with MLB. It took them until last year to recognize the statistical achievements of Negro League players. Greats like Josh Gibson were finally given their long overdue recognition for their role in helping popularize baseball. However, there are still plenty of improvements to be made.
This is the first time since 2013 the BBWAA did not elect anyone. In 2013, however, three players were granted admission via the Veterans Committee. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Veterans Committee is unable to meet this year. It is the first time since the Kennedy administration that no one will be inducted from the yearly balloting process. A ceremony will still be held celebrating the 2020 inductees (Derek Jeter and Larry Walker).
Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Big Papi are all set for eligibility next season. The conversation going forward about the selection process should be an interesting topic of debate for Rob Manfred and the rest of Major League Baseball’s top brass. Oh, and one more thing…
Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.