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January 09, 2003

Hall voting swings and misses
By Rob Dibble

Sports writers are no longer the authority on player achievements in baseball. As a result, the current Hall of Fame voting structure is outdated and fails to properly acknowledge many deserving players.

The current voting process needs to be restructured to accommodate the changing times.

When voting began 67 years ago, sports writers were given the privilege to compile their unbiased opinions. At that time, there were only 16 teams in the league -- the furthest West, being the St. Louis Browns. Writers accompanied teams on road trips. The long train rides enabled them to develop relationships with players that extended beyond the field, stat sheets, Internet searches, SportsCenter highlights and other information-gathering methods of today.

Now, there are 14 more rosters to contend with, and teams span the United States. Writers are further removed from the sport; some don't even travel with teams. Some harbor resentments and biases toward players who aren't particularly friendly or outspoken with the media.

And yet these writers have a significant role in determining a player's place in baseball's most distinguished house? Their judgments and opinions are the basis on which we grant baseball immortality? That bothers me.

The current voting process needs to be restructured to accommodate the changing times. It's a different world. Gone are the days of eight-track tapes, beta machines, and horses and buggies, for that matter. Baseball needs to catch up! Writers should continue to have a vote but one that equates to 50 percent of the final outcome. The other 50 percent should be determined by a select group of current and former players and managers, the ones who truly understand what defines greatness.

Beyond the numbers, there are so many variables that need to be considered when determining a player's place in baseball history. And the only people who can truly understand and appreciate how much endurance, strength and sportsmanship factor into the game are those who have experienced it firsthand.

I've heard too many arguments about players who don't belong in the Hall of Fame because they lack a certain number of Gold Gloves or Cy Youngs. Or about one who doesn't measure up against other players from his era. A player should not be judged solely on how his statistics rank against other players. Each player must be judged for his individual achievements.

Bert Blyleven
Bert Blyleven was 287-250 with a 3.31 ERA in 22 seasons in the majors.

That said, for the life of me, I can't understand why the Hall continues to elude Bert Blyleven. The two-time All-Star pitched for 22 seasons and amassed 287 victories. He also owns two world championship rings and boasted one of the best curveballs to ever cross home plate. Yet, because he played in an era with superstars like Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, his accomplishments go unrewarded.

Blyleven pitched 60 shutouts and completed 242 games. If you know baseball, you would know that it's no small task for a pitcher to complete a game; it's one of the most difficult things to do. A writer could not fathom the endurance and strength necessary to accomplish such a feat. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome doesn't compare.

As a former player, I can fully appreciate Blyleven's pitching excellence. Heck, I would have done just about anything to amass half of his stats.

And as a parent, it enrages me to see only certain players singled out for the Hall of Fame because they were born with a God-given specialty. When I take my kids to the Baseball Hall of Fame, I want them to experience the full array of talents that made the game what it is today -- not just the larger-than-life freaks of nature. I want them to know that you don't have to be the biggest or strongest to reach your goals, and that hard work and perseverance are also rewarded.

There are exceptions to every rule. Two of them -- defensive wizards Bill Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith -- were recently inducted, and Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, Dave Concepcion, Lee Smith, Goose Gossage and Jim Kaat should be considered as well.

The writers need to open Cooperstown's doors -- and their own minds -- a little wider.

Former Cincinnati Reds reliever Rob Dibble is an ESPN baseball analyst and a co-host of "The Dan Patrick Show" on ESPN Radio. Dibble, who was co-MVP of the the 1990 NLCS, contributes regularly to

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