The Baseball Writers' Association of America has made public 136 of the 571 ballots cast for this year's Hall of Fame. Since we're still arguing about the process and results of choosing which players are worthy of Cooperstown, this is like dropping huge crates of ammo into a war zone.
We've already seen some "statement ballots" this week: The guy who only voted for Jack Morris, the guy who decided voting for three players was "enough" and, of course, Dan Le Batard, who turned over his ballot to Deadspin and consequently was stripped of his vote. Now we get to look through even more ballots? You know there's a head-scratcher or seven.
Larry Rocca, a former writer for the Orange County Register, Newsday and The Newark Star-Ledger, voted for four players: Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines and ... Hideo Nomo?
The first three obviously weren't the top names on the ballot. They're not wrong, per say. There are smart people who support each of their candidacies. But Nomo? He only received six votes. Under no rational argument is he a Hall of Famer over, say, Greg Maddux.
Further: Including Nomo and not including Maddux, Tom Glavine or Frank Thomas — the three guys who got elected — well, that's just bizarre. Here's Rocca's explanation, as passed along by SB Nation's Chris Cotillo:
Rocca falls into a familiar trap. He's declaring that he won't vote for any players of the so-called steroid era. But then he throws his own asterisk on one from that era. We saw this earlier in the week with Ken Gurnick, who voted only for Morris. Gurnick cast an anti-PED ballot, but didn't seem to be bothered by Morris' career overlapping with the not-so-well defined steroid era. At least Morris has been on the fringe for Cooperstown. Nomo pitched 12 seasons in MLB and only had a sub-4.00 ERA four times.
A possible explanation that Rocca doesn't include above: He worked for a pro baseball team in Japan for four years after his newspaper days. So maybe he's even fonder of Nomo's global impact. For the record: Rocca now is the director of development and alumni affairs at a Maryland prep school. He's one of the BBWAA's many "honorary" Hall of Fame voters.
The bigger problem with Rocca's explanation is penalizing Maddux, Glavine and others for not doing enough to keep the game clean. That's a requirement now? It's not enough to be a great player who is considered "clean"? Now you have to fix the steroid problem on your travel days?
It's Rocca's ballot. Clearly, he can do whatever wants (even if Dan Le Batard can't). But it's hard to take Rocca's choices seriously. Consequently, they don't help the BBWAA as fans and pundits question whether its Hall of Fame voting process is the proper one.
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