To him, Cooperstown is a mecca, reserved solely for the true gods of baseball. To him, a Baseball Writers' Association of America membership and the Hall of Fame vote that comes with it is a sacred right, given only to those who dedicate their lives to covering the sport. He'll likely be able to tell you every intricate detail that goes into his voting strategy, and it'll almost assuredly be unique from any other writer's.
While this creature is an interesting being, it is almost certainly a dying breed.
The fact is, the muddy Hall of Fame situation continues to get uglier. Barry Bonds, the sport's all-time home run king, was found guilty of obstruction of justice on Wednesday by a federal jury in a case related to his use of performance-enhancing drugs. This news comes just days after Manny Ramirez, considered by most to be the best right-handed hitter of the past 15 years, abruptly retired after failing his second drug test in two years.
Already, it's looking like a near-certainty that neither will get many — if any — votes for the Hall of Fame. With two all-time greats potentially in for a Cooperstown-less future, the debate has been rekindled for the umpteenth time in the past decade. ESPN's Buster Olney stoked the fire on Sunday night.
The longtime baseball reporter said during the Red Sox-Yankees game that he's voted for Mark McGwire and would vote for players who allegedly (or admittedly) took steroids before the new policy was put in place in 2005. Anyone busted after that will not receive Olney's vote.
So, in Olney's mind, the Hall of Fame can have McGwire, but not Manny; Roger Clemens (maybe?), but not Rafael Palmeiro. Bonds can go, or can he? And what about Alex Rodriguez?
It's a massive mess, but Olney is only one part of it. The biggest issue is that there are no set guidelines for Hall of Fame voting. Some writers say, "Let the best players in." Others say, "A known PED user will never make the Hall of Fame under my watch."
The effect, in the short term, is an ongoing debate that has no real answers. The long-term effect is that the Hall will simply mean much, much less to the next generation of baseball fans.
It's been simple enough for fans younger than 40 to understand that Pete Rose was great and is, in all aspects but one, a Hall of Famer. He should be in there, but he's not. Got it.
But as the years go on, it'll only be harder and harder to keep track of who was great, why they were great, who's a "Hall of Famer" and who's not.
Living in Boston my whole life, I had the distinct pleasure of watching nearly every single one of Manny's 4,682 plate appearances, nearly every single one of his 274 home runs and nearly every single one of his 256 doubles with the Red Sox. He was a joy to watch in every sense, and his swing will forever be etched in my mind — along with Bonds' and Ken Griffey Jr.'s — as one of the best I've ever seen.
What will I, 15 or 20 years from now, tell my future children when I take them to the Hall of Fame? Any curious 13-year-old will wonder, "If he was so great, why isn't he in here?"
For that matter, "Why isn't the all-time home run leader in here, but Phil Rizzuto is?"
And what happens when someone gets voted in, only to later be outed as a steroid user? All that effort to keep this exclusive club clean goes for naught. Then what?
There will be no real answers.
If the voters who currently hold the Hall of Fame in the highest esteem want their mecca to remain sacred for another hundred years, they're going to have to unite. They're going to have to figure out a system. The willy-nilly ideals of each individual voter will only serve to lesson the Hall's importance. They're essentially fighting tooth and nail to maintain the significance of some ideal, but they likely don't realize they're simultaneously making that same ideal a thing of the past.
The official website for the National Baseball Hall of Fame says it is dedicated to "fostering an appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its impact on our culture … as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to our national pastime. The Hall of Fame's mission is to preserve the sport's history, honor excellence within the game and make a connection between the generations of people who enjoy baseball."
The uncertain state of the current Hall of Fame and the disconnect among its voters will only drive those generations farther and farther apart.
Are Manny and Barry Hall of Famers? Share your thoughts below.