Ahead of the Curve
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Some things were tailor-made for debate: fender-benders; the US Constitution; original or crispy; balls & strikes and ballots for the Hall of Fame.

For Constitutional quandaries you can look to the Federalist Papers for guidance.  But how to cast a Hall of Fame ballot is anybody's guess.  By design, the Founding Fathers and Cooperstown creators gave few instructions for decision-makers to follow.  They all understood: a standard that's laden with requirements won't stand the test of time

There was one standard that Hall architects did lay down for future generations.  It's a common thread that runs through the original class of 1936: greatness.

Mention any of the original inductees: Cobb, Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson or Christy Mathewson and the word great just rolls off the tongue.  No one thinks twice.

The Hall has undergone changes over the years: integration; non-player inductees.  But the recent voting trend has no social merit and is turning it into a Hall of Good n' Plenty.

Players who had good, but not great careers are being elected with regularity.  Say the name Roberto Clemente and fans respond: Yeah, what a great player!  Say the name Andre Dawson and you'll hear something like: Yeah, he sure was a good ball player.

Every year voters arbitrarily draw lines between player candidates by using convoluted calculations of career statistics.  But are Jim Bunning and Orlando Cepeda more worthy, more great than Jack Morris and Fred McGriff?  Are Mazeroski and Sandberg that much different from Kirk Gibson and Rob Alomar?  No wonder Bert Blyleven is so frustrated.

I don't like raining on Andre's parade.  He had good years and gave Expo / Cub fans a lot to cheer about.  But no player should need induction to validate a career (autographs with "HoF" go for triple $), any more than fans need inductions to validate their collectibles.

Some argue the standard for induction needs broadening as PEDs have depleted the pool of candidates.  But people are not inducted so the Village of Cooperstown can have a new inductee parade every summer.  The Village is lucky to even have the HoF as Chicago is birthplace of both the National and American Leagues and would've made a fine home.

It'd be unfair to hold today's HoF aspirants to the lofty standard set by that original class. But founders may've hoped the class of 1936 would be a yardstick, something to aim for when voting.  Good-ness is for chocolate-chip cookies and when pickin' players for Bud Selig's Family Fun-Time & Home Run Derby all-star Muscle Show, not the Hall of Fame.

Steven Keys

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