Casting the intelligent vote

Casting the intelligent vote

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Over the past year and a half, I've had dozens of people ask me how I decide what I'm going to write about every week. With so many stories of idiocy, lunacy, controversy and the occasional good deed being splattered throughout the sports pages every day, they want to know how I can select just one item from a list of seemingly hundreds of qualified candidates to dissect and ridicule each week in my column.

It's not an easy process, mind you, nor do I really employ a scientific method when choosing what to write about. Before I ever put a single word to page, though, I first try to look at a topic that nobody else has latched onto -- how many different opinions do you have to read on different Web sites covering the same exact story? The last thing I want to do is re-hash the same stale outlook you've already read on or

But other than that, my selection process is pretty simple. Sometimes I see something that just really perks my creative interests. Some headline that grabs my attention and won't let go, pushing me to my desk for a couple of rounds with the keyboard. Maybe it's something that reaffirms my faith in the integrity of the sports world. Or something that triggers a flood of warm childhood memories. Sometimes it's a story that sparks some intelligent debate, or even a story that simply impresses me.

More often than not, though, it's just a story that really pisses me off. Which brings me to this week's topic: the Baseball Hall of Fame voting results.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you why I think Ozzie Smith most certainly deserved his first-ballot selection, or how I can't understand why Gary Carter, Jim Rice and Bert Blyleven still haven't found their way to Cooperstown. You can read about all that on other sites and frankly, I get tired of hearing those debates every year anyway. 

Instead, I want to focus on the bottom portion of this list. There were 472 ballots cast this year, and to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, a player needs to be listed on 75% of those ballots, which this year equated to 354 votes. Only Ozzie Smith met that requirement in 2002, earning 433 votes (91.7%). Carter, the former catcher for the Mets, fell short yet again, only this year he missed the cut by 11 total votes, and Rice, the slugging Boston outfielder who amassed 382 homers and a .298 average in 16 big-league seasons, missed being immortalized by 94 votes. Other notables on the list were Andre Dawson (214 votes), Goose Gossage (203), Steve Garvey (134), Blyleven (124), Jack Morris (97), Don Mattingly (96) and Alan Trammell (74).

There's more than enough hullabaloo surrounding the above names, but at the bottom of this list, tucked nicely underneath the Wizard, the Hawk, the Goose and Donnie Baseball, sit a handful of names that don't belong on a co-ed softball roster, much less a Hall of Fame ballot.

Tim Wallach, Lenny Dykstra, Frank Viola and Mike Greenwell.

Yes, that Tim Wallach.

Yes, that Lenny Dykstra.

Yes, that Frank Viola.

Yes, that Mike Greenwell.

Okay, so I suppose the fact that Wallach, Dykstra, Viola and Greenwell are all listed on the HOF ballot doesn't bother me that much. True, these guys were never in the same class as Ozzie, Carter, Rice, Dawson and Jack Morris. But, as stated on the National Baseball Hall of Fame Website:

3. Eligible candidates -- Candidates to be eligible must meet the following requirements:

A. A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a period beginning twenty (20) years before and ending five (5) years prior to election. 

B. Player must have played in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in 3 (A). 

C. Player shall have ceased to be an active player in the Major Leagues at least five (5) calendar years preceding the election but may be otherwise connected with baseball. 

D. In case of the death of an active player or a player who has been retired for less than five (5) full years, a candidate who is otherwise eligible shall be eligible in the next regular election held at least six (6) months after the date of death or after the end of the five (5) year period, whichever occurs first. 

E. Any player on Baseball's ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate.

Considering all four of these guys meet the above requirements, I suppose I have no real gripe with them being on this year's election ballot. I mean, why should I? They have absolutely no chance of ever being voted into this prestigious club. Hell, there's no way any of the esteemed Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voters would ever give Wallach, Dykstra, Viola and Greenwell even one vote, much less 354 votes... . Right?

Wrong. Apparently, getting into the Columbia House DVD Club is now more difficult than getting your BBWAA membership card is. It seems the BBWAA is now letting anybody who's ever seen one inning of one game and written the word "baseball" on a piece of paper join their exalted organization.

No, I'm not a member. Smartass.

How else could you explain Tim Wallach's one vote this year from the BBWAA voters? Or Lenny Dykstra's vote? Or the two votes cast for Frank Viola? The two for Mike Greenwell? Six votes in total for four players who were just happy to see their names on the ballot. Six votes for four players who appeared in a combined 13 All Star games?

Ozzie appeared in 15 All Star games. Gary Carter saw 11. Jim Rice played in eight. Same with Andre Dawson.

Who in their right mind would cast a Hall of Fame vote for Tim Wallach, Lenny Dykstra, Frank Viola and Mike Greenwell?

Let's check out some career numbers, shall we?

Tim Wallach, 3B
.257, 260 homers, 1125 RBI, 2085 hits, 908 runs, .316 OB%, .416 slug% in 8099 at-bats
Wallach's best season came in 1987, when he hit .298 with 26 homers, 123 RBI, 42 doubles and a .514 slugging percentage. He appeared in five All Star games and won three gold gloves at third base.

Lenny Dykstra, OF
.285, 81 homers, 404 RBI, 1298 hits, 802 runs, 285 steals, .375 OB%, .419 slug% in 4559 at-bats
"Nails" had his best season in 1993 with the Phillies, hitting .305 with 19 homers, 66 RBI, 37 steals and 194 hits while scoring 143 runs with a .420 OB%, numbers that led to a second-place finish in the NL MVP voting. He appeared in three All Star games (oddly enough, he was not selected for the 1993 team) and two World Series, winning it all with the Mets in 1986 (Bill Buckner) and losing to the Blue Jays in 1993 (Joe Carter).

Mike Greenwell, OF
.303, 130 homers, 726 RBI, 1400 hits, 657 runs, .368 OB%, .463 slug% in 4623 at-bats
Greenwell's best season clearly came in 1988, the year he finished second to Jose Canseco in the AL MVP race. Greenwell set career highs in homers (22), RBI (119), hits (192), doubles (39), OB% (.416), walks (87) and steals (16) while hitting .325 with 86 runs and a .531 slug% with Boston in 1998. He played in two All Star games and one World Series, losing to Dykstra and the Mets in 1986.

Frank Viola, SP
176 wins, 150 losses, 3.73 ERA, 1844 strikeouts, 864 walks, 2827 hits in 2836.3 IP
Viola enjoyed his best season in 1988, winning his first and only Cy Young by posting a 24-7 record with a 2.64 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 255.3 innings of work. Viola also threw seven complete games in 1988 and two shutouts, all while allowing just 54 walks and 236 hits in his 255-plus innings pitched. In 1987, Viola helped lead the Twins to a World Series title by going 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts, numbers that pushed him to his only World Series MVP award.

Not bad, huh? Nope. In fact, had injuries not severely limited Dykstra and Viola, those two could actually have produced some Hall-worthy numbers before hanging up the cleats for good. As they stand, though, all four of these guys were simply solid Major Leaguers at one point in time, and as I've said in previous columns, "solid" doesn't mean much of anything when you start talking about the Hall of Fame.

Sure, these four guys will never sniff Cooperstown without paying the $9.50 adult admission, but does that excuse the six votes they received in this year's balloting? Hardly.

I want to know who voted for Tim Wallach and Lenny Dykstra. And I want to know what two scrubs gave Frank Viola and Mike Greenwell HOF votes. I want to know who they are because I want their votes next year. 

If you vote for guys like Wallach, Dykstra, Viola and Greenwell, you deserve to lose your voting privileges. Seriously. Give me the vote. I'll respect the honor more than these nimrods did. Hell, give Dykstra the vote -- I'm sure even he wouldn't vote for himself.

What, did the writers who made these moronic votes owe Greenwell, Viola, Dykstra and Wallach money or something? Maybe they were buddies and decided to do them a little favor. Whatever the reason, those six votes simply boggle my mind.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time something like this has happened. Last year, Jose Rijo, John Kruk, Jim Deshaies, Ron Darling, Tom Browning and Steve Bedrosian each received one vote while Dave Righetti got two, Tom Henke checked in with six and Lance Parrish had nine. Again, all solid players at one point during their respective careers, but never, ever, EVER Hall of Fame caliber players. Unreal.

Ya know, if I were one of these players, someone like Dykstra or Greenwell, I'd rather have zero votes when my name came up on the Hall of Fame ballot. Think about it, Wallach probably knows that his one vote was meaningless, either given by a friend or cast as a joke.

Plus, because of that vote he's got idiots like me with nothing better to do ragging on his career and pointing out just how nonexistent his HOF credentials are.

I mean, I didn't say anything about Mike Henneman, Jeff Russell, Scott Sanderson or Robby Thompson. You know why?

Because they got a grand total of zero votes. Now that's intelligent voting. 

In the Bullz-Eye

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy. The Bucs are in the playoffs, but with a less-than- impressive 9-7 record and behind a once-feared defense that allowed 17.5 points per game while notching 42 sacks on the season, only the seventh-highest total in the NFC and the 11th-best in the NFL. For a team that over the years has won games thanks to a fearless defensive unit that made up for offensive mistakes, the Bucs could be in trouble, meaning Dungy, who's been good but not great as Tampa's head coach, could find himself unemployed with an early playoff exit.