Before we go over the individual questions, I need to explain the rules:
Rule one: it’s your Test, your rules.
Rule two: There is no second rule.
If you think Willie McGee was better than Willie McCovey, grade accordingly. If you think you can sell it (outside Willie McGee’s family) you are probably barking up the wrong mctree, but it’s your Test, your rules. If you want to argue that Roger Maris was more famous than Stan Musial, grade accordingly. If you want to argue that Ray Oyler was a better hitter than Ted Williams, grade accordingly. It’s your Test, your rules.
You may be thinking to yourself, “but what is the point in that? I can just give good grades to the players I like, and say screw you to everyone else?” Call it step one in the process. Give all your favorite players A grades, give all your sworn enemies F grades, and get it out of your system. Share your results with your friends and have a good laugh. It’s your Test, your rules.
If you want to argue your opinion, however, there is a catch: an opinion without backing evidence is worthless. You can say Eleanor Roosevelt was a beauty, but sooner or later somebody is going to produce a picture. You can claim the Pittsburgh Steelers won the 1936 World Series if you want, but it only takes a couple of mouse clicks to make you look foolish.
More esoterically, if you want to claim that Roger Maris was a B player you can, but you will have to find a way to explain away his short, oft-injured career and low career batting average. If you point at his two MVP trophies, skeptics will point to his
if you want your opinion to be accepted into evidence, you have to sell it to the judge. An opinion without supporting evidence is as worthless in a bar as it is in a courtroom. If you don’t have any evidence to back up your love of Ray Oyler, your argument will be as toothless as a band saw in a blast furnace. If you want to share your opinion, your opinio
The Test will help you sort the exhibits, but you need to get them into evidence and convince the jury of their importance. If you say Willie McGee was better than Willie McCovey, you will need to convince your skeptics that McGee’s superior speed and defensive value trumped McCovey’s ability to hit baseballs over Willie McGee’s head into McCovey Cove.
If your opinions are too far from reality they are worthless in a serious discussion, Test or no Test, but the Test can mold and refine your opinions into strong, defensible stances. If you can prove that Willie McGee was a better player than Willie McCovey you are wasting your time here – you should be arguing in front of the Supreme Court (or locked up somewhere you can never escape) – but the rest of us can use the Test to refine our loose intuition into cogent, fact-based opinion.
The Test is not the house, but the scaffolding. The 10 questions allow us to cover all the outside walls, and the 6 grades allow free movement up and down the sides. No matter how you feel about a player, a run through the Test will paint a more complete picture of your opinion than you can manage from the unTested ground of subjective guesswork and confusing analytics.
Fact-based opinion, mind you, not fact. Your Test, your rules – but their Test, their rules, too. The Test can’t tell you if Willie Mays was better than Mickey Mantle any more than a systematic grading system for music will tell you if Beethoven was better than Bon Jovi, or a systematic feminine allure scale will tell you if Raquel Welch was hotter than Kate Upton. The Test frames the argument, but it has no interest in settling the argument.
The argument can never be settled. To shamelessly misquote Shakespeare, the argument is the thing. I believe perfecting the Hall of Fame’s selection process would kill it deader than a rat in an Alaska stew pot.
Perfection isn’t always perfect. Artistically speaking, perfection is just about the worst thing that can happen. There is no resolution without dissonance, and no warmth without the specter of cold. As all good versus evil arguments go, there can’t be one without the other.
It is my opinion that the lack of perfection – the fact that the system is just a little bit illogical and disorderly – is the reason the Baseball Hall of Fame is as popular as it is. The constant arguments over what favorite got screwed, or which bozo got in that doesn’t deserve a plaque, are the lifeblood of the Hall’s popularity. It isn’t easy to maintain the public’s interest in a museum, and I would hesitate to change anything under the assumption that perfection is a desirable goal.
Have you ever owned an old car, beat to hell and rusty all over but it just won’t quit? You are a little bit afraid to fix anything, because if you fix one thing than another thing has to be fixed, and eventually you end up with a pile of rust that won’t even run anymore. I have a feeling the Hall of Fame might fall apart if we were to start replacing those old rusty parts.
Trim too much fat and the meat loses its flavor.
Subjectivity is the very lifeblood of the Hall of Fame. Without subjectivity, the arguments end. Without the arguments, the Hall of Fame’s lofty pop culture status goes away. Without that status, the Hall of Fame is just another museum.
Any attempt to sterilize the voting – in an attempt to perfect it – could be disastrous. Baseball’s museum is more popular than the other major sports museums because the baseball public feels involved in the process. Their empowerment, in my opinion, comes from the residue of ambiguity left in the wake of the Hall’s refusal to define itself.
Barstool arguments about baseball are almost always either “if I voted I sure wouldn’t have voted for that bozo” or “I think the Hall of Fame should be …” – and every fan thinks he knows something the Hall is overlooking. If the Hall made logical, clearly defined selections according to specific rules, what would we argue about? The bozos would be qualified and the Hall of Fame’s parameters would be clearly defined.
Barstool pundits could argue that the Supreme Court would work better with seven members – or that they should have to take a shot every time someone mentions Roe v. Wade – but nobody does because the Supreme Court has specific rules (don’t tell Mitch McConnell), and the pundits don’t feel like they are smarter than the Supreme Court.
The Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Hall of Fame eligibility process has a list of 27 criteria that must be met before a player becomes subject to a vote. The standards are so high that few players are ever eligible, so any player who makes a ballot gets voted in immediately.
If baseball’s hall followed the LPGA model, the arguments would end. The angst would end. The personal involvement would end. And the interest would end. Cooperstown would be reduced to nothing more than a dusty, out-of-the-way storage bin for baseball’s history.
I know you want to get back to Beethoven, Raquel and Mantle. Chances are you quickly answered those three questions in your head, and chances are you felt a twinge of self-righteous pique at the idea that anyone would disagree with you. That’s the proper, normal reaction. It means you have strong opinions, and it means you care.
The Test is for you. Let’s get to it.