The New Year means it's time for an Old Tradition here at BSJ: the annual Hall of Fame ballot reveal.
The ballot usually arrives in late November or early December and sits in the magnetic mail holder on the side of our refrigerator, taunting me each time I walk by. It's a daily reminder that it needs attention, and soon.
But even before I take the ballot and begin filling it out, I'm thinking about it. Daily. The reminders are everywhere, as colleagues post their own versions. I alternate between wanting to read them out of curiosity and avoiding them altogether, to avoid undue influence.
Ultimately, the Hall of Fame vote is a distinctly personal matter, even if, in the end, I share my own here and on social media. Maybe I should clarify: determining the choices on your ballot is the personal part.
There's no such thing as a right or wrong ballot -- the efforts of some who have taken to applying a "score'' to those made public to the contrary. In fact, as I've noted before, I find that exercise infuriating. You're welcome to disagree with my ballot and tell me how I've erred in including or omitting your favorite player; you are not, however, welcome to tell me that I've somehow failed in my duty because my choices don't coincide with yours.
This isn't the SATs, folks. There's room for disagreement and subjectivity.
There's also room for revision. As you'll soon see, I voted for someone this year whom I previously hadn't voted the first five years he was on the ballot. Often this leads some to derisively ask: Did (Player X) somehow get better since last year's ballot?'
In return, I offer my response: Yes, as a matter of fact, he did. Not literally, of course, since statistics are frozen. But my interpretation of them and what they mean in the context of the Hall changed. My thinking evolved. Put more succinctly: I changed my mind. It happens.
It's happened on a few occasions. Often, I'll read a particularly convincing argument or uncover a statistic that places a player in a new light, and I'll force myself to reconsider my vote. Sometimes, I change my mind; sometimes, I don't. But I'm thankful for various measuring sticks developed by Bill James, Jay Jaffe and others that provide me (and others) with additional tools with which to evaluate.
(For whatever reason, the process has yet to work in reverse. In other words, while I've added players for whom I've previously not voted, I've never voted for a player, then stopped voting for them. Once I've convinced myself of a player's worthiness, I don't backtrack).
Another caveat: while WAR is a useful measure with which to assess a career, I'm reluctant to let it serve as a sole determinate. With all the advances made in the area of analytics, no one stat can completely measure a player's impact. On this year's ballot, for instance, I'm not voting for someone with the fourth-best career WAR among the players listed, but I am voting for the one ranked 22nd. So, sue me.
Again, no right or wrong answers. Just mine.