Tuesday has been an interesting exercise in the Hall of Fame voting process and reaction to it. MLB.com made public the ballots of its 17 writers with a Hall of Fame vote, but the one that stood out was from Dodgers beat writer Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
Gurnick's Hall of Fame ballot included only one name, Jack Morris. His rationale:
Morris has flaws -- a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for more than a decade of ace performance that included three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Player Award votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won't vote for any of them.
There is quite a bit to digest from that small paragraph, but chief among them is that Gurnick is the first of 155 public ballots (so far) to not vote for Greg Maddux.
That Maddux won't be elected unanimously isn't much of a surprise, but until Gurnick's ballot was revealed the mythical 100% plateau was still theoretically possible. Had Gurnick been the second or third ballot without Maddux, I doubt the scorn for his ballot would have been as high.
Voting for Morris and not Maddux is not really defensible, but on some level I see what Gurnick was going for here. Rather than picking and choosing who did and who didn't use PEDs, Gurnick is not voting for anyone from that era. That's not a stance I agree with, but Gurnick is absolutely entitled to that opinion in his voting consideration if he sees fit.
The problem I have is with defining the PED era itself. Morris pitched from 1977-1994, while Maddux pitched from 1986-2008. Using Gurnick's logic, the PED era began on or around 1995. That seems arbitrary.
In an interview with MLB Network Radio, Gurnick said he views the steroid era as beginning in "1992 or 1993." Morris won 21 games in 1992 at age 37.
"[Morris] was a real tough call for me because of that. If he hadn't had the career he had up to that, I probably wouldn't have voted for him," Gurnick said in the interview.
Gurnick cast the same ballot (Morris only) in 2013. In 2012, Gurnick voted for Morris and Lee Smith. In 2011, he voted for Smith and Bert Blyleven, and not Morris.
There has been some criticism of Gurnick for changing his ballot, but that seems absurd to me. Everyone has a right to change their mind, especially with another year of research and scrutiny. If nobody changed their mind in Hall of Fame voting, someone like Bert Blyleven never gets elected.
Gurnick has been getting reamed online for most of the day, which certainly comes with the territory of submitting a ballot with Morris but not Maddux. Gurnick's ballot would have been easier to defend had he simply not voted for anyone.
But it's not the ballot that needs defending, it's Gurnick.
For those suggesting Gurnick is an idiot, or to those who question his motives, I have come across no baseball writer who works harder or displays more professionalism than Gurnick. To those who suggest Gurnick submitted is ballot to get attention, I respectfully disagree. That couldn't be further from his personality.
But as Gurnick mentioned in his interview on MLB Network Radio, this year's Hall of Fame ballot will be his last. He will abstain from future voting, and not because of the backlash. Gurnick said part of the reason for abstaining was because he wouldn't even have voted for Mariano Rivera because he played in the PED era.
"I'm not going to cast an empty ballot," Gurnick said. "That goes against everybody."
It's probably the right call for Gurnick to abstain given his stance, but it's a shame that someone who has been around baseball for as long as he has to no longer be a part of the process.