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Unsold baseball Hall of Fame rage op-ed

Monday 7/22/19

It's amazing and depressing the number of top-tier op-eds I am writing, casually, while composing everything else, that are not going anywhere. David Brooks? Please. These are so beyond the op-eds one sees in The New York Times--where apparently I'm banned by the op-ed section now, too--at the level of language, idea, argument, correctness, edginess, sanity, rhetoric, truth. Imagine if that was one of my gigs? Two or three op-eds a week there? So much discussion would follow. And it would take me an hour a week.

Let go of your baseball Hall of Fame rage—it will help you elsewhere

By Colin Fleming

A long time ago, but not that long ago, I was a young boy who geeked out with giddiness at the mid-point of each summer when the baseball Hall of Fame welcomed in its newest induction class. I loved that my favorite players got to have a second baseball life—an immortal one, even! It was like you could continue to follow them forever after their last at-bat or pitch hurled.

We debated who would go in, my friends and I, and we never griped about players who got in after they got in. We certainly never seethed with anger about it. But what one encounters all the time now is full-on vitriol with Hall of Fame talk. This year, Harold Baines, longtime, well-traveled DH, has received the Cooperstown nod and goes in this weekend, an honor which has spiked a lot of blood pressure readings.

His inclusion does not mean that he’s at the level of Mays, Aaron, Ruth, Mantle. No one on earth thinks that. Harold Baines has never thought that. But Hall talk has taken on a nasty, brutish, aspect of our culture, where we spit venom first, and, well, spit venom again.

When did we become so hubristic as the self-styled overlords of taste and history, masters of tenebrous knowledge, that we take personal offense, as if our character has been brutalized, by someone who hit a sphere with a stick getting a post-career kudos?

We are maximalist control freaks in 2019. When we are not able to directly influence something, our rage bubbles over, and that rage needs an outlet. That outlet becomes carping. Endlessly. Verbal violence. People lob invective, break out imprecations, all over the likes of Harold Bloody Baines, and whomever else is castigated—acidulously—as being unworthy.

This is especially ironic in our age where so many people’s moods and their sense of self is governed by how many likes they get on Facebook and their consecutive days streak of not having been “ratioed” on Twitter. The standards of approbation are lower than ever. I would argue that real success is viewed as a threat now. We are frightened when we compare our puffed up faux-success with actual success. Sports are not life. Sports can teach you about life. But sports commendations should not be as talismanic as some people wish them to be.

“I will never visit the Hall of Fame again, it’s been cheapened by guys who don’t deserve to get in without buying a ticket. It’s a travesty to anyone who cares about the game.”

Is it? Cool your heels, bro. The new modes of analytics allow people who know nothing about a sport to run out a series of computations arguing that Player X isn’t worth Player Y’s left cleat and so on. Sometimes I want to ask these people, “Who does it hurt that this player is going into the Hall?” Christy Mathewson was less good at pitching now? It was easier for Ted Williams to hit .400?

The Hall is about individuals. Separation. Both from players who don’t make the Hall, and between the players within it. I love individuals, I don’t love packs. The Hall complainers are like beasts straight out of White Fang, in search of throats to rip. That doesn’t seem very baseball-y to me.

The world doesn’t need a Hall of Sanity or a Hall of Not Having a Violent Meltdown, but maybe shoot for joining one the next time you’re about to poleaxe someone over a neat, but not life-altering, topic like the Hall of Fame. Or halls’ worth of other topics, for that matter.


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