Ken Gurnick only votes Jack Morris for Hall of Fame in steroid-era protest

Jack MorrisDodgers.com beat reporter and Hall of Fame voter Ken Gurnick has been roundly criticized Tuesday for submitting a Hall of Fame ballot in which he only voted for Jack Morris and nobody else. The biggest reason for the criticism is that Gurnick’s ballot ensures that Greg Maddux — who by all standards is as worthy for the Hall of Fame as almost any player ever — will not be a unanimous selection.

Though many are lambasting Gurnick, I think his reasoning and explanation makes plenty of sense.

“It’s just my feeling about the steroid era and all the players in it,” Gurnick said of his ballot during an interview with Sirius/XM Radio’s “Inside Pitch.” “I can’t tell who [used PEDs] and who didn’t, so I don’t feel like I can vote for any of the players from that era.”

Gurnick admitted during his interview that he knew he was leaving himself open to criticism. There are questions such as what years the steroid era encompasses, and whether a guy like Morris pitched in the era.

Gurnick said he wrestled with that question, but decided Morris pitched well enough throughout most of his career in an earlier era to vote for him. But because of his views on the steroid era, Gurnick says he won’t be voting in the future.

“I won’t be voting for anybody probably anymore. My plan is to abstain from voting in the future.”

I know Gurnick and find him to be a very good beat reporter and intelligent guy. He’s not an idiot, and his reasoning makes sense, even if I would have voted differently.

The worst thing to me is for people to pick and choose who used and who didn’t use. In my opinion, you have to treat all players equally by either voting against all of the ones from the steroid era — as Gurnick did — or fairly vote for them based on their performance, even if you know they were caught.

[See all the MLB.com writer Hall of Fame ballots here]

A ballot like that of Marty Noble, which featured votes for Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Jack Morris, is a joke to me. How can you justify voting for Glavine over Clemens, who was 10 times the pitcher? How can you justify voting for Glavine over Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Mike Piazza — who were all better players?

Paul Hagen, who voted for Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Glavine, Maddux, Morris, Piazza, Raines, and Smith, articulated a good stance on voting in his explanation:

The logic remains unchanged: A Hall of Fame vote is too important to use guesswork about whether a certain player did or didn’t use PEDs. As a result, the approach here has been to vote for the best players of their era regardless. What is different is that there were so many qualified candidates that the informal rule of thumb about limiting the vote to four or five had to be ignored. And that still left off some worthy of consideration.

The one thing I ask for out of Hall of Fame voters is consistency: either vote steroids-era players based on what they accomplished, or don’t vote for them at all. Many people may be angry with Gurnick for not voting for players they like, but at least he didn’t pick and choose. To me it’s more egregious to vote Glavine for the Hall — as 16 of 17 MLB.com voters did — and not Clemens, Bonds or Frank Thomas, who were superior players.

At least Gurnick has some justification; the Hall of Fame has a morality clause that dictates you shouldn’t vote for players who cheated. They probably should do away with that clause considering one user is already in the Hall (according to Jose Canseco), and because there are guys with poor character and proven cheaters already enshrined. But at least Gurnick is following the standards more than other voters.

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  • Benjamin Beresford

    I think you’re missing or misunderstanding some of the major criticisms of Gurnick’s ballot:

    a.) The idea that the PED era began in the early 90s (and how Gurnick determines this start date is unknown) completely ignores the fact that people like McGwire and Canseco were using steroids in the 80s, when Morris was still in his prime.
    b.) If we’re willing to buy Gurnick’s tenuous argument that the PED era begins AFTER his prime, then why is he ONLY voting for Morris? The criteria Gurnick cites for why Morris is Hall-worthy could easily be applied to Tim Raines or Allen Trammel, probably more so, yet they are not deemed worthy.
    c.) If Gurnick believes that we cannot trust ballplayers from the PED era, why did he vote for Cal Ripken, who played through the majority of it? Or Tony Gwynn?
    d.) If Gurnick thinks that Morris is so deserving of a place in the Hall, why didn’t he vote for him as recently as 2011?

    To suggest that the vitriol aimed at Gurnick is based on the fact that it means Maddux won’t be unanimously elected to the hall is to ignore the bulk of the criticisms that multiple baseball writers made about the LOGIC behind Gurnick’s ballot.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    I understand all those criticisms. But almost all the outrage today over his ballot that I’ve seen focused on the Maddux aspect of it.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    Headline on ESPN.com: Maddux won’t be unanimous selection http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10259259/greg-maddux-unanimous-hall-selection

    Notice it didn’t say: Baseball writers find flaws with Gurnick’s ballot

  • Doug

    Gurnick is doing this for attention and you are giving it to him. He is an ass.