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A Jeff Kent–Only HOF Ballot Really Puts Things In Perspective

3 Apr 2000: Jeff Kent # 21 of the San Francisco Giants lies on his stomach after being tagged out at third base in the second inning at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Florida.
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

It would seem that, in the absence of anything resembling actual baseball news, we’re rising up to complain about Dan Shaughnessy’s Hall of Fame ballot again. Once again, Rob Manfred is to blame here. We’re just not sure how quite yet.

Shaughnessy is the longtime Boston Globe columnist and HOF voter (and at this point you commenters/mongrels may begin slagging him off in your own particular idiolect, because Pavlov’s dog is not to be denied) who for the second year running voted for Jeff Kent AND ONLY Jeff Kent. In a Globe assessment of its seven Hall of Fame voters, Shaughnessy’s ballot with Kent but no local hero David Ortiz was sure to cause a level of colonic irritation in the run-down zoo that is the Boston sporting culture, which one can only assume was the goal here. I mean, by this point it’s more about the attention than the transparency, right?

And yet the annual cries for Shank’s trip to the abattoir as the guest of honor seem oddly muted this year, and maybe that’s because the general consensus is that there will be no players to reach the 75 percent threshold. You can’t really generate a festival of faux outrage when what you’re unhappy about is a party with no guests, no catering, no refreshments, and like everything about baseball right now, a general willingness to worry about other stuff. Put another way, if the sport’s biggest export right now is no games, what’s to celebrate other than Ryan Thibodaux’s latest turn onstage?

The whole Hall of Fame lather/rinse/repeat has taken on a brittle sameness that almost surely will at some point in the near future be taken in-house by MLB, which has failed in this one instance to monetize the actual ballots. The drill is there for all to see: Voting begins, votes are published, voters explain their reasoning and are called morons, and candidates are diminished with each subsequent year that they are not inducted. Side committees are formed so members can promote their overlooked friends and punish their overlooked enemies.

Oh, and there’s COVID to keep the crowds down in Cooperstown. And to make things immeasurably worse, there’s also Curt Schilling.

So it’s really not about Dan Shaughnessy at all. He represents .00249 of the voters, so whatever you may think of said vote, it really matters the same .00249—just like the blank ballots, the ballots with A.J. Pierzynski’s name marked, and even the ballots that allowed baseball writers to tell everyone in the readership radius why they voted for the ones they voted for because there’s no other baseball writing work being done these days. If Shaughnessy thinks Jeff Kent is the only Hall of Famer, fine. Don’t buy him a drink the next time you don’t see him. He’s not your problem. None of the voters are your problem. They’re just opinions with Sharpies. If this bother you so much, go tell your dog, and then give it a treat so it will forget that you burdened it with knowledge of Dan Shaughnessy’s Jeff Kent fetish.

It’s fun to vote for the Hall of Fame. I’ve done it yearly for about a quarter-century, give or take some calendar math I’m not interested in doing, and I’ve found the process a lot less stressful by simply refusing to play along with the stupids. My vote is released on the Baseball Writers of America website each year two weeks after the winners are (or aren’t) announced, and if you can find it, you can kind of guess who I’m going to vote for the next year. If you can’t find it, you’re all the better for your failure because nobody in their right mind should care who any one writer voted for, and drinks to you for having the good sense to give up.

I will say this, though. If next year Shaughnessy wants to sip an inkwell, lower his head to the ballot, and cough, I will think no less of his ballot, because, and I mean no more than my usual disrespect when I say this, I don’t really think of his ballot that often. And when I say often, I mean never. But I’m sure Jeff Kent appreciated it.

Oh, and Curt Schilling.