In four decades of voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, only once before has this happened. Out of the field of 37 candidates eligible for the Hall of Fame this year, the association selected exactly zero. That’s right, none. Not Bonds, Clemens or Sosa. Not Biggio, Piazza or Bagwell. Nobody.
This is somewhat understandable. After all, it’s pretty common for a player to not make the Hall on their first try and this particular class was tainted by a steroid scandal that put a dark cloud over baseball and over some of it’s greatest stars of the last 20 years.
But there’s something more going on here. At the end of the day, these writers have failed to agree on what really makes someone a great baseball player. In a game where statistics are everything and where writers like to make mention of how many hits a player has on Tuesdays in June in the rain, these writers are unable to quantify greatness.
It’s a tough thing to do, when you really think about it. Cal Ripken, Jr., a first-ballot inductee in 2007, had an incredible streak of 2,532 straight starts, but consistency alone doesn’t mean you’re a great player. Hall of Famer Hank Aaron hit over 30 home runs in 15 seasons, but homers alone won’t do it either (just ask Bonds and Sosa).
What makes a great baseball player, it seems, is some combination of consistency, skill, gamesmanship and character – the last of which has been the downfall of baseball greats like Joe Jackson and Pet Rose.
In life, too, our greatness is defined by our character. Accomplishments in business, art or other endeavors only get us so far. If you’re a scoundrel, people know it. If you’re selfish, they resent you, if you are cruel, they despise you. Climbing your way to the top by stepping on the throats of others doesn’t make you great.
Jesus actually had a definition of greatness that he shared with his closest followers. If you want to be great, he said, become a servant. If you want to be important, humble yourself. But far from suggesting that you should not try to be great, Jesus suggested that this was truly the path to greatness. In other words, the most selfish thing you can do is to be selfless.
This is just another one of Jesus’ sometimes confusing teachings which, if you really examine it closely, makes incredible sense. If we live in a self-serving world, then the best way to get people to like you is to do something that feeds their self-serving personality. Serve the person whose admiration you desire and that admiration is almost sure to come. Try to one-up them and they will spend their time trying to defeat you – to squash you like a bug.
Perhaps next year’s Hall of Fame candidates will take Jesus’ words to heart. Perhaps they’ll go up to Cooperstown and polish the brass railings at the hall. A little humility in baseball might be appreciated.