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As Mariners' Martinez Inches Closer To Hall Of Fame, Art Thiel Explains Why He Doesn't Vote

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Mariners former designated hitter Edgar Martinez smiles as he speaks at a news conference announcing the team’s retirement of his No. 11 jersey, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Martinez continues to move closer to induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame. ";

The Mariners plan to retire the No. 11 jersey of hitting legend Edgar Martinez. It will happen in a ceremony this summer. That’s also when the class of 2017 will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. When the inductees were announced last week, Edgar’s name was not on the list. But he got the most votes he’s ever received.

Knkx sports commentator Art Thiel talked with 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick about Edgar’s chances and the changes he’d like to see to the whole voting process.

'He Is Worthy'

The retired Mariner and current team hitting coach received nearly 59 percent of the ballots cast.

"I think he's worthy and his trend is upward," Thiel said. "He has a 10-year window of eligibility, as do all Major League Baseball players, and he's in his eighth year.

"I think there is momentum for the next couple of years to get him to the 75 percent figure that is required for Hall of Fame entry."

Who Votes?

"The voters are the Baseball Writers of America, an organization that's been around since the 1930s," Thiel continued.

"These are newspaper writers and broadcasters who are very close to the game and spend a lot of time studying it but are not part of Major League Baseball.

"There were 440 ballots this year and they may increase or decrease based on the writers' decision about who is most qualified for the ballot."

'I Do Not Vote'

Thiel is a member of the Baseball Writers of America. But he doesn't vote for the Hall of Fame.

"I've never voted. And I do that deliberately," he said.

"I'm not alone in this. There are other organizations, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, who specifically forbid their writers from voting. And I agree with that.

"The journalists should be beholden to their readers. Not to MLB or the private family foundation that runs the Hall of Fame. This is an unholy alliance.

"I really do think that writers being involved with the selection of the most prestigious award in baseball is a conflict of interest."

How It All Started

"This has its roots back in the 1930s when baseball and newspapers were, sort of, co-promoters because it was a daily product as was the baseball season," Thiel said.

"But that's gone away because newspapers are going away. Why continue this tradition? Well, baseball writers want it this way. I'm saying no; it's time has past."

Who Should Vote?

Thiel said he doesn't care who votes as long as it's not journalists. "It's up to baseball to decide," he said.

"The biggest reason is the steroid issue. Because journalists and baseball players and team executives and the commissioner knew that this was going on from the middle '80s all the way through the '90s and into the early 2000s - when baseball was shamed into developing a strict set of rules banning performance-enhancing drugs.

"In that period, players such as Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and many others were tainted by the allegations of steroid use. Other players who were using were in the shadow of the question.

"And everybody stayed silent. Until the Hall of Fame voting, when, suddenly, everybody gets very righteous and says, 'Well, somebody said he was doing steroids.' What kind of proof is that?

"It got so muddled now that one of the reasons that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds had an uptick in their voting in this ballot was because Bud Selig, the commissioner when all this was going on, was elected by a veterans committee to Hall of Fame status.

"And, so, some writers said, 'Well, if you're going to allow the commissioner, I guess you have to allow all of the alleged steroid users.

"But it's such an unprovable thing; it was indulged by everyone that I think the whole issue should be ignored or keep everybody out who was even mentioned in a newspaper article.

"In my opinion, keep the writers out. Let baseball honor or dishonor those people that they can determine did steroids."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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