Don't Hassle the HOF

Information about the present and future of the Soccer Hall of Fame has been slowing over the years.  Kenn Tomasch has been the historian of voting totals...except a couple of years ago the Hall stopped releasing that information.  The only update Kenn needs to this page is "Brian McBride and Kristine Lilly were elected on the first ballot in 2014."

This makes it hard to trend the chances of players passed over in previous years, compared to the annual torrent of new candidates.  As you can see from Kenn's page, recent ballots have tended to figure either players squeaking in only because of Hall rules changes...or consensus candidates chosen pretty much by acclamation, like last year. 

The 2015 ballot LOOKS like another version of the latter.  It is also a ballot seemingly custom-made for those who want what I call a Small Hall - where only the cream of the cream of the froth on top of the cream is invited in.  There are, to my eyes, five players on the 2015 ballot who answer that description...except two of those were overlooked last year for reasons I can readily imagine, but we'll get to that. 

There's certainly nothing in the rules that say you have to fill in all ten spaces, and many voters do not.  If the Hall agreed with this point of view in principle, they would have not changed to voting process to lower the needed percentage for induction AND included a runoff process - but they don't force voters to pad out the ballot with those they deem unworthy.

I, however, as a staunch Great Hall advocate, see the 2015 ballot and agonize.  It used to be that a couple of gorillas would make the rest of the ballot irrelevant, since there were only room for three inductees per year.  Now, it's everyone who gets 2/3 of the votes.  The lower threshold, the number of candidates, the lack of transparency and the impossibility of comparing actual peers with each other make this the toughest ballot in sports.

Let me show you why, through the magic of over-explaining.

THE LOCKS

Let me be the first to prematurely congratulate Kasey Keller and Frankie Hejduk on their induction into the US Soccer Hall of Fame, Class of 2015.

THE WOMEN WHO SHOULD BE LOCKS BUT AREN'T

Tiffeny Milbrett might get in this year, or next year, or never.  People who don't vote for her are wrong.  I thought the same thing, however, about Briana Scurry and Kate Markgraf, as well as Shannon MacMillan, in her final year of eligibility.  This is where I'd have been interested to see Lilly's voting totals - you would think such a slam-dunk certainty would have been in the mid-90's, at least.  But if she had only persuaded seven out of ten voters, for whatever, reason, Milbrett's chances - as well as Scurry, Markgraf's and MacMillan's - are that much less. 

Not that the voting base is necessarily sexist - Mia received over 97% in her only year of eligibility, and Michelle Akers clocked over 95%.  But Fawcett didn't get in until after the rule change, and MacMillan hovered around 50% back when totals were released. 

THEY'RE TAKING OUR JOBS

Now that Marco Etcheverry and Carlos Valderrama have left the ballot in disgrace (not their disgrace, mind you), the Emma Lazarus battalion is down to three - Jaime Moreno and new nominees Diego Serna and Pat Onstad.  I'd give Onstad much more consideration than Serna, but neither of them make my top ten.

By ample precedent dating to ASL days, however, Moreno deserves induction because of his contribution to American soccer in American soccer league play...but by ample recent precedent, he will be on the outside looking in, along with his former teammate Marco Etcheverry.  Will the same people who refuse Moreno also refuse Barros Schelotto?  [EDIT - no, they won't, but they won't have a chance to.  See correction below.]  Or - and here's a question to put a chill in your spine - David Beckham?  I would hope Small Hall advocates aren't overlooking Moreno simply because of his admittedly ridiculous, disloyal, unconscionable and appalling decision not to be born an American.

THE DELUGE

There has been a steady increase in candidates with deserving, but not overwhelming, cases for inclusion.  Here I envy the Small Hall advocates, whose work was completed perhaps a paragraph and a half ago.  Not for them is the thankless task of deciding why Chris Armas, Robin Fraser and Steve Ralston are more deserving than Eddie Lewis, Clint Mathis, Ante Razov, Gregg Berhalter, Jimmy Conrad, Taylor Twellman and Jason Kreis.  What happy, fulfilling lives they must lead. 

How did I decide on Armas, Fraser and Ralston, the last three on my ballot? 

Fraser is a protest vote at this point.  APSL work is not considered for this ballot, but I have included it anyway - not that his MLS resume needed the burnishment.  He never won MLS Cup, and had a measly 26 caps, which is more than enough ammunition to those who would ignore a five-time MLS All-Star and two-time Defender of the Year.  This is his last year of eligibility, but I'd been voting for him all this time anyway, and I'm not about to stop.  Well, actually, yes, I am about to stop, just not this year.

Steve Ralston was another MLS original who, when he retired, was far and away the leader in most MLS games played by a position player and most career assists.  The latter record was taken from him by Landon Donovan, and Kyle Beckerman and Brad Davis are breathing down his neck for the former.  Like Fraser, his highest domestic honor was US Open Cup, and his national team career was something to sneeze at.  And, like Fraser, he was an extremely important part of the early days of MLS.  Telling the story of Major League Soccer without Fraser and Ralston would make little sense.

Chris Armas is actually an easier decision, perhaps because I refuse to let the judgment of fate deprive him of his contribution to the 2002 World Cup team.  There are players with better MLS resumes, and there are players with better national team careers.  Armas was ridiculously distinguished in both, even if you disregard the games injury took from him.  He was also the best player at his position throughout his MLS career. 

My honorable mention/first cuts are, pretty much in order: Kreis, Twellman, Lewis and Conrad.

It's worth to see if the Veterans elect anyone this time around - they took a year off after choosing Peter Vermes in 2013 and Desmond Armstrong in 2012.  That's good news for Mike Burns and John Doyle, if mopping up 90's national team members continues to be the priority.  If Marco Etcheverry makes it, or even comes close - he's the only one on the current Vet ballot who never made it to a US national team, I can only assume because of our racism against foreigners - then that bodes very well for other MLS standouts with meager national team careers.  I happen to think that 100 caps in the 90's is less impressive than five all-star MLS seasons - sadly, I am but one man against hundreds. 

CORRECTIONS, BECAUSE IT'S THE ONLY WAY I'LL LEARN - I implied that the Hall ignored Robin Fraser's APSL years...but they are included in his bio.  It just didn't get him on the ballot to begin with. 

Also, didn't it seem like Guillermo Barros Schelotto played for five years?  Well, he didn't...so he's not going to be eligible.  GBS might be worth the time and effort it would take to go back and include guys who have been in the league only four years...but then again, he might settle for a statue outside Naming Rights Stadium on the fairgrounds.