What we've learned from early Hall of Fame returns -- and whether their release is good for baseball

Michael Dwyer/AP

At its conception, the Baseball Hall of Fame was meant to be a shrine to former players and their achievements. But over time, the Hall's election process has become one sport's most reliable sources of vitriol, with the tabulation and dissection of individual ballots dragging on for almost two months, an often-angry debate further stoked by social media.

The results of this year's election won't be announced until Jan. 25, but because of the weekslong voting phlebotomy, we already pretty much know that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will not gain induction into the Hall of Fame in this, their 10th and final year of eligibility on the writers' ballots. We already pretty much know that Curt Schilling, who was only 16 votes short of election last year, will get fewer votes this time around. David Ortiz may be the only player on this year's ballot to gain election, although longtime third baseman Scott Rolen is also polling well.

It's possible that this gradual bloodletting has drained some of the joy out of what is supposed to be a celebration.

Josh Rawitch is in his first year as president of the Hall of Fame, and in a conversation Wednesday, he acknowledged the ongoing questions about whether there could be a better voting process. He said he promised himself that he would go through the cycle for a year before he assesses it.

No other Hall of Fame voting in professional sports sparks a volume of debate equal to that in baseball. Beyond discussions about the performance merits of individual players, the loud argument over whether players linked to steroids should be inducted has persisted for the better part of two decades. But the annual discussion plays out in a way that no one could've anticipated because of the work of one fan.