I’m about as pissed off as 91 year-old Virginia McCaskey. And no, it’s not because I’m the principle owner of a garbage fire masquerading as an NFL franchise (cough… the Bears… cough). I’m pissed about the MLB “Hall of Fame.”
And yes, I’m using quotes here for a reason.
Yes, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
Before you rush to call me a steroid apologist, let me tell you that my “vote” for these men doesn’t stem from forgiveness of any sort. It comes based on merit. In my mind, that should be the singular consideration when voting for any player.
When you look at the Baseball Writer’s of America’s official definition for how to vote, you may think you’ve found a clear hole in my argument:
5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
But while it may seem like I’m shooting down my own argument, I’m also shooting down anyone else who would like to say the opposite.
Let me ask you, BBWAA, how upstanding of a character was Ty Cobb, a known racist? Or Tris Speaker, your friendly neighborhood member of the KKK? How about Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, or the great Whitey Ford, who all openly admitted to routinely scuffing and doctoring baseballs?
At least ol’ Whitey gave us a good enough excuse: "I didn't cheat until later in my career when I needed something extra to survive." Awww, how adorable?
I won’t even start in on the backlog of issues surrounding Babe Ruth for fear that some baseball traditionalist cult will track me down and kill me for sullying his name.
My point: the whole “integrity, sportsmanship and character” section of the voting rule holds about as much weight as a soggy piece of tissue, yet it’s exactly what people are pointing to when denying accused steroid users entry into the Hall.
But maybe since ballot holders have clearly disregarded one section of the voting rule, they feel like they can justify neglecting the other, most crucial aspect of it. You know, um, that whole playing ability thingy.
As a result, you’re left with a Hall of Fame void of the all-time leader in homeruns in Barry Bonds, and the all-time leader in Cy Young Awards in Roger Clemens (and while you’re at it, toss in Pete Rose, the all-time leader in hits).
Do you really have a “Hall of Fame,” then?
But I digress. Even though this two-faced reasoning stokes my fire, it’s not even what I’m most angry about. I grew up in the “Steroid Era.” The home-run hitting, offensive minded Wild-West style of baseball is the very reason I’m a fan of the great game of baseball. Millions of fellow fans are in the same boat.
As a fan of that era, I feel like the BBWAA is giving me a huge middle finger year after year. By not voting in the players who defined that entire era with their play, you’re basically telling me that my fandom doesn’t matter. The experiences that drew me to the sport might as well have never happened.
By not giving the likes of Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, etc. the proper respect they deserve for being the absolute best talent of that era, the BBWAA is failing to give any of the fans of all of those players any respect.
When you no longer make merit the deciding factor, the Hall of Fame no longer symbolizes a shrine to the absolute best the game had to offer. No, it symbolizes the winners of a subjective talent show, multiplied by 500 (or however many writers get a vote these days).
Voting should NEVER come down to something like “he was a nicer than the other guy.” And there is ABSOLUTELY NO circumstance where the Hall of Fame should turn a blind eye to an entire era of players.
Those wins they contributed to? The championships? The MVP Awards? Those all still count. You can't erase those no matter how hard anyone tries.
People frequently shoot down the argument that the prevalence of steroid use is a factor. Even though it was a common occurrence, any hint of steroid association forever sullies your name. I find that funny, because writers who once voted in the aforementioned Cobb and Speaker must’ve used that same “everyone was doin’ it” attitude to give them a pardon on their overt racism.
It’s really disgusting when you think about it.
There is a lot of banter about reforming the voting rules. I say can we at least standardize a process first?
It doesn’t matter if you have 100 people voting or 500, when you’re all not on the same page, you’re never going to reach the correct conclusion.
How about giving the fans the respect they deserve? How about voting based on talent as the singular factor? Then when all of the players who may be shrouded in controversy finally start making it into the Hall, let their plaque describe the circumstances. Give the fans a chance make their own judgments about each of these guys on a personal level. At the end of the day, it’s the fan that should be making the judgment call about who they like, NOT a professional journalist with voting power.
That description on a plaque would be a more powerful symbol than any amount of asterisks you could ever jam into a record book. Then let’s let these players answer to a jury of their peers during their Hall of Fame speech; let’s not speculate on what those answers may be.