Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations.
That’s the motto of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The Hall is a not-for-profit entity that is independent of Major League Baseball.
Well, so it goes.
For many years, I covered the Hall of Fame. I know many of the employees and the countless hours they put into everything that makes the Hall one of the most wonderful places in the world, especially if you are a fan of baseball history.
As a paying member of the Hall, I get free entry all year, so I can come and go as I please. It’s nice to go escape and look at the history of the game. I spend hours there, even when I plan on just checking a few things out. I’ve also spent time in the research library, looking up players for the HooHaa 9.
One thing with the Hall, though, is it seemingly has no say in who is enshrined there.
Though the Hall decides the veteran committees, the main election is done by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. On Wednesday, those writers decided nobody would be elected to the Hall this year.
I could spout number after number about the players I think should be elected. Or about how certain players were dominant for a generation. But let’s call it as it is — the steroid era is what did this election in.
What I have issue with is the fact that voters seem to treat the Hall like it’s the Hall of Perfection. It’s not. There are a lot of scumbags in the Hall. There are a lot of people with low moral character. And I guarantee there are cheaters in the Hall.
Again, the ones who decide who goes into the Hall are writers. That’s needs to be changed. I don’t think players should be in total control. I’m all for writers having a say, but the process needs to be changed.
Let’s do a history lesson. In 1994, baseball went into a labor war, which ended up canceling the World Series. In the meantime, it was the beginning of the end for the Montreal Expos, who arguably had the best team in baseball that season.
Once it returned the next season, baseball slowly worked back into the hearts of people. But what really did it? The Mark McGwire vs. Sammy Sosa home run race in 1998.
Remember “Chicks dig the long ball?”
Steroids were rampant in the game that time. I find it hard to believe people didn’t know about it. But nobody cared. Money was flowing. The game was back and people were slamming home runs, which the crowds loves.
Then it all started to fold.
Steroids became the worst thing. Reports came out. People admitted guilt. Moral objections flew all over the place. Then came the “cleaning” of the game.
I’m all for cleaning up the game. I don’t like performance-enhancing drugs. I’m not a supporter of drug use. I want to see the game pure, just like anybody else. That being said, it was an era of the game, so people like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds should be in the Hall.
It’s part of baseball history.
This game has gone through time. It hasn’t always been great. There’s been racism, drug use, cheating and anything else you can come up with. Ask some of those old timers about greenies. How about the amount of players who did — and still do — cheat on their wives? There’s been many other illegal drug uses. Talk about morality.
There might already be someone in the Hall who used steroids. I have no clue who, but Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins confirmed there has been “talk” among some Hall of Famers that there’s suspicion of one person as being a user.
Everyone in the steroid era is under suspicion though, and apparently that’s enough to keep people out.
Jeff Bagwell is close, but not in. Mike Piazza was fully looked over this year. Craig Biggio — and his 3,000 hits — were left out this year. Though some people might question Bagwell and Piazza, they haven’t truly been connected to any steroids scandal.
Heck, people like Clemens and Bonds never failed a drug test. Though there’s not likely many people on this planet that don’t suspect steroid use for the two, the facts are the facts — no drug tests have been failed.
My favorite is the first-ballot setup, where it’s some special honor to be in right away. That’s silly, too. You’re a Hall of Famer or you’re not — it’s as simple as that. In the 15 years it took for Jim Rice to get into the Hall, his statistics never changed. Never. He didn’t get any more homers or hits.
This is the power trip for the writers.
Let’s remember, too, that I spent much of my career as a sports writer. I covered the Hall. Though the minor leagues, I covered pro baseball.
But I never understood why covering baseball meant somebody should be able to decide who is in or out of the Hall of Fame.
I still can’t figure out why Jack Morris isn’t in the Hall. Or why Dale Murphy didn’t get more of a look. Heck, Fred McGriff, who I don’t ever think I heard in the steroid discussion, hit 493 home runs and garnered a whopping 20.7 percent of the vote this year.
Now, to be fair, I’m not against players of this era having it being noted on their plaque. But it would have to be everybody. As far as I’m concerned, everybody is possibly guilty.
For heaven’s sake, Andy Pettitte admitted using PEDs at one point during his career.
It’s time for a change to the system. The Hall needs to stick to its mantra and start preserving history. Players like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose should be in the Hall. Should it be noted on their plaque what happened? Absolutely. But they are Hall of Famers.
So are Clemens and Bonds. And others who are in the steroid era. Eventually Alex Rodriguez, who has admitted use, will be up for election. I don’t like A-Rod and his moral character goes beyond steroids. But is he a Hall of Famer? Yes.
Unfortunately, things aren’t going to change. The Hall won’t sever ties or start a war like this to take control of it. You risk a lot by doing that, without a doubt. And I understand their spot. Still, something should be done. Because to let a bunch of writers who are preaching morality decide who is in or isn’t in the Hall is not working anymore, plain and simple.
I don’t mind a morality clause for gaining induction, but it needs to consider many things. This is a full era of the game we are talking about. Players are going to go into the Hall who may have used but never been suspected.
Plus, it would appear that the writers are also punishing those who aren’t directly connected to the steroid scandal, anyway. Otherwise Morris and Lee Smith would already be in. And players like Curt Schilling would have been much closer this year, if not in.
But hey, you have to protect that first-ballot status.
I still love the Hall of Fame. I love the history. I love the game. And I realize steroids are an extremely important part to the history — now and in the future. You can’t tell the story of baseball without them.
Leaving these players out might make some living Hall of Famers happy and allow the voting contingent to feel like they are doing the right thing, but in the end, they are trying to ignore history.
It’s time for the Hall to step in and start work on a new way so it can be honestly looked at in more than just a morality clause.
Until then, this will continue for at least the next 15 years, if not longer.
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