For only the 3rd time in the last 53 years, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America decided not to elect a single person into the MLB’s Hall of Fame. This action, or inaction, to exclude players from the steroid era is seen as a line in the sand for traditionalists that may or may not shape the way the future of voting is conducted for the most traditional sport in today’s age.
Let’s put things in perspective, arguably the most star-studded ballot in MLB’s history did not give a single player 75% voting approval for the Hall of Fame:
- Barry Bonds- the current home-run king, seven-time MVP and one of the top 3 greatest hitters of all time.
- Roger Clemons-the greatest right-handed pitcher of the live ball era with seven Cy Young awards (only MLB player in history to earn this), sits at 3rd on the all-time strike outs and 9th overall in terms of wins.
- Craig Biggio- has over 3,000 hits, one of only a handful of guys to EVER achieve this. And presumably played clean.
- Mike Piazza- the greatest offensive catcher to ever play the game and also made 12 All-Star teams
In a sport where numbers mean more than any other league, everyone seems to know that steroids (or the assumed usage) has placed a cloud over the last 25 years. And the writers who have a vote are finally able to voice their opinion and show their outrage! All shall be right with the world!
Except, most of these writers who have a vote, knew of widespread usage of steroids in the game as it was happening. They heard whispers, and rumors. But did nothing. They wrote their stories and their books while simultaneously turning a blind eye as to how the records were being broken and emphatically enjoyed the profitable ride just like the teams and league did for years before any real pressure or testing was changed.
But now most of these same writers want to shout that integrity of the game matters and guys like Ken Rosenthal, who didn’t vote for Bonds/Clemons say he’s “just not that comfortable voting these guys in on their first time”.
Which is exactly where the voting is flawed for the Hall of Fame.
Key terms in which a player is measured for the HOF relies mostly on numbers, character, integrity and sportsmanship. But what also weighs heavily on many of the voters minds is the idea they are going to “punish” those players who are suspected of PED usage, by not letting them into the Hall on the first ballot.
Numbers are numbers. And you either have them or you don’t. Waiting a year or two to put a player on a ballot is not going to change those numbers.
While most fans believe Bonds/Clemons might make it into the HOF eventually, other guys like Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio weren’t elected either. And most believe it’s because of suspicions that they “might” have used PEDs, mind you, without any evidence to support that claim. Are the baseball writers of America really playing judge and jury as to who gets into the Hall of Fame by suspicions? Because that same rule can apply to every single player from the last quarter century.
Players’ union head Michael Weiner called the vote “unfortunate, if not sad.”
Weiner also added “to ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings — and others never even implicated — is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully, this will be rectified by future voting.”
Whether or not a player used PEDs should have no bearing on a Hall of Fame vote. The era we all lived in and naively enjoyed watching included both hitters and pitchers who were using.
So what should the HOF do? While a tremendous amount of respect for guys perceived to have played the game clean ala Greg Maddox, the way of solving this HOF vote crisis is simply noting on the plaques of guys like Bonds/Clemons to differentiate between the two types of players during this era. That lets the writers do their job of voting in the best players and leaves future generations to make their own determinations of how these players are viewed.
For a sport that prides itself on tradition, the Hall of Fame is not a cathedral filled with saints. It’s a historical institution that has players inducted that took amphetamines in the 70’s, used corked bats, scuffed balls and had questionable character.
But the games were still played, history was made and the records remain intact. And for better or worse, baseball and it’s writers with a vote, should treat the steroid era as such.