Today was supposed to be Part 1 of team #29, but I decided to postpone that one day because I honestly forgot that today was Hall of Fame day and by Sunday this will be old news.
Now let's get to the heart of the matter, the Baseball Hall of Fame voting. This is my favorite part of the baseball offseason and always has been. Even when I was a kid and Yaz and Bench and Stargell and McCovey and Palmer, players I had only known mainly through stories from my relatives, were getting elected...I loved it. Throughout the past 20 years, players I actually grew up with were entering the Hall. I watched the majority of the career of guys like Gwynn and Ripken and Boggs and Sandberg and Puckett and I loved it even more. Which brings us to this year's ballot.
Let me start out by saying I think this is the strongest ballot since 1999 with two all time greats Nolan Ryan and George Brett, and 3000 hit club member Robin Yount getting in and a top 5 catcher of all time, Carlton Fisk, and arguably a top 10 Latino player Tony Perez left out. This year's ballot should be an exact parallel to that ballot with two all time greats Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, and 3000 hit club member Craig Biggio getting in and a top 5 catcher of all time Mike Piazza and arguably a top 10 Latino player, Sammy Sosa, left out. 1999 also included 4 other future Hall of Fame players: Gary Carter, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, and Bert Blyleven getting anywhere from 33.8% of the vote (Carter) to 14.1% of the vote (Blyleven). I think there should easily be 4 other future Hall of Famers on this year's ballot as well: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, plus several others.
However, we have the PED cloud hanging over this ballot and the results of about a fifth of the actual ballots suggests that NO ONE will be elected later today with Biggio the highest total at 68% and four others above 60%. Could someone jump up and snag a spot? Sure, but the bigger question is, why should they have to? I'll try and respond to several answers to that question.
"Because we don't need cheaters in the Hall of Fame!"
Then we really need to remove Ty Cobb, who would spike fielders on a regular basis. Don't forget to take out Gaylord Perry, Whitey Ford and others who would occasionally doctor the baseball. We also can;t forget to remove Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and every other star from the 50s through the 70s because of the use of amphetamines. Even if you believe that Clemente never took greenies, it doesn't matter because he was around the clubhouse culture of greenies and therefore is not above suspicion. And with some Hall of Fame voters "I think he did it" equals guilt. We also can't forget the majority of player in the 1800's and early 1900's that regularly used a common drug that is currently illegal...cocaine. We also need to take out the player that actually did use testoterone, 19th century player Pud Galvin. Before too long, there wouldn't be anyone left.
"They need to be role models for the children."
They still are and should be. Role models should never be perfect, because the children will never be perfect. Mark McGwire admitted to what he did and apologized sincerely. That is a lesson kids should learn and if they learn it from their heroes it is likely to stick. Even if they don't admit it, use them as a teaching tool. Put the details of PED use on Raffy Palmeiro's plaque or the corked bat incident on Sosa's plaque. Orlando Cepeda was a drug trafficker, Ty Cobb was an alleged murderer, Cap Anson was arguably the biggest reason for the delay of integration. Are these guys better role models than the PED users? This is not a Hall of Saints, this is a museum that celebrates the best baseball players of all time. The players on this year's ballot are among the best players of all time.
"Steroids inflated their vote totals."
I have seen no proof that steroids actually help anyone become a better baseball player. This isn't football, the strongest guy in baseball is not always the best player. Ozzie Smith was 5'11" and 150 pounds, do you think he would have been a good football or basketball player? Of course not, but he is a Hall of Fame baseball player. Steroids does not improve your hand-eye coordination which is the most important skill for a baseball player to have. I can't prove that Barry Bonds would not have hit 762 home runs without PED's, but you can't prove to me that Hank Aaron wouldn't have hit 755 without greenies or Babe Ruth wouldn't have hit 714 without cocaine and alcohol. It's almost impossible to prove a negative, no matter what advanced metric is applied. The dead ball era inflated the numbers for triples, batting average and several other stats so changes were made by bringing in fences. The 60's inflated pitchers numbers so much that the mound was lowered. However, Bob Gibson's ERA record still stands and probably will never be broken and Sam Crawford's career triples record still stands after 100 years and will probably never be broken. Home run and RBI totals were inflated during the "steroids era," but every one of those records is still on the books and may never get broken.
"We should just keep out the proven users."
This one is the least objectionable argument for me and yet it is still objectionable. Baseball has not banned these guys, not even Rafael Palmeiro. They appear on the ballot. I am tired of a certain number of sportswriters (not all sportswriters Night Owl) turning into the morality police at the beginning of every new year. The problem is Jeff Bagwell (and probably Mike Piazza) has been unfairly demonized despite the fact that he has never been implicated by anyone regarding PED use. Sportswriters are human beings and human beings cannot set aside 100% of their bias on anything. It is a part of who were are as people. If a sportswriter suspects a player and doesn't vote for him because they think the guy night have possibly used but no one can confirm this...this is a problem.
The second point is there is no player that played from 1987-2004 that is 100% above all suspicion for PED use. Would it really blow me away if Sportscenter broke a story about Ken Griffey using PEDs? Yes, but not completely. Same with Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Cal Ripken. I would be slightly surprised by all of them, but not completely. I'm sure that there were some clean players from 1987-2004, of this I have no doubt. The problem is you can never give me a complete list of them. Therefore, unless you want to just suspend voting for about twenty years then you need to start letting players in. You cannot just sweep an entire era under the rug like the NCAA tries to do. Let these players in...warts and all.
With all of that out of my system, allow me to say one additional thing. As much as I have loved the Baseball Hall of Fame voting process, if no one gets elected this year with this much talent on the ballot, I officially quit the Hall of Fame. I will not go to it again. I will not discuss it on this blog or anyone else's blog or in real life. It will be a complete non-issue in my life unless a lot of changes are made to the voting process. I really do not want that to happen, but I am tired of the same arguments over and over again. The only time I felt like this before was around the 1994 strike and I gave up baseball completely for 5 years after that debacle. I really don't want to give up on the Hall of Fame, but I will because this whole thing is just foolish.
I'm sorry for rambling and ranting a bit today, but this whole thing has just gotten under my skin and I needed to get it off my chest. I'll be back with a less intense post tomorrow.
Thanx for reading.