Avoiding A Baseball Hall Of Shame

The baseball writers have voted, and they’ve decided that no one should make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.

They didn’t vote for Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader, or Sammy Sosa, who had memorable home run duels with Mark McGwire and is eighth on the career home run list, or Roger Clemens, easily one of the most dominant pitchers of the modern era.  All three fell far short of the 75 percent vote they needed to be elected in the first year they were eligible.

I’ve bemoaned the “grade inflation” that has seen the incoming classes to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and other halls of fame become increasingly mediocre.  I’m glad the baseball writers didn’t feel the burning need to put a bunch of good players — but not Hall of Famers — into the shrine at Cooperstown this year.  In this case, though, no one would contend that a seven-time Cy Young Award winner or the man who hit more home runs than any other don’t have the stats to make it.  Instead, voters apparently struggled with whether players may have used performance-enhancing substances that helped to produce their great achievements and gave them an unfair advantage over others.

The steroid scandal has been an embarrassment for baseball, and I agree with the notion of waiting for the dust to settle before any leading player from the Steroid Era is honored with selection to the Hall of Fame.  Sometimes it takes a while for the truth to come out, one way or the other.  Players can be on the writers’ ballot for 15 years, which should give us plenty of time to see what shoes may drop.

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60 thoughts on “Avoiding A Baseball Hall Of Shame

  1. It is a very good thing that baseball writers, “didn’t feel the burning need to put a bunch of good players” into Cooperstown. It is a place for the greatest. Though they really should have voted in Jack Morris – that was pretty silly.

  2. I agree. If there is no punishment for PED’s then players will continue to use them. The fear of being denied baseball’s greatest honor MAY just be enough to counter the pull of all those extra dollars that come with an artificial performance. I’m glad at least one sport takes their character clause seriously in this country.

  3. Nice to see a post about baseball Freshly Pressed, while we’re all waiting for pitchers and catchers to report :)

    I wonder if they will ever let these guys (Clemens, Bonds, Sosa) in. Do you think that in the future the scandal will have faded and the BWWAA will have forgiven these guys? I mean, we still talk about the 1919 White Sox. . .

    I don’t think they’ll ever vote any of them in. That’s the price they paid for cheating.

  4. If they broke the rules, then no, they don’t get in. Period.

    If the damned things are okay, then make them legal, say you can pop any pills you want, and just have done with it. The message it will send if these guys break the rules and get in is that the rules don’t really count. GREAT message to send to the people who idolize these creeps.

    Make it legal, or punish it if it’s not. No in-between.

    • My last comment, I promise! I keep going because I’m so disheartened by the heavy judgment of commenters, with absolutely no understanding, insight or compassion for why the players did these things, how it all works IOW, and what it’s all about. They aren’t such monsters, just baseball players trying to do their best at their jobs and get through some tough spots. Not saying the drugs are “right” but they aren’t the work of Satan either! Stop throwing stones, all you glass house dwellers!

  5. I completely understand the desire to keep the Hall of Fame pure, but these writers who are voting, are the same writers who allowed the Steroid Era to happen in the first place. Major League Baseball, as well as the writers, turned a blind eye to the 20+ years of rampant use.

    They did nothing to stop it at the time, so instead of punishing all players for doing what they had to do to compete in that era, they should still be acknowledging superior talent. Everyone was on a substance, and yet not all of them were raised to legendary status. Compare them to their own era and reward those who truly were exceptional at their time.

    Let’s not make this into a witch hunt. Besides, every era has its own asterisk. There are players enshrined who never played against a black player, there are players who played before the mound was lowered, and there are players who played before pitching specialists became a thing. Baseball is always changing, so honor the players who were truly great during their time.

      • “Baseball is always changing, so honor the players who were truly great during their time.”

        I’m going to have to agree with Geoff on this one. It isn’t about blaming someone else. It isn’t about breaking rules or not breaking rules. What these players did was still exceptional for the years they were on the field and for the players they were matched against. I think they deserve to be recognized for that.

  6. I forget his name, but one writer summed it up very well, I thought. It really all depends on how you see the HOF. Is it a museum of baseball? If so, then the PED users are part of baseball’s history (and shame) and belong in a museum about baseball.

    But if it’s a shrine that honors the greats of the game, then the PED users (IMO) have no right to be there. Ever.

    So on the one hand, definitely yes, and on the other, definitely no. It all depends on how you view the BHOF. (FWIW, I lean more towards shrine. There are other baseball museums, but just one HOF, and I think it should be an honor.

    Everyone knew that PEDs were wrong. The proof is in how covert their use was, but anyone with any sense understands in their heart it was cheating. Cheaters shouldn’t be honored.

  7. If I am correct, Bernie Williams was on the ballot but was not voted. This left me amazed giving the fact that Williams is a natural player. He has the stats. He is a great player. What are your thoughts on him?

    • I didn’t know Bernie was on the ballot. HE was never cited for drug use. But neither were a lot of the guys this year. As I said, I think the writers wanted to make a big statement, and by letting nobody in they did. They caught our attention, didn’t they?

      • Yes they did! Was it fair for those natural players? Not at all, but a statement was needed. A strong one at that. I don’t think those drugs they used would make you a better player – it’s a mind thing, if you ask me – but rules are rules. I hope this is a wake up call for all players.

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  9. BBWAA ELECTION RULES

    4C. Any candidate receiving votes on seventy-five percent (75%) of the ballots cast shall be elected to membership in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

    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.

    So, were the ballots simply spread out across many eligible (PEDs notwithstanding) players as in 4C, or were characteristics from 5 the determining factor. Or both?

  10. If they won’t vote Pete Rose into the HOF for his gambling issues, then in no way should they vote in someone who is known to use PEDs. So, I’m glad that the writers did not vote anyone in. What’s sad is that the players who are clean in this era probably will not get voted in either.

  11. It makes me sad that PED use and baseball have become so intermingled. It really puts a damper on the sport. You watch and wonder who they are going to find out next.

  12. It’s a shame that they didn’t vote Dale Murphy into the HOF. He’s a multi-year MVP with just under 400 home runs, 1200+ RBI’s, and an unimpeachable character. If the writer’s really wanted to send a statement they could do so by voting in a candidate like Murphy.

  13. It’s a tough call. The embarassment of the steroid scandal has tarnished baseball. It’ll be interesting to see how this era is viewed in a couple decades. I do hope baseball can recover.

    -RobbyVega.wordpress.com

  14. Any player that uses steroids to help them get ahead should not get recognized. It’s not their true self accomplishing the things they do. Any record broken while the player is on steroids should be revoked from them. It’s not fair to any of the other players not using steroids if players are getting recognized for breaking records while they were using steroids.

  15. Love the post! But I’ve grown up a fan of the Giants and have watched Bonds smash baseballs into the cove with sheer delight. With all bias aside Bond is the only player with 500 hr & 500 steals the man was a beast way before the steroids. I hope one day those tainted by that era will get there do.

  16. What I fail to understand is we can’t look back and elect long-overlooked players– Roger Maris, whom I consider the legit home run king– is not a Hall of Famer. Wouldn’t putting Maris in this year be an even better statement than electing no one? Just a thought.

  17. Baseball’s really not big here in the UK, so I find this post very interesting. Seemingly, the same level of ethical behaviour is rife universally across sports. I think it’s definitely a positive that they haven’t voted anyone into the hall of fame by the sounds of it, but then ‘as an outsider’ with lacking knowledge, i wonder how many of those already in it are guilty of the same misdemenours?? Great post (and congrats on being fp’d!) :)

  18. I can only hope that the writers’ failure to put anyone into the Hall of Fame this year was a Statement, with a capital “S”, and that over the course of the next decade or so Roger, BBonds, Mike Piazza, and others who are sooo deserving of it will be voted in. If I didn’t believe that, I’d be totally enraged, but I’m granting this group their one year of Protest, again capitalized. After that, time to move on and judge baseball players as baseball players, not as morality exemplars.

  19. The vote didn’t surprise me, and yes, it will be interesting to see what happens to them over time. We can toss Rafael Palmeiro into last list.

    The Hall is reserved for the best …. thus not the good or very good … but the best. To me, the question remains around the standards. For instance, is the standard a certain level of performance or as compared to those that are already enshrined? For instance, compare Davey Concepcion to other SS in the HOF.

    Back to the 15 year thing, there is always the option of the Veteran’s Committee … then again, some deem their selections as questionable (at times).

    Something else to ponder, should the committee declare eligibility has expired on a player who was never eligible?

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

  20. I grew up in an ERA that they didn’t even know what a steroid was. Biggest controversy was when Sandy Kofax and Don Drysdale held out for top dollar getting paid over $100,000 a year. Also when Maury Wills stole over 100 bases for a season. What ever has happened to professional sports? It really is a sad case scenario when players now make more than 100 xs what they made 50 years ago and act like there is no tomorrow!

  21. I agree with sports writer John Perricone who said on his blog:

    “Virtually every athlete strives to be the best. Some athletes will push the envelope only so far, while others would risk their lives if it made the difference between winning and losing. This is not only asked of athletes, it’s demanded. Coaches demand it, teammates demand it, fans demand it. Be the best, win at all costs, do whatever it takes.

    In the five years prior to 1997, McGwire played 139, 27, 47, 104, and 130 games. Did steroids allow him to play 156, 155 and 153 over the next three years, hitting 58, 70, and 65 home runs? During those five injury-riddled seasons, he hit a home run every 9.44 AB’s. In the next three, he hit a home run every 8.17 at bats, not a tremendous difference. If steroids helped him stay healthy enough to break Roger Maris’ record, how was that wrong? Why shouldn’t McGwire do whatever he can to help his body heal itself and stay strong enough to endure the rigors of baseball, his chosen profession? If there are risks involved, why shouldn’t he be the one to decide if they are worth it?

    I think Mark McGwire deserves somebody somewhere to stand up and say enough. He doesn’t deserve what he’s been put through. He deserves someone to say what he cannot.”

    Back to me. When I was in sports. There as was always a wink and a nod towards anything not in black and white as a rule and the boundaries were pushed all the time.

    So says the Hall of Fame is pure. That’s a laugh.

    I watch baseball for baseball and had season tickets with the Chicago Cubs when Sosa and Mcquire were battling it out for the hitting title and record. Say what you want but that was the funnest period in baseball in the last 30 years. Say what you want about the two of them, but the nation watched baseball during those years and loved it.

    • What is truth and what are lies. I really don’t believe that someone forced these athletes to take steroids I believe they made a choice.

      Yea the fans watched baseball and loved it but I believe the fans were sold a “mess a pottage”. Another words at that time they came and watched but didn’t understand what was exactly going on and yet the players did.

      A good example of what greed and power can lead to!

  22. My biggest problem with not voting anyone in is as others have said. Mike Piazza and (if he was eligible this year I hadn’t heard that) Bernie Williams should have made it in. Piazza is arguably the greatest hitter of all time at his position, and bernie williams had hall of fame stats on a team that made the playoffs nearly ever year and won world series championships. My fear is that the “big bad” steroid users get in, but that these two deserving players never get in because they did not get in this year.

    • I’m particularly bummed about Bernie Williams, and it highlights another problem with the PED era — how great natural players were over-shadowed.

      You can make all the excuses you want about “the way the world works” or how imperfect baseball always was. But, firstly it was cheating and exactly as our host says, cheaters shouldn’t prosper.

      And secondly, do we view life as acceding to the lowest common denominator or do we view life (and baseball) as a high goal to try always to achieve?

      I’m a little struck by a parallel conversation going on on another blog about the proper use of the semi-colon. There, too, one sees a divide between those who seek to reach for the heights that language can achieve and those who don’t feel precision or correctness is that important.

      Someone once wrote, “Why is it that every issue in America seems to come down to roughly a 50/50 vote?” A funny country we are!

    • I see the case for Piazza. The best hitting catcher of all time, but Bernie is a bit of a stretch. Loved him as a player, but don’t see him among the greats. Consistent and a hand full of very good seasons, but no sustained greatness. What stats are you referring to that are Hall worthy?

      • I’m a former New Yorker, so I may be biased (and now I’m a Twin, so the pinstripes are my enemy these days; it’s very confusing).

        Many feel (and I agree) that the best case for Williams’ comes in post-season play, which as the Yanks found out painfully last year is kinda important. :)

        Williams still has the post-season record for RBIs, and he’s second in HR, TB, R, H & 2B. He was a huge contributor to the WS wins four times (out of six).

        The other argument I hear a lot has to do with his personality and team spirit. Perhaps a bit like Stan Musial (RIP!!) he so exemplified what we want baseball to be.

        I agree the numbers are not really there, but I’ve seen a good argument that he’s comparable to Kirby Puckett, which to me suggests he might be worth serious consideration. For me, it’s not always about the numbers, but in part about the players. That’s a key reason I resist the idea of the PED users getting in.

      • Gold gloves, All star appearances, playoff hardware, along with statistics at least the equivalent of a fringe hall of fame potential. I think the empirical segments and awards push him over the top. Not near the shoo-in as Piazza should be, granted, but he is the type of player often overlooked and underrated by history that hold things together over a long period of time in many aspects of the game.

      • Yeah, I suppose Bernie’s best case is made in the playoffs, though his post-season numbers are skewed with the introduction of the wild cards and extended playoffs. There are a lot of guys with 5 all star appearances and plenty of Yankees with multiple WS rings. My thought was that his glove was not really that golden. Even though I wasn’t a Yankee fan (RIP Les Expos), I did like Bernie, but being a nice guy just doesn’t do it for me. I do agree he is borderline. It is unfortunate that Williams fell off the ballot. He at least deserved to be around a while and be re-considered. As far as outfielders go I would rather see Raines in first, but maybe that is my bias showing.

  23. It was a statement that should resonate with players and fans alike. To say, “Not this year, guys” sends a message. Will it be heard? I don’t really know. I would have like to have seen Mike Piazza make it in on the first ballot, but he will make it soon enough.

    As for Bonds, Clemens, McGuire, et al… Perhaps when the Ty Cobb Wing for the talented, albeit seriously flawed, stars of the game is completed we can have the discussion on the players who thrilled us on the field, but were not all they purported to be.

  24. I appreciate all of the comments and the kind words about being Freshly Pressed. The Word Press community is a very interesting one!

    I still think that people who are cheating — and steroid users were, in fact, cheating — shouldn’t prosper, and they certainly shouldn’t make it into the Hall of Fame if their cheating contributed to their success. I don’t think steroid users, or other performance-enhancing substance cheaters, can really be equated with the other “bad people” in the Hall of Fame, either. Horrible racists, alcoholics, philanderers, and nut jobs might be abysmal people, but those awful qualities and characteristics didn’t give them a competitive advantage over the competition. People who took steroids or other PEDs, on the other hand, did realize an unfair competitive advantage.

    I’m not saying that any of the people who didn’t make it into the HOF this year are, in fact, cheaters. All I’m saying is: let’s give it some time and see where the dust settles. Lance Armstrong supporters never would have thought that he would ultimately confess to doping; now he has. Sometimes, the passage of time puts decisions into a radically different framework.

    • webnerbob, cheating has a 10,000 year history of cultural development and is the mother’s milk of business, politics, religion, sex, ect, so I don’t see how you can hold players up to higher standards than some of the cheats already in the HOF. What the hay, fans think spit balls were schoolboy spit wads and greenies were candy?

      Hornsby, notorious gambler too often compromised financially, Cobb, admitted to throwing games for money, Comiskey, fielded the most notorious scandal in baseball when everyone and their granny who knew shinola could see that series was fixed from day one, read all about it, Landis who covered up this shinola with a butcher’s cleaver ban of players acquitted by grand jury who rightfully saw they were being set up by big shot owners. The evidence linking owners to the gamblers suddenly “disappeared,” surprise, surprise.

      Baseball writers are just MLB fluff installed to promote MLB. They were at least a decade behind the steroid scandal if not two decades. They never addressed the shrinking field of play that allowed easy HRs instead of deep outs, nor the change to a pancake flat strike zone that allowed grooved power swings, batting armor, and so on, all of which are more responsible for breaking precious HR records than steroids. Maple bats, man.

      I could rant on about PEDs and drugs and fraud in current politics, government, internationally, but I’d rather focus on day to day folks struggling to live ethical, honest lives in a broken system. They amazingly still exist in every culture in spite of best efforts to wipe them out.

      Welcome to peruse ancillary drug scandal here:

      http://roberto00.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/lance-armstrong-vs-the-world-manny-pacquiao-vs-boxing/

  25. I agree. Steroids ruin everything. Just like with Lance Armstrong. You look up to these people, and then they just let you down. It’s all about them, almost. Nerd With Taste

  26. Is the HOF here to judge the character of a player or is it a museum to honor the best players to ever play the game? I believe it’s a museum to honor players and not judge them, that’s what the people that come to the hall are there for. You don’t see a great art museum leaving out Vincent Van Gogh’s work because the man was a complete nut. Put the best players into the hall and let visitors of the hall make up their own minds.

  27. What a great analogy, I mean the art museum! Picasso, Rodin, scores of artists would be left out if we counted their womanizing, and how they treated the women they were with. I’m sure they did their share of mind altering substances too.

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