Today, the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to elect a single new member to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I am disgusted.
A glut of Hall of Fame worthy players were on the ballot for the first time this year. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio. A few old timers that many figured would finally gain acceptance failed to make it as well, notably Dale Murphy and Jack Morris.
One of the reasons I moved to Boston was to be a sports writer. It was long a dream of mine and I accomplished that goal, if only for a couple of years. Even now if you ask me what my dream job is, I will tell you to be a member of the BBWAA and have a Hall Of Fame vote. Maybe win the J.G Taylor Spink Award (the baseball writer equivalent to being elected to the Hall). But, at this particular moment, I am ashamed of the organization that I desired to be a member of.
Why were no players elected to the Baseball Hall Of Fame this year? Three reasons: steroids, perception and integrity. All three overlap in bringing us to this massive debacle.
The BBWAA election rules for the Hall of Fame state: “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.”
Two words pop out here: integrity and sportsmanship. The Steroid Era of baseball, believed to be between the late 1980s through the early 2000s, clearly violated the integrity and sportsmanship of the game of baseball. Mark McGwire, he of some of the most memorable home runs in history, admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs during his career. Bonds, the home run king of all time, has been enmeshed with San Francisco-based steroid producers BALCO and has fought off the federal government concerning steroid use. Clemens, he of seven Cy Young awards, has been cited as a juicer but his steroid use have never officially been proven. Clemens even won a perjury case against him from the federal government. Piazza, the best hitting catcher of all time, has only been suspected by writers but nothing has ever been proven.
The Baseball Hall of Fame has now become the Land Of Hypocrites. And I am not talking about the players themselves here. But rather, the writers are responsible for electing the players. You want to talk about integrity and sportsmanship? Then lets start stripping Hall plaques from everybody that ever violated any rule in baseball … ever. Or those that led less than savory lives off the field. Ty Cobb, the long time hits king (before banned-for-life Pete Rose), was a scoundrel and possibly homicidal. Hated in his day. Babe Ruth was a notorious drinker. Scuff-ballers like Gaylord Perry existed an entire Hall of Fame career getting away with actions that likely compromised the integrity and sportsmanship of the game. The 1970s and 1980s were full of players on “greenies” – amphetamines that helped players get through the slog of 162 game seasons.
So, the BBWAA has spoken. Players who used performance-enhancing drugs are not getting into the Hall. At least not this year. All for the integrity and sportsmanship of the game.
But wait a gosh darn minute here. So, we are punishing the roiders, right? Theoretically then we should be rewarding those whose integrity is beyond reproach. If that were the case, Murphy, Biggio and even Jack Morris should have been elected to the Hall of Fame this year. If we are going to send a message to one group, should we not back up our words by supporting the “good guys?” Murphy, by all accounts, is one of the most respectable human beings of all time on or off the field. Even Schilling is free of steroid suspicion.
The problem with Murphy, Schilling and Morris is that their Hall of Fame cases are borderline at best. Schilling has the best resume, considering his overall dominance, more than 3,000 strikeouts and impeccable postseason record. He was a superior pitcher to Morris. Murphy was one of the best players of his time even though his dominance was truncated for the standards of the Hall of Fame. Yet, if Jim Rice is in the Hall, Dale Murphy should be as well. Biggio, in my mind, is a Hall of Famer, if not on the first ballot.
You can see the hypocritical question here. We are going to punish great players with circumstantial Hall cases because of their numbers. We are also going to punish great players with bona fide Hall numbers but are suspected steroid users. Double standard here, BBWAA? You cannot have it both ways.
Except you just did.
Which is disgusting. Get. Over. Yourselves. The BBWAA has made the Hall of Fame about … the BBWAA. About politics and beliefs among its members. Baseball, the great and wonderful game that it is, has become secondary to the agendas of the writers.
ESPN columnist Jayson Stark asks a great question: what is the Hall of Fame? It is a museum or a bastion of baseball purity? A collection of memories or a cathedral? Stark, rightfully, points out that it is both. The belief that the Hall can be both museum and cathedral has led us to today’s heaping pile of bullshit.
I am of the mind that the Hall of Fame is best left as a museum. If it is going to be a cathedral, let’s just kick Ty Cobb out right now. Hell, Carlton Fisk, considered one of the greatest catchers of all time, was arrested for DUI earlier this year. Let’s kick him out of the Hall too.
Can we conveniently forget that 15 years of baseball history did not exist? The selfish, ignorant and stubborn will try to. I am looking at you, Dan Shaughnessy. You may have shown me the way to the press box the first day I was ever a reporter at Fenway, but your blank ballot is one of the biggest crimes a BBWAA member could have ever committed. Bonds, who should by all rights have been a unanimous selection, will never garner 100% of the vote. He might have trouble gaining the requisite 75% of the vote for his 15 years of ballot eligibility.
The fact of the matter is that the biggest malefactors this week towards the integrity and sportsmanship of baseball and the Hall of Fame were not the players in question. Rather, it was the organization responsible for electing players to it.