Mike from Attleboro -- the leading contributor to Michael Felger's old mailbag and one of Felger's favorite callers to his radio show -- is now contributing occasional pieces to CSNNE.com. Today he gives his take on the Hall of Fame voting.
When the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballots were distributed last month, for the first time ever, the names Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens had check boxes next to them. Finally, after about a decade of hypothetical sports talk posturing, hyperbole and speculation, the Baseball Writers Association of America was forced to look the Steroid Era of baseball square in the eyes and make a decision: Will the continued hysteria around PEDs keep two of the generations most iconic players out of the Hall of Fame? Or will the BBWAA continue the Three Blind Mice routine they perfected as they traded accountability for access while covering these players?
Today the inductees were made public and the results were straight from Brewsters Millions: None of the above, which is more than appropriate considering Monty Brewster could have pitched for the Yankees instead of renting them to play the Hackensack Bulls if he spent some of that 30 million inheritance on Deca and HGH.
Personally, Im just stunned because I think these self-important windbags accidentally got it right. They kept the steroid cheats out of the Hall.
Ill freely admit that when the ballots were distributed I wasnt holding out much hope. These sanctimonious keyboard debutants cant agree on the value of defense, postseason play, sabermetrics, or the impact of longevity as they relate to Hall of Fame voting, so what would make anyone think that there would be some hard and fast consistent guidelines regarding the steroid era?
Luckily for fans, most of the BBWAA chose to treat the steroid question just like any other stat or quantitative metric these self-important sorority sisters bandy about to enshrine players. It was put in to context randomly, politically and non-scientifcally, except in cases where its simply too enormous to ignore. As a result, Bonds, Clemens and Sosa will have to compete with Pete Rose for table space if they want to hold court in Cooperstown this year.
Ultimately the sanctity of the Hall of Fame was protected because the steroid era coming home to roost on Hall of Fame ballots simply gave the BBWAA another chance to do what they do best: Climb to their lofty perch on the moral high ground they used to triage out statistically worthy players like Dick Allen and Albert Belle and arbitrarily decide who should and shouldnt make it based on gut feeling alone. They all do it, even the best of them.
Take one of the greatest sports writers this country has ever seen, Bob Ryan.
In 2006 Ryan wrote a column about Belle that compared him favorably from a stats perspective to Jim Rice, Tony Perez and others, and then went on to make the argument that Belle's surly demeanor and aggressive behavior was so detrimental, it actually countered his numerical qualifications for the Hall of Fame. And that isnt even including the steroid speculation that should rightly accompany Belles career. Imagine if he liked fried chicken?!?
If Bob Ryan can go on record and exclude Albert Belle from enshrinement simply because he was a superhumanly truculent jerk in the clubhouse, then suspicion of PED use alone is more than enough to keep someone like Jeff Bagwell, who is only tangentially linked to PEDs, from the Hall. To me, Bagwell looked like a steroid guy, used Andro, trained like a body builder and was buddies with Ken Cammenitti. Is that enough prove that hes guilty of PED use? Nope. Is it enough for me to suspect that hes a sauced-up Dale Murphy, minus one MVP and four Gold Gloves? Yup. No Hall for you, Beefy.
I hope that BBWAA members now realize that no due process whatsoever is owed to these players in regards to steroids. Nobody is trying to change history and pull off the Back to the Future revisionist crusade in a uniformly dirty sport that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency unleashed against Lance Armstrong. The results of baseball games, championships and records are and should be untouchable. All that is in play with Hall Of Fame voting is a players qualifications for a significant post career superlative.
So please, Knights of the Press Pass, continue to make the players wait. If Jim Rice, Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris can languish on the ballot for years as the BBWAA debate their statistical qualifications, then a steroid era player can cool his heels in Cooperstowns greenroom as we wait and see if Brian McNamee has any more vintage soda cans in his possession. If Bob Costas and Mike Lupica want to routinely act like sports journalisms version of Moses, reminding the masses of their commandments, then the very least the BBWAA can do is keep Bonds, Clemens and Sosa in Hall of Fame purgatory for the full fifteen years.
You say this isnt fair? I say too bad. Baseball players and their union had multiple chances to adopt testing and instead they chose to protect cheaters who profited financially from using an illegal substance until congress forced their hand. Quite frankly, they are lucky that they only judgment they are being subjected to is a glorified popularity vote, so spare me your misplaced outrage.
By fighting testing at every opportunity, the players and their union surrendered the right of final judgment to people that cant agree on things like Edgar Martinez being in Hall of Fame because hes a DH or that a Pitcher shouldnt win an MVP because they dont play every day. They should be neither shocked nor dismayed that a players confirmed or suspected steroid use is debated with the same levels of non-uniformity?
Today, an era of baseball players that escaped judgment at the hands of anti-doping science, law enforcement and the MLBs Commissioners office is now being held accountable by a power they can never hope to defeat: the comedic inconsistency and indomitable self-righteousness of the BBWAA.