Mixed Feelings

I am a life-long baseball fan.  I have rooted for the Red Sox since the mid-80s.  My first “real” job was working for the single-A affiliate of the Montreal Expos.

I have mixed feelings today.  The 2013 Hall of Fame class was announced today.  Zero players received the necessary 75% of votes to be enshrined.

I have mixed feelings today because the voters made their voices heard that they have strong feelings toward known and suspected steroids users.  I am not going to sit here and wax poetic about the purity of the game being ruined by steroids, or that it was ok for players to inject themselves because everyone else was doing it.  But I will acknowledge that what so many writers spoke out against today was something that was not against baseball’s rules until a decade ago, and is also something they willingly and knowingly ignored for years.  They are almost as culpable as the players in the rampant use of steroids in the 1990s and into the early part of this century.

But if you take their supposed standing on the moral high ground that they are protecting the integrity of the game by not voting in alleged steroid users at its face value, it holds no water.  The Hall of Fame is a museum that enshrines the best players of a given era.  And the era where steroids were all over clubhouses existed, and to once again turn a blind eye to it only further soils the integrity and reputation of the game.  Baseball writers had no issue with the integrity of the game when the Hall was merely a club for white boys, since minorities were not allowed to play in the majors until 1947.  Shoot, my beloved Red Sox did not integrate until 1959, a full 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.  Yet the greatest hitter to ever live, Ted Williams, is enshrined in the Hall (and rightly so); wouldn’t it be fair to discount his stats from 1947 until 1959 because the integrity of the game was compromised?  I don’t think it would.  And it is also not fair to not vote in a single player this year.

A player who played all of his 20 seasons with one team, the Houston Astros, and amassed 3,060 hits during that time, while becoming an All-Star at three positions in his career did not get voted in.  Craig Biggio has never been linked to steroids, yet somehow did not hit the 75% threshold.  Where is the integrity of the writers there?

If you want to make the argument that Barry Bonds does not deserve to be elected, you certainly could.  It is widely speculated and accepted that he took steroids.  I have a picture of me standing next to him in the late 1980s when he was with the Pirates; he weighed no more than than I do today, and was skinny as a rail.  It is a safe bet to be on the side of those who believe he used steroids.  Does that discount the fact that he was among the best players of his era?  As much as it pains me to write it, no, it does not.  Bonds retired with 762 home runs, and has the single-season mark of 73 homers.  He has a roomful of MVP awards.  Just because he was the best user of the users does not diminish what he did.  If the Hall wants to make a note of the “Steroid Era” on his plaque, they should go ahead and do it.  To leave him out is ridiculous.

The same goes for Roger Clemens.  It is not as clear that he used steroids, but there is a pretty good argument that he did.  For full disclosure, I was and remain a huge Roger Clemens fan.  As a Red Sox fan, I despise anything to do with the Yankees (on the field only.  Off the field, I have no issue with any of their players.), yet if you were to walk in to the guest room in my house, there is an autographed picture of Roger Clemens, wearing pinstripes.  Clemens was arguably the best pitcher of the steroid era.  He notched 354 wins, struck out 20 batters in a game twice (of the four times it has been done, Clemens has half of them to his credit), and won 7 Cy Young Awards.  So those same writers who voted him as the best pitcher in his league 7 times, are now all high and mighty about voting him into the Hall?  Talk about integrity.

Biggio received 69% of the votes, so it is safe to assume that he will make it in next year.  He will be joined by at least Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, although if the writers want to be consistent and not vote them in on the first ballot because they pitched during the same era as Clemens and against Biggio and Bonds, it would only be the right thing to do.  You know, for the integrity of the game, especially since, like Biggio, neither of those two pitchers have been linked to steroid use.  Clemens received 37.6% and Bonds received 36.2%, and it is unlikely they will double their total next year.

I have no problem with Bonds and Clemens being voted into the Hall of Fame, and I have no problem if they are not in, either.  But spare me the “integrity” arguments from the writers.  They are complicit in the rampant use of steroids almost as much as the players who were suspected of using or were confirmed to have used.  Voting no new members into the Hall today had nothing to do with protecting the integrity of the game or the Hall of Fame  and everything to do with making themselves bigger than the game.

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One Response to Mixed Feelings

  1. Pingback: The More I Think About It « Our Not So Expert Opinions

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