I don’t know who makes the worst decisions – Congress when deciding on our economic future or the Baseball Writers of America when deciding on players to include in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I think it is a tie. If not, the baseball writers win.
Last week it was announced that the baseball writers had not voted any additional players into the Baseball Hall of Fame, even though perhaps the best pitcher of the last 50 years (Roger Clemens) and assuredly the most prolific home run hitter in baseball history (Barry Bonds) were on the ballot for the first time.
Without question, Clemens and Bonds were the “best of the best.”
Without question both Clemens and Bonds should have been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame their first time on the ballot. In fact, both could have easily received unanimous entry into the hall of fame.
That is, if those voting for the players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame were more attuned to baseball than to their own self-righteousness.
Neither Clemens nor Bonds got unanimous support for the hall of fame. Neither received the necessary 75-percent of votes cast that would have added his name to the Baseball Hall of Fame roster.
In fact, Clemens received votes on only 37.6-percent of the ballots cast.
Barry Bonds received votes on only 36.2-percent of the ballots cast.
Both Clemens and Bonds – two of the best players in the history of major league baseball – were rejected by nearly two-thirds of the baseball writers, not because of their performance on the field, but because they put up many of their statistics during the “steroid era” of major league baseball.
Therein lays the problem.
Neither Clemens nor Bonds ever tested positive for steroids during their playing careers. That doesn’t matter to the “holier than thou” members of the Baseball Writers of America.
Where there is smoke there is fire.
Where there is suspicion there is guilt.
Roger Clemens was found innocent of lying to Congress when he said he never used steroids.
To baseball writers, this doesn’t make any difference. They still remember OJ Simpson.
It gets worse.
In listening to the rationalization of several baseball writers who appeared on the MLB network, it became obvious that many writers have no understanding of right vs. wrong – of “innocent until proven guilty.”
Perhaps the worst excuse I heard came from a writer when he was asked why former Houston Astros star Craig Biggio was on 68.2 percent of the votes cast while his teammate, Jeff Bagwell, received only 59.6 percent of the vote – even though statistically Bagwell had a stronger career.
And, both played at the same time.
The writer, who voted for Biggio but not for Bagwell said he makes his decisions on players who played during the “steroid era” by comparing the picture on their rookie baseball card with a picture on their last baseball card.
Most of the writers who explained why they did not vote for Clemens, Bonds, Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, and others simply said as long as there was suspicion that these players used steroids they should never be allowed into the hall of fame.
Guilty until proven innocent – even when all major league baseball directed drug tests were negative.
I for one am one of the 75 million people who attended a major league baseball game last year. (I know, after you factor out those who attended several games, there were probably closer to 10 million different people who attended at least one major league baseball game last year.)
Obviously, the “steroid era” did not destroy America’s love of baseball. In fact, it can be argued that after many baseball fans claimed they would never go to another baseball game after the 1994 World Series was canceled due to a player’s strike, the single most contributor to recapturing those fans was the 1998 assault on the home-run record and the duel between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa.
Neither McGuire nor Sosa is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. McGuire has admitted using steroids while Sosa has not.
It doesn’t matter that McGuire used steroids at a time when they were not banned by major league baseball. It doesn’t matter that Sosa never tested positive for the use of steroids and that he denies the use of steroids.
The all-knowing baseball writers know the truth. If you don’t believe me – just ask them.
Even if it is true that each and every one of the suspected players used steroids while playing the game, that should not preclude them from being inducted into the hall of fame. The simple fact of recognizing the “steroid era” should accept the play of the “best of the best” of that era.
This concept has been used time and time again by baseball writers in explaining their votes of players who played during the “dead ball era” and the “live ball era.” In selecting players from these two “eras,” baseball writers have explained they have had to use different criteria for those who played in the different eras.
Why can’t they do the same with the steroid era?
If millions upon millions of people will pay to watch players whose play may or may not be enhanced by steroids, shouldn’t those same millions upon millions of people have the opportunity to pay homage at the Baseball Hall of Fame to those who were the “best of the best” of their time?
I think it is time for the baseball writer’s to ask themselves how many baseball fans can name even five of the writers who are currently keeping Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, among others, out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I am betting the answer is not many.
Based on current hall of fame voting rules, those players who receive less than five percent are removed from the ballot for future years.
I suggest the same be done with the baseball writers. If a writer does not appear on at least five percent of the fan’s name recognition ballots, that writer should lose the right to participate in future hall of fame voting.
Even if this idea is rejected, I have another concern.
There is no question that plagiarism is a problem in the journalistic world. Several high profile journalists have admitted to plagiarizing award winning articles.
While I have never heard of any of the baseball writers admitting they have plagiarized the words of other writers, I suspect many have to some degree. In the spirit of “guilty until proven innocent,” I think we should no longer allow any writer who has worked in the “plagiarism era” to participate in future hall of fame votes.
At least, with no eligible voters, there would be some justice in not adding the “best of the best” to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
And after all, isn’t this what those writers want anyway?
– Mike Cooney