January 10, 2013
The baseball writers have once again proved how antiquated and completely misguided they can be when it comes to “protecting the integrity of the game of baseball”. In 2013, no former Major League Baseball players will enter the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame. In order, to be elected into the Hall of Fame, each player has to carry 75% of the votes and not one player meets that criteria. This year’s ballot includes prominent names like Barry Bonds, the most decorated player in MLB history, and Roger Clemens, one of the most accomplished pitchers to every play the game, yet they will enter the Hall of Fame this year. Perennial All-Stars like Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Raphael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa were placed onto the ballots for the first time, however none of them will be immortalized with all the other greats of baseball history in 2013 either. The baseball writers need to do better.
The desire to keep ‘The Hall’ sacred is admirable, but the stubbornness and ignorance that the older generation of baseball continues to display has become a hindrance to the appeal of the current game. The old guard often ignores the tangibly better decisions in favor of strict adherence to tradition. Giving the Most Valuable Player award to Cabrera over Trout was the previous example of their blind observance of traditional decision making. Granted, Cabrera did win the triple crown for the first time in 45 years, but Trout was the most valuable player according to WAR (Wins Above Replacement – a new stat geek term that measures a players overall value). Trout stole 49 bases and was only caught 5 times. Cabrera stole 4. Trout was by far the better defensive player, and he was not far behind Cabrera in the batting categories either. Yet, Cabrera won the AL MVP handily. Now, the same writers have excluded some of the game’s best players from baseball’s highest honors because of the “Steroid Era.”
The Steroid Era tarnished the legacy of all of the players from the late nineties and early two thousands. Though everyone of prominence who played during that time has not been indicted of drug abuse, one would have to be clueless not to question everyone’s statistics from that era. But, the players of that period are not the only guilty parties of the Steroid Era. The commissioner, the ownership, the management teams, the journalists, and the fans are all partially responsible for the abuse of performance enhancing drugs by players in the nineties. The players were allowed to use drugs because the fans wanted to see faster pitching and harder hits. Home runs gave the writers something to write about. It put people in the stands. And though no one will admit it, it saved America’s pastime.
The writers – who are also the voters for the Hall of Fame – are absolutely deluded if they think that their moral stand against the first class of the Steroid Era means anything in the course of history. First of all, the same writers who are now punishing these great hitters and pitchers of the Steroid Era by excluding them from their ballots, are the same guys who were applauding and cheering them when their home runs and strikeouts were driving the game that was almost destroyed by the lockout. No one questioned Bonds, Sosa, Griffey, or McGuire (this is McGuire’s second year of eligibility) when all four of them broke a record that had stood since the sixties. What are the chances that four people broke a record in the course of two years that no one has come within 10 home runs of in the last 40 years? Everyone looked away from any wrongdoing when the game needed a boost, but now they have no problems standing on a moral high ground. The people that the writers are publicly lambasting are the same people that afforded them a job in the late nineties and the same people who are responsible for them having their Hall of Fame votes. In order to become a Hall of Fame voter, a sportswriter has to cover baseball for ten years. The resurgence of baseball due to the Steroid Era is the only reason that some of these voters are still working and voting. Second, the basis of criteria for becoming a voter is inadequate. Covering baseball for ten years does not give a writer any more expertise than a casual fan. Watching a guy hit home runs does not give another guy any added insight into the game of baseball. And, it does not give a large enough base of information for a voter to compare the greatness of different players. In addition to this, admission into the Hall of Fame voting lasts a lifetime. There are guys who are still voting players into the Hall of Fame (or in this case, not voting them in) who have not covered a game in 20 years. How could they give an unbiased vote? And finally, stopping these players from getting into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot is just pointless. Guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were Hall of Fame players well before they were ever suspected of any performance enhancing drug use. It is widely accepted that their PED use came after they saw players that were half as talented as them who were suddenly competing with them while using steroids and other drugs. Guys like Biggio and McGuire were regarded as the class of the league for most of their careers regardless of any possible mistakes. And, most of the other players will eventually make it in on the merit of their numbers once another batch of voters gets into place and all of the hoopla of the steroid debacle will be forgotten.
The baseball writers are allowing their grasp of what baseball is to slip away slowly and that has long-lasting affects on the public’s perception of the game. Baseball has fallen behind basketball, and it is a distant second to football in popularity. America’s pastime is fading towards obscurity, and its lack of acuity and perpetuity is based in the failure of its historians to celebrate the people who made it great. The voters screwed up royally by refusing to vote anybody into the Hall of Fame in 2013.