Everyone needs to calm down about this Baseball Hall of Fame situation.
Cooperstown is pitching a shutout this year. No one got elected. And folks who don’t know hardball from hard-boiled eggs are frothing, ready to roast the ever-mocked Baseball Writers Association of America.
Judgmental. Sanctimonious. Complicit. Corrupt. Clueless.
I’ve heard ’em all. And I am here to tell you to take a cold shower. Or a chill pill (anything but a performance-enhancing drug, of course).
There was outrage across the land Wednesday at 2 p.m. when the Hall announced that none of the 37 candidates on this year’s ballot received the 75 percent of the vote required for admission. A class that included first-timers Barry Bonds (greatest home run hitter of all time), Roger Clemens (354 wins, seven Cy Young Awards), and Sammy Sosa (60 or more homers in a single season three times) was rejected by the majority of the voters.
All because a lot of the voters, like myself, think these guys are dirty and believe in withholding immortality for those who tilted the playing field during their years of dominance.
This means that the only people to be inducted in July will be former umpire Hank O’Day, former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, and 19th-century player Deacon White, all dead, all elected by the the Hall’s “pre-integration committee” (there’s a proud subset, no?).
Reactionaries insist that Cooperstown from this day forward will be the Hall of Ordinary, the Hall of Alleged Saints, or the Hall of Echoes.
Not necessarily. You might be surprised to learn that this is the eighth time no player was elected in the writers’ balloting. You might also take a look at folks who will be on the next couple of ballots.
Greg Maddux will be on the ballot next year. He will be elected.
Ken Griffey Jr. will be on the ballot in two years. He will be elected.
It will be the same for Pedro Martinez when he first appears on the ballot. And Derek Jeter (players go on the ballot five years after they retire).
Meanwhile, Houston Astros infielder Craig Biggio, a 3,000-hit guy who garnered 68.2 percent of the votes this year, is going to make it someday soon. Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris, who got 67.7 percent of the votes this year, has a chance next year, his final year on the ballot (candidates can stay on the ballot for 15 years if they receive 5 percent of the vote).
Meanwhile, we will take longer looks at the steroid boys who were royally snubbed Wednesday.
Each year, more and more voters are taking the easy way out, ignoring the ballot’s “character” clause (Rule 5 on the ballot stipulates that voters consider “character, integrity, sportsmanship”). There is a school that believes “everybody was doing it.’’ This was the era. Just assume they were all dirty and vote for the best players.
Not me. I know this keeps me in the “Gran Torino/Get Off My Lawn” club, but I’m not ready to drop all suspicion and standards. I don’t think it was everybody. And I think it sends the wrong message to shrug and say, “They were all doing it.’’
There were guys who played clean. There were guys who resisted the temptation. Maybe it cost them a shot at the majors. Why reward the cheaters?
Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of arbitrary judgments. It’s horrible. Nobody feels good about it. But unless you disregard the character clause and the PED component, you have to make tough calls, some of which will be unfair. Voters have always been subjective. It’s just 10 times harder now because we are cherry-picking the cheaters.
No doubt there are former players who didn’t use PEDs but pay the price anyway. There is no documented evidence that Jeff Bagwell or Mike Piazza was juicing. Neither failed a drug test, showed up on any list, or appeared in the infamous Mitchell Report. They are 400-homer guys. And despite having résumés that would make them first-ballot locks in more innocent times, they are both on the outside looking in.
Unfair, for sure. But Bagwell and Piazza should take it up with Donald Fehr, the same Prince of Darkness who conspired with NHL boss Gary Bettman to take away almost half of the hockey season.
As leaders of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Fehr and the late, great Marvin Miller retired undefeated in their bouts with baseball owners. But let the record show that it was the intransigent Players Association that made drug testing a collective bargaining chip. Protecting its membership from the evils of drug testing ultimately failed to protect players from PEDs and stained reputations. A lot of the clean guys never had a chance to prove their innocence. And now some of them are in Cooperstown purgatory.
Nobody gets away clean. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and every major league owner knows that the steroid era helped rescue baseball after labor woes canceled the 1994 World Series. We all loved the Mark McGwire-Sosa home run chase of 1998. We all agreed that “chicks dig the long ball.’’
And now we are left to dig out of this mess.
It’s far from over. Messrs. Bonds and Clemens are going to be on the ballot for as many as 14 more years. The judgmental, sanctimonious, complicit, corrupt, clueless voters all reserve the right to change their minds. Or hold the line.
I believe that the walls of resistance will crumble, and these great players will gain admission to Cooperstown. Those acceptance speeches will be awkward.
Not this year, though. Cooperstown will be silent in the summer of 2013. Deceased umpires, owners, and 19th-century ballplayers don’t make acceptance speeches.
How the votes were cast:
|Player||Votes||Years on ballot|
|Craig Biggio||388 (68.2%)||1|
|Jack Morris||385 (67.7%)||14|
|Jeff Bagwell||339 (59.6%)||3|
|Mike Piazza||329 (57.8%)||1|
|Tim Raines||297 (52.2%)||6|
|Lee Smith||272 (47.8%)||11|
|Curt Schilling||221 (38.8%)||1|
|Roger Clemens||214 (37.6%)||1|
|Barry Bonds||206 (36.2%)||1|
|Edgar Martinez||204 (35.9%)||4|
|Alan Trammell||191 (33.6%)||12|
|Larry Walker||123 (21.6%)||3|
|Fred McGriff||118 (20.7%)||4|
|Dale Murphy||106 (18.6%)||15|
|Mark McGwire||96 (16.9%)||7|
|Don Mattingly||75 (13.2%)||13|
|Sammy Sosa||71 (12.5%)||1|
|Rafael Palmeiro||50 (8.8%)||3|
|Bernie Williams||19 (3.3%)||2|
|Kenny Lofton||18 (3.2%)||1|
|Sandy Alomar Jr.||16 (2.8%)||1|
|Julio Franco||6 (1.1%)||1|
|David Wells||5 (0.9%)||1|
|Steve Finley||4 (0.7%)||1|
|Shawn Green||2 (0.4%)||1|
|Aaron Sele||1 (0.2%)||1|
|Jeff Cirillo||0 (0%)||1|
|Royce Clayton||0 (0%)||1|
|Jeff Conine||0 (0%)||1|
|Roberto Hernandez||0 (0%)||1|
|Ryan Klesko||0 (0%)||1|
|Jose Mesa||0 (0%)||1|
|Reggie Sanders||0 (0%)||1|
|Mike Stanton||0 (0%)||1|
|Todd Walker||0 (0%)||1|
|Rondell White||0 (0%)||1|
|Woody Williams||0 (0%)||1|