So, yes, I’m back to writing again. I know this is largely a political site and all, but this isn’t a political diary. This is about the fact that the eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America did not elect a single member to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. Some of their vote certainly makes sense. There are players on the ballot who do not belong in Cooperstown despite their gaudy statistics. There are, however, victims too — players who never had their names linked to scandal and players that there were just whispers about, but no concrete evidence.
I write this diary about both those players. These are the players of the Steroid Era. These are the players from an era where many were artificially enhanced and where all the players — both clean and cheater — are tainted by that fact. Some of those players will inevitably get into Cooperstown, while it is clear that certain players will not. What is certain is that the bottleneck will only get worse as more and more candidates from that era come up for hall of fame consideration. These words, however, aren’t specifically about those players, but, rather, about those players that were rejected today.
Note that this diary is only about first-ballot candidates and other players from the Steroid Era. It is not about players such as Jack Morris or Lee Smith, who are part of an entirely different debate.
First, let me start with what the writers got right. They kept Barry Bonds out. They kept Roger Clemens out. They kept Sammy Sosa out. They kept out other admitted and proven users such as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero. Those are players that have no business being in Cooperstown and I hope that the writers stick to their guns in keeping those players out. It is my firm belief that admitted and proven steroid users have no place in the Hall of Fame. That means that going forward other players who have admitted to use, or been proven to use, such as Alex Rodridguez and Manny Ramirez should not be enshrined in Cooperstown.
And, yes, as a corollary to this, I still consider Henry Aaron the all-time home run champion and Roger Maris the single-season home run champion. In my mind, the records of Bonds and McGwire have no place in the record books, particularly in a sport that is more cognizant of its past and its heritage than any other sport.
Now, let me get to what the writers got wrong. They kept out Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza. Biggio was undoubtedly clean. He played the game the right way. In many respects, he was his era’s equivalent of Pete Rose, but without the gambling problems. He did what his team asked of him and he did all he could to win. That was the only setting he had. If it meant getting a hit, he did it. If it meant getting hit by the pitch, he did it. And while he wasn’t elegant in the field, he worked hard to make himself the best defensive player he could be.
Then there is the case of Mike Piazza. People here see my handle, so it’s not going to be a surprise that I believe Mike Piazza belongs in Cooperstown. Throughout the years there have been whispers that Piazza was a steroid user. They would point to certain injuries he had as proof of that. However, his name was never mentioned in any report and there has never been any proof that he tested positive for steroids. Perhaps one piece of evidence stands out over all the others in the case of Piazza. Kirk Radomski was a Mets clubhouse employee and major steroid dealer during the Piazza years. He was also the star witness of the Mitchell Report. He named several Mets. Mike Piazza was not one of them.
Now, both Biggio and Piazza are relatively close to the 75% needed for induction to the Hall of Fame. They should get over the top in the next year or two, hopefully. The same is probably true for Jeff Bagwell, who is in the same category of Piazza when it comes to suspicion, but no proof through either admission or test. On the other hand, players that should definitely be kept out — such as Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Palmiero, etc… — are thankfully not anywhere near induction and will likely never receive the necessary votes.
I know that there are both saints and sinners in the Hall of Fame. After all, there are men such as Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth in there right alongside someone like Lou Gehrig. Also, cheating is a part of the game. Gaylord Perry, practitioner of the illegal spitball, is in the Hall of Fame. However, there’s cheating and then there’s Cheating when it comes to baseball. Stuff like the spitter is part of the hijinks of the game. Steroids, however, directly impacted upon the integrity of the game. That’s why a spitballer can get into Cooperstown, but a steroid user should, at least in this humble diarist’s opinion.
Baseball can’t have a hall of fame that’s full only of completely upstanding citizens that never did any wrong. However, it doesn’t need to let those that destroyed the integrity of the game into its most hallowed halls.