The Game’s Greatest Honor

There is a small and perhaps odd point I’ve been meaning to make in one of these Hall of Fame posts but it has never quite fit. The point has something to do with how much easier this whole Hall of Fame thing would be if we didn’t spend so much time thinking of it as an HONOR.

Obviously, being elected and inducted into the Hall of Fame IS an honor. It is, most people would agree, the greatest honor a baseball player can receive. I’m not trying to detract from that at all. But I do wonder if sometimes the honor element gets in the way of a great Hall of Fame.

An example: I was talking to a pretty prominent person in baseball. He was saying that he believes, absolutely, that Barry Bonds should be elected to the Hall of Fame. But he CANNOT get past the image of Bonds up there, on the Cooperstown stage, receiving baseball’s greatest honor, all the acclaim, listening to the cheers, talking about his career proudly. “I know I shouldn’t care,” he says. “But he doesn’t DESERVE that.”

The question of the Hall being an “honor” comes up again and again. This year, for instance, there are a bunch of people on the ballot who are absolutely, positively not Hall of Famers. On such an absurdly loaded ballot like this one, there’s simply no value to having Jacque Jones or Todd Jones or Mike Timlin or J.T. Snow or Sean Casey or similar players on the ballot. They were good players, they really were, but nobody believes they belong in the Hall of Fame. They are just gumming up the works.

But, it’s an HONOR to be on the ballot. Nobody would want to deny good but not great players the distinction of being on the ballot for a year. It’s a cool thing for them. So they go on the ballot. Every so often, someone will vote for one of them as a lark. And, yeah, it’s pointless and it gums up the works. But, you know, there’s the honor part.

There are people who think Pete Rose should go into the Hall of Fame … but only after he is gone. It’s a sort of cruel sentiment, but I take this to mean they believe he has EARNED a place in the Hall of Fame but he does not DESERVE a place in the Hall of Fame.*

*Often, people will say that because Rose’s ban is a “lifetime ban,” it should last a lifetime. But this is a myth. It is not a lifetime ban — the word “lifetime” does not appear anywhere in the rule. It’s a permanent ban.

There are people so scared that they might, by mistake or through a brief and unlikely bout of generosity, vote for someone who used steroids that they will throw a blanket over just about everyone. This was put perfectly in a piece by blogger Murray Chass as he explained why he will not vote for people he suspects of PED use even if there’s no actual evidence supporting his suspicions.

“If I’m wrong on any particular player, so be it, but I’d rather err on the side of caution. I wouldn’t want to learn two or three years after the fact that I had helped elect a cheater. Anyway my one vote won’t keep anyone out of the Hall.”

I have to admit: I kind of want to put that quote on a T-shirt. It’s basically the opposite of Blackstone’s formulation — 18th Century English jurist William Blackstone famously said, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” Chass’ formulation is: “It’s better that infinite innocent players* suffer because they might prove to be guilty in three years.” But I think my favorite part of the quote is the last sentence. After saying, point blank, that he’s all for guilty until proven innocent he adds that it doesn’t matter because he only has one little vote anyway. He’s won’t keep anyone out. You know, unless he does.

*Save Jack Morris,

This is the honor element of the Hall at work again. Chass — and there are others who follow his logic at least for a while — wants to do whatever he can to be sure that PED users never get the joy or feeling of triumph that comes with going into the Hall of Fame. Their entry into the sacred place would be an injustice they simply could not abide.

And this is the odd point I wanted to get at. Yes, the Hall of Fame is an honor for the player, we all know that. But is that all is is? Is induction really only about honoring THE PLAYER? Is it even mostly about the player?

See, I don’t think so. What would be the point if it was just to honor one person? I actually don’t think the Hall of Fame is much about the player at all. Sure, there’s the honor of getting in, the celebration weekend, the glory that goes with that for the rest of their lives. But that’s fleeting.

In the end, I think, the Hall of Fame is about the fans. I think it’s about the story of baseball. I think the Hall’s biggest role is to help people love the game more, to connect our own fanhood to the game’s history. Mike Schmidt? Yeah, I saw him play in Cincinnati once! Billy Williams! What a sweet swing! I shook hands once with Fergie Jenkins! I sat behind home plate and watched Tom Seaver! Was he great? Damn right he was great. He’s in the Hall of Fame!

Tens of thousands will come to Cooperstown for induction of the player they watched play much of their lives. Did people from Kansas City come to Cooperstown simply because they were happy for George Brett? Did people from St. Louis come to St. Louis because they were happy for Ozzie Smith? Will New Yorkers come for Derek Jeter’s induction because they are happy for him?

Sure, but more, they’re happy for THEMSELVES. Happy for all the joy that player brought them. Happy for their own association with greatness. It’s why people come to the Hall and have their photo taken with the plaque of their favorite player.

One of my favorite things is going to the Hall, going to the plaque room, and just watching fans and friends and families wander through. They point. They search for a specific player. One Dad (it’s usually the Dad) is talking a bit too loudly, too excitedly, pointing to one of the plaques and saying, “Look, there’s Ernie Banks. They called him Mr. Cub! He used to say, ‘It’s a beautiful day, let’s play two.”*

*And the kids, I must admit, look kind of bored out of their minds and are ready for the gift shop. Kids!

Is it a better Hall of Fame with Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds in it, not to mention Mark McGwire, player who have admitted or been strongly connected to steroid use? Is it a better Hall of Fame with many of the others who have only vague suspicions hanging over their heads? Reasonable people can disagree. Some would say, no, it would be a worse Hall, they cheated, their performances are invalid, they would sully the place.

I think it would be a better Hall. I think it would be a better Hall of Fame for fans who watched those players, who identified with their greatness, who cheered until their throats felt raw, who jumped out of their seats when they did something almost unbelievable.

Others would say they don’t deserve it. Maybe they don’t. Like I say, reasonable people can disagree. But I think the best Baseball Hall of Fame has the best baseball players in it. And I feel that way even if it means a few players who took steroids get to make a speech and hear the cheers one more time.

111 thoughts on “The Game’s Greatest Honor

  1. Jim Haas

    Jaque Jones is on the ballot? Man, I enjoyed watching him play, but his appearance on the ballot (along with others who have no chance) raises a question: Who constructs the ballot, using what criteria?

    Reply
    1. denopac

      BBWAA Election rule 4A:

      A. BBWAA Screening Committee: A Screening Committee consisting of baseball writers will be appointed by the BBWAA. This Screening Committee shall consist of six members, with two members to be elected at each Annual Meeting for a three-year term. The duty of the Screening Committee shall be to prepare a ballot listing in alphabetical order eligible candidates who (1) received a vote on a minimum of five percent (5%) of the ballots cast in the preceding election or (2) are eligible for the first time and are nominated by any two of the six members of the BBWAA Screening Committee.

      Reply
    2. Brian

      The only thing preventing Jacque Jones from not being a HOF’er is that he didn’t play every game of his career against the White Sox.

      /high fives all other White Sox fans who know what I’m talking about.

      Then again, if Jacque’s career was pro-rated to include only his stats against the WSox, Murray Chass would put him on the arbitrary steroid list.

      Reply
  2. Bill White

    What gets in the way is not honor, it is the lack of strict measurable standards. Set up some tough metrics and forget all else. If a player makes it, he makes it. Otherwise, he doesn’t. End of story, end of problem.

    Reply
    1. Robert

      Here’s some logic for Murray chASS:

      I have this theory that bloggers are secretly trying to take over the world. I will start “eliminating”, one-by-one. Although I have no proof of this, I feel I must do so as I think it best to err on the side of caution.

      I really, really hate that guy.

      Reply
  3. Chris

    If I were a baseball player, I wouldn’t want Murray Chass to vote for me, simply because that would mean a complete idiot thinks I was a good baseball player, which must mean that I wasn’t.

    Reply
  4. ryan

    Keeping with the theme of the post, I love the idea of “no hope” players being listed on each ballot. It must feel good for the Jacque Jones’ of the be listed. It’s a different kind of great for a fan: being given one last reminders of all of these players that you’ve nearly forgotten. Half the joy I get out of baseball is derived from the Sean Caseys, Jimmy Keys and Carlos Baergas.

    Reply
    1. Triston

      I was disappointed when Jose Vidro wasn’t on the ballot. Yes, he has no chance, but I liked watching him for various sentimental reasons.
      There were players I liked more, who were better, but… It’s like how, when I’m listening to the radio, I get excited when a song from a more obscure band I like pops up. There are better songs from better bands, but they’re on quite a bit.
      I don’t know.

      Reply
      1. Chris M

        I remain extremely upset that my all-time favorite player, Edgardo Alfonzo, didn’t make the ballot 2 years ago. I harbor no illusions that he was a Hall of Famer, but his 28 career WAR would have placed him 4th out of the 2011 newcomers, and ahead of at least 10 players on this years ballot. Also, Tony freaking Womack made the ballot that year instead of him.

        So I feel you about Vidro. I remember in the late 90′s/early 00′s they were generally debated as the two best second basemen in the NL

        Reply
      2. SBMcManus

        I love Jose Vidro! He’s one of those people with a special place in the hearts of Canadian fans – lots of good (sometimes not great) players who spent significant time with the Blue Jays or Expos are big fan favorites here.

        Reply
  5. Alejo

    Racists worked to tilt the playing field their way. PED users worked toward the same goal. Both succeeded, for a time.

    The equivalent today of the negro leaguers of old are those players who couldn’t reach the majors because PED users out-competed them, the sluggers that couldn’t reach the HoF because they were out-homered by steroid-takers, the young who destroyed their bodies by dabbling in dangerous drugs without the money to pay for a cutting-edge doping regime.

    And you think the writers should vote the PED users in? and this would be a better hall? And, according to you, us, the fans, will be happier because Bonds, Clemens and Palmeiro get to see their faces in a plaque?

    Really?

    (by the way, who ever cheered their throats raw for Barry Bonds?)

    Reply
    1. Chris McClinch

      This entire line of argument is muddled.

      1. Everybody works to tilt the playing field his way. Yes, steroids are an attempt to do that. So are amphetamines, protein shakes, personal trainers, hitting coaches, fielding coaches, pitching inside, pitching back outside after you’ve made the batter move his feet, rubbing out the back line of the batter’s box, corking, spitting, and scuffing. Some of these things are completely above board. Some are considered cheating. One of them is illegal and performance enhancing. And we’ve seen people who engaged in ALL of them inducted into the Hall of Fame without a peep.

      2. Clemens and Bonds weren’t keeping any marginal talents out of the bigs. They were both inner circle Hall of Famers before any reasonable narrative has them starting to take steroids. If you want to keep Manny Alexander out on these grounds, I’m on board.

      3. And yes, as a fan of baseball who was a kid in the 80s and a college student at the end of the 90s, I’m going to be far happier–and, more to the point, far more likely to drag my wife and daughter to Cooperstown–if the players I grew up rooting for and against, idolizing and Clemenating, are there for me to bore them with stories about.

      4. Who ever cheered their throats raw for Bonds? The entire Bay area for over a decade. Pittsburgh for six or seven years. Many of us who rejected the media narrative and noticed that he was actually funny and intelligent–more so than many of the writers who so despised him.

      Reply
      1. Alejo

        Muddled? well, in this era, maybe man, I don’t know. Maybe it is a muddled attitude to expect to watch a clean sport; to expect people to play by the rules and cheaters to be punished.

        Clemens and Bonds didn’t keep anyone out of the show, no, but lesser players on PEDs who outcompeted their peers did (again, Tom Verducci documented this).

        But it is muddled to think about people playing clean, when dopers were so wonderful.

        I will drag my son to the HoF and bore him with this line: “see kid? if you cheat good, you’ll be rewarded” yeah, I wouldn’t be a muddled father at all!

        Bonds, funny. First time ever I see those two words in the same sentence. You are an original!

        Reply
        1. Chris McClinch

          1. It’s certainly a naive attitude to believe baseball was a clean sport until the steroid era. We already have a Hall of Fame rife with users of illegal PEDs. That includes Mays, Aaron, Mantle, etc. Those illegal PEDs were charmingly called greenies in the parlance of the game. They caused a brief scandal back in 1970 when Ball Four came out, then the nation shrugged its collective shoulders, elected every user of illegal performance enhancing drugs who put up good enough numbers, and all was right with the world. But when it’s steroids, not greenies? Oh no, won’t someone think of the children!

          2. If lesser players on steroids kept people out of baseball, then I firmly agree that lesser players shouldn’t make it to the Hall. Like I said, if you’re collecting signatures against Manny Alexander, I’ll be happy to sign.

          3. Clemens and Bonds really were wonderful before they were using. Pretend Bonds was hit by a bus after 1998, and he’s still an inner-circle Hall of Famer. Pretend Clemens was hit by a bus after 1996, and he’s still one of the greatest right handed pitchers of all time on a per-inning basis and an easy Hall of Famer. And EVERY narrative has both players clean at that point. Moreover, the Hall already has over 50 years of dopers in it. I’m just not seeing any reason to say that the illegal PEDs known as amphetamines are no problem at all, whereas the illegal PEDs known as anabolic steroids are a blight on the game. To me, when the powers that be failed to punish Mays, Mantle, Aaron, etc., they made the call that PEDs are A-OK.

          4. How about what I plan to tell my kid: “During that time, the powers that be incentivized the players to use steroids, on top of the amphetamines people had been using in the game for over half a century. Estimates run as high as three quarters of the league using. We don’t really know who was clean and who wasn’t, but these people were the class of the league.”

          5. Then you’ve never paid attention to anything Bonds said. Bonds was indeed a funny guy. After his 500th stolen base: “That’s it. No more. I’m going to ride around the bases in a limousine from now on.”

          Reply
        2. Andrew

          So I’d expect you also explain the virtues of cheating to your son when you pass by the plaques of Ford, Perry, Aaron, and Mays, right?

          Reply
          1. Alejo

            Guys, I am not a fan of Aaron, but why do you keep saying he was a cheater? and Mays? Mantle? ridiculous, I would ague Mantle actually HAMPERED (not enhanced) his performance by using substances (e.g alcohol).

          2. Chris McClinch

            Alejo,

            We say it because Mays, Mantle, and Aaron were all well documented users of greenies, which are drugs that were illegally used off-label to enhance performance. You know, the same thing that this generation did. BTW, as to Mantle, he actually did try anabolic steroids in an attempt to deal with an injury, although he got an abcess from the injection and missed more time because of it.

          3. Andrew

            I am a fan of Aaron, but he did use PEDs. He used amphetamines, which fulfill all the objections people have with anabolic steroids.

            1) Amphetamines improve baseball performance. There is no doubt that Aaron’s career HR total is higher because he took amphetamines. I mentioned this in a different post the other day, but people seriously downplay the effects of amphetamines, likening them to drinking coffee. They are much more than that. People also say that while steroids can improve you as a player, amphetamines only allow you to play at your best more often. But if you play at your best more often, you’ll hit more home runs.

            2) Amphetamines can have dangerous and unintended health risks.

            3) Players who may not wanted to have taken amphetamines may have been pressured to do so in order to “keep up.” If you’re tired around game 130 of the season, but another player taking greenies isn’t and is able to perform better than you, he may take your roster spot.

            4) Like steroids, amphetamines weren’t officially banned by baseball for the majority of the time players used them. But also like steroids, amphetamines were controlled by the federal government (since 1970) and are illegal to take without a prescription.

          4. Andrew

            Also, the fact that they took greenies wipes out any “morality” objections when comparing Bonds to Aaron. Aaron, Mays, Mantle, and countless others from the 50s-00s ingested a substance that was federally criminal, boosted performances, and while tacitly accepted in the clubhouse, wasn’t something they wanted everyday fans to know about (see the ballplayer reactions to Ball Four by Jim Bouton). I don’t believe for one second that if both greenies and anabolic steroids were widely available and tacitly accepted amongst ballplayers in the 60s, that Aaron, Mays, and Mantle would have said “Oh yes, greenies are ok, but I’ll draw the line at steroids.”

          5. kehnn13

            The difference here is that steroids were banned by baseball in 1991, before these players did them. Was there a policy that mlb had in place prior to this against amphetamines?

          6. bellweather22

            Alejo, unfortunately the moral relativism of the Chris’ and Andrew’s of this world is pretty common. They see Bonds as a funny guy and worthy of the HOF because they see a steroid driven 73 HR season as the equivalent of a greenie filled season that allowed a player to stay on the field an extra five games…. And consider it uncool to say otherwise. This is the Apple generation after all. Bottom line, they want to see their heroes in the HOF, don’t really care how they got there, and will hang on to any thread of a semblance of an argument to help them get there. Fortunately, the writers see it more our way….. But unfortunately, in the process, have apparently stalemated the ability to actually vote anyone in. This gives the steroid apologists another angle. The writers must go, since they stand in the way of our heroes getting a plaque. This will only get worse, not better. The HOF will become a farce if the steroid apologists have their way. Step this way son and see the exploits of Rafael Palmeiro, ARod and the gang. What a hoot that will be!

          7. invitro

            “1) Amphetamines improve baseball performance. There is no doubt that Aaron’s career HR total is higher because he took amphetamines.”

            Has this been proven? If not, then you should doubt it. I tend to believe that the negative effects of speed outweighed the positive ones. In any case, I find it bizarre to claim this as an unimpeachable fact.

            “2) Amphetamines can have dangerous and unintended health risks.”

            Do you believe that the typical use of speed caused as much damage to health as the typical use of steroids did? I am curious to know what science says about this one. I can believe either way.

          8. Chris McClinch

            1. Has it been proven that amphetamines improve baseball performance?

            What would constitute proof for you? Obviously, there are no double-blind studies on the effects of steroids or amphetamines on baseball performance. There are compelling studies that point to amphetamines improving reaction times, however. And there’s the anecdotal evidence that offense levels in baseball dropped not when the sport began testing for steroids, but a couple of years LATER, when the sport began testing for amphetamines. There’s also the anecdotal evidence that since testing for amphetamines began, therapeutic use exemptions for Adderall and Ritalin have exploded in baseball, to the point where they’re more than twice the level of use in the general population.

            2. Did the typical use of amphetamines cause as much potential harm to player health as the typical use of steroids?

            Very hard to say. In general, anecdotal evidence points to steroids being less dangerous than they’re typically portrayed to be and amphetamines being less benign. If players were using short cycles of moderate dosage a few times a year, doing proper post-cycle therapy, and working with good doctors to monitor their bloodwork, their risks from steroid use were likely pretty low. If they were using them like professional bodybuilders or professional wrestlers (staying on high doses year-round), their risks were much higher. Without knowing how players were dosing steroids or amphetamines, this question is impossible to answer.

          9. invitro

            “What would constitute proof for you? Obviously, there are no double-blind studies on the effects of steroids or amphetamines on baseball performance.”

            Whatever the medical community accepts as proof. I said “proof” because you said “no doubt.” If you had said “likely”, I would have asked for some evidence, rather than asking for proof. I am merely suggesting that it is reasonable to have doubts.

            “therapeutic use exemptions for Adderall and Ritalin have exploded in baseball, to the point where they’re more than twice the level of use in the general population.”

            This is nice evidence, however “twice the level” doesn’t quite reach “exploded” levels to me.

          10. Andrew

            bellweather22, thanks for for providing an explanation for why I have my viewpoints instead of actually responding to my argument. I had no idea that my choice of personal computer brands or the year I was born were affecting my belief that two of the greatest players of all time should be in the HOF.

            Moral relativism? The belief that what one person considers moral, another person might consider immoral? I don’t think that applies here. I’ve never said I consider steroid use to be morally right; my belief is that morally, there is no difference between using steroids to boost your performance and using amphetamines to boost your performance. I admit I don’t understand why the steroid use of Bonds and Clemens is the ultimate evil that ruined the game, while the amphetamine use of Mays, Mantle, and Aaron (and many more players from the 50s onward) really wasn’t that bad. I’d probably agree that steroids boost your performance more, but the difference between the two is less categorical and more one of degree. I also think its interesting that essentially every argument that people can come up with for why steroids are the ultimate evil also apply to amphetamines. They can have some pretty bad psychological and neurological effects and result in physical dependency, they boost baseball performances, and they have been federally criminal to take without a doctors prescription since 1970. I’m only arguing for some consistency in how we apply our moral outrage and look at baseball achievements. And since I don’t support throwing Mays and Mantle out of the Hall, or putting an asterisk next to Aaron’s 756 home runs, I don’t believe we should be treating Bonds and Clemens like that either.

            Also, you’re calling me an apologist as an insult? That word doesn’t have the negative connotation you seem to think it has. Apologist essentially means someone who employs information to defend a position. I’ll gladly take that label. Had you utilized any information instead of making broad generalizations about the moral decay of my generation, you too would have been an apologist for the other side of the debate. Learn what words mean before you use them to attack someone else. But you are from the typewriter generation after all. Bottom line, you’ll excuse the cheating of your heroes in the Hall, and will hang on to any thread of a semblance of an argument to make what they did seem OK. You’re a firm believer that in your day, ballplayers were so much more moral, and would never have touched steroids if they were readily available, so let’s make sure the current generation of ballplayers is punished for failing where our heroes rose above it all.

          11. Andrew

            invitro, I perhaps shouldn’t have used the term “no doubt” when what I meant to say is “very likely” (although by the same token, there’s no absolute proof that steroids improve performances either, so the term “no doubt” doesn’t apply all around). But it is very likely that amphetamines do add to the home run totals of the hitters who use them. Another commenter, Greg, provided a scenario in a different post, and I’ll quote him here, because its pretty well written and succinct.

            “An example of how greenies could improve statistical performance can be easily calculated. While these numbers are pulled out of the air, you can substitute your own guess on what the numbers should be. Lets suppose that a player normally hits a HR every 15 AB. He plays 160 games a year. He is tired/run down for 40 of these games lowering his HR power to every 20 ABs for these games. He now takes greenies for these 40 games restoring him back to his normal talent level. Doing the math, he hits about 3 extra HRs a year and about 50 extra HRs for a HOF length career. Sluggers of course get more benefit based on a smaller HR/AB ratio and would likely see a bigger improvement. You can make similar estimates for the other statistical categories such as BA.”

            Here’s a medical professional and the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency discussing the performance enhancing aspects of amphetamies, albeit largely focusing on football (http://seattletimes.com/html/seahawks/2019776708_adderall28.html).

            Additionally, the number of MLBers getting diagnosed with ADHD and qualifying for the “therapeutic use exemption” for amphetamines has significantly increased (http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2012/11/30/mlbs-annual-drug-report-adderall/1738371/). Would this be happening if players weren’t noticing some difference in their performances when they’re off the greenies?

            It can be difficult to definitively separate the effects steroid testing, amphetamine testing, and any number of other factors in the decreases in offense we’ve seen over the last few years. MLB began testing for steroids in 2005 and for amphetamines in 2006, so the use of the two drug classes likely decreased in concert with one another. There was a dip in HR per game in 2005, but there had been one year dips before (see 2002), and HR’s shot back up in 2006. It wasn’t until 2007 before we saw a long term drop in HR/game (and really, not until 2010 that it really dropped to levels below what might be considered “low-scoring for the steroid era years”). A narrative could even be built that amphetamine bans have had even a greater effect on the offensive declines, because while both hitters and pitchers were using steroids to get stronger, amphetamines would affect everyday players more because it helps them get through the slog of playing, er, every day, whereas pitchers are already fairly well-rested with four off days and therefore saw few benefits from popping greenies. (For the stats I’m using, see http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/bat.shtml)

            As for the health side effects of amphetamines, there are several, ranging from mild to severe (http://espn.go.com/special/s/drugsandsports/amphet.html).

            Again, I’m not advocating for a witch hunt against amphetamine users; I’m just saying that fans often significantly underestimate the differences between steroids and amphetamines, and that we should try to employ a little more consistency when we’re throwing the label “cheater” around.

        1. Alejo

          your point is, cheating is fine, as long as you put in big numbers. My point is, cheating is wrong and can destroy lives (eg Ken Caminiti). I think PED users are with me in this, since they used the drugs in secret and later denied using them, sometimes ridiculously (flaxseed oil, etc)
          I feel comfortable with my position. Voters seems to think along the same lines and the players too, since active or retired players are not cheering for Bonds to be inducted.

          Reply
          1. Chris McClinch

            That’s actually the historical standard of the Hall of Fame. Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Whitey Ford, Gaylord Perry, and many, many others cheated. Some cheated through the use of a different class of PEDs; others cheated by doctoring the ball. And historically the voters have decided that on-field performance is what counts. I’m just saying that there’s nothing special about steroids that should lead us to treat them differently from amphetamines–and that the powers that be have been abundantly clear on how they intend to treat amphetamines.

          2. Richard Aronson

            You know what’s ineffective education? Letting your kid learn about steroids in the locker room from other kids who want to profit by selling them. You know what’s effective education? Taking that kid to the HOF and showing him pictures of pre and post steroids Barry Bonds, side by side, and showing him a picture of Ken Caminiti and telling how steroids helped his game but also killed him young. We *owe* it to the kids to show them the bad side effects of steroids, because they are certainly going to hear the other side. Maybe we need to create a Wing of Cheats in Cooperstown to satisfy everybody, and put Gaylord Perry and all the PED users and everybody else who isn’t lily white in it. But we *need* to start teaching the kids how destructive steroids can be.

      2. John Gale

        Ok, you lost me when you equated PEDs with “protein shakes.” Come on. I’m all for voting Bonds and Clemens in the Hall of Fame, but let’s be honest about it. And you’re missing the point on Bonds. There are a lot of funny and/or intelligent people who were also jerks. People didn’t like the way Bonds treated other people. That’s the issue. Again, I would absolutely vote for him. But that doesn’t change that he was a jerk.

        Reply
        1. Chris McClinch

          I’m not equating PEDs with protein shakes. I’m saying that there’s a broad range of things people do to tilt the playing field in their favor–and that the complaint that PED users are tilting the playing field in their favor is therefore non-substantive. I also pointed out that we have had no problem electing a couple of generations of users of a different PED, We have also had no problem electing people who broke the rules of the game. And we’ve had no problem electing jerks. Yes, Bonds is almost certainly a jerk. No, I don’t think this makes him unique. And no, I don’t think he’s as bad as an antagonistic press has made him out to be.

          Reply
          1. invitro

            “the complaint that PED users are tilting the playing field in their favor is therefore non-substantive”

            Dude, cheating is not a black-and-white issue. There are -degrees- of cheating; some are more, well, substantive, than others. Do you not believe this?

          2. Chris McClinch

            Of course I agree that some degrees of cheating are more substantive than others. It’s why I base my opinion on how to handle steroids on how greenies were handled. In both cases, you’re talking about illegally taking a controlled substance for the purposes of improving performance. And the sport and the writers have said that illegally taking amphetamines to improve performance is not a barrier to the Hall of Fame. So I think I’m just being consistent by treating steroids the same way.

      3. invitro

        “Clemens and Bonds weren’t keeping any marginal talents out of the bigs.”

        I think it’s possible that Clemens wouldn’t have been playing when he was 44 without the steroids he had taken up to that age, and thus might have kept a marginal talent out of MLB.

        Reply
        1. Richard Aronson

          Agreed. IMO Bonds started taking steroids when his career started its decline phase (or perhaps other players were marginalizing him by using PEDs) so he, too, probably got 4-5 extra years that would have gone to some other player.

          Look, I think putting Bonds in the HOF makes sense. But I also think what he did hurt innocent players, perhaps the pitcher who got cut after Bonds reached McCovey Cove instead of the warning track one time too often, perhaps the outfielder who was stuck at AAA behind him. It’s all part of baseball, good, bad, and ugly.

          Reply
    2. Andrew

      I’d be pretty happy if/when Bonds and Clemens make it. As someone who grew up in the 90s, that’s the period of baseball that I’ll always look back on most fondly, and both Bonds and Clemens gave me great memories. I want to see them in the Hall.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        Obviously you’re desperate to get them in. I’m not sure why. There are plenty of non tainted stars of your generation to root for. I’m still a fan btw and Mantle and Mays were a little before my time. So, I don’t have a dog in this hunt generationally. I look forward to Maddux and Glavine getting in…. Perhaps also The Big Hurt and maybe even Piazza and Bagwell… I don’t want players left out because of whisper campaigns. BTW: I think you’ll have a long wait on Bonds and Clemens. Try to make the best of it.

        Reply
    3. Josh L

      I don’t believe that stadium after stadium sold out as he approached 71 OR 756 just to boo him. Even though that was the primary reason to go (and it was), some part of most fans wanted to see history, too. At least I think so.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        Oh, you had to see the show…. And BALCO hadn’t yet broken, I don’t believe. I went and saw him. The Braves were winning by, I think, 3 runs in the 9th when they sent out Smoltz to close, and Bonds due up. Not a single fan hit the exits. Bonds ended up flying out to right after a pretty exciting pitch sequence where Smoltz went after Bonds with his high 90s heater and low 90s splitter. It was a highlight. It’s too bad that Bonds was simultaneously making a mockery of the game.

        Reply
    4. Richard Aronson

      I cheered my throat raw for Mike Piazza. Had I been a Giants fan or a Pirates fan, I’m sure I would have cheered my throat raw for Barry Bonds. Murray Chass won’t vote for Piazza (Bonds, Clemens, Biggio et al) because they used PEDs, or maybe somebody who wanted their roster spot and hoped they’d get suspended (could that happen in sports? I’m shocked!) lied about their using steroids. There are thousands (millions?) of people with bacne who never used steroids, and according to Chass none of them deserves to ever get in the HOF, either. I say that like any museum, especially a museum of history as the HOF is, to leave a hole where the guy with the most Cy Young awards should be, another where the guy with the most MVPs should be, and two more where hitters in the argument for best catcher and best shortstop of all time should be, diminishes the museum. I’m not a kid, and frankly today most kids aren’t kids; better to tell the truth, bacne and all,

      Reply
  6. Christopher Jones

    The Hall of Fame is most certainly about the fans. I can’t wait until 2016 comes and Ken Griffey Jr gets elected. I already am planning my trip from California to Cooperstown for that. It’s a little piece of heaven for all of us baseball lovers.

    Love the article, and keep up the good work Joe.

    Reply
  7. Chip S.

    I agree that the way to think about criteria for selection into the Hall is to first ask what the purpose of the Hall is.

    Anybody can create his own list of “best players” based on whatever stats he chooses in a few hours at BRef. There’s no need to rely on the BBWAA for that anymore.

    I also agree that the Hall is ultimately about fathers reminiscing to their sons (pardon the sexism; it’s a Donald Hall reference). But that still leaves a potential role for “honor” as an element of HoF voting. As you said, Joe, reasonable people can disagree about its relative importance, but I think a weight of zero is pretty extreme.

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      Bonds may not be a great example because he’s well known as a student of the game and its history. He’s the sort of player who is likely keenly aware of his place in said history.

      That said, I imagine he’s far more upset that his father isn’t in the Hall than he is about his own omission. Bobby Bonds is a fairly borderline candidate, but he has a real case.

      Reply
          1. Alejo

            I think they do sleep soundly most nights. But they also care for their place in history. Dave Concepcion (no chance to make the Hall) used to say he couldn’t sleep before inductees were announced. If a guy like that has a rough time over it, what could you think of people like Clemens or Bonds? these two would be in the conversation for best player ever, only, they were caught.

  8. Charles

    I thought, at one time, that Carlos Baerga was DEFINITELY going to the HOF. I haven’t really given any thought of that in at least fifteen years now. And yet… was there ever a better second baseman up to the age 26 season (sure he wasn’t a good defender, but darn he could hit)?

    So I looked at his career again. It doesn’t look as impressively (even through age 26 as I thought). He hit over .300 with good power, but those walk totals! He walked 291 times – in his career (which lasted 14 seasons). That is a strange career curve, too… Most walks in his career: 48 – in his age 22 season? Wow.

    Thanks for the blast from the past, Ryan.

    Reply
  9. Michael Green

    I read Murray Chass and sometimes agree and sometimes don’t. Total idiot? He’s certainly right about the Hall of Fame being an embarrassment without Marvin Miller, and that they circled the wagons to keep him out.

    I have gone back and forth, but here’s what it comes down to: there are Hall of Famers who took a lot of different substances over the years. Did it help them play better, as they thought steroids did? Ever hear of greenies? Let’s clear them out. Gaylord Perry, folks, and Big D, who should be in the Hall of Fame despite Bill James, did some things that aren’t supposed to be allowed in baseball. In fact, George Brett used too much pine tar.

    That isn’t to minimize steroids. I’d like to see the lawbreakers in jail. But for anybody who ever saw Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens before steroids, it’s a no-brainer. I’m not sold on McGwire, who was largely one-dimensional, it seems to me. Palmeiro? Look at the numbers. Did steroids do ALL of that?

    Further, much as Harriet Beecher Stowe in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address made the point that slavery was a national sin, blame for the steroid era shouldn’t be confined to the players who took them. I mentioned the other day that Murray Chass pointed out that LaRussa and Torre owe some of their managerial success to steroids, and that’s worth discussing if we’re going to keep out the users. I think of the umpire, quoted anonymously in Bruce Weber’s wonderful book “As They See ‘Em,” saying that it wasn’t his job to tell the manager the third baseman was foaming at the mouth, but it helped explain why there were some temper issues on the field. Bud Selig obviously would like to be in the Hall of Fame, and he certainly is deserving if they would let in Bowie Kuhn (or for that matter any other commissioner except Landis). What did HE do about steroids?

    Reply
    1. Andrew

      He has some ok ideas. He did vote for Maddux and Glavine this year after essentially swearing that he would never vote for anyone ever than Jack Morris ever again, so that’s kind of good. And he has been a big supporter of admitting Marvin Miller into the HOF, which is good. In many ways, however, he is essentially just a mean old man.

      Speaking of Miller and the Hall, I’ve always kind of wished the Curt Flood got some more HOF love in these discussions. I think it would be great if Flood and Miller could go in together as innovators who profoundly impacted the game (even though there’s no real “innovator” category).

      Reply
    2. invitro

      “I’m not sold on McGwire, who was largely one-dimensional, it seems to me.”

      Which dimension are you choosing: his home run ability, or his getting-on-base ability? :)

      Reply
    3. bellweather22

      Pine Tar and steroids comparison? Really? Things must be getting desperate when you throw in pine tar, (or, as other fools have done with corticosteroids and Lasix) with the usual claptrap about greenies and spitters. The issue at hand is that steroid use is illegal,dangerous, against the rules and enhances performance in undeniable ways. Argue that on its merits and perhaps you’ll be more effective. The shifting the argument to other things, which may have been done decades ago, with questionable performance enhancement is just silly. The guys are in the hall already. Maybe if they were being considered today for the HOF, it would be worth arguing over. But that ship has sailed. This argument is about steroids, and players that used them, and it’s in the present.

      Reply
      1. Karyn

        No, it’s about cheating. That’s what people say, right? They’re cheaters, they don’t deserve to get in. We’re all apologists and moral relativists for supporting cheaters.

        That knife cuts both ways.

        Reply
  10. CarolinaTiger

    The Hall of Fame, by definition, is largely about the past. They rely heavily on promotional support from existing Hall of Famers, especially around induction ceremony time. These gentlemen mostly do not want to see Bonds et al. elected because, rightly or wrongly, they feel it cheapens their own selection. That is one reason why the Hall will not act unilaterally on this issue.

    Reply
  11. Richard

    In the summer of 2012, I went up to Cooperstown and spent a whole day at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

    My biggest thrills were not in the “physical” Hall – the one with all the plaques, but rather in the Museum. The plaques are rather cold and impersonal. The Museum? Look! It’s Stan Musial’s uniform! Look! There’s the bat Evan Longoria used to hit the game-winning home run in Game 162 of the 2011 season! And look! There, in the George Brett display, it’s the Pine Tar Bat!!!

    Reply
  12. murr2825

    The home run race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 made that season the most exciting and memorable in my lifetime. A ferocious storm on Labor Day cut power to most of my city, my house being a rare exception, and with cable out also, I hunkered down with my portable radio listening to McGwire try to hit number 58. A kid again at 45.

    Maybe he hits 50 that year, not 70. His at bats were still stop-what-you’re-doing-and-watch-this events.

    The Hall is for the fans. If they want to be punitive, make a notation on the plaque. But stop this moralizing and hand-wringing.

    Reply
  13. Jean-Claude Briand De Crèvecoeur

    Wouldn’t it be sweet justice if you got your wish of Bonds in the Hall. And then at his induction speech he was booed out of the room? Maybe showered with a few syringes and a bottle of “clear”? And whenever anyone started a discussion about Bonds in the Hall, everyone would say: “yeah, but at least he got his just desserts at the induction”

    Reply
    1. Chris McClinch

      Personally, I’d expect the room to comport itself just as it did when Hank Aaron (amphetamines), Whitey Ford (scuffing), or Gaylord Perry (duh) were elected.

      Reply
      1. Mark Daniel

        Nobody cares about amphetamines. Nobody cares about spitballs and scuffing. If Barry Bonds was guilty only of amphetamine use, he would be in the hall of fame right now with 95+% of the vote. In fact, he was busted for amphetamine use, back in 2006, and the result was a collective yawn.

        Reply
    2. SBMcManus

      I had a similar thought. I would imagine a good part of the audience would turn their backs on him for his speech. It would be quite the scene.

      Reply
  14. Richie

    If I had a vote, I woudnt vote for the known roid guys until enough clean players get voted in. Right now theres 13-20 players on the ballot w/ HOF like numbers and theres a 10max limit. In my mind Bonds Clemens, Sosa, Bigmc and friends dont even get my consideration until theres less then 10 ”legit clean” guys on the ballot. or atleast until Bud Selig is on the ballot in which case i’d vote for Bud and the roid heads with the hope they elected together just for the pure entertainment of it all.

    Reply
    1. Chris McClinch

      And by what means do you know that they’re “legit clean”? It wasn’t THAT long ago that people were actively rooting for A-Rod to eclipse Bonds’s record so it would be held by a clean hitter.

      For that matter, innuendo notwithstanding, how do you know that the “known” roid guys are dirty? Is it the “just look at him” test? Because in that case, I urge you to take a look at both Manny Alexander (who was stopped with steroids in his car) and Steve Reeves (who retired from competitive bodybuilding before steroids were in use) and tell me which one looks like a juicer.

      Reply
      1. John Gale

        Well, in Bonds’ case, there was BALCO and Game of Shadows. So, no, it wasn’t *just* that he put up the three-highest OPS+ years in the history of baseball in his late 30s when he never approached those numbers in his 20s (the only other guys with comparable seasons in their mid-to-late 30s are Ruth and Williams, and both of them had better seasons in their 20s). I suppose we don’t have an actual videotape of Bonds injecting himself, but I imagine even that wouldn’t be enough for the Bonds apologists out there. They could argue that the tape was doctored or just take a page out of the Ortiz apologists’ handbook and claim that it could be a B12 shot or something. I’d vote for Bonds, but the level of willful naivete among some people is astonishing.

        Reply
        1. Chris McClinch

          Oh, I 100% believe Bonds used steroids. I will say, though, that the upshot of the legal wrangling and tens of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars was that it can’t be proven. That’s the point of “known” vs. “believed” and why Bonds is a free man today.

          Of course, I also believe that steroid use before the game was testing for steroids is exactly analogous to greenie use before the game was testing for amphetamines. Or to throwing the spitball before the pitch was made illegal. It’s one more reason that it’s impossible to compare cleanly across eras, but not some new egregious form of cheating that calls for throwing out the historical standards of the Hall of Fame. My own stance has always been that Bonds and Clemens belong in, while Manny and Palmeiro don’t. Using steroids in a league that’s decided to be the wild west in terms of performance enhancement is very different from using steroids in a league that’s decided to be drug free.

          Reply
          1. kehnn13

            The case against Bonds was not to prove that he took steroids, he admitted that in grand jury testimony. The case was to prove that he lied when he said he never knowingly took steroids.

            Also, I mentioned this before: steroids were banned from baseball in 1991, well before Bonds and Clemens are supposed to have taken them. Amphetamines were not banned until 1971, near the end of the career of Aaron and Mays.
            How do you think that arguing that someone took a drug that wasn’t banned is equivalent to taking one that is?

  15. Richie

    known guys like bonds roger palmeiro, sosa mcgwire are known… either failed a test, admitted it or caught by the govt.
    piazza and bagwell are Suspected, they aren’t KNOWN.

    IS THAT CLEAR ENOUGH FOR YOU

    Reply
    1. Chris McClinch

      Actually, Sosa never failed a test, never admitted it, and was never caught by the government. Ditto Roger, who was acquitted of all counts. Even Bonds was convicted only of obstruction. That’s kind of why I asked the question. You’re assuming things that jury trials have demonstrated we DON’T know (or at least conclusively demonstrated that the government CAN’T prove, despite throwing tens of millions of dollars at the attempt).

      Reply
      1. Chris McClinch

        So in other words, of your five KNOWN names, you’re right about two: the one who admitted it, and the one who actually failed a test.

        Reply
  16. Richie

    Just b/c u dont get convicted, doesnt mean your innocent. Money has alot to do w/ it. iF you have oney and are willing to spend it on the best lawyers, you can get away w/ almost anything in this country.
    And sammy was caught, was 1 of the 103 caught in 2003 random tst that was leaked.
    so uhmm thats 5 of 5

    Reply
    1. Chris McClinch

      “Just b/c u dont get convicted, doesnt mean your innocent.”

      That’s accurate, but it sure as hell doesn’t mean you’re guilty.

      “Money has alot to do w/ it. iF you have oney and are willing to spend it on the best lawyers, you can get away w/ almost anything in this country.”

      Ah yes, how dare those rich players outspend the poor, impoverished Federal government that wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on failed prosecutions?

      I’m not saying that Clemens and Bonds were clean. I AM saying it’s only suspected, not known. If it were provable, both would be doing time for perjury. As it is, neither one is. The difference between suspected and known is literally the difference between being in jail and being free for both men.

      As for Sosa, the New York Times reported it, but nobody has been able to confirm it. Again, strongly suspected. Not known.

      Reply
      1. Alejo

        As far as I know, Bonds admitted using steroids unknowingly (the Flaxseed oil travesty, remember?). Palmeiro idem. So, in their case, not suspected, known.

        Palmeiro also confessed to have used Viagra to enhance his performance.

        Bonds also had a head that grew in his thirties. That’s weird. Either he was taking what Junior took in The Simpsons or HGH.

        Clemens was pointed as a PED user by Andy Pettite and his personal coach. It’s their word againt Roger´s. I tend to believe Pettite because he wanted to be loved again.

        Sosa, man, he is just too weird. He was skinny and then he was massive. He was black and now he is white (google him). Maybe he is a mutant, a X-man, a human chameleon. Then again, he just took roids and then bleached his skin.

        Reply
      2. bellweather22

        Since Bonds admitted usage, it’s a known. He hung on to the claim that Anderson was rubbing creme on him that he thought was flaxseed oil. It’s ludicrous, of course, but he held to his lies and managed an acquittal.

        Reply
  17. Scott P.

    I’ve asked the question before, if a convicted pedophile were otherwise qualified, would you vote for him for the Hall of Fame? I’ve had very very few people say yes. So just about everyone does seem to have a line they aren’t willing to cross.

    Reply
    1. largebill

      Leave that to football. Voters for the Football Hall of Fame are very clear they ONLY consider on field performance. Lawrence Taylor’s various transgressions didn’t bother them at all.

      Reply
    2. invitro

      What kind of convicted pedophile? Pedophilia is not a crime, and no, I would not deny a HoF vote for pedophilia. So what kind of conviction are you referring to? Tax evasion? Murder? It depends.

      Reply
  18. Shagster

    I am stunned at earlier HoF post.

    Teddy Baseball taking a stand against racial segregation … Is analogous to writers taking a stand for PED users entrance to the Hall?

    Wow. Stretch lately?

    Reply
  19. Dannyboy

    I went to the hall with my uncle when Catfish Hunter (and Billy Williams) were elected. It was not the reason for the trip, just one of our annual pilgrimages (Busch, Kaufmann, Riverfront, Memorial) all from NY. Catfish didn’t stay at the fancy hotel downtown, but at the low budget hotel outside of town with us. That is my memory. Looking back, perhaps he recognized his borderline status. Also, Cool Papa Bell handed me his photocopied autograph. That is Cooperstown to me.

    Reply
  20. Rick R

    I think what needs to happen—and probably will one day—will be a Hall of Famer admitting steroid use during his career. Thomas Boswell says he knows of at least one steroid user among the Hall of Famers (though he won’t out him) and I’d be surprised if there weren’t more. If you start looking hard enough, a lot of suspects emerge. Kirby Puckett’s career arc looks an awful lot like a juicer—no power then a sudden surge…Gaylord Perry would do anything to win…Rickey Henderson always looked pretty ripped…Nolan Ryan led the league in strikeouts as a 43 year old…there may in fact be lots of steroid users in the Hall for all we know, and as soon as one reveals himself (or gets revealed) then the floodgates will probably open. “Well if HE’S in the Hall already, why not…etc etc etc”

    Reply
    1. Owen

      Rickey rather famously never lifted weights because he wanted to keep himself more flexible for base-running purposes. All that yoga and stretching probably extended his career, much like Kareem in basketball. I think that was just the body type God gave him.

      Reply
      1. Ed

        But steroids aren’t just about becoming heavily muscular. That’s a misconception that a lot of people have. They can be used for other reasons.

        Reply
  21. Brian Smon

    Joe, would you support a player being elected without being inducted? In other words, the player becomes a Hall of Famer, but he doesn’t get feted or he doesn’t get to make an induction speech.

    Reply
    1. Karyn

      To what end? And I guarantee you that if Clemens and Bonds were elected but not feted, there would be a big dinner and press conference at the same time Maddux and Glavine were having theirs. Which would you send your reporters to?

      Reply
  22. Mike

    A large part of the “keep Bonds out” sentiment stems from the fact that he is now the holder of arguably the two most treasured records in the sport that most treasures its records, and those are records the pre-PED Bonds had no shot at reaching.

    The cartoonish Bonds of the 2000′s made a mockery of the home run records (or in the case of the single season record, added to the mockery McGwire and Sosa started.) Had he merely used PEDs to add several years to his career at the high level he was at pre-PEDs, the outrage would be far less.

    In a sense, keeping Bonds out of the HOF is like putting an asterisk on his 73 and 762, and probably the only viable way to do so. That may or may not be rational, but for many their connection to the game (especially its past) isn’t rational, it’s emotional. That emotional connection is why people care about the Hall in the first place.

    Reply
  23. Geoff

    On the PED/steroid argument
    MLB has belatedly decided that they are unacceptable and put punishment in place for people caught using them. Having this in place implies that steroid use is seen in the same light as something such as corking a bat or doctoring a baseball. The punishment is harsher for steroid use but MLB has decided that being caught using steroids is not something that should have you banned from baseball permanently (unlike gambling on baseball).
    I will find it interesting how people vote for Manny Ramirez when he becomes eligible. His career is without doubt Hall of Fame worthy but he has the two suspensions due to steroids at the end of his career. In Manny’s case he was caught cheating and served the corresponding punishment. In the eyes of MLB the issue has been dealt with appropriately so for a voter to leave Manny off the ballot based on his steroid use implies that any form of cheating should result in ineligibility for the Hall of Fame. There can no longer be an argument that steroid use is a lot worse than corking a bat since MLB has already decided based on suspension lengths exactly how much worse it is and implemented punishment accordingly.

    What’s also interesting to think about is knowing how MLB now deals with steroid use considering what the implications would have been if testing was around 15-20 years ago. Some players would still have used steroids, the biogenesis scandal serves as proof. But what if someone such as Mark Mcgwire had been caught served a suspension and then returned to baseball? How would it have affected HOF voting?

    Reply
    1. John Gale

      I’m not following basically any of your arguments. So serving two suspensions means that the Hall of Fame voters need to just look the other way on the steroids? What? The fact that Manny has two failed drug tests (one well after testing started) is an argument against him, not for him. And how does not voting for Manny based on PEDs also mean that the voters wouldn’t vote for guys who committed more acceptable versions of cheating? I’m not defending corking the bat or spitballs or greenies or whatever, but the voters just do not view it the same way for the simple reason that none of those other things produced 70-home-run seasons. I’d vote for Manny and most of the other guys we’re talking about (Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, A-Rod when he’s eligible, etc.). But I wouldn’t make arguments that I know I have no chance of winning. Stick with just voting in the best guys of each generation regardless.

      Reply
    1. Andrew

      Has Joe actually ever said he wouldn’t support giving the fans a vote?

      I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, I think its generally better to leave the HOF voting to a block of people who, at least in theory, are knowledgeable students of the game. Fan voting can result in some pretty bizarre results. Remember the All Century Team, where the people in charge basically had to step in and say “OK guys, Honus Wagner should probably be on this team.”

      On the other hang, I’ve been a pretty big fan of Deadspin buying a vote and opening it up to the fans. I guess I could be talked into giving one symbolic vote to represent all the fans, and using a system like Deadspin’s to determine who the fans vote for.

      Reply
      1. invitro

        Aha… well, I don’t think so. I was trying to provocate, which is sometimes a good idea, and sometimes not. But if he doesn’t support it, and at the same time writes this impassioned argument that the HoF really needs to Think About the Fans!, well that is pretty distasteful, isn’t it? But if he does, then why not advocate for it?

        Anyway, I have gone back and forth on it, but right now I completely support giving the fans a vote. I think the HoF should let the fans vote in one HoFer every year. The ballot would have some 100 names, a fan’s vote would be for one of them, and the name with the most votes would go in. The fan vote should be separated from the BBWAA vote so that we could expect about 2.4 players per year to go in from these two sources. I might suggest having the vote in July and the induction in August.

        Now I know this would be a big increase in players, and I have an answer for that: take it out of the damnable Veteran’s Committee. Let the VC meet once every three or four years and limit them to two inductees. Stop putting umpires in, cap managers at one per thirty years. Stop putting owners in.

        The fans wouldn’t be voting on Honus, or any other player from 100+ years ago. And if they make occasional mistakes, so be it; so does the BBWAA, and the VC is more mistake than non-mistake.

        Reply
  24. Sven

    The only answer is a reset–create a Millennium Wing of the Hall of Fame for all players going forward. Then suspicion won’t taint the process. Just acknowledge that the game can’t go back to pre-steroids, any more than it can go back to segregation or tiny gloves or day games only. But it won’t happen, because the agony, strife and soapboxing actually give voters more power.

    Reply
  25. John Leavy

    Once again, Mr. Posnanski, I have the painful duty of reminding you that, on the issue of steroids, you have NO credibility whatsoever. None.And you embarrass yourself further every time you attempt to comment on the subject.

    When steroids were running rampant in baseball, you didn’t even attempt to investigate how widespread the problem was. When ridiculous records were being set, you regularly denied that steroids had anything to do with it.

    When it became known how widespread steroid use was, you would have done well either to apologize for your laziness and gullibility (and most of your colleagues should have done so as well) or to maintain a dignified silence on the matter. But no… even after it became clear that steroid use was running wild in the major leagues, you kept trying to make any and every argument possible to downgrade the importance of steroids. “Oh,” you said, “steroids probably don’t REALLY help that much.” And besides,” you added, “Juiced baseballs were a far more likely reason for the rise in home runs than juiced players.”

    You’ve ignored the problem of steroids, you’ve minimized it, and you’ve tried to wave your hand and make the subject go away. It’s EMBARRASSING. Sigh… Joe, even those of us who admire you as a writer have to shake our heads and wonder why you can’t just admit that you’ve been 100% wrong about steroids ant EVERY step of the way, and that you have nothing valuable to contribute on this subject, EVER again.

    Reply
  26. Baseball Fan

    “When ridiculous records were being set..”

    “Only in the steroid era” would a shortstop break the consecutive games played record.
    Or does that guy not count as someone under the steroid cloud, because writers think he’s a nice guy?

    Reply
    1. GMH

      Everett Scott, a shortstop, held the record for consecutive games played until Lou Gehrig broke it. He played in 1,307 consecutive games until his manager benched him on May 6, 1925. The previous record was 577 games. Scott’s streak is still the third highest in MLB history, behind Ripken and Gehrig.

      Miguel Tejada, a shortstop, has the fifth longest streak. Joe Sewell, a shortstop, has the seventh longest streak. Both played in more than 1,100 consecutive games. Nellie Fox has the 11th longest streak. He was a second baseman, which I would argue is a position more vulnerable to injury than a shortstop because of the more risky turn of the double play. Ernie Banks has the 15th longest streak, which he established while playing shortstop. His streak ended when he took himself out of the line-up after injuring his knee. Shortly thereafter, he transfered to first base.

      So five players of the 15 longest consecutive-game streaks played shortstop, and a sixth played second base. Only Miguel Tejada has been linked to steroid use.

      Should baseball writers be suspicious of Cal Ripken?

      Reply

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