First of all, voters owe nothing to the baseball industry to create good will by voting in a few new members of the Hall of Fame to brighten up the dark of winter. This is baseball’s mess. Why vote for those guys right now?
Messrs. Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Sosa and McGwire are a collective symptom of all that went wrong with baseball in the past generation. Management did not want to know why the players had new muscles on their muscles – even when a reporter like Steve Wilstein spotted the evidence sitting there in McGwire’s locker.
And the Players Association was fighting off drug rules and drug testing on the spurious grounds of individual rights. I’ve often wondered what became of Donald Fehr.
Tyler Kepner has a great point in the Monday New York Times: some good candidates may be held back by association with their place and time.
Tyler makes the point that the Times does not let its employees vote for any award, sports or show business. Since I still write for them occasionally, I don’t vote. The paper quite properly does not want its people to be part of the story for taking some eccentric vote.
However, if I did vote, I would be a strict constructionist. This year, five players with the best statistics are handcuffed together in a squad car of suspicion and evidence and admission.
As somebody who has told the very nice sons of Roger Maris and Gil Hodges that I do not quite think their fathers were Hall of Fame players, I could make the same judgment about Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly and Lee Smith. Too many really good players in the Hall right now.
And a lot of really good players eligible this year.
There is no tangible evidence against Mike Piazza. His career numbers seem worthy of the Hall. Wait a year.
Edgar Martinez may have been the best designated hitter in history. But designated hitter is still a gimmick in my opinion. It means he didn’t play defense most of the time. Wait a year.
Jeff Bagwell has the statistics but is generally suspected of bulking up. I don’t know. Wait a year.
Curt Schilling? Great post-season statistics. Wait a year.
Craig Biggio? He played three positions – very impressive – and has excellent longevity numbers – but was not necessarily the most feared hitter on his own team. Wait a year.
It’s really baseball’s fault we have this attitude about the past generation.
If you told me I had to vote for one player, I’d vote for Jack Morris, because he won big games for a long time, and is running out of eligibility.
There are historic considerations – “time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” to quote Andrew Marvell in a baseball column.
Pete Rose was a Hall of Fame player, absolutely, but he hurt himself by betting on baseball as a manager, and then he lied. Pete belongs in the Hall, somehow, sometime. He also loved the game, and gabbed about it incessantly with fans and reporters and other players, sitting in Sparky Anderson’s office. Bud Selig could declare that Pete broke the rules and lied – his plaque could say so -- but as a player, what a force Rose was, and versatile, too.
No doubt in my mind Bonds and Clemens were cheats as well as creeps. As time moves on, more voters could reason they were great players before they took the stuff. I can see voters including them in the Hall, but surely not now.
(MY SATURDAY COMMENTARY ABOUT THE VOTE:)
I had lunch Friday with a dozen friends who write about baseball – not beat writers, but people who follow the game just as closely. Some had wanted a Morris or Biggio to get into the Hall, but nobody seemed surprised by the shutout. It’s more than pique. It’s respect for the game.
Tyler Kepner (who was not at lunch) recently proposed a panel of 36 voters, including nine Hall of Fame players.
Tyler’s got a good point, but I’ll bet you the old players would have higher standards for inclusion than the writers, particularly if the vote were secret. They would be really tough on anybody suspected of using stuff. Even if the Hall panelists used “red juice” or “greenies” back in the day. You think not?
I don’t think there was one truly great – and clean -- player of the Ruth-Mays-Koufax level who was excluded on Wednesday. You know what we used to say back in Brooklyn? Wait til next year.
Your comments welcome below.