Earlier this week the Baseball Writers of America made the bold decision to elect no one into the Hall of Fame this year. Not Barry Bonds. Not Mark McGwire. Not Roger Clemens. Not Craig Biggio. Nobody. There will be no new inductees in Cooperstown for the first time since 1996. The closest person to the 75% majority needed to be inducted was Craig Biggio at 68.2%. The results show that the Hall of Fame voters are putting up a wall to the players who played in the "Steroid Era" and show no signs of budging with well known names like Bonds, Clemens and Sosa receiving 37% of votes or less. The voters of the Baseball Hall of Fame are by far the most self-involved group when it comes to Hall of Fame voters. They act as the judge and jury and show that they are going to refuse anyone who has been linked to PEDs from ever getting inducted into Cooperstown. The problem? They got it wrong in more ways than one.
If you read the boilerplate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum website it reads: Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations and yet with the announcement that no one has been elected into the Hall from the BBWAA shows they are failing to follow all three requirements. The Steroid Era will always be a part of baseball, just like the "Dead Ball Era" and the Black Sox scandal of 1919. By not electing anyone this year the voters are basically trying to Wite-Out the better part of a full decade of baseball history. Remember the summer of 1998 with Sosa versus McGwire? Didn't happen. Roger Clemens winning seven Cy Young awards? Forget it! Barry Bonds being the all-time home runs leader? You didn't see anything! Instead of telling the story of the Steroid Era they would rather we, and future generations just forget that arguably the most popular decade in baseball history ever happened.
Fans were outraged after the in season 1994 strike that stopped baseball and cancelled the World Series and showed it by not attending baseball games. This led to a 20% decrease in attendance overall, the largest attendance drop in baseball of all time. Major League Baseball was struggling mightily and was losing fans and ratings at an alarming rate and then something magical happened. The summer of 1998 came around and the country watched as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa went into battle chasing after Roger Maris' long heralded single season home run record of 61. It seemed as if they could hit home runs at will, and often did and the saying "chicks dig the long ball" became a nationwide slogan as attendance and ratings boomed and the interest in baseball came back in a big way. Money was made, new stadiums were erected and contracts got bigger (just like the players) but now it is all a forgotten memory in the eyes of the Hall of Fame voters.
Do I think it was right for players to use banned substances? No I don't but do I think it is right to not tell the story of that era in baseball and let future generations judge for themselves on whether these athletes are Hall of Fame worthy. Like it or not, records were broken, money was made, and players weren't getting tested or suspended for anything that they were taking to give them an advantage in the game. Owners and the league office weren't complaining when they were raking in mounds of money and selling out games across the country and garnering huge TV audiences and baseball writers and media weren't reporting on any illegal substances that saw in locker rooms either. Everyone should be held accountable and it is unfair to all of a sudden get high and mighty when it comes to casting a vote. Not only are voters leaving out players who used PEDs that had successful careers but they are also punishing players who not only were never indicted on PED use but also were never even suspected of using PEDs. It is guilty by association.
Craig Biggio was one hell of a middle infielder in his career. He played fantastic defense and amassed 3,060 hits and is one of only 28 players to make the 3,000 hit club. Of those 28 only four are not in the Hall of Fame (Pete Rose, Rafael Palmeiro, Derek Jeter and Biggio). Rose has obviously been banned for life for betting on baseball as a manager, while Jeter is still actively playing and Palmeiro looks like he will never get into the Hall with only 8% of the vote this year. Biggio should be in the Hall of Fame this season. I don't understand the whole debate of what constitutes a "first ballot Hall of Famer" is idiotic to me, if a guy deserves to be in, put him in. Simple as that, but the high and mighty voters want to throw their weight around and decide who deserves to go in to the Hall and who has to wait for the honor. Maybe I am just bitter over the whole Ron Santo situation where the Hall of Fame voters waited until the man was dead to elect him in, he wasn't worthy when he was alive apparently.
Who else got left out of Cooperstown this year? The greatest catcher of all time (Mike Piazza), a pitcher with three World Series rings (Curt Schilling), and of the best players of the 1980's (Tim Raines). I can see why players like Bonds and Sosa and Clemens aren't in but why leave Biggio, Schilling, Piazza and Raines out? They were never accused of any wrongdoing but it is strictly because of the cloud that steroid provided that at least three of these men aren't being inducted this year. Tim Raines being excluded is preposterous in its own right. The truth is, the voting system is now and forever broken. With writers saying they "will never vote for someone who did PEDs" is asinine because it is impossible to say with certainty who did and did not do performance enhancing drugs during that era. It is time for a new system and whether that means changing the qualifications or adding a players committee of Hall of Famers, something has to be done. A Hall of Fame that doesn't include the all-time home runs leader and MVPs, player with the most Cy Young Awards, all-time hits leader and two members of the 3,000 hit club doesn't sound like much of a Hall of Fame to me.
It isn't a shrine. It’s a museum. Museums are meant to tell stories of history and educate younger generations on what went on during certain periods of time. The Steroid Era is much like a failed marriage. There were mistakes and wrongdoings by both parties but that doesn't mean a divorce whitewashes the entire ordeal or that one party should be held more accountable than the other if both knew what they were doing was wrong. The Hall of Fame voters and MLB offices have as much blood on their hands as the players and instead of trying to pawn all the blame on the players they need to stand up and accept that the Steroid Era happened, no one did anything to stop it and like it or not they have the duty to tell the story of that decade in baseball. Take Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, Biggio, Schilling, and eventually A-Rod, and whoever else was involved in that era and even Pete Rose (who should be inducted as a player since he bet on baseball as a manager). Look at the numbers without bias and determine whether or not they deserve to be among baseball's elite. If they are then vote for them and put a special historical message on their plaque that states that they have numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame but have suspicions of wrongdoing that may or may not have enhanced their numbers and while they belong in baseball's museum to tell the history of the game there will always be questions as to whether or not their numbers were authentic or fabricated.
In my opinion, you let them all in if the numbers are there. I would rather have historic accuracy instead of treating an entire era like a blacked out FBI transcript. I know what I saw and I know what happened. Everyone is entitled to an opinion just like it is your right to continue calling it the Sears Tower and not Willis Tower. Our generation grew up in the steroid era, future ones will need to learn about it, so why keep a museum from presenting fact?
It will be interesting to see how the votes shake out next year when guys like Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are all up for nominations and whether or not the voters hold them in the same regard as they hold the current crop of nominees. It seems as though the matter of opinion and assumption has clouded a lot of judgments when in fact this is a museum and not Gospel. There are worse atrocities that get their due for the sake of history and education, so why is performance enhancing drugs in baseball getting special treatment?
Where do you stand on the topic? I know there are a ton of opinions and this is a touchy topic depending on your stance. I would love to have a debate about the Hall of Fame process and whether or not the voters are being too strict and narrow minded when it comes to this era in baseball. Is it right to try and dismiss an entire era in baseball or should the story be told with the players who led the way? I look forward to your thoughts and comments.
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Tags: 1919 Black Sox scandal, 1994 baseball strike, 1998, 61, Alex Rodriguez, all time home runs, Barry Bonds, Baseball Writers Association of America, BBWAA, cancelled World Series, Cooperstown, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Cy Young Award, Dead ball era, Derek Jeter, Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Hall of Fame, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, MLB, MVP, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, PEDs, performance enhancing drugs, Pete Rose, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Roger Maris, Sammy Sosa, Sears Tower, Steroid Era, Tim Raines, Tom Glavine, Willis Tower