Hall of Fame: Flaws and Trends

No matter what side of the PED morality issue you stand by, I doubt any true baseball enthusiast wanted to see no inductees to the Hall of Fame this year.  Yet, no live former players will grace the podium in July to recount their careers and accomplishments.  This year's no vote is especially sad considering the crop of talent eligible.  Since Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn were enshrined in 2007, only one player has really screamed Hall of Fame, and that's Rickey Henderson.  No offense to the great talents that received their plaques in Cooperstown, but they weren't sure-fire, no-brainer picks. 

So on comes the Steroid Era where upon voters, understandably, don't know exactly how to grade and evaluate everyone.  Did he cheat?  Was it still cheating if not banned by MLB?  Would he have made the Hall regardless?  Do I believe hearsay and innuendo?  If he was teammates with a known cheater, does that mean he did as well?  Did they all do it?  Asterisk?  Nobody gets in?  Should we make them wait a specified amount of time?  These are the questions many ask themselves, and some are tough to answer.  However, there were some actions taken this year, or perhaps inaction taken, that are simply unfair or serve no purpose in the voting process. 

The first trend that doesn't make any sense involves voters turning in blank ballots.  Five empty ballots were turned in this year (nine last year).  Whether it serves an agenda or sends some kind of message, to not vote is inexcusable, and I would say worthy of losing your privilege.  Not everyone on the ballot was a steroid user or cheater of some kind.  To not vote is akin to saying the whole system is tainted and I don't want anything to do with sifting through it.  If that's the case for some writers, fine, then turn in your vote.

Another discouraging facet of our current HOF situation revolves around what appears to be a double standard in what constitutes a Hall worthy player.  Craig Biggio is the perfect subject to reflect this new paradox.  Many voters and analysts around the country stated Biggio didn't get in because he simply wasn't dynamic enough among his contemporaries.  He didn't lead any significant categories, he didn't have mountains of awards or hardware, and didn't win a ring.  They refer to him as a compiler, someone that stuck around the game long enough to make some historic milestones.  He played 20 years, a long solid career, but certainly not excessive.  He didn't play any more seasons than the likes of Brock, Molitor, Brett, Kaline, Yount, Winfield, Ripken, or Yastrzemski, all of whom are in the HOF and likewise members of the 3,000 hit club.  In fact, the last 15 guys to reach 3,000 hits have all been inducted on the first ballot.  He also bested 20 homers 8 times and finished his career as #5 on the all time doubles leader board.  All the while serving most of his career at catcher and second base, two historically weak Hall of Fame positions.  Here's the double standard.  The voters won't let the likes of Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Sosa, or McGwire in the Hall because they "cheated."  And yet, they also won't vote Biggio in because he wasn't as dynamic as Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Sosa, or McGwire.  So either the big, tainted, stars' accomplishments mean something, to which comparing Biggio would pale his case.  Or they don't mean as much, in which case someone playing the game the right way and achieving HOF worthy accomplishments should be rewarded.

The truly unfortunate case for Biggio is that his chances don't improve next year or thereafter.  Next year's eligible player list includes Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Jeff Kent.  The year after that sees newcomers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz.  This was the year for Biggio, and because he doesn't stack up well with alleged "cheaters," he probably misses out for several years.

The final thing that bothers me about the voting stems from the need to paint everyone with the same brush of guilt.  The entire lack of jurisprudence even for guys like Bonds and Clemens bothers me to a degree, but I also can't help thinking those guys definitely did it (hypocritical I know).  However, there are guys that were not named in the Mitchell report, were not named by any disreputable Canseco-esque characters, yet they still get lumped in.  So who among them is truly innocent and who was just better at keeping their name out of suspicion.  A guy like Bagwell should have been voted in with his 1500+ Runs, 1500+ RBI, 449 HR, .297 career average, and .408 career on base percentage. Yet he's been passed up three times because voters think he "might" have used steroids, or could have been around them because he was teammates with Ken Caminitti.

The continuing struggle for many players rests in the fact they can't clear their names.  As much as skeptics can't supply proof a player cheated, short of a positive test, the players can't prove they didn't cheat.  All they have is their reputation and the fact they never failed a test.  Then there are the Biggio's of the world, that everyone agrees was stand up, played right, and played clean.  But he didn't smash 40 homers and 130 RBI a year, so he doesn't pass the sniff test for Hall of Fame eligibility.  I don't envy the writers' choices, but something has to be done.  We can't continue to not let anyone in the Hall for the next 15 years until the era is deemed over.        


  1. I agree with your opinion. I was dissapointed with nobody getting voted in, but I was also glad to see that Bonds, Clemens and Sosa were not only not voted in, but did so poorly in the voting. A lot of writers had speculated that Bonds and Clemens would get about 50%. Because they didn't come close to that tells me it will be a long time before they get in.

    I heard Bob Costas say maybe they should ban anybody who tested positive from ever being on the ballot, like they did to Rose. Takes the pressure off the writers and gives harsher punishment for testing positive. I like the idea.

  2. But who would that take off? Clemens and Bonds never tested positive for anything... Ditto for most names on this list. If you're leaving guys off, it's because of a disputed Mitchell Report... If baseball had not gone on their witch hunt (failing to convict Bonds and Clemens) maybe that report would mean more. Even then, you have guys that weren't named but rumored/accused. You're drawing an arbitrary line no matter what.

  3. It was meant for the future. Not much you can do with the people on the ballot now. He meant like Manny Ramirez and Melky Cabrerra, going forward anyone testing positive can't be on the ballot.


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