The Halls of Immortality


So to quote Count Adhemar in the movie A Knight’s Tale, “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting.”

37 names comprised the ballot for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.  Twenty four of those names appeared for the first time; none of them were rewarded for their careers in this years election.

My reaction you inquire?  Satisfaction at a job well done.  I am certain the rationale each voter used varied as widely as the ballots.  I hold the Baseball Hall of Fame as a sacred destination.  Hallowed halls of history and lore.  Let me take a moment and dissect the various issues involving this vote and the votes that will be made for the next 12-15 years.  Here is a quick list to start with in no particular order of significance:

  1. Performance Enhancing Drugs
  2. What is a Hall of Famer?
  3. Does any stat ‘automatically’ qualify a player for inclusion?
  4. Is the current method of voting the best arbiter of who should gain admission?
  5. What might we expect to see happen over the next few years?

With these topics in mind let me open by saying I did cast my vote for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance HOF election, as Steve Engbloom discussed in his article yesterday, and I am the voter who cast just a single vote.  I will reveal my vote as we move along through this piece.

Performance Enhancing Drugs:  The subject garnering the most attention is the discussion concerning PED’s.  I understand Tyler Grote’s opinion that since everyone did it, we need to get over ourselves and single out the best of this generation and vote for them.  Over the years, an argument that I myself have made followed the line of logic that suggests steroids never helped anyone hit a curveball.  That is true and that goes to the heart of Tyler’s argument that if PED’s are such a benefit why did they help Barry Bonds so much more than others may have benefited?  My feeling is Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGuire were going to make it to the Hall of Fame without assistance.  The drugs just allowed their bodies to recover from the day to day abuse of playing the game and pad the statistics they were already amassing.  That reason alone invalidates the records they hold.

What is a Hall of Famer?  I don’t know the answer to this and I think anyone who tells you they do is a bit delusional.  What I do know is some people just feel right in the Hall of Fame in the context of the time they played and the magnitude of their fame.  Bill Mazeroski is in the Hall of Fame because he chose the grandest stage to become a superstar at a time when baseball was the only game in town.  Is it right or is it wrong?   I am not sure, but a better example of character may never have played the game.  Ty Cobb is often held up as a bad apple in the baseball basket.  Though my kids may be surprised to learn this, I never met the guy so who am I to say.  Pete Rose committed the mortal sin of betting he would win games he managed.  I have said in the past did any player ever approach the game expecting to lose and turn out successful.  No way!  Of course Pete bet he would win.  That does not mean he is bad, just a bit foolish.

Does any stat ‘automatically’ qualify a player for inclusion?  The numbers I always held sacred were 3000 hits, 300 wins and 500 home runs.  Rafael Palmeiro has both and I think I can safely go out on a limb and predict he will NEVER get into the Hall of Fame.  NOT EVER.  Testifying in congress that he never used steroids than testing positive for an anabolic steroid takes all of the guess work out of the equation.  He will never find a way in.  In much the same position is Dodgers new batting coach Mark McGwire, a member of the 500 home run club.  The only other members of the 3000 hit club not in the hall aside from Palmiero are of course Charlie Hustle and Craig Biggio.  My single vote on the BBA ballot was for Biggio to enter Cooperstown.  I predict he will earn his place next year along with first time eligible pitcher Greg Maddux.

Is the current method of voting the best arbiter of who should gain admission?  As with the Federal Electoral College, the method may be flawed but their is no better way of doing this.  The only viable alternatives I can imagine would be fan vote, players and coaches voting, or current Hall of Famers voting.  As fans routinely butcher the All Star Game ballot, players and coaches do little better with the Gold Glove Award process, and Hall of Famers would never let anyone join them and dilute their own ‘specialness’.  (This isn’t a word, but humor me.)  Every method is flawed and lest I hear someone suggest programming a computer to do it I have one achronism – BCS.  The writer’s can be individually biased, but for the most part, they take the responsibility seriously and do a credible job.

What might we expect to see happen over the next few years?  I expect Biggio and Maddux to get in next year and I would not be surprised to see Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza to get in.  Next year will also probably decide the fate of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds who will need to probably get up over 50% of the vote.  I am guessing that unless a lot of older voters die over the next 15 years they will have no chance to be elected. posted a list of all of the first ballot members of the Hall of Fame.  This list is the elite of the elite and it is through this prism that we must observe the results this year.  I may soften my stance a few years from now regarding Bonds and Clemens but I will never make a case for them who in my mind cheated the game vs Pete Rose who never changed the outcome of a single game beyond playing or managing to the best of his ability in order to win.

Craig Biggio and new LA Dodgers batting coach Mark McGwire are at the center of the Hall of Fame debate this week. Photo Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The most interesting interview I have listened in the last two days was with the Pittsburgh Pirates new hitting coach and former Bonds teammate Jay Bell talking about the election on 93.7 FM The Fan in Pittsburgh.  Here is the audio.

In the end each of these players made a choice.  Go for the stats and the monster contracts or play with integrity.  Every decision in life has a cost and I would not be surprised if a number of these players would still make the same decision again.

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