With all of the crazy events that I have witnessed in the past week, I certainly had a plethora of topics on which to write on, but it was easy to settle on the one that I have been thinking about since last week. For only the eighth time in history, the distinguished members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (note the hint of sarcasm) chose not to elect any one to this year's Hall of Fame Class. Now, I have seen that many of my fellow local writers have already spoken on the subject so my thoughts may be old news, but that's not stopping me.
Obviously, the argument against most of the eligible members on this year's Hall of Fame ballot was the prevalent use of steroids or PED's as you hear them called during the era when most of these players were at their peak. Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro, and others will forever be linked to the so-called "Steroid Era" in baseball. Is that fair? Well, there have certainly been some boisterous arguments on both sides since the announcement last week.
Personally, I am not sure that I would vote for any of these names because I can't get the thought out of my mind that they somehow cheated the game. But I can see the other side of the argument that you just can't ignore an entire decade of baseball history and that performance-enhanced or not, these fellows put up some pretty impressive numbers. But were those numbers artificial?
I am especially passionate on the Bonds issue, perhaps because I grew up admiring the talents of the sweet swinging quick wrists of Henry Aaron, who I still consider to be baseball's home-run king. In the case of Bonds, I agree with those who say "just look at the baseball cards." Compare the 1987 rookie Bonds with the Bonds ten years later. Notice any difference? I guess Barry could have spent a substantial amount of hours in the weight room, but that doesn't seem likely.
I admit to being one of those who was mesmerized by the Sosa-McGwire home run chase in 1998, but looking back I wonder how many people would have been as interested if it had been announced that "hey, we have two guys hitting home runs all over the galaxy but they have had just a little extra help."
Perhaps the worst fallout from this whole steroid scenario were the players who were not elected who have absolutely no connection with PED's at all, namely Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza. Getting 3,000 hits is usually the Willy Wonka golden ticket into the Hall, but not for Biggio. Piazza may have been the greatest hitting catcher of all time and we know that baseball purists certainly look at numbers. Over 400 home runs and a career .300 batting average for a catcher? Those numbers are unheard of, but not good enough this year. How about Jack Morris? Morris has numbers comparable to many Hall of Fame pitchers, but those numbers didn't make the grade this year.
Unfortunately for Biggio, Piazza, and Morris, they seem to be victims of the old "guilty by association." Since they played in the same era as the others, certainly they must have been cheating too. You may have heard people talking last week that the writers voted on suspicion of use. Some of them even turned in blank ballots. That is ludicrous! Maybe they were just making their statement for one year and next year will be different. I see two, perhaps three sure-fire Hall of Famers coming on next year' ballot in Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Tom Glavine. Will Piazza and Biggio be squeezed out by those guys? And one more thought kept crossing my mind as I listened and read the debates. What would have happened if Ken Griffey, Jr. had been on this year's ballot?
Now, mind you no discussion of who is worthy and not worthy of the Hall of Fame can exist without bringing up one name-Pete Rose. I was driving back from Portsmouth last Thursday morning and listening to an interview with Rose on the radio. Pete was talking about how baseball is a game of statistics and the statistics put up in the Steroid Era had to be tainted. Though he doesn't usually express it to the media, you know that Pete has to be very frustrated with the whole Hall of Fame process. At this point, Pete has done his penance and it's time to have the man with the most hits in history (a record which may never be broken) in the Hall. On the field, Rose was what sports is all about-hustle, desire, and determination. Off the field, well, not so good, but remember that Cobb and Ruth weren't exactly model citizens, but Pete broke baseball's Golden Rule and as long as Bud Selig is commissioner, Pete will have to be content with signing autographs down the street from the Hall. Or maybe doing bad reality shows with his 31-year old wife-to-be.
So, we will wait until next year and go through all of these arguments once again. Perhaps the New York Times made the best statement. Their sports page was headlined "2013 Hall of Fame Class" and the page was totally blank. Why didn't I think of that?