Voting results were released last week for the Baseball of Hall of Fame. Despite a few solid candidates being on the ballot with credentials, sportswriters didn’t find anyone worthy of enshrinement into Cooperstown. The oddity of this year’s ballot was that there were players who had hit the traditional criteria — 3,000 hits or 500 homeruns for hitters and 300 wins for pitchers , etc — to make it to the Hall, but allegations of steroid usage really tainted the field.
For example, five players — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmerio, and Sammy Sosa — with numbers that would ordinarily get a player into Cooperstown were completely shutout by voters. The reason for this is because all are suspected or known to have used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) during their careers. However, players that played the game honestly who had the numbers, such as Craig Biggio, and some who had great careers — including Fred McGriff and Tim Raines — were also left out.
In an editorial at FoxNews.com, former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent has some ideas on how to deal with alleged cheaters without shorting players who deserve enshrinement and fans:
We want to honor those who played the game properly and fairly. We prefer to honor those who played by the rules and did not cheat.
I am secure in the rejection of those about whom there is doubt. Many serious commentators complain this result is not fair.
If I were involved, I would do three things:
1. I would propose to the Hall that it establish some new form of recognition for those who cheated but put up career numbers that deserve Hall recognition. Perhaps there should be a separate wing for cheaters. And I would let the present members of the Hall decide which wing a player belonged in. Then if someone gets in under false pretenses, there is a corrective mechanic in place.
2. The Hall should make clear the voters are not obliged to reconcile their votes with the historic standard of noble conduct. Who says the voters have to be fair and not use evidence that might not stand the judicial standards? The task of the voters is to select for honor those players they believe meet a very high standard for on and off field conduct. If the Hall does not stand firmly for the tests of integrity and fair play the ring ceremony will one day have to be held in the prison yard at Levenworth or some comparable penitentiary?
3. I would have the present members of the Hall vote along with the writers who presently do the electing. That way the voting pool would include those who believe most in the honor component and not be confused by abstruse arguments over evidence and fair process. After all, the election to the Hall is based on subjective judgments by the voters. There is no science to it. And the voters make mistakes of omission and commission. Think of the exclusion of Marvin Miller.
The confusion in this nation on the subject of what is “fair” is endemic. The complaints about the failure of the baseball writers to elect obvious cheats and others who may not have cheated to the Hall of Fame are cloaked in the “fairness” shroud. In fact the writers did the wise thing. They deferred the question. Many tough issues in this nation get deferred. I like the result and much prefer a flawed deferral to a flawed election.
Vincent has a couple of good points here. While I’m a libertarian when it comes to my personal political philosophy, I take a pretty traditionalist stance towards baseball. I don’t believe players who used PEDs should ever be included in the Hall of Fame; but at the same time, I don’t want to see a witch-hunt either.
We’re left to the will of the writers to make these decisions while the great players we watched growing up are kept out of Cooperstown because a few decided to cheat. Perhaps Vincent is right. Maybe it all boils down to patience and those deserving will eventually make it. But the black eye that PEDs have brought to the game along with writers apparent refusal to put deserving players in the Hall of Fame borders on the absurd and fans deserve so much better.
Next year, writers will once again have a slate of candidates who are worthy of being in Cooperstown. Among them are Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, both 300 game winners who pitched for the Atlanta Braves, and Frank Thomas, who crushed 521 homeruns over his 19-year career. These three, along with Biggio, are deserving. Let’s hope the writers take the blinders off.