Thursday, January 10, 2013
Hall Voters Error on Election
Killer B's Denied Entry to Hall
This year's Hall ballot was one of the most decorated and controversial in history. It had holdovers like Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Don Mattingly, and Dale Murphy. Players who made their name in the 80's. It also had players like Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, and Edgar Martinez; who played in the steroid era, but are presumed clean. Also returning was Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, the former who admitted steroid use, and the latter who failed a test in 2005. Jeff Bagwell also returned to the ballot, joined by longtime teammate Craig Biggio this year. Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling joined the ballot for the first time, with no evidence of steroid use of any of those players. Of course, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa were also on the ballot for the first time. All three are suspected of steroid use, but it isn't proven.
Yet, the writers did not elect any players yesterday when the results were announced. It was only the 8th time that ever happened. Getting elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame is the toughest of all sports. It might be easier to get an act of Congress passed. Some voters were even arrogant enough to send in blank ballots. I guess they wanted to send a message, but it takes away from the percentages of players who didn't use steroids as well. They cite the moral clause, but getting elected to the Hall of Fame isn't the same as getting nominated for sainthood.
If sportsmanship and character were requirements for election, guys like Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, John McGraw, Leo Durocher, and Cap Anson wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. Anson refused to play teams with black players in the 1880's, and his racism kept blacks out of the league for another 60 years. Baseball's first commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis refused to allow teams to sign blacks, and yet he's in the Hall of Fame.
There's a good chance that a player who used(or tried) steroids is already in the Hall of Fame. Fergie Jenkins made that claim to Bob Costas yesterday. Jenkins himself was held up for the Hall of Fame for a few years because of his cocaine arrest. Peter Gammons at the time said, "it is comforting to know that the BBWAA has turned into an arm of the Moral Majority." Other players in the Hall used street drugs, were alcoholics, used anthetamines, corked bats, threw spitballs, and doctored the ball.
Don Sutton once described a meeting with Gaylord Perry saying, "He gave me a bottle of Vaseline. I thanked him and gave him a piece of sandpaper." Perry wrote a book titled "Me and the Spitter" while he played. Knuckleball pitcher Phil Niekro was once thrown out of a game after being found with a emery board. Whitey Ford was also known to doctor the ball on occasion, and he is probably the best pitcher in Yankees history. Sutton, Niekro, and Perry all won over 300 games, and Ford was a dominant postseason pitcher. All four pitchers are in the Hall of Fame.
Officially only players who broke the gambling rule are banned from the Hall of Fame, meaning no Pete Rose or Joe Jackson. While I think those two players deserve some recognition, it was against the rules when they played. Steroid use wasn't explicity against the rules until 2003, and testing with punishment didn't start until 2005.
There is debate on rather guys like Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Clemens, and Palmeiro should be allowed in the Hall. But, is it fair to keep out guys like Bagwell, Biggio, Piazza, and Schilling because they played in the Steroid Era? There is no proof of any of those four using steroids, but for some writers they are guilty by association. Is having muscles the reason for suspicion for Piazza and Bagwell? Is having the wrong teammates keeping Biggio and Schilling out? Some writers said they needed more time to decide on the Steroid Era, but how much do they need? They already have had at least 5 years.
The ballot logjam isn't going to get any easier next year when Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent, and Mike Mussina are eligible. In 2015, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz will be eligible. The following year Ken Griffey Jr. will be. Ivan Rodriguez the year after that, although there is PED whispers about him as well. Chipper Jones just retired, and Jim Thome might as well, giving two strong canidates five years from now. A lot of very deserving players won't get elected because of the writer's witchhunt.
I think baseball needs to change the rules on Hall voting. Someone should be elected every year, especially with the caliber of players on the ballot. Voter's should not be able to send in blank ballots, and blank ballots should be disqualified. Also, a review of a voter's history should be examined. If that voter is routinely voting against slam dunk candidates that there colleagues are voting for, then that voter should lose his priviliges. The NFL Hall of Fame mandates that at least 5 candidates make it per year. That's too high for baseball, but I think a minimum of 2 would be good for baseball. Getting 75% of the vote is very challenging, and most players don't get in the first ballot. Some writers didn't even vote for alltime greats like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and Johnny Bench just so they weren't unamious selections.
The Veteran's Committee voted in former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert(who acquired Babe Ruth), early 20th century umpire Hank O'Day, and 19th century catcher Deacon White. White played so long ago that he caught barehanded. No offense to any of these guys, but Cooperstown needs more modern figures in the Hall. Since Division play began in 1969, only 22 players who began there career after then have made it. There are 208 players total in the Hall, leaving the last 40 years of baseball vastly under-represented. The voters did a lousy job this year, and hopefully they'll make up for it by electing several candidates in the next few years.
Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux: Will they Have to Wait?