Lack of Leadership Makes for Hall of Shame
Probably the greatest hitting catcher ever…not good enough for voters. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Ridiculous. That sums up my opinion of what happened with the Hall of Fame votes cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Nobody gets in? Are you kidding me? Maybe the deepest pool of talent ever…and not one player meets the 75 percent minimum needed for enshrinement.
As you may or may not know, the FanSided MLB writers were invited to cast ballots of our own (not for the actual Hall, of course), with results compiled by Lewie Polis at the Cleveland Indians site “Wahoo’s on First”. This vote saw two players hit the 75 percent mark: Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza. Both should probably be working on their HOF induction speeches…but not this year.
For the record, my ballot included Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Piazza, Tim Raines, and Lee Smith. I only used five of the possible ten votes…but those were the five guys I thought were most dominant in their careers and deserved to go in immediately. I think Craig Biggio is very deserving as well, and at one point I had him on my ballot, but must have talked myself out of him for some reason. I wanted to vote for the guys I really remember dominating…and Biggio, in my opinion, is a guy who was more of a grinder. Never really the dominating type…but really, REALLY, damn good…and deserving of a spot in Cooperstown (which I imagine will come his way eventually).
I’m not really here to discuss or defend who was or was not included on my ballot, but simply to say the vote this year was a disgrace to the Hall. I think the BBWAA should be ashamed of themselves. I get where some of these guys are coming from to a degree…but to leave out guys like Piazza and Biggio, if they aren’t voting in the likes Bonds or Clemens, is ridiculous.
Where does this nonsense end? It’s hard to say…left to their own devices, the BBWAA turned baseball’s historical shrine into a joke. How can you go to the HOF and walk through it…discussing the history of the game…without mention of players like Bonds or Clemens? You can’t just erase them. It won’t happen. And it’s not like leaving them out of the HOF wipes the memory of two of the most dominant players EVER from our minds. So…what’s the point?
The worst part of it all is how the BBWAA members come out of this looking like hypocrites. Outside of the game of baseball, who profited more from the “steroid era” than the writers? Were these guys up in arms when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were dueling each other in the chase for the Roger Maris single-season home run record? No. They were loving that people were reading their articles…not just baseball fans, either, but everyone. I remember that season, and everywhere you went, EVERYONE was glued to either the Cardinals or Cubs games. And if the games weren’t available, we waited for the updates to scroll across the tickers on various sports and news channels. The media – and the WRITERS – loved it.
So what happened? Why the backlash? Yeah…looks like some of these guys cheated. But when, and why, did the voters stop turning a blind eye? Maybe a lack of decisiveness from the top, as in MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and the HOF Board of Directors. Look, I don’t necessarily think Pete Rose deserves to be left out of the Hall, but he is with good reason. Many years ago, with the Black Sox Scandal, Kenesaw Mountain Landis was made baseball’s first commissioner. Landis banned the players in question from baseball for life, saying:
"Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball."
Whether or not you agree, there’s a reason Pete’s not in the HOF. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Pretty clear, right? Whether you agree about the effect this had on players like Buck Weaver or Joe Jackson…you have a clear cut decision made by the man in charge. The same decision that was used in the Pete Rose case years later. Does Rose belong in the HOF? I don’t know. But I do know this…what Landis said tells me Rose is out. And the HOF has kept him off the ballots based on this decision, made in 1921.
Of course…how could we expect such a decision to be made by Selig? The same man we saw at the 2002 All-Star game shrugging his shoulders when teams were running out of pitchers in a tie game. How should he know what to do? He’s only in charge of Major League Baseball.
My point is…a lack of clear and firm decision-making at the top has trickled down to the voters. They don’t know what to do. There is no clear right or wrong way to go for these guys…heck, five of them turned in blank ballots! Blank ballots? With the laundry list of superstars eligible this year? Clearly they are just winging it. Making it up as they go. Shrugging their shoulders…like Selig in 2002.
Where does this end? Will they find some ridiculous reason to keep Greg Maddux from being a first-ballot inductee next year? Probably not. But if Craig Biggio, a guy who has never been associated with steroids, can’t make the cut in a year where the plaques of much better players were kept off the walls, who knows what happens next? Until Selig or the HOF itself lays down the law…the voters (and fans) will just keep shrugging our shoulders, wondering where this all went wrong.