We all saw it coming. We all knew that this time, the Hall of Fame debates would reach new lows. The arguments more polarized, the agendas more transparent, the reasoning more specious. The collective baseball mind prepared itself for the worst and was not disappointed.

The Hall of Fame debate which closed 2012 was ugly, tiring, and everything that’s wrong with the entire process for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Take a bow, BBWAA, you really outdid yourself this time.

We’ve seen them all. Blank ballots, unsent ballots, rended garments, gnashed teeth, armchair medical diagnosis and guilt by association. Writers of all stripe and relative level of credibility trotted out whichever excuse they saw fit for their particular agenda.

There are a few, proud BBWAA members who recognize they are not the judge, jury, and executioner. They are only supposed to be the judge of a player’s Hall of Fame merit. Is Player X good enough – yes or no? Instead we have writers hiding behind character clauses to mete out punishment for their own sins, turning a blind eye on “an ugly chapter” of the game when it was, you know, going on right beneath their collective noses.

Baseball Think Factory reads and logs all the published ballots, with current polling suggesting maybe no player will be voted in this year. Craig Biggio, who by virtue of his pedestrian home run totals, we know TOTALLY NEVER took performance enhancing drugs – shows up on the most ballots thus far.

There is guilt on all sides of this debate. Thanks to the misplaced love and affection for Jack Morris by a certain (vocal) section of the Association, more is written about his shortcomings as a pitcher rather than the relative strengths of his long career. Jack Morris doesn’t deserve to get into the Hall of Fame but he doesn’t deserve outright mockery, either.

It is officially the worst time of the year for baseball fans, specifically those who want to love the Hall of Fame. Those who wish to see the most deserving players honored for what they did on the field, not feted for the ability to make nice with the media or those who pitched really well that one time.

It doesn’t need to be that complicated or cryptic. Among the eligible players, who are the best of the best? Who is most deserving? The official Getting Blanked ballot (Drew edition) would look like this, were such a thing to exist:

  1. Barry Bonds
  2. Roger Clemens
  3. Mike Piazza
  4. Alan Trammell
  5. Tim Raines
  6. Jeff Bagwell

This is only six names, as these six players jump off the page as Hall of Fame players to my untrained eye. The cases for Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, and even Larry Walker are strong enough that, if pushed, I would add them to my imaginary ballot and feel no guilt. As Jay Jaffe explains in his JAWS post today, short ballots muddy the waters and can be problematic, so I’ll extend my ballot to ten and include those four extra men.

Simply put, there is no Hall of Fame without Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds. Two players who built Hall-worthy resumes before anecdotal evidence fingered them as drug users, if you consider that a deal-breaker.

This isn’t going to go away. Until Bonds and Clemens are elected, until the Hall agrees to overhaul their selection process and the BBWAA takes the vote away from those who do not/do not deserve it, the December ritual will continue. And we’re all worse for it. We can attempt ignoring the bleating calls for justice and/or defaming of baseball legends but the chorus grows louder every year.

There isn’t an easy solution. Changing the selection process or closing some of the “character” loopholes will help but any progressive steps to improve the current state of affairs is unlikely, considering the glacial bodies involved.

So we’re stuck. Stuck caring or stuck lamenting, I don’t know which is worse at this point. Rarely does something so trivial raise such ire but…the Hall of Fame means something to a great number of people. It means a lot. Which is why the writers, rightly or wrongly, try to do right by the Hall.

Unfortunately, an issue as delicate or complex as this one isn’t solved with loud political statements or broad generalizations. It is just baseball and it is just a museum. Let it be what it is: a celebration of the game and all who played it. The greats and the cheats alike. Nice guys are nice and all but…great players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be remember longer than nice guys like Dale Murphy. They don’t need the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame needs them.

Comments (17)

  1. any ballot that is ok with Roids but doesn’t include McGwire should be considered spoiled

    • I tend to side with JAWS and the like on this one, too many injuries kept him from posting great career numbers. He’s below the threshold for JAWS and WAR, if you care about that stuff.

  2. Biggio is a Hall of Famer in my books. He may never have been “elite” or even “great” but he was very good for 20 years, all with the same team, at 3 very different premium positions. There aren’t many other players that fit that profile, especially in this era.

  3. What it comes down to for me is this: If I took a casual fan to the Hall, and they asked where the Player with the most MVP awards, the all time home run king, and the pitcher who won the Cy Young awards could be found, what would I say? ‘Sorry, they may have been cheating, but they were never suspended, disciplined or proven to have done so. The establishment thinks it best that we don’t talk about them.’

    That’s the explanation for a gaping hole in the museum that celebrates the history of baseball? A museum located where it is because of an outright lie? Nah, I’m not really interested.

    • Those guys will be, or already are, prominently featured upstairs in the Hall of Records. As is Pete Rose & McGwire, and that part is far more interesting than a collection of plaques to a casual fan as well. They aren’t exactly being treated as if they never existed, which is why I care about the Hall, and feel that they all should be included, but don’t really care if they’re not.

  4. totally agree they need to clean out some these baseball writers who by the way are experts in baseball, we want the best in the hall, which includes Larry Walker and that other great Pete Rose no one is even close to those numbers, but because we have an idiot by the name of Bud Selig the Hall loses another, the worst commissioner in baseball, gutless to use technology to help his dumb umpires out who are dumb enough to not help themselves to get it right.

  5. Maybe they could have a section of the Hall of Fame specifically for the unwelcome stars.

    That way they acknowledge that the player’s career was worthy of HOF membership, but that he made himself unworthy in some way. Thus adding Rose, Bonds, Clemens, and whoever else – maybe some of the Black Sox?

  6. Bonds and roger should never be in the hall of fame if you go by what you say of the merit of a player yes or no then for them its no why they cheated and when the got caught the lied so no no no no!!!

  7. How about: players caught using prohibied PEDs by an MLB test are not HOF eligible. This allows for moral outrage against Palmeiro, for instance, but prevents retroactive application of rules to some, but not all, former users. It’s also a bright line test.

    • That should be classified as the Lance Armstrong defense. He never failed a test but the evidence is pretty overwhelming that he cheated anyway. To me there’s no difference except for the fact that your cheating skills weren’t as good as some of the other players. Since I’m not judging players on their skill at avoiding a positive test I’m going to throw out the PED usage completely especially in light of the acknowledged use of amphetamines by players that are already in the hall. To me there’s no difference. They used a supplement to aid their play end of story. In my eyes that makes them all equal.

      The real issue is the BBWAA itself. They really need to get their shit together once and for all.

  8. Bonds is easily one of the best players to ever play, and Clemens is without a doubt one of the best pitchers to ever grace a mound, but letting them in would, in a way, signify that cheating does not disqualify you from being enshrined with non-cheaters.

    If they ever get in, I’m sure they’d decline. Isn’t that what McGwire said in a recent interview?

  9. Because no one in the Scared Hall threw spitballs, played against limited competition, used amphetamines, played in parks with 250 foot porches, or got voted in by veterans committees comprised of their former teammates.

    The Hall is not a perfect entity, and its membership is riddled with problematic inductions. To ignore the contributions of players such as Bonds and Clemens is ridiculous. They were great players period. The (unproven) aid they may or may not have received from alleged PED use notwithstanding, they had Hall of Fame careers. Their exclusion by the BBWAA says more about baseball’s institutions attempting to gloss over a chapter of their history (and the writers, fans and fellow players are all equally guilty as people who could see what was going on and did nothing to stop it) than it does about their allegedly tainted statistics.

  10. I still don’t get the “I can’t vote for them because they cheated” when Bonds, Bagwell, Clemens & Piazza were never suspended or even disciplined for taking anything illegal.

    Everyone believes the 51 Giants stole signs that year. Since they “supposedly” cheated – Willie Mays, Leo Durocher and Monte Irvin shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame either using that theory

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