When the National Baseball Hall of Fame results are revealed for the 2015 class, the game’s greatest hitter and perhaps it’s greatest pitcher will be conspicuously absent from the list of inductees. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose numbers are other-worldly, but they have no chance of getting into the Hall of Fame this year. If you follow the game, you know the cloud of suspicion surrounding these two players. Actually, it’s more than suspicion. Bonds was accused of lying to a grand jury about his steroid use. Clemens was named in MLB’s famous Mitchell Report. They headline a number of players whose numbers are suspect and whose Hall of Fame chances are questionable, at best.
The people who care about such things are torn on whether these guys, who in most cases never failed a drug test (under a much different and less stringent testing system than is in place now), should be elected to the Hall of Fame. Such debate is fascinating for fans of baseball history.
One argument goes like this: these guys cheated. Plain and simple. Their numbers, such as Bonds’ home run records, are tainted. Without performance enhancers, such accomplishments would not be possible. Because they cheated to accomplish these incredible feats, they have no place in Cooperstown.
The other side goes like this: since we have no way of knowing who was or wasn’t taking PEDs at the time, and since these guys never failed a test, we have to treat them according to the context in which they played. After all, who are we to be the moral police, anyway? They deserve to be in, simply based on their numbers during a time when numbers were inflated in the first place.
If you look at the voting results the past few years, it’s obvious that the first argument carries the day for now.
We want justice. We, as humans, have a sense of right and wrong. When that sensibility is offended, we want justice. We want people to be punished for the things they do that are wrong. We don’t like cheaters. Some call it jealousy, some call it selective morality. I believe it’s simply the result of being made in the image of God.
We want justice. And we’re not going to get it. Records and awards won’t be revoked. The only recourse is to keep them out of the Hall of Fame. This is humanity in action. Because of our creator, we believe there is a right and wrong (yes, we are often hypocritical and self-blind), and we believe those who do wrong should face justice. Whether the Hall of Fame electorate sees it exactly this way or not, this is their collective stance.
This relates to life in a very important way. Parents, use this as a teaching moment for your kids. What will you do when you cannot get justice for the wrongs done in the world or, more specifically and painfully, done to you?
This WILL happen in the lives of your kids. They will see and experience things for which there is no positive resolution. People will say and do things, sometimes directly to them, that are wrong and sometimes awful. In some cases, those people will “get away” with it. How will you teach them to handle it? What will be your anchor in those times and conversations? Will you teach them to take matters into their own hands? To pretend like it’s not really an issue? To forgive? To trust that God will take up their cause, that he can heal them in the process?
Don’t waste injustice by only waiting for vengeance.
Now, on to this year’s ballot.
First, the past half-century is woefully underrepresented in Cooperstown. The overwhelming majority of inductees played and retired before 1950. Clearly, there were great players–legends–during that era. Clearly, other eras contain as many, if not, more great players and legends. Consequently, I’m an advocate of better representing the greatness of modern baseball in the Hall of Fame.
Second, the Baseball Writers Association of America, the official electorate for the Hall of fame, is allowed a maximum of ten votes per ballot. In other words, if you’re a HOF voter, you may vote for up to ten players each year. As you’ll see below, I count over 15 guys who I believe should be voted into baseball’s shrine. Some very worthy guys will be left off ballots for what appears to be an arbitrary rule.
Third, players may remain on the ballot, provided they receive at vote on at least 5% of ballots, for ten years. In a move many believe was designed to curtail the number of PED-suspected candidates eventually elected, the Hall of Fame leadership reduced eligibility from fifteen to ten years. Therefore, the window is closing on some players, like Tim Raines.
With that said, the following players, in my opinion, deserve election to baseball’s Hall of Fame (presented in random order).
- Pedro Martinez
- Mike Piazza
- Alan Trammell
- Curt Schilling
- Barry Bonds
- Larry Walker
- Edgar Martinez
- Roger Clemens
- Mark McGwire
- Randy Johnson
- Tim Raines
- John Smoltz
- Craig Biggio
- Sammy Sosa
- Gary Sheffield
- Jeff Bagwell
- Mike Mussina
I believe the “PED” guys should be in there for a variety of reasons. First, I agree with the sentiment that the whole era is tainted, so there’s no way to differentiate (besides pure speculation in some cases) between those who did and those who didn’t take PEDs. Therefore, as much as I wish there was justice, the era’s best players should be recognized as such. Second, as I mentioned before, I believe these guys provide a sad, but incredible, teaching moment for children. Third, perhaps promoting the cases of suspected users improves the cases of guys we think were clean, such as Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, and Alan Trammell.
Now, since I wouldn’t be allowed to include 17 guys on my ballot, here are my ten for this year:
Bagwell, Biggio, Johnson, E. Martinez, P. Martinez, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Smoltz, Walker.
Some ballot-gaming is evident, and also some hypocrisy. Yes, I believe the PED guys should get in, but I don’t believe they’re getting in this year, so they’re off my ballot. Also, my ballot includes Larry Walker, who has no chance this year, but who I hope remains on the ballot. Finally, the window is closing for Tim Raines, so he gets my vote over someone like Mike Mussina.
There you have it. There are issues with the Hall of Fame. It’s not perfect and won’t ever be, but there’s nothing like it.