On January 9th, 2013, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) got everything wrong.
Each writer is allowed to cast ten votes annually. The 2013 ballot contained more than ten Hall of Famers, and not a single individual’s name was called. How can this be?
This goes deeper than our shared love and sentiment for Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. This list contained Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Mike Piazza. How can one of the best pitchers, one of the best all-around players, and the best-hitting catcher of all time be overlooked?
Of course, we all know the answer.
Bonds and Clemens have been directly linked to steroids, while Bagwell and Piazza have had their moments of suspicion. These claims are unwarranted and purely created in the minds of many, considering that no evidence has ever linked Bagwell or Piazza to any kind of performance enhancing substance.
The truth is that the players, the owners, the publicists, the writers and most importantly, the fans need to accept this era for what it was: tainted. No player can without a doubt be deemed clean. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Greg Maddux, who looks as “normal” as one could expect an athlete to look, or Frank Thomas who entered and left professional baseball the size of an NFL linebacker.
If Thomas used PED’s, would we be able to tell? Probably not.
Certain players and names have been leaked to the public. However, my question is how many got away with it? How many users of steroids, human growth hormone, or any other performance enhancer are already in the Hall of Fame? How many will slip by in the future because they did not possess a discernible physique or found a way to get around the system?
The reality is this: players have gotten away with it and more will continue to get away with it. The Baseball Writers Association is trying to penalize those known or suspected of steroids to maintain the so-called “purity” in the Hall of Fame. These writers will be the very ones who elect guilty, yet “clean,” players into that same Hall of Fame.
I also find it ironic that many of these sports writers who are casting their vote against these athletes are the same writers that were cashing their checks and feeding their families by covering these athlete’s chase for seasonal and historic records.
My take on the Hall of Fame and the steroid era (if you haven’t already figured out where I’m going with this) is that you shouldn’t penalize a select few when hundreds or possibly even thousands more that they played against were using the exact same supplements, yet managed to slip in and out undetected.
Yes, I believe Barry Bonds used steroids. However, how do we know that middle-reliever who resurrected his career with a 96MPH fastball didn’t use any foreign substance to regain his strength or velocity?
How many of these non-Hall of Fame types were also using these drugs in the same era as Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Clemens, etc? If these pitchers who were opposing these hitters were using the same supplements, then how much of an edge did they really have?
For the sake of argument, I’ll go as far as to point the finger of suspicion at Barry Larkin. Do I truthfully think Larkin used steroids? No, I don’t. However, is it not at least suspect when he finished his career with 198 home runs in 19 Major League seasons, yet he hit 33 in 1996, which was about the same time that Sosa, Bonds, and McGwire seemed to be start their juicing? All the while, Larkin’s name has never even been mentioned?
Many voters like to use the same logic, which is, “If he was suspected of steroids, I’m not voting for him.” This logic makes sense on the surface, but there are so many holes in this theory.
Do they know everyone who is guilty? No.
Do they know everyone who is innocent? No.
They cannot and will not ever know who was innocent and who was guilty, and if they cannot do this then how can they make a fair or unbiased vote?
If you could 100 percent, without a doubt, name every steroid user and had the proof to do so, then I would have no argument here. I don’t have a problem with Clemens or Bonds not getting in because they used steroids. I have a problem with them being held out while others get in.
The era needs to be accepted for what it was and what it always will be. If they do not want to acknowledge these players for their greatness, then maybe they should create a separate wing in the Hall of Fame for the entire time period.
Every player during this time period, clean or not, could have their jersey and any other memorabilia placed in this wing. It would then be up to the individual visiting the Hall of Fame to explore it. If they’re disgusted by it, they could simply avoid it. If they’re intrigued or want to see it, then they could visit it.
If it were me, I would personally love to be able to bring my wife and daughter to this wing and tell them about the era of baseball that I grew up in.
I could tell them exactly where I was sitting (in my bedroom) when McGwire hit his record-breaking 62nd home run and exactly where it landed (just over the left field fence).
I would probably see a photo of Sammy Sosa running in the outfield with the American flag strapped to his back, which happened in Chicago’s first game when baseball resumed after 9/11, or Sammy hitting a home run and circling the bases while holding a miniature American flag in his hand.
There would most likely be a photo of Barry Bonds, both hands in the air, clinched tight, as he watched his 756th home run sail deep into right-center, or possibly one of his son greeting him at home plate and embracing him with a fatherly hug.
There would also probably be one of Jeff Bagwell, hunched over in his awkward, wide-open stance, ready to pounce on the next pitch that he saw. Or that same Bagwell, stepping in between the lines for the first time since his retirement to greet Craig Biggio by raising his hand in the air in celebration after collecting his 3,000th hit.
Then there would be Roger Clemens with his glove in front of his face with his eyes peering through with one of the most intimidating glares possible, or maybe one of him hurling a broken bat in the direction of Mike Piazza.
What I am trying to convey is that these aren’t just baseball players, and they weren’t just records. These were moments in our lives, as well as theirs. They were idols for many kids, which is what I was during this time frame. By keeping out these players, memories of thousands of kids just like me will be suppressed.
When I visit the Hall of Fame, whether it be this year or in ten, I want to re-live these memories over and over again. I want the nostalgia to be there. I want to feel that same tingle that I felt when these moments happened. The way the voters and voting for the Hall of Fame is shaping up, it’s seemingly not going to happen. My fear is that many kids and grandkids are going to miss out on an entire generation of the game that we all love so deeply. Without any tangible items to be seen or touched, the memories of these players and their memory will slowly be washed away with time.