Baseball Has A Hall Of A Problem

An article by posted on January 4, 2012

We’ve been having a nice HOF debate on MMO this week ahead of the upcoming National Baseball Hall of Fame announcement on Monday from Cooperstown.

The writers on MMO are also casting their Hall of Fame ballots and we will be announcing our own Hall of Fame inductees this Friday. So far we already have 22 ballots cast and are waiting on 23 more which should come by the end of the day on Thursday. Of course we’ll be using the same rules as the BBWAA, and only players who appear on 75% or more of the ballots cast will be recommended for induction by MMO. I gotta give a great big Mets hat tip to XtreemIcon for the idea.

We are also pleased to announce the creation of the “Metsmerized Hall of Fame”. Each year our staff and readers will elect two new Mets to join our own hallowed halls (or specially designed web page) as we pay tribute to the most amazing of the Amazins’. In a few weeks, MMO staff and readers will be able to vote for two Mets players, managers, coaches or executives to join our founding members: Tom Seaver, Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel. More on that in the coming days, so stay tuned for more details.

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The other day I wrote about “Sportsmanship, Character and Integrity” as part of what BBWAA members must take into account before casting their own Hall of Fame ballots. I came across a nice article by Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, who talks a little bit more about that.

My take on the brokenness of the process is this: 581 voters, 581 standards.

It’s ridiculous to expect me and the other 580 who voted a year ago to sort this out. Many of my brethren disagree, but we hardly have the information we need for these calls. We don’t know who did and who did not use steroids, and we never will.

All we know is which guys have been implicated publicly, through positive tests (Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro), the Mitchell Report (Clemens) and reporting (Bonds, Mark McGwire). Then there are guys like Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz and Sosa, who are reported to have tested positive in 2003 survey testing, which was done under a since-violated guarantee of anonymity.

The whole thing is beyond a slippery slope. It’s an icy crevasse.

The one thing that is clear is that players with any link to performance-enhancing drugs aren’t currently welcome in Cooperstown. McGwire, the test case, has been on the ballot five years, never has received more than 23.7 percent of the vote and received 13 fewer votes in 2011 than in 2010.

While Jeff Bagwell never was linked to steroid use, he improved his body taking androstenedione when it was sold off the shelves at GNC and told ESPN in 2010 that he had “no problem” with a player juicing up. He received 41.7 percent as a first-timer and returns for his second year on the ballot in the voting that ends Sunday and will be released Jan. 9.

It’s impossible to know if that 42 percent rating is a reflection on his play — he’s a Hall of Famer in my book — or if he’s considered a steroid user, even if his only real tie is to androstenedione when it was sold over the counter.

My interpretation says guys who took advantage of baseball’s lack of testing to do as they pleased — Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Clemens, Rodriguez and Palmeiro, among others — disqualified themselves for the Hall because integrity is among the listed factors for voting. But I need some evidence. I don’t believe I can eliminate every brawny player on suspicion alone.

If the New York Times had not reported Sosa was on the list of 104 players testing positive in 2003, I would have felt I had to vote for him even though he seemed as complicit as Bonds and McGwire. There has to be some standard of fairness, even if it allows a good cheat to beat the system.

Rather than reward some cheaters and sanction others, you can say — as ESPN’s Buster Olney does — players should be judged only by what they have done on the field. But I can’t get there in my thinking when voting rules cite “integrity, sportsmanship, character …”

Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the Hall’s board, needs to take some ownership of the issue. The BBWAA serves at the Hall’s discretion. There has been discussion at recent BBWAA meetings about seeking clarification from the Hall, but a vote asking for help was rejected in 2010. That doesn’t mean voters don’t need help; it means many aren’t humble enough to ask for it.

Jeff Idelson, president of the Hall, cites the BBWAA’s stance in explaining why the Hall hasn’t entered the discussion.

“The Hall of Fame has always been an open book with the BBWAA,” Idelson said. “Always willing to listen to the concerns the BBWAA has, always willing to discuss them. At this point in time, we have great faith in the organization to continue voting with the integrity it has since 1936.”

Trouble is, it’s not the voters’ integrity that is in question. It’s the perceived integrity of the candidates, and everyone has a different take on that. This is the last chance for the Hall to get in front of the argument, and there’s no indication it feels the need.

I usually don’t like to post this large of an excerpt, so my apologies to Mr. Rogers. But it was far too difficult to cherry pick a particular portion without coming off too slanted. Basically, I think Rogers nails it.

About the Author ()

I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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