Turning the Hall of Fame Election Into A Witch Hunt

An article by posted on January 7, 2013

This week, I’m expecting to reach my boiling point when it comes to the Hall of Fame and those who vote for it.

I’m expecting to see Mike Piazza fall shy of the necessary votes to enter the Hall of Fame, and in my mind – that is a crime against baseball and the fans that every writer who doesn’t vote for him should be ashamed of.

I’m not going to sugar coat this. I believe there is a very good chance that Mike Piazza took some sort of PED. Heck, I believe it’s harder to find players who did not ever touch it than finding players who did. However, those with any kind of real evidence have had plenty of time and opportunity to come forward.

If your view is that Mike Piazza is not good enough to be a 1st ballot Hall of Famer, I respect that. I disagree with it with every breath I have, but I respect it.

Since 1944, the Baseball Writers of America have been instructed to vote under the following guidelines.

“Voting will continue to be based upon the individual’s record, ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the game of Baseball. All candidates receiving votes on at least 75 percent of ballots cast will earn election.”

Individual Record, Ability and Contribution to the Game

Since we are looking first at Piazza being “good enough” let’s look at his individual record, ability and contribution to the game of baseball.

Mike Piazza played 16 years in the Major Leagues. During those 16 years, he was elected to the All-Star Game 14 times. He won 10 Silver Slugger Awards, and was a Top 5 MVP four times, and a Top 10 MVP 7 times.

Among Catchers, he has the most Silver Slugger Awards with Ivan Rodriguez behind him by 3. Since the creation of the Silver Slugger Award, only Barry Bonds has more hardware than Piazza with 12.

If you compare Piazza to catchers with at least 1,000 games played, he hit 38 more HR than any catcher in the history of sport, with Johnny Bench finishing 2nd. He is 4th all-time in RBI, 5th in batting average, 8th in OBP, 1st in SLG, 1st in OPS, and 1st in OPS+.

When looking into a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy, I believe a writer needs to take serious consideration into whether that player dominated his position while he played. Not only did Piazza dominate his position when he played, but he also is dominant when weighed against history.

There are many who will attempt to bring up Piazza’s defense to try and count it against him. A fact that cannot be ignored is that Piazza was not very good at throwing runners out. However, there is more to playing defense as a catcher than throwing a runner out.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you he was a great fielding catcher. I am going to tell you he called a great game, and was not as bad as people make him out to be. Certainly not bad enough to leave him out of the Hall of Fame.

Anybody who makes an argument that Piazza simply isn’t good enough for the Hall of Fame needs to either re-learn the game of baseball, or is totally lost.

So, I think without any doubt Piazza has cleared his individual record, ability and contribution to the game of baseball test.

Now let us take a look at the final 3 criteria.

Integrity, Sportsmanship, and Character

There are a few players that appear on the ballot who were implicated directly in the steroid era. One of those players is not Mike Piazza. The mere idea that back acne or a groin injury is enough to keep him out of the Hall of Fame honestly proves that writers are trying to create a story rather than report on one.

Do I think there is a chance that Mike Piazza took something? Yes. But I also believe that there has been enough time and investigation into the steroid era to suggest that if you do not have clear evidence by now, then your job is not to invent evidence.

Writers should vote on what they know, not what might be true.

The biggest hypocrisy to me is when writers vote Jeff Bagwell into the Hall of Fame but not Mike Piazza. According to our own Clayton Collier the following writers voted for Jeff Bagwell but did not cast their vote for Mike Piazza.

In terms of their ability based on their position, Mike Piazza did more in terms of the history of the sport than Bagwell did. So trying to claim Piazza wasn’t as good as Bagwell is honestly a waste of time.

The idea that there is so much evidence to keep Piazza out but not enough to do the same for Bagwell is laughable.

In the minor leagues, Jeff Bagwell hit 6 HR in 831 plate appearances. From 1991-1993, Bagwell had 1,956 big league plate appearances and hit a total of 53 HR. At age 26 (1994), he followed that up by hitting 39 in 479 plate appearances.

Bagwell was teammates with known steroid users such as Ken Caminiti, Karl Rhodes, Jason Grimsley and Pete Incaviglia. He was also teammates with suspected steroid users in Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez.

One of the biggest cases against a player like Barry Bonds was that he miraculously got much bigger later in age. Here is a photo of a 24 year old Jeff Bagwell, and here is a photo of Bagwell around the age of 32.

However, as time has gone on, Bagwell has never been implicated publically to steroids and for this reason I feel if you think he was good enough, he should be a Hall of Famer.

So if the evidence to make a guess on Bagwell isn’t good enough for writers like Adam Rubin, then why on earth should they hold Piazza back due to acne?

How about Piazza’s character and sportsmanship?

Well, he was given the chance to prove he lacked sportsmanship when Roger Clemens on a national stage threw a broken bat in his direction. There are hundreds of players that would have attacked Clemens in a heartbeat. Piazza did not start the brawl that so many others would have.

Piazza’s character was never questioned during his entire playing career. He handled the media with ease, and was a professional at all times.

Hall of Fame Witch Hunt

The writers who choose to not vote Mike Piazza into the Hall of Fame based on suspicion that has not been proven true are taking their privilege to vote and using it to put an even darker stain on the steroid era.

It has been five years since the Mitchell Report was made public, and still there’s never been a credible document written that implicates Mike Piazza. Anybody with such information could have greatly profited from it had they come out prior to Piazza’s initial Hall of Fame eligibility.

There are 21 years of Mike Piazza’s life that should dictate whether or not he is a Hall of Famer. During the first 16 he has the resume, and in the 5 years following his playing career there hasn’t been a single piece of credible evidence linking him to steroid usage.

The steroid era is a black eye on the game, but it’s a black eye we all willingly played a role in to some degree.

The Hall of Fame is the greatest honor a player can ever be bestowed, and to turn the election into a witch hunt rather than an election based on the criteria dictated by the Hall of Fame is disgraceful.

Fair and balanced team coverage. We give it to you straight!

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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