Another year, another batch of worthy players kept from the Hall of Fame.
As of January 3, according to Baseball Think Factory, only four players, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Craig Biggio, have appeared on 75 percent of publicly-released Hall of Fame ballots in one of the strongest classes in history. Approximately one-fifth of all ballots have been released.
Of all the projected Hall of Fame snubs, the one that hits closest to home among Mets fans is certainly Mike Piazza. For fans of both the Dodgers and Mets, he seems like a clearly-deserving candidate. However, some voters, almost 30 percent so far, have left Piazza off their ballots. A few voters have kept Piazza off their ballots based on merit, arguing that in a year where the ballot is full of all-time greats, Piazza wasn’t great enough. However, although there are some voters for whom being far and away the best hitter at a position just isn’t enough, most voters who have left Piazza out have done so because of steroid suspicion.
Of all the players on this year’s ballot, only one, Rafael Palmeiro, has ever officially failed a drug test (Sammy Sosa reportedly failed an anonymous drug test in 2003, but it was never officially confirmed by Major League Baseball) . Only one other player, Mark McGwire, has admitted to it. There are suspicions about others, but no one else has been proven guilty. Players like Piazza and Craig Biggio, each deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame, have been punished simply because they played in the same era as suspected cheaters. This is voting at its ugliest.
I have always thought that players who have cheated do not belong in the Hall of Fame. A few years ago, had I been given a vote, suspected players like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds would not have been on my ballot. However, Piazza’s situation over the past two years has changed my thinking. The attempts to keep cheaters out of the Hall, at the expense of clean players, has gotten way out of hand.
To punish steroid users, and mostly suspected ones at that, is hypocritical of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. It will be the first time players will be kept out of Cooperstown en masse based on the “integrity clause.” To keep steroid users out of the Hall would be to not acknowledge the racists, bigots, criminals, drunks, and drug abusers already enshrined. The writers will vote for players who have a well-documented history of those offenses, but if there is any suspicion of a player using steroids, they won’t get votes? That’s not right. Maybe those voters would have some ground to stand on if we knew for sure who cheated, but with players like Piazza and Biggio getting snubbed, they have lost me.
Ty Cobb once climbed into the stands to beat up a handicapped fan. It’s even rumored that he once beat a man to death with the handle of a pistol. Some Hall of Famers cheated on their wives. Others were viciously racist. Numerous players even admitted to using “greenies,” since banned by Major League Baseball, in their playing days. Gaylord Perry, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton and Whitey Ford, all Hall of Famers were notorious for throwing illegal spitballs.
As much as I’d like integrity and character to be a part of the voting process, it hasn’t been done for the 75 years the Hall of Fame has existed. If the Hall was started all over again, then I would understand the fight to keep cheaters out. But now, after decades of voting in cheaters and generally bad people, suddenly deciding to embark on a massive witch hunt that keeps players out because of back acne and hat sizes is completely unfair. The Hall of Fame doesn’t have to be perfect, just as its members aren’t.
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