Like it or not, ballot loaded with Hall of Famers
OK, dear readers. Go to your keyboards and compose your vicious e-mails. The inbox has been cleaned out, and I’m ready for ya.
I’m voting for Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds and a whole bunch of other Steroids Era ballplayers for the Hall of Fame when my ballot arrives in the mail in a few days.
By all standards except the highly controversial one being adopted by so many of my fellow voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, 2013 should be -- and is, in my opinion -- the most Cooperstown-worthy ballot since 1999 and perhaps the best in decades.
The Cooperstown Class of 1999 found Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount being elected in their first year of eligibility. That ballot was so rich in talent, Carlton Fisk, who deserved to be elected with that trio on his first try, had to wait another year to be inducted.
This ballot is just as good, and maybe even better, with Bonds, Clemens, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa, among others, as first-year candidates along with holdovers like Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro.
But if recent voting results provide any clue, it’s likely not one of them will be elected in this or any other year of his 15-year eligibility for the Hall of Fame as McCarthyism is running rampant among the voters. Instead of the Red Scare, baseball has the PED Scare.
Whether or not these candidates actually used performance enhancing drugs is immaterial to a substantial bloc of voters; they’re all tainted, every single one of them, and therefore to be shunned. Not even the fact that Clemens fought the PED charges against him in a court of law and was acquitted is likely to save his candidacy.
In previous elections, McGwire, who has since admitted using PEDs, has never garnered as much as 24% of the vote when 75% is needed for election. Palmeiro, who denied in front of Congress that he ever used them, was subsequently suspended by MLB for testing positive after steroids were banned and has barely garnered enough votes to stay on the ballot.
Bagwell, on the other hand, who, to the best of my knowledge, has never been connected to PEDs, is being punished along with the others and is now in his third year on the ballot, having gotten just 56-percent of the vote last year.
While not everyone who played in the Steroids Era is guilty, and the voters know it, many of them fear their own reputations will suffer if they elect someone who is later discovered to have used PEDs. But this is America, where you’re innocent until proven guilty, and you don’t prejudge.
Even if they’re all guilty, exactly what are they guilty of? They weren’t breaking any baseball rules until 2005. They weren’t breaking any laws. The playing field was relatively even as both hitters and pitchers were juicing.
Baseball was slow to ban these substances because home runs were putting fannies in the seats in record numbers after many fans swore off baseball following the 1994-95 lockout. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa saved baseball with their dramatic pursuit of Roger Maris’ home run record in 1998 as certainly as slugger Babe Ruth had saved baseball after the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.
MLB wanted this, MLB needed this, so it turned a willful blind eye to steroids. And we, the voters and the public, are supposed to punish the players for acting out the script MLB helped them write? In some way the players are the victims here, too.
I submit that if we, the voters, are to don white robes during this 21st Century Inquisition and cite the ballot’s instruction to take into account a candidate’s "integrity, sportsmanship, (and) character" as the reason to deny these players entry into the Hall of Fame, then we need to go back and toss out a few dozen players who are already enshrined.
Let’s throw out Babe Ruth because he broke the law of the land by drinking alcohol during Prohibition, and Ty Cobb for being, by all accounts, a despicable human being. Throw out all the Hall of Famers who swallowed amphetamines like candy during the ‘60s and ‘70s, or might have used cocaine in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Why limit this purge to possible users of PEDs?
It’s a witch hunt, and this voter isn’t joining it. I can’t reveal everyone for whom I’m voting because I don’t have my ballot yet, and since I’ll be voting for the maximum 10 players after voting for just five last year, I’m going to have to leave a player or two off the 2013 ballot I would ordinarily have voted for.
But Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were already Hall of Famers before they became tainted by steroids, and, guilty or not, they both will be getting my vote.
Follow Chaz Scoggins on Twitter.com/ChazScog.
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