The Hall of Fame inductees get announced today. Nobody cares what I think, but I’ll set forth my view anyway. It aligns pretty well the thinking of Joe Posnanski, a writer I admire. I find particularly well thought out his view on PEDs, which is set out in this post on his blog.
In my mind, this whole PED obsession needs to go away. The players who are being punished may deserve some destain, but not as much as they are receiving. And, as a former criminal defense lawyer, I’d like to have more evidence about how wide spread the use was, how good the testing was, and how reliable the testing was before we tar guys with the PED brush. I’m not sure we can get that, so I think we need to move on. I saw a clip recently where Bud Selig says he takes responsibility for the growth of PEDs during his tenure. That’s all fine and good, but what responsibility has he taken? What punishment has he received? None that I can see. In fact, he has been and will be handsomely rewarded for his service as commissioner. Is Selig willing to say he can never be elected to the Hall of Fame (not that I think he would ever deserve this honor) because of his complicity in the PED era? That would be taking responsibility. Is Selig willing to give back a big chunk of his pension as punishment? That would be taking responsibility. Did he step down as commissioner when the extent of the steroid use was exposed? That would have been taking responsibility. Words are fine, but actions are better.
That’s a problem today. People in the public eye say they take responsibility for things they’ve done but it doesn’t mean anything for the most part because they don’t really suffer any consequences (apart from the politicians who get caught up in sex scandals, that often seems to be a career ender). They don’t step down, they don’t give up money, they don’t change their ways, they just spout the words -“I take responsibility” and it means nothing because there is no consequence. They just spout words.
What is it the sportswriters and fans want from Bonds and Clemens et al.? Words? What will be the consequence of those words? Forgiveness? If you say you took PEDs will the BBWA forgive and rethink their stance on voting for or against those players? Is that really what a sportswriter on the BBWA will do? I don’t know. I tend to doubt it. And really, what is the point in admitting something we already know? To make us all feel better that the truth has been spoken? That there was a PED era in baseball and 70 home run seasons don’t really mean much? That for players in that era statistics are just different? We know that, why do we need the mea culpa? Move on, vote for PED era players with that knowledge in mind. We all know the score to some extent, let’s not pretend that until an admission comes things can’t change. It’s a mindset that we need to move on from for the players of the past were the products of their time as well – minorities were excluded in different eras, there were changes in the game that altered different periods (offensive era of early 1920s to early 1930s, the lowering of mound, expansion, and the advent of the DH), and there was not an insignificant use of amphetamines and other drugs at different times.
In the end, all you can do is compare players within eras. Who were the best in their era? Who did you have to see? Until we can equivocally say Joe took PEDS and Fred did not, I don’t see how the BBWA can make these judgments. He looks bigger so he must have? He had an outlier season so he must have? This is just too hard and too unfair. Give the players their due in their era. That’s all you can do.
Here is my ten person ballot for the Hall of Fame:
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Randy Johnson
4. Pedro Martinez
5. Craig Biggio
6. Mike Piazza
7. Tim Raines
8. Alan Trammell (only this year and next left for him on the ballot)
9. Gary Sheffield
10. Mike Mussina
I left Smotlz off because I don’t think he’s better than Mussina or Schilling. I’d vote for both of those guys in the future though. Let’s hope four guys get on so we can clear some space from the ballot.
*I had to update my list. I earlier put Randy Johnson on twice and left Craig Biggio off.