The Baseball Hall Of Fame is the most prestigious sports hall of fame out there. Because of that fact, it’s also the most discussed and scrutinized as well.
The Baseball Writers Association of America vote on the Hall of Fame, which leads to a lot of discussion. You’re asking people who watched and wrote about the game to vote for the game’s best players rather than the players themselves. You think it’s smart to be nice to the media?
The 2011 class was voted on recently and Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will be inducted later this summer. And while both men were well-deserving of the honor, who didn’t make it was nearly as newsworthy as who made it.
Baseball is in a very judgmental time.
In the late 90s to mid 2000s, many players started to look more like WWE wrestlers than actual baseball players. They were lifting heavy amounts of weight and training harder than ever before. People who understood what was going on whispered about the possibility of steroids (or more famously now called PEDs) being rampant in baseball locker rooms.
Because I have been a pro wrestling fan since I was a small child, I understood the steroids game. They’ve always been very accessible and have probably been in professional sports since the 1960s. While these players were getting bigger, faster, and stronger, baseball decided to turn its head and pretend like nothing odd was happening.
In 1994, there was no World Series. In 1995, fans didn’t come storming back to watch spoiled players and even more spoiled owners try to pretend like they didn’t just cancel “The Fall Classic”. But in 1998, fans did come storming back. And they came storming back because home runs were leaving the park at a record pace.
While Bud Selig will play naive, it’s hard for me to believe that he didn’t have people in each ear telling him of the possible ramifications of his players taking steroids. When the leader decides to do nothing about a possible drug crisis in baseball, you can imagine why the players weren’t so worried.
So what does all of that have to do with the current Hall Of Fame voting?
Well, the baseball writers are starting to keep guys out of the Hall based on nothing but heresay. The number one example this year is Jeff Bagwell. In his fifteen year career, Bagwell hit nearly 450 home runs and had a career OPS of .948. There are many players with lesser numbers in the Hall. It’s no crime that he didn’t necessarily get in on his first year of eligibility. The crime is in the percentage of writers who didn’t vote for him. The baseball writers are using their votes (or non-votes) as a message to players who played during the “steroid era”.
And that’s fine, if you have proof. If you don’t want to vote for Mark McGwire because of his steroid admissions, or for Barry Bonds when he eventually comes up because of all the evidence against him, I can buy that. But what about the guys who there is no proof for, except for the size of their arms?
Bagwell’s best year in his career was his NL MVP-winning 1994 season in which he slugged .750 and batted .368. It was also during a time when steroids were supposedly less prevalent than they would be. He didn’t have any insane Sammy Sosa like jumps in his yearly home run totals. When he wasn’t hurt, he generally hit between 30-45 home runs a year. So where does the steroid stench come from? If we’re solely going to pick on guys who come from a particular era and whose bodies grew, I think we’re headed down a terrible path.
To show that body size doesn’t always tell the entire story, allow me to introduce you to pro wrestler and MMA fighter Josh Barnett. Barnett has failed a steroid test three different times in his career, and he doesn’t have a Bondsian physique. He’s a large man, yet his genetic disposition doesn’t allow him to get jacked up like others, whose genetics are much better for putting on muscle and looking extremely cut. Or maybe he just doesn’t work as hard as others.
But, if you were to do the baseball writers’ test, he would be allowed in the Hall simply because he’s not as jacked as guys on steroids are supposed to look.
Or how about heavyweight boxer James Toney? The now bulbous Toney has failed two steroid tests in recent years. As you can tell, he doesn’t look anything like a big lumberjack like Mark McGwire does.
So if steroids don’t do the same thing to everyone, how can we judge who took them or not without proof or even any evidence. While Bagwell definitely played at a time when guys got bigger (including himself), he wasn’t on the panels or in any scandals that some of these other guys were.
So why did just 42% of baseball writers vote for him? To me, they’re judging players based on what they think, rather than what they know, and that’s counter to everything the Hall stands for. It’d be like voting for a player based on what his career could’ve been, rather than what it was.
These same writers were in the dark on steroids in the first place when it was happening, and now they have the power to change history because of what they think, rather than what they know. It’s a scary, scary thing, and it’s only going to get worse.
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