Baseball Strikes Out On Hall of Fame Voting
Added by Matt Kardos on January 10, 2013.
Baseball has long been regarded as a blue collar game constructed on a firm foundation of morals, integrity, respect and honor. Dubbed as “America’s Pastime;” baseball is a tradition that has historic long running roots that date back well over one hundred years. To recognize the greatest figures to ever lace up a pair of cleats and grace the diamond, we enshrine them into a very exclusive fraternity in a grand cathedral that is the Hall of Fame.
For a few years now; fans, players, analysts and alumni of the game have long anticipated the star-studded cast of Hall of Fame eligible players that would be up for election in 2013. A class that includes the all-time home run leader, perhaps the greatest pitcher to ever play the game, the most prolific offensive catcher in history and a player with over 3000 hits. When the dust settled and the smoke was cleared the BWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) casted their ballots and in the end they deemed that none of them were worthy of being enshrined in Cooperstown with the rest of the games most immortal figures.
As much as baseball would love to run away from the steroid era and pretend it never happened, the sad reality is that it is the very reason baseball has grown to the popularity it has reached over the last decade. After a work stoppage and strike in the mid-90’s, baseball was left for dead and effectively placed on life support. Then, like Superman out of the sky, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa duked it out in 1998 for the single-season home run title. It was a race that not only rewrote the history books but it captivated a nation into frenzy.
Mark McGwire was a poster boy for the the steroid era in baseball and essential to the rebrith of baseball relevancy. Photo by Rusty Kennedy/Associated Press
Home runs draw attention; fans gravitate to the ball park to see players hit long balls and McGwire and Sosa did that better than any player had ever done up to that point. As owners were cashing in and filling their wallets, baseball began to regain legitimacy in the court of public opinion while its players were attaining accolades in the most illegitimate ways imaginable. McGwire and Sosa essentially pulled baseball from the depths of despair and thrust it back into being the most relevant sport in the country.
We can go ahead and stroll down the baseball timeline and chronicle every riddled baseball milestone from Barry Bonds utter domination in breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record to the Roger Clemens strikeout rate rising with his age; it all comes with the same underlying theme. We all know the stories behind these players and how they took performance enhancing drugs to reach the games most celebrated milestones. As a good portion of those records were attained artificially, they were rewarded with multi-million dollar contracts that have financially stabilized them for the rest of their lives. True, you cannot take away that money, and you can’t simply hit rewind and record right over the things we saw them do on the baseball field. However, the one thing you can do is strip them of immortality.
For the last decade these guys; namely Bonds, McGwire and Clemens have had no repercussions or ramifications for placing the games competitive integrity into nothing more than a big murky question mark. All that is left now is to not reward them with perhaps the greatest honor that can be bestowed on a player by inducting them into the Hall of Fame.
Where the controversy lies in this year’s Hall of Fame decision is the players who have no documented or reported record or connection to steroid use at all. Mike Piazza is a prime example of what the Hall of Fame voting system has become and worse yet, what may become the precedent in future elections. Piazza, whose 396 home runs are more than any other catcher in baseball history, would almost certainly appear to fit the qualifications and prototypical description of a first ballot Hall of Famer caliber player.
As a 62ndround draft selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers, a majority of baseball expected Piazza’s career to amount to very little. Being a power hitter in this decade and having suffered various injuries throughout his illustrious career that could be deemed as steroid caused, Piazza has unfairly been placed in the same light as Bonds and McGwire. Even though there has been not a single report, positive test or testimony connecting Piazza to steroids, the proof is in the pudding based on the latest BWAA voting that many voters believe or at least strongly suspect he is in that very same class of taint.
Mike Piazza has the most home runs as a catcher in baseball history yet was shunned from the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.
Craig Biggio was a gold glove winner at two positions and played at a very high level as a catcher, second baseman and outfielder throughout his career while collecting the typical 3000-hit Hall of Fame benchmark. Historically, 500 home runs, 3000 hits and 300 wins for a pitcher are automatic triggers to catapult a player into Cooperstown. Biggio, like Piazza, has never once been linked to steroids in any matter what so ever. Both players were staples of National League baseball in the 90’s and are two of the most well respected and celebrated players amongst their peers to ever play the game. Both fallen victim to a game of guilt by association in being denied admission to the Hall of Fame when the only thing that they are guilty of is playing baseball in an era where cheating and deception was running rampant. Much like Commissioner Bud Selig and the Players Association turned a blind eye to steroids in the 90’s, the BWAA has acted in the same manner towards players like Piazza and Biggio.
Voters have no easy task in determining who is worthy enough for enshrinement into such an elite club, but their job as voters is not to deem who played the game organically and who used steroids to assist in that trek. I feel in voting for such a prestigious honor, you have to be noble enough to use the mantra of “innocent until proven guilty.” Without any kind of proof you can honestly place any power hitter from this era in question, but that wouldn’t be fair. Is this now going to become what we see every year? How will voters treat power hitters from this generation moving forward? Steroids have walloped this game with enough of a black eye to very much question its competitive honor, the last thing it needs is for shame to be stricken to names that do not warrant the very same doubt. One thing that is for certain, the credibility of the Hall of Fame may now forever be spoiled just as the records it is built upon have seemingly become.