Yesterday the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted not to elect a single player to the baseball Hall of Fame for only the second time in four decades. You know that by now. What you probably don’t know is that I for one am thrilled.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely players that were on the ballot yesterday that I’d enshrine in Cooperstown if it were up to me. Craig Biggio is one. Curt Schilling as another (surprise surprise). And yes, I’m solidly in the Dale Murphy should be in the Hall camp. If anything, this year’s ballot was filled with players that in my opinion are right on the brink of being good enough to get in. That said, there’s no doubt that the ballot was also filled with a number of players whose statistics would make them automatic first ballot Hall of Famers – and none of them came even close to getting voted in. And with that, ladies and gentlemen, justice was served.
So hear me out. First off, I know that “justice is served” is a bit of an odd statement when the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens haven’t technically been found guilty of steroid or PED use. This is America, innocent until proven guilty, right? While that’s true, I thought Curt Schilling made a fantastic point yesterday when he said, “I think, with a few exceptions, nobody knows [who used performance-enhancing drugs], so the whole lot of us are lumped in together. Nobody knows. We didn’t do anything about it. At the end of the day, we didn’t do anything about it. We knew about it. I think we all had an idea, a really strong suspicion, but we didn’t do anything about it. And we sat by, and we turned a blind eye, and I think this is one of the prices that we ended up paying.”
Everybody has their own opinions on who “used” and who didn’t, and in my opinion Schilling is one of the players who absolutely belongs in the Hall, didn’t use PEDs, and is not in the Hall because of the actions of his contemporaries who did use. But my point is not to convince you who used or who didn’t, who should be in or should be out. My point is that Schilling is right in his assertion that even the players who didn’t use are guilty to some extent by association – they didn’t step up, identify an issue within the game they love, and work to get it resolved. Now they are paying the consequences.
As for the growing camp of sports writers and fans whose general assertion is, “everybody did it, the best players of this generation deserve to be in the Hall,” well, I for one am disgusted by this point of view. Anyone who holds this perspective A) doesn’t love the game of baseball and B) is buying into some seriously flawed logic. Playing Major League Baseball is a privilege, not a right, and upholding the integrity of the game is part of that privilege. Because of the actions of a series of cheaters, an entire generation of baseball fans, my generation, does not have the heroes of the game that past generations had. There’s widespread disenchantment, and certainly a whole lot of bitterness. Yet you want to put these guys in the Hall of Fame and celebrate them, simply because “everyone was doing it?” Are you kidding me?
Let’s draw a parallel. I’m pretty sure the guys over at Enron broke the rules en route to running a fantastically successful business. Should we celebrate them as amazing business leaders? Not to mention enshrining them in a Hall where “character” is one of the defining criteria on which admission is granted. The guys over at Enron cheated, and their business would not have been as successful if they hadn’t. Even worse, they were far from the only business people making gains by sketchy means. So why should we celebrate any steroid user if we’re not going to celebrate the brilliance that went on over there at Enron?
The sad part is we all know that a Barry Bonds or a Roger Clemens type player never needed PEDs to get into the Hall. Any steroid user was greedy, selfish, and spat in the face of the game. And it’s worth mentioning that they all made millions of dollars more as a result of taking steroids. For all of their bitching and moaning about being locked out of the Hall, how many of those guys would give up their millions for a spot in Cooperstown? Don’t kid yourself – not a single one. These guys are babies that want it all and deserve nothing.
It’s deeply, deeply unfortunate that this will undoubtedly affect many players who did play the game the right way throughout their careers. It’s ridiculous that basically any barrel chested or stocky player, in particular, will have a much harder time ever getting elected. There’s two guys in particular who I’ll have my eyes on in upcoming years – Ken Griffey Jr and Greg Maddux (who I was happy to see Curt Schilling identified yesterday as the best pitcher in baseball history). I consider these guys to be the best pitcher and the best position player of my generation, yet both never went through any sort of body transformation nor were linked to steroids in any way. If these guys have trouble getting into the Hall on their first ballot, we’ll really know the extent to which PED users screwed over their peers who played the game the right way.
So while so many criticize the Baseball Writers’ of America, I for one applaud them for standing up for game.