The voting process for the baseball Hall of Fame is quietly one of the most archaic processes in sports. For such a hallowed piece of the game, the way that its entrants are decided is a less than perfect system. Once voters earn their ballot, they get to keep it for life, even long after the game has passed them by. The result are holdovers who are out of tune and rooted deep in stupid voting principles like “well if Babe Ruth didn’t get in on his first ballot, then nobody should!” That makes me want to set myself on fire.
No players will be entering the Hall of Fame this year. Despite having a ballot that could, as a lineup, beat any ballot in the past 30 years, the voters decided against admission for the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, and Jeff Bagwell just to name a few.
Guys like Bonds and Clemens, without getting too deep into it, were bound to be fringe guys. I, for one, have a hard time understanding how guys who had no issue voting to give them MVP’s and Cy Youngs can come right back and high horse everyone about their character flaws and how they cheated the game. It’s an unfair standard to pretend it was acceptable a decade ago but now condemn them for their alleged steroid use. Oh and, as the vote went, Clemens received six more votes than Bonds. The only reason that either of them would have been kept out is because of PED allegations, so how would one get more than the other? Guys voted for Clemens but not Bonds? On what grounds?
The most troubling part of the result were guys like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza falling short on the vote. These are two guys who, by their numbers, should be in the Hall of Fame. Mike Piazza will go down as the greatest offensive catcher to ever play the game. Jeff Bagwell was consistently one of the best power hitting first basemen in the National League for over a decade. Neither of these guys has ever been connected to steroids, ever failed a drug test, or ever showed up on any government reports or affidavits. And, while there were bound to be rumors about these two being on steroids during the time (and there are, it’s just part of the era), nothing has ever been proven. Holding them out of the Hall of Fame because one thinks that Mike Piazza miiiiiight have done steroids, without any grounds for an argument to stand, is McCarthyism — another way of saying complete bullshit.
I had the privilege to visit the Hall of Fame with my Dad for Tony Gwynn’s induction and, as a fan, it’s hallowed ground. The building echoes with decades of timeless moments in the games history — it’s an unbelievable place. I think to a time in the future, say 20 years from now, when I might be going to the Hall of Fame with my son. We’ll be walking through the halls, down the lines of busts of the titans of the game, and there will be guys who are missing. Where’s Jeff Bagwell? Why isn’t Mike Piazza enshrined? These guys didn’t cheat. These guys didn’t do anything wrong. These guys are legends of the game who have been victimized by a group of writers with an agenda to push on an era of baseball. An agenda that cannot wipe the history of the era and will only hurt the history that they try so hard to preserve.
Piazza, Bagwell, Bonds, and Clemens may never get in. The bottom line is this; they played in an era where steroids were widely acknowledged and used by hundreds of players. These guys were the best players of their generation and they shouldn’t be shown the door by a bunch of writers who drooled over their every homer while they still played. The job of the Hall of Fame is to maintain the game’s history, not destroy it. Pretending that these unbelievable careers never happened would do just that.