This Tuesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce their selections for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2013.
That is, if there are any selections for the Class of 2013.
Oh, OK. the legendary trio of umpire Hank O’Day, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th Century catcher Deacon “My Hands are Killing Me” White are already slated for induction, courtesy some committee whose job it is to induct people who made such an indelible impact on the game it took them 80 years to get in.
But the more modern (ie glove-wearing) era of baseball has a chance of getting shut out in 2013. I’m sure the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce won’t be too delighted to only have Messrs O’Day, Ruppert and White’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren visiting for the induction ceremony, but the BBWAA takes its gate-keeping responsibilities seriously.
I mean, this aint football, you know.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will induct anybody. Well, anybody who didn’t play that 1/3 of the game known as special teams, at least. But if your facemask consisted of more than a single bar and your body didn’t quit on you in less than, oh, seven years, chances are you or your children or your children’s children will be going to visit your bust in Canton some day.
But that’s not the Baseball Hall of Fame. The BBWAA will only allow the best of the best in there, with the occasional exception made for a Yankee who rode in on Mickey Mantle’s coat tails. These Cooperstown bouncers are so selective that even the guys they saw play sometimes don’t make it until their only means of entry is through an Iowa corn field.
Well, they’re in a tight spot now, and based on the amount of ink spilled on “Why I didn’t vote for Mr. X for the Hall of Fame” articles in the last week, it only seems to be elevating their own sense of self-importance.
The ballot is now being infiltrated by players from baseball’s so-called “Steroid Era,” loosely defined as Brady Anderson to Roger Clemens.
It was an era of egregiously inflated offensive production, committed against pitchers who, by the writers’ logic, relied on pharmacists who weren’t as cutting edge as the hitters’ pharmacists.
Many of the writers have deemed themselves qualified to determine who did and who did not dabble in the clear and the cream, who took Jose Canseco’s advice and who didn’t, whose back acne was the result of illegal chemicals and whose was the result of bad genetics.
It is, shockingly, an inexact science. A writer looks at a Tony Gwynn, sees the mirror image of his own physique, and decides there’s no way that guy could have hit .394 on anything but Big Macs. The same writer looks at Jeff Bagwell’s bulging forearms and decides there’s no way that guy could have hit 449 home runs while playing more than half of his career in The Astrodome on spinach alone.
Bagwell, Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza were among the two dozen first-timers on this year’s ballot. So were Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio and a number of others who, for a variety of arbitrary reasons, don’t have the same clouds of suspicion surrounding their candidacy.
All of this conjecture means the “probably did nots” such as Schilling and Biggio and holdovers such as Jack Morris and Tim Raines stand a better chance of getting in this year and as long as the “probably dids” keep flooding the market, which is ludicrous.
The genie is out of the bottle now, literally. Despite regular testing (the reliability of which is shaky, as Ryan Braun would point out), steroids still haven’t been eradicated from baseball. Testing for human growth hormone is on the horizon, but its trustworthiness won’t be known for some time. Even if, by some miracle, those are completely eliminated, labs are already developing, and for all we know, athletes are already taking, performance enhancing drugs that professional leagues don’t even know exist yet, let alone know how to detect.
And yet we still allow baseball writers, many of whom looked the other way when rampant steroid use was going on right under their noses, choose who will be immortalized.
It’s time to shake things up. Keep the writers involved, but include others in the selection process, ex-players, front office personnel, scouts, managers and coaches. Yes, they have their biases, but so do the writers.
Want to keep the users out of Cooperstown? Then you need to have as many people who were close to the game as possible to help identify them.
Willing to acknowledge PEDs are and always will be part of the sport and just want to separate the ones who needed the help from the truly talented? Sorry, veteran scribe, but the ones who truly know the game aren’t just writing about it.
Willing to deny some of the most deserving based on hearsay, unrealistic standards, compromised testing procedures, and personal vendettas? Keep doing what you’re doing boys.
After all, this ain’t football.