Here’s My Hall of Fame Suggestion: Take Steroid Era Out of Writers’ Hands

January 07, 2011 | Glenn Clark

What a wild week.

The Ravens are preparing for an AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

Maryland football introduced former UConn coach Randy Edsall as Ralph Friedgen’s replacement after a very public flirtation with former Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach.

The Orioles (very unfortunately and tragically) saw pitcher Alfredo Simon turn himself into police as the main suspect in a Dominican Republic murder. This of course overshadowed their signing of reliever Kevin Gregg.

On top of that, we’re in the middle of BCS football games, the Washington Capitals won the NHL Winter Classic last Saturday night, and the Terps get their first crack at Duke this season Sunday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In the sports media business, this is the type of week we love, as we spend much of the year looking for topics and storylines to write about and discuss.

Yet somehow this week, I’ve found myself captivated by the discussion surrounding the announcement of the 2011 induction class for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Much of my interest has to do with my personal affection for Roberto Alomar (the greatest Oriole I’ve been able to see play in my lifetime), but more of it has to do with my interest in the process itself.

nytimes
(Photo courtesy: New York Times)

Former Houston Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell was up for induction for the first time this year. As someone whose height of baseball fandom (I’ve never hidden from the fact that I’m no longer a “baseball guy” at this point in my life) coincided with the peak of Bagwell’s career, there was no doubt in my mind that Bagwell was deserving of induction to the Hall of Fame.

He didn’t have the “can’t miss” numbers (2,314 hits and 449 home runs); but he was clearly amongst the dominant players of his era at his position (four time All-Star, six times a Top 10 finisher in National League MVP voting).

I couldn’t imagine Jeff Bagwell NOT being considered a Hall of Famer.

Yet when Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voters made their decision, only 41.7% of them agreed with me; more than 30% less than the 75% needed for election.

Jeff Bagwell never tested positive for steroids and no positive link exists whatsoever. Yet the biggest reason Bagwell wasn’t elected remained…steroids.

Here’s what BBWAA voter Dan Graziano (who now writes for Fanhouse) said in his column explaining his decision to NOT vote for Bagwell…

“No, I didn’t vote for Jeff Bagwell for the Hall of Fame. Yes, it’s for the reason everybody loves to hate. I don’t know for sure that Bagwell took steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs to help him attain his Hall of Fame-caliber numbers. I don’t have evidence, like we do against Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. But I’m suspicious. And this year, that suspicion was enough to make me send back my ballot without the Bagwell box checked. I’d rather withhold the vote based on suspicion than vote the guy in only to find out later that he cheated and I shouldn’t have.

Graziano explained his decision in further detail Wednesday morning during an appearance with Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST.

“I’ve decided not to vote for the steroid guys” said Graziano. “Bagwell we don’t know. He’s not in the Mitchell Report, he hasn’t tested positive like (former Texas Rangers & Orioles slugger Rafael) Palmeiro did. But there’s enough suspicion on my part that I’m holding back. The suspicion in my mind overcomes his credentials for me as someone who doesn’t want to put cheaters in.

“If it turns out that I’m wrong and he was innocent then he has my apology” Graziano added. “There are people (like SI writer) Joe Posnanski and other high profile people that have written about the Hall of Fame that will tell you ‘I’d rather put in 100 cheaters than risk keeping one innocent guy out.’ I feel exactly the opposite. I’d rather risk keeping an innocent guy or two out than put in a single cheater. And if I find out five years from now, 10 years from now that there’s a guy in there I voted for that I shouldn’t have, that would be my bigger regret.”

That tells me just about everything I needed to know about how voting is going to go in the steroid era.

The BBWAA is going to punt.

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