Whether a player tested positive (like Palmeiro did), whether a player was named in the Mitchell Report (like former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds or Cy Young Award winners Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte), or even if a player simply had the “look” of a steroids user (like Bagwell); the BBWAA is going to punt.
Players are going to be left out both fairly and unfairly. More significantly (as Nestor Aparicio pointed out in a conversation Wednesday on “The Morning Reaction”), the Hall of Fame will not include some of the greatest players in the history of the game.
Moreover, the list of Hall of Famers will not accurately be able to tell “the story of baseball” for those who are unable to visit Cooperstown and see the museum itself.
If this trend continues (and the voting thus far says it will), not only will Palmeiro (and his 500 home run/3,000 hit career) be left out; but all-time home run kings like Bonds, McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and more will find themselves on the outside looking in.
In other words, baseball’s record books will not be reflected by the plaques found in Cooperstown.
(There’s also the whole issue of the game’s all-time greatest hitter Pete Rose, but we’ll leave that alone for now.)
Voters are particularly guarded when it comes to this issue due to the Hall of Fame’s “character clause.” As Posnanski recently wrote, voters are sent this message in the letter than comes with their ballot…
“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.”
For a voter, it makes it particularly easy to think “if someone might have been involved with steroids, I just can’t vote for them.”
In an interview Thursday on “The Morning Reaction”, Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson told Forrester he stood be the character clause.
“The Hall of Fame is the celebratory part of the game. It’s where baseball’s best players, managers, umpires and executives are. It gives the voters a tremendous amount of leeway to take a look at their statistics; were they excellent over time?”
“But we’ve also had since the early 1940’s a character clause” added Idelson. “As it relates to the game on the field, and that factors into the equation, and it’s up to the voters how much that factors in.”
Since 2008 (McGwire’s first year of eligibility), we’ve found out that it factors in to the extent that players can’t get in-whether or not there is firm evidence of using steroids.
I’ll say this much…when it comes to the “steroid era” (I’ll say 1988-2009 because the very good resource website “BaseballsSteroidEra.com” paints that picture); I work under the assumption that more players probably DID use Performance Enhancing Drugs than we even know to this point.
But it doesn’t change my opinion that if the Baseball Hall of Fame is going to be an accurate portrayal of the game’s greatest players, players from the Steroid Era will HAVE to be included, whether or not they used.
When Alomar and Bert Blyleven are inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer, they won’t be alone. Former Baltimore Orioles (and more notably Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies) GM Pat Gillick will be inducted as well, based on election by baseball’s “Expansion Era Committee.”
Here is the explanation of the vote from the Hall of Fame’s press release announcing Gillick’s election…
“Gillick was the lone candidate to garner the necessary 75% of votes cast by the 16-member Expansion Era Committee, which considered a ballot of eight former players, three executives and one manager whose contributions to the game were most significant from 1973 through the present. The Expansion Era Committee held meetings on Sunday in Orlando, site of the baseball winter meetings.”
The Expansion Era Committee isn’t the only committee that will meet to re-consider baseball people who weren’t initially elected. From the same press release…
“In 2011, the Golden Era Committee will meet for the first time to consider managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players whose most impactful contributions came between 1947 and 1972. In 2012, the Pre-Integration Era Committee will consider candidates whose main career contributions came from 1871-1946. Committees will continue to meet at the Winter Meetings.”