Earlier this week, Barry Larkin became the newest member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Garnering support from 86 percent of voters, Larkin made quite the jump from the 52 percent he received in his first year on the ballot in 2010.
And yet, the story for many is the impending class of 2013.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa headline the most notable list of nominees who have absolutely no shot of being inducted into Cooperstown in the foreseeable future. All three have numbers that should warrant first-ballot inductions, yet all will fall short. Hence the asterisk I added to Hall of Fame.
I’m not here to say that the baseball community should turn a blind eye to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. With the Ryan Braun issue still painfully relevant, it’s clear that the problem, while much less rampant, is still just that: a problem.
But to completely shun all of those who are not just directly related to Performance Enhancing Drug’s (PEDs), but any player who even played in the steroid era that isn’t named Derek Jeter, is flat-out wrong.
If voting trends continue as they have, would you really be comfortable with a Hall of Fame that did not include Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro or Alex Rodriguez? Or, in other terms, the all-time home run king, the best pitcher of his generation, the owner of three of baseball’s eight 60-home run seasons, one of only four players with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs and the next possible home run king?
The best way I’ve heard this conundrum explained was by ESPN’s Bill Simmons. When you look at the Hall of Fame for what it really is, it is simply a museum. In a museum, you should be able to walk in, observe all of the exhibits it has to offer and leave knowing the entire history (a very broad version of that history, but still) of that subject.
Would a museum without the best players of a generation really do that?
I understand it is an honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of the thousands and thousands of players who have donned a Major League Baseball uniform, such a staggeringly small percentage of them will be immortalized in Cooperstown. The sense of honor in that achievement cannot be denied.
However, wouldn’t that honor be tarnished because the best players aren’t there? If voters continue to rule with an iron fist in terms of steroid era players, there’s only two ways it will unfold: there will either be an awkward gap between pre and post-steroid era players (which would diminish the respectability of the Hall), or they’ll have to start inducting lesser-quality players who weren’t connected, or as connected, to steroids (which would diminish the respectability of the Hall).
The thing these voters don’t understand is that in many ways, inducting PED users could almost be more shameful than neglecting them. Let’s say the Hall of Fame made a rule that the first sentence on a PED user’s plaque was something stating the player’s transgressions; do you really think those players would be proud of that?
Would Bonds or Clemens really want to give his induction speech next to a plaque that says he cheated?
You can say all you want about steroid users sullying the name of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But, if we’re really prepared to keep these players out of Cooperstown, all we’ll be left with is a Hall of Fame*.