So, we saw Fred’s discussion of the Hall of Fame yesterday, and now I’ll add a bit to it. Enjoy this as you won’t get to hear me rant very often!
Earlier this year, Chipper Jones predicted that Greg Maddux, as deserving a Hall of Famer as anyone under 40ish has ever seen play in person, would not be elected unanimously because, in Chipper’s words, “Some dumb [bleep] will probably leave him off the ballot because no one has been a unanimous pick.” Well, Chipper, you’re right, kind of.
Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) is a beat writer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has stated that he will not elect anyone from the steroid era. He then submitted likely the most idiotic of all ballots in this current environment – one with only Jack Morris on it. Don’t get me wrong – Jack Morris deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, just not in the player’s section. His game 7 performance against the Braves is one of the more iconic pitching performances in all of baseball history and should be memorialized. However, Morris is not even one of the top 15 for me on the current ballot, let alone the sole recipient of a vote.
First, Gurnick’s rationale is screwed up. He says he’s not voting any steroid era players in, and then he conveniently neglects the use of anabolics in the late 80s/early 90s that began the rush to better/cleaner drugs in the mid- to late-90s that constitute what we currently call “steroids” (any powerlifter or bodybuilder would tell you that there are different categories, but that would require research and knowledge from guys like Gurnick, and they don’t seem interested in such work toward credibility). Morris’ biggest moments of his career (which is all his candidacy is based on showing up as a solid pitcher in exactly half of his four postseason runs, presenting a career postseason ERA of 3.80, basically equal with his middling 3.90 ERA comprised mostly in an era where it was a poor ERA to say the least) were facing guys who were part of the big drug issue of the 1980s and guys who were part of the big anabolic steroid issue of the early 1990s.
Second, to not vote in a hitter during the era is reprehensible enough, but to not vote in arguably the most dominant pitcher in that era who never once would have even a consideration of touching a performance enhancing drug while putting up some of the greatest pitching numbers in the history of the game? Well, that’s just being intentionally obtuse, and in my opinion where the system is broken.
Are writers to blame?
From the 1940s to the 1980s, Major League Baseball was plagued by PEDs. These PEDs were called amphetamines, or “greenies’ in their era. The all time greats like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and even Braves legend Hank Aaron have all admitted to using greenies in their playing days. These enhanced recovery, allowing players to play when they really physically should not have been able to, much like the in-season effects of modern PEDs. Modern PEDs do most of their “muscle growth” effect in the offseason when the body can have time for cardiovascular recovery, something nearly impossible to do during a 162-game schedule. That’s another post for another day, however.
Writers in the 1940s didn’t write about the drugs in the locker room. Writers in the late 1970s to early 1980s didn’t write about illegal narcotic drug use. Writers in the late 1980s until the late 1990s didn’t discuss steroid/PED use. The reason? Well, many, but the main reasons as explained by a number of writers who are no longer in the club house were 1) they didn’t want to lose access/trust in the locker room, and 2) the public didn’t care. After 1998, the public noted the drastic muscle builds of many players and began to demand investigation into the steroid issue. Many writers have admitted to seeing the drugs taken right in front of them and never reporting it. Now those same writers want to turn around and decline to vote for the same guys they protected throughout that era in order to save face. That’s not only hypocritical, but it’s revisionist history. Would those same writers vote down Mickey Mantle if his name was put up for election again based on the admissions of how he lived in his era and used drugs, legal and not so much, to help him play every day?
Unbreaking the process
The major issue in the voting process is guys who still carry a vote and haven’t covered baseball full-time or even part-time in over a decade. Basically once you have a vote, it takes an awful lot to remove that vote from you. Those writers are using their vote as a platform for readership and attention rather than for the good of the game, because anyone writing for the good of the game would put one Mr. Maddux into the Hall of Fame.
Okay, now a little fun
So ranting aside, I’d like to present my ballot, and you can all rip me for it!
1. Greg Maddux – In the discussion for the greatest right handed pitcher in all of history, easy selection.
2. Barry Bonds – If he retired in 1995 because of tragic injury, he’d be a HOF guy easy. The PED stuff is there, but the numbers are simply overwhelming.
3. Roger Clemens – See Bonds. IF he used, he was still the best of the best in an era of guys using.
4. Frank Thomas – Never a rumor of PED use, yet the guy just flat out hit.
5. Jeff Bagwell – High for a lot of people, but his all around skills were simply amazing before injury ended his career with a lot of gas in the tank.
6. Mike Piazza – Arguably the best hitting catcher of all time. Battled rumors about his PED use and sexuality throughout his career that undermined his brilliance at the plate.
7. Craig Biggio – Simply loved watching the guy play the game. Hard to knock against anyone who can play long enough and produce enough to get to 3,000 hits.
8. Tom Glavine – Won’t be seen as strongly as some because of his image as “second fiddle” in his career, but he was tremendous throughout.
9. Mike Mussina – Another guy who was undervalued in Baltimore, and then never the big name guy in New York, but his numbers speak for themselves.
10. Fred McGriff – I put him on over a few other guys that I would definitely vote for as well (I have 15 guys I’d vote in on the current ballot), but I mention him because he is viewed so negatively in many circles. His career reminds me much of Hank Aaron’s. He was in the top end of excellence for a very prolonged run, but he was never that top guy, so many conveniently forget just how good he was.