Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Is the Hall of Fame broken?!

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.

Poor rationale

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.

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  • carpengui

    If limited to 10 names, I’d put in Tim Raines and remove Mike Mussina… for now… while including Alan Trammel and Edgar Martinez.

    I tend to agree with some that the 1994 strike year may have cost Crime Dog a place in Cooperstown.

    Meanwhile I would have trouble going with Bonds and Clemens because of the manner in which they handled themselves about their own dance w/steroids. I would not be an ‘exclusionist’ by any means, but these guys seem to have a particular ‘cachet’ about them to the point that I cannot ignore it… having them be held up as baseball icons in the Hall with that around them is the troubling part.

    But that’s exactly the problem here: essentially forcing people to make evidential findings based on (often intentionally) incomplete information. And that has now led us inevitably to guys like Gurnick who tortured logic and reason even within his own explanation.

    That said, I dunno how I can capably defend even what I just said here.

    • carpengui

      I’ve said this previously on the subject: Baseball should come up with a list – make the determination and tell the voters “this is it: these guys can be voted in regardless of your druthers on personal conduct or whatever, and these others guys are determined to be ineligible… for reasons we’ve determined.” Essentially force the vote to be made on on-field merits alone once THEY have eliminated the rule-breakers or murderers or whatever you wanna call it.

      That’s what was done for/to Pete Rose, so there’s a precedent, even. But that would take away the 300-odd standards being unequally applied by the voters today and introduce a single standard: the standard established by MLB.

      Maybe they could bring Bishop Desmond Tutu over and have a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ for steroiders. Admit all and be absolved.

      • Chris Headrick

        You know, I appreciate all these arguments. I’ve been making them for year, and now I just don’t hardly care anymore, because I’ve seen no clear evidence that anything’s changing anytime soon. I know who’s in my own HOF. Not saying we shouldn’t fight the good fight, but I cannot find motivation to write again about stuff I’ve written ad nauseum about, when changes never seem to occur for the better to fix what’s broken with the HOF system.

  • fireboss

    Just one quibble. Greenies didn’t enhance recovery from anything. They were/are stimulants that increase heart rate and in correct dosages enhance focus. They are a controlled substance because they are used to create street drugs like meth and variations of it. Until a few years ago you could buy an amphetamine over the counter; Sudafed. So yes they kept players hyped up but they didn’t necessarily enhance performance. While the right dose could increase focus too much can have the opposite effect and the after effect isn’t always fun either. The 50s and 60s heck up until they were banned by federal law the [playing field was essentially level, anyone could buy them and use them Steroids have always been a controlled substance and as such there was a black market for them. The average honest guy wouldn’t use them thus my problem with Bonds, Sosa, Tejada and Clemens.

    The esteemed writer in question was on Inside Pitch this afternoon and said he was turning in his vote after this year as he couldn’t reconcile his belief that 80% of players used with the fact that he believed Maddux, Glavine and others didn’t. Since essentially he couldn’t trust himself to make a choice he quit. He only voted to give Jack Morris his best effort one last time.
    For the record:
    Maddux, Glavine, Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza, Thomas, Raines, Morris,McGriff, Mussina and if I had room Schilling.

    • Lee Trocinski

      I still don’t understand Morris over Schilling. I also don’t understand McGriff over Walker, Edgar, or Trammell. I’ll just leave it at that, unless you really want to debate. I don’t want to be negative towards Morris and McGriff, but they don’t stack up compared to the others I mentioned.

    • Benjamin Chase

      Well, medical folks and trainers I’ve worked with would disagree with you on them not enhancing performance. Recovery from a light night of sleep is still enhancing recovery.

  • Matthew Jones

    Sadly, we probably will never see Bonds, Clemens, or Rose in the Hall of Fame because national writers are generally dumb. I’m not saying that they’re the best people in the world, but take what they did on the field only, and they should be in.

    As for Maddux, he, along with Seaver, Aaron, Ruth, Cobb, Ryan, et al. should have been unanimous HOFers. Just because there’s some unwritten rule that there can’t be unanimous players doesn’t mean it should stay there.

    • fireboss

      The widely accepted notion that Rose, Bonds Clemens et al are not in the Hall of Fame is incorrect. They have not been made members because of their rules violations or perceived violations but you can’t go through the Hall without seeing, hearing and reading about them . The whole “I want my grandchildren to know about these guys” argument is specious. The question is should they be members with a plaque on the wall that says they were deemed worthy of membership by the electors. The sportsmanship clause would certainly keep a PED user out because that is definitely a selfish, unsportsmanlike act designed for personal enrichment and aggrandizement.
      There are reasons for strategic non-voting for slam dunk 1st time HoF eligibles – Maddux will get in and I want to make sure Joe is on the ballot next year etc. – but those very reasons beg for a change in the voting process.

  • carpengui

    Since there is a guy out there who refuse to vote for more than 3 players because – I kid you not, I heard it with my own ears – he wants to keep the ceremony shorter and more special for those involved, then yes: it’s broken.

    That’s of course in addition to guys like Gurnick who refuses to vote for steroid era guys – and then voted for a steroid era guy in Jack Morris.

    Ian O’Conner thinks that Tom Glavine’s 305 wins are trumped by Curt Schilling’s 216 (since he ran out of space to add TG). Yes, W/L records are hardly everything, but that also tells you about how many mediocre seasons Schilling had vs. the ones Glavine didn’t have.