The 2013 Hall of Fame ShamBy: Sean Pidgeon
The Hall voters made a statement. Cheaters don’t belong in the Hall of Fame with pitch scuffers Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford. Performance enhancers don’t belong in the Hall of Fame with amphetamine users Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Moral degenerates do not belong in the Hall of Fame with racists Cap Anson and Ty Cobb. And illegal drug users do not belong in the Hall of Fame with habitual Volstead Act breaker Babe Ruth. The Hall voters have a duty to protect the sanctity, integrity, and tradition of a game that banned black people until 1947 and treated its players as chattel until free agency hit in the 1970s.
Mind you, the scientific evidence is still out on how much steroids actually help a player. It’s not, as baseball writers would have it, that steroids work like spinach for Popeye, turning scrawny singles hitters into muscle bound homer men. The real reason baseball writers keep voting no on the Hall of Fame ballot is they don’t want these young whippersnappers taking away records set by heroes of the past, back when the current generation of grumpy baseball writers were boys worshipping the ground that Mickey Mantle stumbled drunkly upon. I’ll let Lawyers, Guns & Money blog contributor Scott Lemieux jump in, since he says it better than I could.
That’s the real issue here—players of the 90s were able to obtain records that properly belong to baby boomer icons. That’s primarily what the steroid freakout is about. It’s why moralistic rants about steroids fit so well alongside the umpteenth assertion that fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers were the only baseball fans that have ever mattered. This is why Willie May’s use of Illegal PEDs isn’t an issue and Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry’s cheating is cute, but the use of steroids should prevent arguably the greatest position player and pitcher ever from being elected to the Hall of Fame (although what Clemens and Bonds did, unlike Whitey Ford’s use of his wedding ring to scuff the ball and make it sing arias, wasn’t actually against the rules.)
Mike Piazza, one of my all time favorite Mets, and the greatest hitting catcher of all time, was kept out of the Hall. He never failed a drug test or was implicated in any reports. But he had back acne, which some say is a sign of steroid use, but is also something not uncommon for a hairy Italian man. Jeff Bagwell, one of the best five first basemen ever, never failed any tests either, but he has big muscles. Even Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, respectively the best player and pitcher born in the 20th century, were never suspended by Major League Baseball for any failed drug tests, despite all the stories and scandals thrown around, and there was not enough evidence to convict either in a court of law. For today’s baseball writers, it’s guilty until proven innocent.
Finally, it’s instructive to remember that Shoeless Joe Jackson, exonerated in a court of law, is banned from the Hall of Fame while Charles Comiskey, the White Sox owner who habitually paid Joe and his teammates below market value, is a Hall of Famer. And so is Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the commissioner who not only banned Shoeless Joe, but kept black players out of the Major Leagues, thereby personally diluting the talent pool, a much greater degradation of the “integrity, character, and sportsmanship” of baseball than any amount of scientifically indeterminate performance enhancement. Alas, sadly, the Hall of Fame is not for the players or fans, it’s for the rich plutocrat team owners and the courtier press that obsequiously bows to their every whim.