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Baseball Hall of Fame Controversy

Updated on January 13, 2014

The Problem

Pete Rose has the most hits in the history of Major League Baseball. Barry Bonds has the most home runs in the history of the game of baseball. Greg Maddux was not a unanimous choice to join the Hall of Fame. No player ever, has been a unanimous choice to join the Hall of Fame. Just under 600 ballots are cast each year and yet never have they all shared one common name. The voters are only allowed 10 votes per ballot per year, and a candidate must receive 75% of the vote to be elected into the Hall of Fame. A candidate also needs to receive at least five percent of the vote to remain on the ballot for up to fifteen years. In some cases voters from the BBWAA ( Baseball Writers Association of America) have been known to only vote for a candidate facing elimination from the ballot. Five voters last year refused to put anyone on their ballot in protest to PED (performance enhancing drugs) linked players being put on the ballot at all. This year Los Angeles Dodgers beat writer Ken Gurnick will vote only for Jack Morris, as he refuses to vote for any player who played during the "steroid era". Well let me be the first person to thank Mr. Gurnick for his wonderful objectivity towards the era of baseball during which I grew up. I'm sure Major League Baseball fans are rejoicing that Mr. Gurnick is treating his hall of fame vote like a supreme court gavel as he sits on high and lays blanket judgement on an entire generation of players. I support every voter's right to vote with their conscience, however simply stating that he will not vote for any player of the steroid era is like someone stating that they will not vote for any politicians because some are corrupt. In another extreme example Miami based sportswriter Dan Le Batard allowed the readers of website Deadspin.com to vote for the ten players he would put on his official ballot. Le Batard has since been banned for life from voting in future Hall of Fame elections by Major League Baseball, and has also been suspended from the BBWAA for one year. Le Batard cited the "hypocrisy" of the voting process in his reasons given for going to such extremes with his voting platform. If nothing else Le Batard has at least brought a spotlight to the voting process which has left at least this author shaking his head. Adding to the madness each of the following players received at least one vote in 2014: Kenny Rogers, Jacque Jones, Armando Benitez and J.T. Snow. Who? Jacque Jones? Quick do a google search, I'll wait. Exactly a guy who played ten seasons with the Twins, Tigers, Marlins, Cubs, and Blue Jays as a career .277 hitter with 165 home runs (and no he was not a speed guy with 82 career steals). Really? And they are taking away Dan Le Batard's vote? Since all votes are not made public we may never know who decided to grace this group of mega stars with Hall of Fame votes. I can look past Ken Gurnick's stuffy judgemental ballot, forgive Le Batard his indiscretion in light of his purpose, but knowing that even one esteemed baseball writer thinks Armando Benitez deserves Hall of Fame consideration, confirms my suspicions that this vote has some serious flaws.

Barry Bonds may be the best player ever, but his association with steroids will likely keep him out of the MLB Hall of Fame
Barry Bonds may be the best player ever, but his association with steroids will likely keep him out of the MLB Hall of Fame | Source

The Steroid Era

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are considered to be the eight players under the highest suspicions of ped use. Biggio, Bagwell and Piazza are under the least amount of suspicion and still look like likely to eventually garner the needed 75 % of the vote to get in. But considering Piazza is hands down the best hitting catcher to ever play, Biggio is a member of the vaunted 3,000 hit club, and Bagwells numbers are a virtual dead heat with newly elected member Frank Thomas; its hard to think any other reason would keep these men out of baseball's most hallowed sanctuary. The other five on this list; Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, McGwire, and Sosa have had their alleged ped use made a much more public spectacle, and should the current voting trend continue they will never gain entrance into the Hall. This picture looks more like a group of single guys who can't get into the upscale night club on a busy night, a group only expected to grow when fellow pariahs Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez are eligible. Boston slugger and World Series hero David Ortiz has a had his name linked to ped use, but one has to think he has built up enough good will to sneak past the bouncers. We think of his endearing nickname "Big Papi", and his Boston Strong quote of 2013 "This is our bleeping city", long before we remember that his name was leaked in the 2004 trial tests as a positive test. So maybe its about just how public your potential steroid use was, or maybe its about how well you got along with the media during your career. But somehow there is a gray area when it comes to putting these players into the Hall of Fame. A murky water sure to only grow murkier as time continues to judge an era, incidentally the era of my youth.

7 time Cy Young Award Winner Roger Clemens
7 time Cy Young Award Winner Roger Clemens | Source

The Damned Lineup

Here's a lineup of Hall of Fame rejects (and predictable future rejects) that I would throw up against anything those enshrined could put together (positions be damned in some cases)

1. Pete Rose (3B)

2. Craig Biggio (2B)

3. Barry Bonds (LF)

4. Mark McGwire (DH)

5. Alex Rodriguez (SS)

6. Sammy Sosa (CF)

7. Rafael Palmeiro (1B)

8. Manny Ramirez (RF)

9. Mike Piazza (C)

10. Roger Clemens (P)

Mickey Mantle won 7 World Series with the Yankees
Mickey Mantle won 7 World Series with the Yankees | Source

The Enshrined Lineup

Ok fantasy matchup time, here is my lineup of the enshrined

1. Willie Mays (CF)

2. Mickey Mantle (LF)

3. Babe Ruth (1B)

4. Hank Aaron (DH)

5. Ted Williams (RF)

6. Mike Schmidt (3B)

7. Yogi Berra (C)

8. Cal Ripken Jr (SS)

9. Rogers Hornsby (2B)

10. Walter Johnson (P)


Would you vote for Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens?

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The Inaugural Induction Class into Cooperstown
The Inaugural Induction Class into Cooperstown | Source

Baseball Hall of Fame's Biggest Problem

Big Mac Mark McGwire blasted 70 homeruns in the unforgettable home run race of 1998.  Yet he will probably never see the Hall of Fame due to his connections with steroids.
Big Mac Mark McGwire blasted 70 homeruns in the unforgettable home run race of 1998. Yet he will probably never see the Hall of Fame due to his connections with steroids. | Source

Solution Oriented

A problem has been established. Where there are problems there must be solutions. I'm not sure there is one concrete solution to fix all of the woes in the voting process, but perhaps there are a few possibilities worth considering.

1. Remove the 10 candidate limit. If someone is a Hall of Famer they should not be held back from enshrinement beacase they are the 11th best Hall of Famer that year. ESPN's Tim Kurkjian felt like 17 players on the 2014 ballot were worthy of his vote but he was forced to choose ten. Many voters are compelled to vote for players facing elimination from the ballot as well, and therefore vote for that player, see Jack Morris 2014, rather than a player they may have felt was more deserving.

2. Increase the vote percentage needed to stay on the ballot. If a player needs a campaign to get elected they are probably not a Hall of Famer anyway. Don Mattingly and Sammy Sosa garnered less than ten percent of the vote and yet they remain eligible. Why, are they really going to get 65% more of the vote in their remaining years eligible? Even players like Larry Walker and Mark McGwire have to be questioned as they barely notched over the ten percent barrier. Perhaps we owe these players the honor of even being considered. And while
I am encouraging opening up the amount of votes, I still wish for the Hall of Fame to maintain its integrity as a place for only the greatest to ever play.

3. Decrease the length of time a player can remain eligible. Currently a player can remain on the ballot for 15 years if they receive at least five percent of the vote every year. Limit this time period to ten years, if you can't get the requisite amount of votes by then you are probably not a Hall of Famer. Maybe even introduce a graduated percentage scale on year ten, where as if a player gets over 60% of the vote in said year he can get one extra year of eligibility.

4. Allow members of the Hall of Fame to vote. Who would know recognize greatness better than those who have attained it? Shouldn't the guys who battled with and against their fellow players be able to have some say in who joins them in the Hall of Fame? Admittedly this could add to the problem rather than correct it, as agendas of teammates could skew voting, but many of the current voters are beat writers of specific teams and thus more likely to vote for the guys they covered daily. It seems unlikely to me that Todd Helton will gain enshrinement when he becomes eligible, however I would bet my last dollar that current Hall of Fame voter Tracy Ringolsby who works on the Colorado Rockies broadcasts, will give Helton the nod. Fellow players just offer a different point of view on the game and its players, than do the writers, and it is not inconceivable that their voice be heard.

5. Decrease the amount of voters overall. I never said all of these solutions should be implemented together, as number five goes directly against number four. However all solutions are worthy of consideration. Perhaps votes should be limited to a select number of writers and former players who have proved their objectivity in the game. Maybe knowing that their vote will have a stronger weight will prevent voters from leaving off players like Greg Maddux. Fewer personal agendas could mean a clearer path to enshrinement and rejection.

6. Design a voting criteria that is clear and to be heeded by all voters. In the current system voters make up their own criteria for those eligible and the gray area amongst voters has never been grayer. Perhaps whether or not to vote for alleged ped users should be a unanimous decision rather than a personal credo. Players would be judged only by their numbers on the field of play in this solution. Take away perceived personality flaws, alleged cheating, and off field incidents and leave it to raw data. Once enshrined it can be said yes this player was a cheater, malcontent, gambler, etc., however he was one of the greatest players to ever play therefore he is a Hall of Famer.

7. Make the votes public after the election. Be a man put your name on your vote. Make your self open to questions from other media and fans to explain why you decided to vote for Richie Sexson in 2014, or why you left Greg Maddux off of your ballot. Despite my disdain for Ken Gurnick's voting guidelines, at least he is willing to stand by his convictions and make his vote known to the public.

There is no perfect solution that will appease everyone in and around baseball. Fans will always feel betrayed when their favorite players are denied access to immortality. Perhaps the system is as good as it can be considering the spotted past of the game and its participants. Let it be said however that at least one fan would like to see changes made for the better. Maybe the legacy of the greats that don't get in falls on the fathers of the next generation to pass along their stories. The burden my generation will have to carry is that of a complete era of amazing players who may never see their due in Cooperstown. My son at least will know the truth, and the true greats of the game will be remembered despite their flaws, misdeeds, or lack of support. Baseball is a game of fathers and sons, and no vote can ever change that.

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    • APooch profile image

      APooch 3 years ago

      The system is b.s. and must be fixed asap.

    • profile image

      Jimmy Winkelman 3 years ago

      No PED user should get in. NO MATTER what they did on the field. They cheated, end of story. There is absolutely no reason that someone that cheated should be allowed in the Hall of Fame.

      Any number of statistic that occurred during their playing career should be wiped off the books.

      Cheaters shouldn't be rewarded, it's as simple as that. They should be kicked out of the game and disassociated with it.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      I know people are passionate about the PED issue. But other than McGwire, Sosa and Palmiero (the only one who tested positive we know of), all those tainted players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. There was no testing. Bonds and Clemens were already Hall of Famers prior to 2000, when they started juicing. You can't keep a player out for rumors about PEDs (i.e. Piazza). I make the same argument all the time: didn't Mantle and Ruth (and others) cheat the game by partying and eating badly? Didn't their performance suffer and cheated the fans of good play on that particular day?

      And Rose should be in as well. Just don't give him a job in Baseball.

      Voted up. Great article.

    • profile image

      yourlocallawnboy 3 years ago

      PED make baseball fun to watch. I like no hitters, I like 3 run homers. Let them juice.

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