Archives For Baseball Hall of Fame

One time in 3rd grade I got caught chewing gum in class. Chewing gum was against the rules. So, I was mortified as to the possible outcome of my indictment — the teacher telling my parents.

My teacher approached me, leaned over, and whispered, “Just don’t put it under the desk.”

… I was elated. I didn’t get in trouble. All I had to do was throw it away in the trash can. It was the single biggest relief of my, now seemingly, pathetic childhood. I, along with the rest of my classmates, chewed gum in class that entire year.

Then came 4th grade, and the end of my gum-chewing days. In fact, on the first day of school, the teacher sent me to the principal’s office… for chewing gum?!?

What defines a “rule”?

Is a rule some lofty ideology transcribed in some rarely read book?

OR

Is a rule dependent upon the application of that lofty, rarely read, ideology?

I would argue that, in realistic application, a rule is only as good as its enforcement. It seems to be human nature to push the limits if they benefit us in some way. Thus, we, as a society, often seek to find those limits in the currently “grey area” of all aspects of life. Including sports. And including baseball.

Why do the steroid era players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

Because they were the best of the best, in their era, operating under that era’s “rules.”

At the height of steroid era, players were hitting 50, 60, and even 70 home runs a season. And as a Nike commercial infamously pointed out, “Chicks dig the long ball.”

Power hitting was good for baseball. At least, it was good for the sale of baseball as a product to the general public. Fans wanted to see home runs, so baseball wanted to deliver them. When players began amassing abnormal amounts of muscle in a short amount of time, baseball didn’t investigate them. Conversely, the MLB turned a blind eye.

So, what did players begin to do? They juiced up. And, why wouldn’t they? Pitchers were facing stronger hitters, and hitters were facing harder throwing, quicker recovering, pitchers. Ball players had to do it to keep up with the rest of the league. They did it to stay competitive or to become more competitive. In the end, they did it to help their team win.

Along with winning comes accolades, records, and money, which made winning even more enjoyable. And, subsequently, made steroids more inevitable.

But, what if baseball had strict regulations, tough testing policies, and extreme punishments for those who were caught using performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”)?

Then none of the great players would have used them. Every time Bonds, Clemens, etc. shot up, they did a balancing test in their head. Did the benefits outweigh the costs? Yes- they absolutely did. Baseball was eating up their dominating performances. They were being immortalized, getting huge contracts, and breaking records. And, what if they didn’t? Their thought process must have considered the guys who did take PEDs and those players’ chances of over taking their current status in baseball if they didn’t use PEDs.

So, if baseball had stricter regulations, tougher testing policies, and extreme punishments for those who were caught using PEDs, players would have weighed the benefits and costs and determined that it simply wasn’t worth it. Why risk using PEDs if, hypothetically, the consequences were to be suspended an entire year and have an entire career of work and accomplishments erased for a tail end chase at glory?

Players would have been discouraged from using PEDs so that they would not hurt their teams, themselves, or their legacies.

BUT there weren’t strict regulations, tough testing policies, and extreme punishments for those who were caught using PEDs.

I know. And that is why a majority of the blame for these great players using PEDs should be on the league. Players, who had excelled their whole lives in baseball and were natural die-hard competitors, were going to do everything in their power to be the best they could be, within the “rules” of the game.

If it had been one or two players caught using PEDs, then they wouldn’t deserve the hall of fame, but since it was hundreds of players, those using PEDs were not given an edge, but merely staying with the pack.

It was an even playing field, in which the great players were great.

We judge players relative to the generation they played in. No one voting on the basketball hall of fame is going to compare LeBron James to Bob Cousy. We compare players’ accomplishments relative to the players of their time period. It’s a simple fact that athletes have become bigger, faster, and stronger than sixty years ago, and if LeBron had played in the 50’s, he may have averaged 50 points and 30 rebounds a game… or more. But he doesn’t get to play against the players of the 50’s, and by the same token, Cousy doesn’t have to play against the players of today.

Applying the same logic, baseball’s hall of famers didn’t have to play in an era when everyone was using steroids — and getting away with it. If they had played “clean,” then they may not have even had the careers that they had in their own eras.

*And as a side note, I simply don’t buy the “innocent until proven guilty” arguments. The media attention was on the great players that had allegations against them stemming from different investigations, but they were far from the only ones. It’s logical to assume that some players were using them simply to take themselves from bad to mediocre to prolong their careers. It’s called the “steroid era” and not the “steroid incident” for a reason.

Today, no player was voted into the baseball hall of fame, and it’s a shame.

Eventually, I hope that changes. There are several guys who deserve to be in. And do not misunderstand me, I do not approve of the use of PEDs and in no way condone of their use in baseball. I simply believe they were great players who worked within the boundaries the MLB had established to become some of the greatest players of all time, and these players shouldn’t be punished for being products of their environments.

If anyone should be blamed for baseball’s black eye known as the “steroid era,” it’s the owners and the league. Their application, or lack thereof, a “rule” evolved over time, and these great players, and their denial into the hall of fame, are the casualties of this unfair evolution.

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By: Tyler Raborn

Hall Pass

Vance McCullough —  Wednesday, January 9, 2013 — 5 Comments

As members of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (“BBWAA”) have casted their ballots, we are filled with questions on 2013’s Cooperstown crowning moment.

We could be in store for a surprise as no player could receive the required 75% of the vote (it has happened eight times in the past), or we could see a couple of ballplayers elected in the Hall of Fame this year.

But, there are many questions that one must ask themselves when looking at a hall of fame player:

How do we define greatness? Is it in the number of championships a player has to his name? Is it a career-leading statistic that etches him alongside the greats in the historic books? Is it his consistency as year-to-year All Star and fan favorite?

What if it was all these things? What if it was some combination? …or none of them at all?

What if these heroes we saw were steroid or PED users? What if they had the highest ERA (earned run average) of any player in the hall? What if some considered them a cheater? What if others considered them a hero?

How will we define greatness of those with achievements and asterisks?

These are the questions that baseball writers, historians, and fans are asking themselves on this very day. These questions will not go away, and we may never get the answer we feel is correct, but the show must go on. The ballots are filled out, the votes are in, and the results only hours away.

The voters – who are they?

To gain a vote to induct a player into baseball’s hall, you must be or have been an active member of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years. Once a writer receives a Hall of Fame vote, he or she is eligible to vote for life. An elector will vote for no more than ten eligible candidates, with no write-in votes allowed.

Decision day is upon us. It is time for the public to see who will be immortalized in baseball’s rich history. Though the question remains, how will these electors cast their ballots?

The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce their 2013 induction class, and this year’s candidates have been the most ballyhooed bunch of all time. Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, Palmeiro, Sosa – most top candidates are associated with the juiced era and accused of using.

While others are not regarded as Cooperstown class, see Jack Morris.

To qualify for the Hall players must have played in 10 major league seasons, and the career must have ended five years prior to election. To be voted in, a player must achieve 75% of the vote to become a member of the Hall of Fame.

This is going to be the ongoing debate for years to come – what will the Hall of Fame do with the Steroid Era?

My opinion – it hurts, but it happened. People need to realize there are multiple layers to this story: the users in the game, the League, the Players Union. Everyone shares a responsibility in what is going on in the sport and we simply can’t ignore this time period of the MLB’s history. This era happened, and we must wear it like a boxer wears a black eye after a fight. To tell the history of baseball you cannot omit this storied time period because it was nearly universal, and the full story must be archived in the museum of baseball – Cooperstown.

Isn’t this the nation that loves comeback stories, going from wrong to right, and embraces forgiveness? Isn’t this the story of baseball today? Can we forgive those who did wrong against the game and themselves?

Baseball is the game that has transitioned with this country. It had Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, and others serve in world wars, a drug era in the 80’s, gambling issues, court hearings, and now a steroid/PED scandal haunting all who care about the sport they know and love.

And, it seems, this great game of baseball is about to make another transition.  Some will embrace it, and others will be disappointed in the new direction. I don’t know if it will be done today, but I believe the best of the steroid era players will get elected someday – even the accused.

We are all left sitting, waiting, watching for the decision to be final. During these times, where no one knows what is about to come, we all seem as frightened as we are excited about the Hall of Fame’s future.

I know this – I do not have a vote, and I wouldn’t welcome the headache. I love this game and wish it the best, but how do we truly define what the best is for its future?

At 2 PM EST today, January 9th, 2013, the BBWAA decides what is best.

I do know this: I stand for the game of baseball, but the clearness of what is fair or foul has become harder to recognize.

What say you, the sports fan, the baseball fanatic, the opinionated? Who deserves to get in?

Why or why not include those mentioned or unmentioned from the Mitchell Report movement?

Cast your vote in the Comments – let people know how you would vote – because a man’s word still counts for something and we all want to know!

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By: Vance McCullough