Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Holier Than Thou

I've already gone on record as expressing my displeasure with the Baseball Hall of Fame. When I visited last Summer, there was a shamefully small representation of the New York Mets, or anything relatively related to them on display there. My feeling, at the time, was that, "Well, Mike Piazza ought to get elected next year, so maybe that will give the Mets a little more presence."

I see, unfortunately, that I was mistaken.

I realize that the Hall of Fame itself doesn't really control who is or is not elected, it's a consortium of mostly cranky old Baseball Writers who seem to have an incredible desire to erase an entire era of Baseball from the records. They've already spoken, with recent years' balloting, by continually keeping Mark McGwire out of the Hall of Fame, and today, they spoke the loudest. On this year's Hall of Fame Ballot were Baseball's All Time Home Run King, a 7-time Cy Young Award Winner, a 3,000 hit man, and the Greatest offensive Catcher of All Time. Save for the 3,000 hit man, all of them fell under the suspicion, or proof, of having used PEDs at one point or another. None of them were elected to the Hall of Fame.

Being in New York, a lot of the reaction, both before and after the results were announced, focused on Mike Piazza. I'll spare the thoughts on Barry Bonds, since he's got enough people talking about him, and Roger Clemens, because fuck him. Craig Biggio, honorable though his 3,000 hits may be, didn't necessarily have the panache of a first ballot Hall of Famer. But Piazza seems to have caused the most controversy. Though he certainly looks the part of a steroid user, there's never been that smoking gun specifically implicating that he did use, outside of a brief passage in Jeff Pearlman's book on Roger Clemens (the groin injury he had in 2003 is also indicative of steroid use, but that's not proof). Regardless of that, both hosts and callers on WFAN, as well as posters on Facebook seemed so adamant that Piazza got screwed over that I was surprised.

I had a bit of a sneaking suspicion that, though there's no proof of guilt, Piazza would simply be considered guilty by association as a muscle-bound slugger from the 90s and 00s, but that ultimately, the BBWAA would have to recognize his achievements, along with those of Bonds and Fuckhead. That didn't happen and that's a shame. After hearing enough pro-Piazza rhetoric, I began to realize what was really going on here. It wasn't so much that Piazza got screwed. Everyone got screwed. The same talk is probably going on over Bonds in San Francisco, and Biggio in Houston. Nobody likes Clemens, so screw him. Ultimately, it's a problem with the system. There needs to be a better way of deciding who's in and who's not in the Hall of Fame, because the BBWAA have proven themselves far too morally stilted to make an accurate decision. The Veterans Committee was reformed some time ago, and the committee to elect players on the ballot should be reformed as well. I don't believe any living Hall of Famers have any kind of say. Why don't they? Why don't broadcasters, who follow the game on a daily basis, have a say?

The other thing that bothers me about all this is the whole issue of morality. I read these quotes from people who do get to vote that say things like [sic] "How can I vote for Mark McGwire and look my child in the eye?" I've made the argument over Pete Rose and I'll restate it here. It is called the Hall of Fame for a reason. It's not the Hall of Morals, or the Hall of Good Behavior, or the Hall of Clean Living. It's the Hall of FAME. That means that the best players who have ever played the game must be recognized and honored there, personality be damned. Babe Ruth was soused his entire career and he's the greatest hero Baseball has ever seen. Ty Cobb was a virulent racist who used to slide into bases with his spikes up. The Hall of Fame is dotted with all sorts of players with unsavory personalities or players with questionable behavior. But they were still deemed the best of the era they played in. The Steroid era, like it or not, is a part of Baseball History, and the players that were the best, though they were doping, have to be held to the same standard. These players were simply taking advantage of the fact that the great Commissioner and all the Owners willingly turned a blind eye to what was going on and only instituted a steroid testing policy once everything was far too out of control. Why should they be blamed now? Why should they be blamed at all when nobody will ever know for sure who did or didn't use steroids (short of the results of the Mitchell report and the 2003 testing)? It's not as though cheating is somehow a new invention, either. Players have always been looking for a way to get an edge, somehow. As the world advanced, so did the methods of cheating. What makes a steroid user any worse than someone using Greenies or corking his bat?

The point is, this has become far too subjective and, basically, hypocritical. It's no different than, say, the All Star Game Balloting. Just one big popularity contest. I suppose I was simply deluding myself into thinking otherwise, and that maybe we'd be toasting the career of Mike Piazza across all of Metville tonight. At least his bat is there. For now, that appears to be as close as he's going to get.

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