I'd like to congratulate the latest class of Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame inductees. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are all worthy choices. My issue is more about who wasn't voted in by what is partially a sanctimonious and self-righteous group of voters who seem to make it up as they go along. Although the careers of many players were partially or totally played in the unofficial "steroid era", many voters who are included among those that can cast ballots can seemingly differentiate between those that enhanced their performances through chemical means and those that didn't.
So while voters keep Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza out, they voted this year's class in, even though all played and excelled in virtually the same time period. While I'm a proponent for Pete Rose's inclusion as a player in the Hall, at least he's off the ballot due to Major League Baseball's decision to ban him from the game because of his admitted gambling on baseball while he was a manager with the Cincinnati Reds, thus excluding him from HOF consideration. But there has been no such determination on any of the steroid era players eligible for the Hall, and they are on the ballot. My issue is that the voters are making their own determination for Hall worthiness outside of the player's performance on the field, which specifically in the cases of Bonds and Clemens were unquestionably worthy of Hall of Fame inclusion long before they decided, if what is alleged is in fact true, to enhance their numbers and lengthen their careers through the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
The most distressing aspect of this controversy is that Major League Baseball did nothing, at least throughout the nineties, to take the chemicals out of the game. If anything, they exacerbated and encouraged their use by highly publicizing the exploits of players like Mark McGwuire and Sammy Sosa in order to recover from the 1995 - 96 strike that wiped out an entire playoff and fall classic in 1995. What was Barry Bonds supposed to do, just sit back and watch players with far less talent surpass him by utilizing substances that at the time weren't even against the rules of the sport? And how are we to be so sure that John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Craig Biggio weren't using some type of drug or other supplement that assisted them in competing with the others that probably were? I'm in no way accusing anyone, just trying to make a point.
Yesterday on "The Herd" program on ESPN radio, host Colin Cowherd made and belabored the point that even though they may think they know, there is no way for any of the voters to know with certainty who did or didn't use some type of performance enhancing drugs. This is especially true because there were no mandatory tests conducted and no recourse under the collective bargaining agreement for baseball to implement any such process. My stance is that for these voters to unilaterally keep out worthy players is not really their role. If Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame think they're worthy of inclusion, then the decision to vote or not to vote for someone should be based on performance on the field. I also totally disagree with the voters that won't vote for a player in their first year of eligibility. What kind of logic dictates that school of thought? They're already required to be retired for five years before becoming eligible for inclusion. What right does a voter have to amend the rules for their own purpose? How is it possible for me to maintain any respect for the voting process and the BBWAA when over 5% of them didn't vote for Willie Mays in his first year of eligibility? Really? Willie Mays? How could someone not vote for Willie Mays for the Hall of Fame? What if another 20% had thought like that? Willie Mays would not have been elected on his first try.
And while we're on the subject, what makes the voters so much better than those they're voting on that gives them the status or right to judge anything beyond on the filed worthiness? What if I told these writers that I think they're career stunk because I heard they had some marital issues, or that they were seen having a few too many beers in the hotel bar? Is that relevant to their writing skill and ability to entertain, amuse or inform me? Not in the least.
I hope that as we get distanced a little from the issue, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will get their day in the Hall, because to leave them out diminishes the very purpose of the place to begin with. Many will argue that they diminished the game with their alleged steroid use. I would maintain that Major League Baseball did a pretty good job of that itself without the assistance of Bonds, Clemens and any number of other players suspected of steroid use in the nineties.