With a wink and a nod, the proprietors of the baseball Hall of Fame have created a path to the shrine for individuals who cheated the game and were dismissed by the writers who elect new members each year.
Home run king Barry Bonds (unless you’re old fashioned and still consider Hank Aaron’s 755 homers to be the record) and 300-game winner Roger Clemens probably won’t get into the Hall when this year’s voting results are announced later this month. But their chances are substantially better than they were, thanks to a little tinkering by the Hall’s Board of Directors.
It’s a simple formula. If you don’t like the vote results, change the voters. And if that doesn’t work, why just elect the man who was in charge of the game at the height of the steroid epidemic.
More than 100 veteran writers lost their ballot rights a couple of years ago because they were no longer active. The theory was these old guys, away from the game for 10 years or more, have lost touch. Not this old guy. I watch baseball religiously. I know about Mike Trout and Jon Lester. I know about Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw. I suspect I watch more games than most of the directors. Nevertheless, they decided, my opinion no longer mattered.
I was a Hall of Fame voter for 39 years. I considered that privilege a sacred trust. I took it seriously. I never threw away a ballot like some others I know did. I never submitted a blank ballot to monkey with the percentages like some other voters I know did. I never gave a ballot to somebody else to fill out like some other voters I know did.
For my trouble, I got bounced. The Hall wanted a younger electorate, maybe an electorate that would be more sympathetic to the misdemeanors committed by some candidates. If that’s the case, they made the right decision to get rid of me because I don’t forgive monkeying with the integrity of this game.
Bonds and Clemens both were charged with perjury for lying about their drug use. There is a clause in the instructions to Hall of Fame voters about integrity, sportsmanship and character. That would seem to create some serious contradiction in their candidacy. Their low ballot totals would seem to indicate that the voters were concerned with those issues. And now, they have even more reason to vote for those characters after the Hall’s 16-person “Today’s Game’’ committee which considers non-players, swept former commissioner Bud Selig into the Hall last month. Selig’s main contributions to baseball were canceling the 1994 World Series because of the player strike and dreaming up the scheme to award home field advantage in the World Series to the league that won the All-Star Game.
And, oh yes, he was the chief steward of the game during the steroid era, when baseball was littered with players using performance enhancing drugs.
Now if the Hall could admit the commissioner under whose watch all the drug shenanigans were going on, well then why not admit the perpetrators of the shenanigans? That would seem to make perfect sense to some of the forgive-and-forget younger voters. So you can expect Bonds and Clemens to gain ground on the 75 percent approval needed for election.
That’s not to say that the Hall of Fame gets everything wrong. At the same time that Selig was elected, the Hall announced that Claire Smith would become the first woman honored in the writers wing at Cooperstown as winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. She is a most deserving inductee, a prominent baseball writer in Hartford, Philadelphia and New York who now works for ESPN.
Smith was chosen by a vote of all the baseball writers. I still have a ballot in that election.