Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Have No Proof But I Still Think You’re Guilty!

On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced the three inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 2014: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas. All three men are well deserving of their place in the hall and I congratulate each one of them. However, this year further demonstrated the flaws that exist in the election process. With the exception of the years during the Hall’s inception, there has never been such a long list of candidates that deserve enshrinement in Cooperstown, New York. Because of the process currently in place, the misdeeds of many in the game in the past twenty years, and the idea that emotion outweighs talent in the minds of voters, there are many candidates that will either have to wait for a few years or will simply never see their bust of bronze.

The process has become a game of finger pointing and accusation. Evidence is no longer a factor in determining whether someone committed a crime against the character of the game. In fact, in some instances, outstanding talent and performance has hurt the chances of a few while steady performances year over year has proven an obstacle for at least one candidate still on the waiting list. For me, as someone who grew up watching man of the players now coming on the ballot, it is a shame that I will not be able to celebrate the talent that I spent so many years watching on the field.

I grew up watching and playing baseball. I never really demonstrated any talent for the game beyond a strong arm but I still enjoyed the spring and summer games. It was also one of the few sports, and still is, that I can watch on television that will hold my interest. This may be an oddity to some but my mind is constantly working, pitch by pitch, play by play, whenever a game is filling the pixels on the screen. Many of those players I watched for so many years are, most likely, never going to stand on that stage with some of the all-time greats of the game.

The problem with the assumptions, accusations, and general stubbornness of the voters is the fact that they see this tainted era as being something that is finite. We will never be able to determine the beginning or the end of the steroid/PED era and if you think you can you are wrong. While, undoubtedly, performance enhancers were more prevalent during certain years but so were greenies and cocaine during other time periods.

Heck, no one accused Roger Maris of having an unfair advantage for smoking like a chimney in 1961 in order to calm his nerves. In general, no one really knows if players received any benefit from tobacco use over the years. Granted, it did not make them bigger, stronger, or faster but maybe it helped some relax or focus. To those who respond with the fact that most players used tobacco my response is simple… exactly.

Players should be evaluated for their performance on the field in competition against their peers. Barring any illegal activity or evidence that they have broken written rules, all players should be based on performance. Even if it seems likely that they used something (i.e. Bonds and Clemens) we can’t exclude based on something that wouldn’t hold up in court. And, more importantly, we can’t put roadblocks in front of players who played in the same era where no evidence has ever been found of any wrongdoing (i.e. Piazza, Biggio, Bagwell, Walker, and numerous others). The BBWAA are an emotional bunch to the point that they have allowed there disappointment of a few during an era to cloud their judgment of the truly talented men who played the game during that time.

Something needs to change. Objectivity needs to find its way back into the process. And, while I don’t agree with how Deadspin went about it, the fans should have some say, maybe just a single symbolic ballot cast for the other voters to see ahead of time, in the process. Now that the voters have seen the ballot the fans have cast, thank to Dan Le Batard, maybe they will finally listen. However, based on the overreaction of the BBWAA, I seriously doubt it and it looks as though a generation of great players, some of the greatest of all time, will languish on the ballot finally giving way to the similarly temperamental and flawed veteran’s committee.