Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

2013 Baseball HoF Travesty: No One Voted into the Hall by Writers

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Today, the results for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voting were announced.

No one got in.

That’s right.  Out of ten or twelve really good candidates, including 3,000 hit club members Craig Biggio and Rafael Palmeiro, seven-time MVP and all-time home run king Barry Bonds, seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, excellent shortstop Alan Trammell and even more excellent closer Lee Smith, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA for short) refused to elect a single person.

This is an utter travesty.

Biggio was the closest to the 75 percent threshold, as he got 68.2 percent of the vote.  And while it’s wrong to deny men like Biggio, Trammell and Smith the Hall of Fame when they were never accused of taking steroids, it’s much more wrong to deny Bonds and Clemens, who never failed a drug test and have more or less been exonerated in court.

Look.  Barry Bonds was a divisive personality, but he is the best hitter the game has ever seen, bar none.  In his prime he was a five-tool player who could run, hit, hit with power, steal bases and play excellent defense.  He won seven Most Valuable Player awards from writers who despised him, but felt compelled to vote for him anyway due to his amazing stats.

Bonds only received 36.2 percent of the vote on the BBWAA ballot.

San Francisco Giants President Larry Baer thinks this is wrong.  In a blog post from the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Henry Schulman, Baer is quoted as saying:

This was the decision. It’s difficult. There have been complications in determining Hall of Famers throughout history, and it was more intense this year for sure. I think over time we would hope he’d be considered to be another Giant in the Hall of Fame. We also understand the voters need to sort some things out. That’s what I feel.

Long-time manager Jim Fregosi, who now works for the Atlanta Braves as a special assistant, also feels this result was problematic (also via the Chronicle):

“I was a little surprised. I didn’t think he would get in the original ballot, and he and (Roger) Clemens really did not get the votes I thought they would. But it’s the first time out for both of them. For me, the numbers will go way up next year. I”m not saying they’re going to get in next year, but I believe their totals will rise.”

Fregosi thinks Bonds should get in: “For everything he’s done in his career, he is definitely a Hall of Famer.

And former Milwaukee Brewers OF Darryl Hamilton, who also played with Bonds during the 1990s as a member of the Giants, had this to say (also via the Chronicle — words in parenthesis added by yours truly):

Retired outfielder Darryl Hamilton, who played with Bonds in the Giants in the late 1990s: “I was a little disappointed. I don’t think it’s fair that the Baseball Writers Association of America decided that not only Bonds, but everybody in that era, should be punished for what they think somebody has done.

“I’m sure when you and I (are) gone (from this) planet it’ll come out that there are guys already in the Hall who’ve done something. I think it’s very hypocritical to take a vote like this and not let anybody in the Hall this year. I think it’s ridiculous.”

In some senses, Roger Clemens was an even more divisive personality.  He was short-tempered, quick-witted, and another guy who, like Bonds, was not a favorite of the writers.

You might be wondering, then, how either Bonds or Clemens won so many awards.  It’s simple: they were the most dominant players of their era.

They both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan wrote:

Anybody who suggests the Baseball Hall of Fame is irrelevant doesn’t understand one prevailing truth about the sport: its history is more important than its present. Baseball treats its history as a sacred bauble, which, until recently, it hasn’t tried to rinse, wash or scrub. Its darkest moments are some of its most famous. The sport is evermore human because the Black Sox succumbed to greed and threw the World Series, because the segregationists won until they could no longer bottle up social change, because the Hit King was a flawed man who couldn’t overcome a gambling addiction. Baseball is all of us.

Passan’s message throughout his article is that the baseball writers got this one wrong.  It’s impossible to deny how much Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, et. al., meant to the game.

And Passan is far from the only respected writer to think so.  Here’s what Baseball Prospectus writer Colin Wyers had to say:

The writers struck out looking. They were lobbed a fat pitch over the heart of the plate and they failed to even take a swing at it. Defenders will note, correctly, that it isn’t the ninth inning. But it was the last at-bat of the eighth, and they face an exceedingly difficult challenge in coming back to win this thing.

The biggest takeaway is that there is a sizable contingent of voters who will refuse to vote for any player, no matter how qualified, if there’s the barest taint of steroids on him, up to and including “playing the majority of his career after 1993.” Many will cast this as a referendum on Bonds and Clemens, two of the sports’ greatest stars who ended up in legal hot water over the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But a litany of deserving players, including Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza, and others, have been punished too, with little more than hearsay to incriminate them.

And in case you’re wondering what the players thought, here’s a link to an article about that.  (Hint, hint: most are not pleased.)

More importantly, the current head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Michael Weiner, said this (courtesy of CNN):

“To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify,” he said. “Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings, and others never even implicated, is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game.”

Look.  The fact of the matter regarding steroids is this: they don’t help you hit a baseball.  They may help put weight on you and that may change your physical makeup (as this article from Sports Illustrated clearly shows, where one player — Dan Naulty — took steroids and ended up gaining enough weight to add ten miles per hour to his fastball, which got him to the major leagues).

But they cannot help you hit a baseball at the level of a Barry Bonds, or every player who ever used steroids would hit like Bonds.

They don’t.

They cannot help you pitch a baseball at the level of a Roger Clemens, either.  Or every pitcher who ever used steroids, like the above-mentioned Naulty, would pitch like Clemens.

They don’t.

Why?  Because these are special players, as Darryl Hamilton’s comments show.

The fact of the matter is, the Hall of Fame has admitted racists, bigots, gamblers, alcoholics and even a few wife-beaters — and has survived.

Whether Bonds and Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs or not, they deserve to be in the Hall.

Anything else is a tragic miscarriage of justice.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Barb, I see your point and (somewhat) agree with you. But if you’re going to apply the simply stats and ignore that baseball is, at its core, a game of human element, than you can make an argument about any player out there. Maury Wills should have been inducted into the HOF years ago, but he’s overshadowed because of his teammates (the “Oh, he played with the greats” argument). Tim Raines? Dale Murphy? Hell, Pete Rose? Shoeless Joe Jackson?

    The problem is that the hall wants to be “free” of a certain stigma. Passan admitted as such in his article (or accused, rather) that, while the HOF allows racists, bigots and whatnot in, for the most part the label of “cheater” has been the death sentence for any prospective HOFer. Rightly or not, once a label is slapped on any public figure (politician, musician, athlete, author, actor, etc), that label is hard to shed. Jay Cutler? A wimp, if you remember what he was called for pulling himself out of the NFC championship game in 2010. Lebron James? Cleveland still burns effigies of him. George Steinbrenner? If he hadn’t won, what would they have done about him?

    IDK… it just seems to me that the one label the HOF doesn’t tolerate is “cheat”. Especially in the microcosm of today’s wired society.


    January 10, 2013 at 5:40 am

    • Well, all that’s true. Especially about Cutler, and the whole recent and partially buried storyline in the RG3 insistence on playing his playoff game despite a bad injury (apparently Griffin did not want to be compared to Cutler, even though Cutler did nothing wrong).

      Very, very few people maintain their luster despite fallout. Brett Favre is perhaps one of the few who has despite the womanizing accusations and going from one team to another (some of that not being his fault, granted, as GB didn’t want him any more). But even there a bit of luster has been lost.

      Passan’s article basically says it’s time to stop being hypocritical. I agree with him. They can’t throw a whole era out just because they don’t like what happened now. The owners were complicit in all this, something that’s now hushed up due to Bud Selig being the Commissioner. The owners and the whole league wanted the McGwire-Sosa HR race because it made them lots of money.

      Only now can they say, “Bad McGwire! Bad Sosa!” because they’ve made their money. So they blame the players, which isn’t fully accurate.

      BTW, I agree with you about Maury Wills. He has better credentials than many who are already in the HoF. Plus he was a base-stealer, and I’m partial to those.

      If the HoF really wanted to avoid the steroid era, it seems to me they could’ve made a bigger point by, I don’t know, electing Lee Smith to the Hall or Trammel or Raines or, if they wanted to make a really big point about voting for non-cheaters, why not vote Dale Murphy or Fred McGriff into the Hall? (Murphy’s 15 years are now up, so he’ll have to try via the Veterans Committee. I’m not sure if he deserves the national HoF though I can see the Atlanta Braves HoF as he really was a good player in his day.)

      Barb Caffrey

      January 10, 2013 at 5:44 pm

  2. … [Trackback]

    […] There you will find 5041 more Infos: […]


    May 27, 2013 at 2:56 am

  3. […] of course, the big scandal was that no one was voted into the Hall whatsoever (I wrote about that here).  Despite big names such as Barry Bonds — a seven-time Most Valuable Player and  14-time […]

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