Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Barry Bonds

2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Leaves More Questions than Answers

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Folks, for the second year in a row, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, is at the center of a scandal.

Last year, of course, the big scandal was that no one was voted into the Hall whatsoever (I wrote about that here).  But this year’s scandal is nearly as bad, considering — despite big names such as seven-time Most Valuable Player Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award Winner Roger Clemens being on the ballot again, the Baseball Writers of America voted only for three men — Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas, all first-time nominees — and ignored everyone else.

Mind you, Glavine, Maddux and Thomas were all deserving candidates. I’m glad they got in. But I’m frustrated that Bonds and Clemens didn’t even get 40 percent of the vote, all because the BBWAA would rather punish alleged steroid users than celebrate great players.

This hypocritical attitude has already forced 3,000 hit club member Rafael Palmeiro off the ballot (he didn’t get the required five percent to stay eligible), has caused former All-Stars Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s candidacies to be largely ignored despite their memorable home run record race in 1998 that reinvigorated baseball, and has caused Bonds and Clemens to wonder if the BBWAA will ever allow either one of them into the Hall, either.

And I’m not the only one wondering about this. Keith Olbermann, on his ESPN sports show last night, asked again why the BBWAA insists on behaving in this fashion. (Granted, Olbermann is much more miffed about 3,000 hit club member Craig Biggio once again falling short of the Hall, this time by a mere two votes, than by the exclusions of Clemens or Bonds. But the point is much the same.) Olbermann believes at bare minimum that the BBWAA should allow voters to vote for more than ten people, the current maximum.

Here’s a sample of a few other good blogs on the subject, the first coming from writer Jonathan Weber at The Ballclub, a blog devoted to the New York Mets that in this case discusses the case for catcher Mike Piazza in detail:

But once again, the argument revolves around who didn’t get in, and central among the snubbed is Mike Piazza. Piazza’s credentials don’t need to be discussed. Neither do those for the similarly snubbed Craig Biggio or any of the others who probably should be taking their rightful place in Cooperstown’s hallowed halls.

The issue obviously lies in the voting process, and how those 571 individuals choose to cast their votes. It becomes, then, a rather subjective process and a bias against certain players who might have rubbed one, or several, of those 571 the wrong way. Or, however many of those 571 that choose to vote based on some archaic principle that only makes sense to them. Invariably, we get stories like the ballot holder from Los Angeles who voted for Jack Morrisand nobody else. Of course, what ends up happening is that Craig Biggio, who should be a Hall of Famer whether you feel he’s a compiler or not, falls 0.2% shy of election, and Mike Piazza falls 12.8% short.

Neither Biggio or Piazza has been specifically implicated of any wrongdoing. . . Piazza’s problem is basically guilt by association—though he’s never failed a drug test and never been specifically implicated for steroid use, he’s of that era so the suspicion will follow whether he’s guilty or not. At this point, if you haven’t gotten a smoking gun on Piazza, you’re probably not going to, because there really aren’t any guns left for the players of that era.

(Emphasis and ellipsis by BC)

This blog from St. Louis Cardinal writer Ray DeRousse points out the real problems with leaving Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, and the others out of the Hall:

Imagine it is the year 2114. A young boy from San Francisco visits Cooperstown with his family. The kid strolls through its corridors, gazing with wonder at the memorabilia enshrined in glass and the bronze faces of baseball’s greatest players staring back at him along its hallowed halls. Slowly, his excitement turns to confusion.

“Dad, where is Barry Bonds?” asks the boy.

The father stops, temporary stumped. “He’s not here,” he responds carefully. “Barry Bonds is not allowed to be in here.”

This confuses the boy even more . . .

Is this really the kind of conversation we want in the corridors of Cooperstown 100 years from now? Apparently the writers charged with voting players into the Hall of Fame do, as they used yesterday’s election ballot to strongly rebuke several players of the PED generation . . . (including) Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro.

(Links to Baseball Reference removed because they’re already extant in this article, and ellipses added to condense quote — BC)

Even Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan, with whom I’ve had my differences, wrote this:

As one side seethed about the indignity of Greg Maddux failing to show up on 16 Hall of Fame ballots and another side bellowed about the shame of Dan Le Batard giving his vote to Deadspin readers and another wallowed in the misery of Craig Biggio falling two votes shy of induction and the entire operation reached levels of rage and fulmination and wrath that have turned sports debate today into the modern-day Cuyahoga, a conflagrant river of pollution, a harrowing fact fell to the background.

The man who may be the greatest hitter ever and the man who may be the greatest pitcher ever are going backward in their efforts to join the Hall in which they belong.

If Passan, a man who’s seething hatred of Brewers OF Ryan Braun is already legendary due to Braun’s PED use (and subsequent cover-up of same), can say this, why can’t the rest of the baseball writers?

Oh, wait.  At least a few have, including Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt, who admitted to voting for Bonds, Clemens, and a number of others (he didn’t vote for Palmeiro as Palmeiro failed a drug test).

But it’s obvious that many in the BBWAA are retaliating against supposed PED users, though there’s another factor in play — that ten-vote rule — that Haudricourt discusses here.

My view is simple. Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Piazza, and Biggio are all clearly Hall of Famers and should’ve been elected into the Hall right away. But because the BBWAA seems to want to be punitive, these men aren’t getting into the Hall.

How do you fix this? Olbermann’s suggestions (referenced in this article by the Washington Post) of adding people like Bill James, some sportscasters like Vin Scully (perhaps Brewers-own sportscaster Bob Uecker might qualify for a vote due to his fifty-plus years in baseball?), and even a fan vote counting for one percent overall sound like a step in the right direction.

But one thing is clear: this must be fixed.

Because this is wrong.

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