Hall of Fame voters can dish it out, but can they take it?
Published: Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 6:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 6:39 p.m.
On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce its most anticipated Hall of Fame vote in a long time, maybe of all time. It’s expected that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the most dominant everyday player and pitcher, respectively, of their era, will not get enough votes. It’s not even expected to be close.
The reason is easy enough to understand. Bonds and Clemens, despite their immense baseball talents displayed over two decades, were likely steroid users for relatively small parts of their careers, despite Bonds being convicted of nothing except jibber-jabbering under oath and Clemens not convicted of anything at all, even though a longtime personal trainer testified and a longtime former teammate had stated they had first-hand knowledge of Clemens’ use of performance-enhancing drugs.
This is all familiar ground, and no doubt many have had enough of it, securely settled on their own opinions and don’t care to slog through it again.
OK. Fair enough. This isn’t an attempt to change anyone’s opinion or to argue on behalf of or against Bonds or Clemens.
Instead, it’s an attempt to challenge the voters, the writers, many of whom can pontificate as if divinely inspired. They can dish it out. But can they take it?
These are the writers who supposedly “covered” Bonds and Clemens, if “covered” means getting to watch too many games for free from the sterilized comfort of the press box and playing the role of locker-room stenographer, faithfully reporting every pregame and postgame banality from those friendly to the media, and every snub from those who weren’t.
Instead of “covering” Bonds and Clemens and the many other stars of the so-called steroid era, the baseball writers should have been uncovering the biggest sports scandal in some 40 or 50 years, which was unfolding, season after season, right under their eyes.
Instead, they and baseball executives, including commissioner Bud Selig, cheered the
McGwire-Sosa home-run duel in 1998 and all the inflated power numbers (both pitching and hitting) that followed.
Then, former American League MVP Jose Canseco blew the whistle with a tacky memoir. For his trouble, Canseco was vilified as a rat, a mercenary, a muscle-bound dimwit, a pariah.
But Canseco kicked up enough of a dirt storm. Congress held hearings, Selig and the players’ union woke up, groggily, from their see-no-evil, hear-no-evil slumber, the Mitchell Report was published, some players reluctantly apologized (Jason Giambi’s was the best, not even telling us what, exactly, he was sorry for).
And the writers “covering” big-league baseball went from zero to 100 mph with righteous indignation.
We’ve seen this sort of thing time and again with real-world news and real-world mainstream media. There’s a massacre in My Lai, and a lieutenant gets blamed. There is torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and a sergeant gets blamed.
Scapegoating is nothing among those in power. There is a steroid scandal in baseball. Blame those with the best statistics. Don’t vote them into the Hall of Fame. And move on.
None of this would be quite so troublesome if, for example, it would be guaranteed that Selig never, ever, gets voted into the Hall of Fame. He was the guy in charge. He oversaw the steroid era, he had the unenforceable anti-drug policy that was about as strong as a piece of one-ply toilet paper soaked in tobacco juice, all the while applauding the sport’s growth (no pun intended). Most curiously, he’s the guy who has stated that the steroid era’s statistics will stand.
None of this would be quite so troublesome if, for example, it would be guaranteed that no owner, manager or general manager of the so-called steroid era ever gets voted into the Hall of Fame. After all, they had to have their suspicions, if not outright knowledge.
But it’s easier, of course, to get all high-minded and indignant at the most obvious targets — Bonds and Clemens — and keep them out of the Hall of Fame.
Ever wonder if these same righteously indignant baseball writers, in their lives as informed real-world citizens, were this worked up, this inflamed, this determined to take the moral high ground, when, say, the president of the United States lied about having sex with an intern in the White House, on our dime? Were they this morally outraged at the farce of the 2000 presidential election, or at the criminal deception involved in the invasion of Iraq?
It is interesting, though — don’t you think? — how sports often reflects the larger society. The start of baseball’s steroid era coincided with the Monica Lewinsky scandal, got a head of steam while votes weren’t counted in Florida and reached its apex with weapons of mass destruction not being found in Iraq.
Sure, sure, one thing has nothing to do with the other. This is baseball. Black and white. Fair and foul. Cheaters shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.
That is definitely one, simple, way to look at it.
Robert Rubino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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