Choices • Nick Nunn
By the time this column is published, one of two things will have happened: either some of the best players of this still fresh century will be denied a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility, or the most notorious stars of the “juicing” era in baseball will be given a plaque in Cooperstown.
And, yes, we are talking about the same players.
The Hall of Fame inductees for 2013 were announced Wednesday, and Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa are on the ballot for the first time this year. There has been considerable discussion within the sports writing community about whether these athletes deserve their votes.
The 600-plus votes that are cast yearly rest in the hands of 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, and, if Bonds, Clemens, or Sosa hope to get in this year, they will need votes on at least 75 percent of the ballots to be elected.
Most of the controversy this year surrounds Rule No. 5 in the voting guidelines, which states: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Members must decide whether athletes fall short of these criteria –integrity sportsmanship, and character, in particular – because these athletes were suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Failing to meet that mark would make them ineligible to receive members’ votes.
Garry D. Howard of the Sporting News stated that he will not vote for players suspected of using PEDs – this year. Howard acknowledges that all three will eventually receive a place in the hall but this year they have to “pay the piper.”
Howard’s reaction amounts to little more than a petty whack on the hands. What is the difference of a year when it comes to an immortal enshrinement?
Howard’s colleague at the Sporting News, Bob Hille, admitted that he voted for all three because he “decided to judge players against their peers in the era in which they played.”
Should we also induct Beethoven into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because his Fifth Symphony was the most rockin’ thing to hit the concert circuit in the first decade of the 1800s?
When it comes down to it, though, I’m glad the decision is not mine to make. A purist in the baseball tradition might not want them inducted, but they are forgetting what baseball is at its very core – entertainment.
Every fan will take what they want from the information that is available. The layman won’t care who is in the Hall of Fame, the average fan will look towards the names and numbers in awe, and the truly devoted will dig deeper to construct their own opinions.
Those who care will remember the PED scandal and attribute whatever qualifications they can justify for or against the inductees.
And those who don’t care won’t be writing the books on baseball 50 years from now.
Printed in the January 10, 2013 edition