Baseball's flawed system denies some of the greatest players of all time the recognition they deserve.
By JOE McDONNELL FS West
LOS ANGELES -- "Suspicion means nothing," Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda told the L.A. Times, and no one better summed up one of the darkest off-field days in recent baseball history. Because of the steroids accusations -- most not proven or admitted -- concerning many players, there will be no living enshrinements this July. And the town of Cooperstown will not be the center of the sports world with three days of historic festivities.
For the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers Association of America neglected to elect anyone to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The three inductees in July are baseball people who died nearly three-quarters of a century ago: former Yankee owner Jacob Rupert, umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White. No offense to these worthy gentlemen, but I wouldn't go to Cooperstown -- even on a freebie -- for the induction of people that have no relevance in my life.
Even though Jeff Idelson, the president of the Hall of Fame, said there would be special ceremonies honoring Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby and others who couldn't be physically inducted because of health problems and World War II travel restrictions, why would anyone spend thousands of dollars to see it in person? They can save their money and go next year when Greg Maddux and possibly Tommy Glavine will likely make it. And it will hopefully be the year that the wonderful career of Jack Morris is celebrated with his induction. If he misses again, his 15 years on the ballot will be up and he might not live to see his election, just like Ron Santo. The former
Cubs' third baseman belonged in the HOF decades ago, yet the writers and later the Veteran's Committee held him out until he had died.
How did this nonsense happen? Why did it happen?
Because some baseball writers -- whose lives may not stand up to the scrutiny of people prying into them on a regular basis -- are literally the judge and jury, deciding who is elected or kept out. Some of the
greatest players of all-time were eligible this year for the first or second time -- or the 14th. Yet the writers didn't -- or wouldn't -- elect Mike Piazza -- the greatest hitter I ever covered on a regular basis; Barry Bonds, baseball's all-time home run leader and a seven-time MVP; Roger Clemens, a 354-game winner who earned seven Cy Young awards; Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell -- two of Houston's Killer Bees and a couple of the best players to ever play the game. Also the aforementioned Morris, one of the greatest clutch pitchers in history. If you needed a win, Morris would likely get it for you, whether it was 1-0 or 9-8. He was a winner.
No one was elected because arrogance won out over intelligence. Ignorance triumphed over fairness. Suspicion won out over proof.
"Suspicion means nothing."
Unless you're a voting member of the BBWAA who admittedly wouldn't vote for Piazza and Bagwell because there were
rumors of them using steroids. No positive tests, no admissions. Just suspicions. Same with Clemens. Rumors. Accusations. No positive tests. No
Bonds is a different case, because he admitted that a cream he rubbed on his knees had steroids in in. He says he found out after he'd already used it for a while, and that's good enough for me.
"McDonnell," you might be asking right now, "are you a simpleton? (My wife Elizabeth asks me this daily) You
really believe he didn't know?" Doesn't matter what I believe. Only matters what I
know. Bonds never tested positive under baseball's drug and PED program. Therefore -- as far as I'm concerned -- there's not a legitimate reason that Bonds didn't get elected. If I hear another voting baseball writer say "well, it sure looked like" or "common sense tells me that so and so used," I may lose the little bit of my mind that I still have.
"Suspicion means nothing."
Here's the deal: It doesn't matter what they think. It only matters what they know and what they can prove. Many of them will say it isn't a court of law and there is no burden of proof -- at least not to the extent of finding someone guilty of a crime. And I will give them that one: It isn't life and death.
If a voter has a legitimate reason for leaving someone off his or her ballot, great. But assuming without any substantiation that someone cheated when they were never caught is just ignorant.
And this is the same group that elected Gaylord Perry to the Hall even though he flaunted the fact that he cheated his way to 300 wins by using doctored pitches regularly throughout his career. How can you elect an admitted cheater, yet not vote for someone because of a
Why have a Shrine of the Immortals if the Immortals can be denied entry by mere mortals? In this case, mortals who've never faced a 97 MPH fastball coming at their head or a line drive heading back to the pitcher's mound at 130 MPH.
Wednesday's non-election announcement shows the Hall of Fame gets populated -- or doesn't -- by the Whims of the Lame. It also vividly illustrates that there's something immensely wrong with the election process. Idelson and the HOF Board of Directors need to fix it right away, otherwise a number of deserving players could be kept out of the Hall for a decade -- or forever -- because of the PED madness.
My suggestions are these: Give long-time baseball broadcasters like Vin Scully, Bob Costas, Jon Miller, Terry Smith, Jerry Coleman, Dave Sims, etc. voting privileges. Make their votes count 25%, and have the BBWAA keep it's voters, but reduce their impact to 25%. Then, come up with players -- including the living Hall of Famers -- and make their votes count the most: 50 percent. To me, this is the fairest solution, and one that could be implemented immediately. One organization's exclusive voting privileges won't matter; percentages will allow every group to have a say; the most impactful say will come from those who put on the uniforms and went to battle with or against the possible inductees.
A new group was formed in 2009: the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America -- IBWAA -- of which I'm a member. Long-time Internet presence Howard Cole is the man who started the organization "to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as a digital alternative to the Baseball Writers Association of America." And if you go to the website (
www.ibwaa.com), you'll see a list of prominent members and the results of this year's HOF election, in which Mike Piazza was the only player elected.
Now, I'm still not too happy that with all the talented baseball legends on the ballot, only one player received enough votes. But at least we elected somebody. Here's my ballot:
1 -- Barry Bonds
2 -- Roger Clemens
3 -- Mike Piazza
4 -- Jack Morris
5 -- Craig Biggio
6 -- Jeff Bagwell
7 -- Tim Raines
8 -- Gil Hodges
9 -- Lee Smith
10 -- Marvin Miller
It's mind-boggling that writers -- many of whom consider baseball coverage their life's work and with no proof of any wrongdoing by any of the eligible players -- could keep some of these men out of the Hall of Fame.