For the first time since 1997, nobody was selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The best players are paying a penance for steroid use and the non-steroid players were not good enough and did not get 75% of the vote. There will be no induction ceremony this August in Cooperstown.
Being a big-time baseball fan, I should be sad. But for everyone involved in baseball, right down to the simple fan, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Players insisted on cheating the game—the best players in the game made this decision. Fully aware of the long-term health consequences of anabolic steroids, they took a chance to be even better than their natural God-given talent for more money and more glory. This is not to say average players didn’t try it, but average players don’t make the HOF anyway. Steroids enhance performance, but they do not give a man talent he doesn’t have. The owners condoned it because it made them money. They wanted testing ten years before the testing actually went into effect, but the Players’ Association offered them other things that put money in their pockets in return for no testing. Managers, coaches, team physicians and trainers swept it under the rug. And us fans paid to see the home runs, base hits, stolen bases, 100 mph fastballs striking out batters, and everything else that made the games of the era more exciting.
We’ll never know if Barry Bonds was capable of 767, or even 755 (Hank Aaron’s final home run total) without steroids. The only way the game can be repaired is when a player, tested constantly and always reporting clean, hits number 768. You can say the same for the achievements of Roger Clemens and all the others, but I single out Bonds because he is the superlative. We keep the all time hit leader, Pete Rose out and the all time home run leader, Barry Bonds out, for two different sets of reasons, nonetheless, the superlatives in two major categories are singled out of the most prestigious sports HOF in the world. And taking Mike Piazza as a substitute is not a substitute. I am a big-time Mets fan. Mike Piazza was a very good baseball player, but at best, a minimal hall of famer. Barry Bonds and even Sammy Sosa were that much better at the bat. So if you omit Bonds, Sosa, and the rest of the Steroid Kids and take Piazza, you are abolishing standards and making selection to the world’s most prestigious HOF completely arbitrary. This will do it just as much damage, if not more, than taking the allowing the Steroid Kids in in-spite of the fact they cheated the game.
While baseball waits for the so-called steroid era to pass, its HOF should take care of unfinished business. Gil Hodges is not in the Hall and should be. The Veterans’ Committee should get him back on the ballot and induct him—let Gil Jr. make a speech and get his plaque and jersey in the glass locker. Gil comes to mind, but I’m sure there are some others of the bygone era, living and deceased, that we can induct and then move on.
As for the Steroid Kids that produced HOF numbers, wait until their death, then induct them the very next induction ceremony. This way we close the book and they get in, but they don’t have the benefit of living to see their induction. Do the same with Pete Rose, Rose harmed the game, but he can’t harm the game dead. We can finally give Shoeless Joe Jackson his due; the only problem is he has long passed on and he and his wife had no children so there would be no a next of kin to accept—some baseball historian who never saw him play would have to speak on his behalf.
Somebody should be inducted every year, I agree. But all of us including us fans have to pay a penance right now.