Bernstein: Reconciling Baseball’s Hall Of Fame

Author: Dan Bernstein

By Dan Bernstein

It’s too late to keep suspected “cheaters” out of Cooperstown, and trying to do so now makes little sense, other than as some kind of self-important attempt by haughty voters to guard the gates.

As a lifelong baseball fan who hated the anabolic era as much as anyone, I understand the desire to form squads of vigilante police to try to make most of that time un-happen, and enforce a standard based on what we want and expect the game to resemble. Actually withholding votes to that effect, however, has become downright laughable.

The 2015 ballot is here, and it contains all kinds of new names mixed in with the holdovers. The truly great and odious Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens remain, along with the handful of either known or suspected steroid abusers that put up numbers that would otherwise have them enshrined: Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza and Jeff Kent.

After that is a long list of those deserving of election regardless. At first glance, the following have all compiled a statistical record for which valid argument could be made, particularly in the wake of some recent precedent. Call it the Jim Rice rule, if you want me to name names: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Carlos Delgado, Gary Sheffield, Craig Biggio, Piazza, Bagwell, Tim Raines, Clemens, Bonds, Kent, Fred McGriff, McGwire, Mike Mussina and Sosa.

That’s 16 people, many of whom I loathe completely for one or multiple reasons.

But they did what they did when they did it, and none of our hissy fits can do anything to change that fact. For whatever reason, it happened.

I don’t wake up each day actually caring about the sanctity or supposed purity of a building in a sleepy town in upstate New York. It seems that many of us seem to do so only at convenient times that allow for endless bluster about right versus wrong and real versus artificial, when that never mattered before. If we cared, we would have retroactively enforced our various petty moralities by kicking out anyone we pleased on our whim. Babe Ruth? Begone, besotted whoremonger! Ty Cobb? No room for violent, virulent racists in this holy place! Willie Mays? That infamous “red juice” is a deal-breaker. Say “bye,” kid.

Those were some big numbers put up before black people and Latinos were allowed to participate, too, which had to make it a bit easier when not competing against the best available talent. We’ll take that into consideration.

If you think the current Hall is without a steroid user, you are lying to yourself and you know it. If performance-enhancing drugs are your dividing point, take out all the amphetamine abusers like Mays and his ilk, which could remove pretty much everyone who played at any time since the 1960s, after which uppers were openly available in every clubhouse. They even remain so today, only provided by prescription for baseball’s purely coincidental epidemic of diagnosed ADD and ADHD cases.

I don’t like it any more than you do, and for a long time I was one of those turning up my nose at those I suspected.

No more. It’s just not an intellectually defensible position, not since clear-headed analysts like Joe Sheehan and others have made such careful arguments against the capricious arrogance of the voter who wraps himself in ethical authority that was never conferred.

And for what?

It’s just a museum, folks. For all the pomp and ceremony every year, it’s a plaque on a wall in a room in a building. It’s three letters under a signature that mean charging more money for participating in a memorabilia expo in a hotel ballroom by the airport. If you care too much, that’s your fault.

When Bonds or Clemens gets that “HOF” next to his name, we don’t have to like him any more than we do now, and we don’t have to change our feelings about how those statistics were achieved one iota. Nobody will be forced to attend an induction or stand in line for an autograph, or have to pretend anything.

The current myth, however, that the precious Baseball Hall of Fame needs its very decency protected by voters who just know better, is a pretense that needs to end.

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