By Michael Baker
For the first time in nearly twenty years, voters for Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame have failed to elect a single candidate. The dearth of votes for muscle-bound superstars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens is particularly notable. In fact, the tallies for both players combined wouldn’t have been enough to reach the requisite 75% of votes required to put a player in the Hall of Fame.
Five years ago it would have been unthinkable that Bonds and Clemens would both be left out of the Hall; they’re two of the best-known baseball players of all time, and both set records that are sure to stand. But much of their success can be credited to steroid use, and now everybody knows it. And that’s what this vote is all about – a referendum on baseball’s “Steroid Era.”
Clearly a significant majority of the journalists who vote on the Hall of Fame selections are taking a firm position that steroid users have no place in the Hall of Fame. The real question is whether this will last. Is this the sort of thing that will blow over once Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and the rest of the great cheaters are old and feeble, and it becomes acceptable to view them with a sense of nostalgia? Probably. But should it ever blow over?
Pete Rose is banned from the Hall of Fame for gambling. The stench of gambling is something that must be taken seriously by any professional sport. But it’s significant that no one has ever uncovered evidence that Rose ever bet on his own games, so we don’t actually know whether his gambling had any impact on the outcome of the game itself. As for the steroid users, everybody knows that they cheated.
So now’s the time for Baseball to make a decision about what to do about Hall of Fame eligibility for Steroid Era athletes who are undeniably some of the biggest names in the game. It seems a little too late to ban them completely, but maybe the MLB can strike a creative solution that will informally keep cheaters out of the Hall of Fame.
The best alternative I can think of would be a formal Hall of Shame. Candidacy for the Hall of Shame and the Hall of Fame would have to be mutually exclusive, so that once a player is in one he can’t be in the other. That way once these clowns get voted into the Hall of Shame, any question about future Hall of Fame candidacy would be resolved conclusively. Hell, we could even name the Hall of Shame after Pete Rose. And while we’re at it, we could add those eight cheaters from the 1919 White Sox; I’m sure their descendants would appreciate the attention.