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Oversimplifying the Hall of Fame debate

Jul 21, 2009, 10:18 AM EDT

Terrence Moore on steroids and the Hall of Fame:

Reggie Jackson is right. So is Jim Rice, along with Rick Telander,
a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, who joins me as a baseball Hall
of Fame voter and as a hardliner who agrees with Jackson and Rice:

No steroids guys in Cooperstown.

No Roger Clemens. No Barry Bonds. No Mark McGwire. No Sammy Sosa.
No Rafael Palmeiro. No Alex Rodriguez. Nobody within a syringe of
evidence showing they were artificially enhanced during any portion of
their playing career.

Great, Terrence. And as soon as you tell us how you’re going to figure
out who did and who didn’t do steroids, we’ll implement your plan. The
greater problem with Moore’s column, however, comes after he raises and
then ignores the “how do we know who used” question:

That brings us back to the BBWAA, which allows Hall of Fame voters
to use their own interpretation of rules that are vague but specific.
The rules say each voter should consider a player’s “record, playing
ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the
team(s) on which the player played.”

As a Hall of Fame voter, I’m a strict constructionist. To me, the
key words in those rules are “integrity” and “character.” You don’t
have integrity or character by using steroids. So no Hall of Fame entry
for any of these knuckleheads.

Simple.

Actually, a strict constructionist wouldn’t so easily latch on to
two of the six criteria and ignore the other four. To the contrary,
he’d be required to figure out how the character and integrity aspects
of the test interact with the record, playing ability, sportsmanship,
and contributions to the teams on which the player played, because
those are all part of the test too.

If it were me, I’d weigh the factors against one another, and if it
were a close call, I’d keep the guy out. Such an approach might counsel
that you allow in a Barry Bonds, whose clear ability and performance
over the years — including the years during which even his most
vehement accusers admit he wasn’t using — likely outweighs whatever
boost he received from whatever substances he was taking. On the
contrary, it may counsel that you keep out a Rafael Palmiero, who has a
much closer Hall of Fame case and a much more nebulous drug history
than that of Barry Bonds.

Or maybe you approach it a different way. I don’t know. What I do know
is that taking the mindless approach Moore advocates — even calling it
“simple” — is no way to do it. Because it’s not simple. It’s
complicated. And more importantly, it’s Terrence Moore’s job and the
job of the other BBWAA members to deal with. If they’re simply going to
abdicate their responsibilities in this regard, they should give the
task to someone who wont.

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