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The Hall of Fame gives voters a clear signal: moralize about steroids even more

Jan 6, 2011, 6:21 AM EST

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In the past couple of weeks many Hall of Fame voters expressed dismay at the dilemma they faced regarding PED users and the character clause in their voting instructions. Some — including Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark — have openly asked the the Hall provide guidance on the matter.  Well, the Hall did so last night. In the course of this interview with Joe Posnanski, Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson made it clear that the Hall is pleased with and fully expects writers to continue what they’re doing :

“Baseball has historically been held to a very high standard, right or wrong. There’s a certain integrity required when it comes to baseball’s highest honor, which is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. The character clause exists as it relates to the game on the field. The character clause isn’t there to evaluate and judge players socially. It’s there to relate to the game on the field … The voters should have the freedom to measure that however they see fit.”

Asked if that means that the Hall is fine with keeping out Bonds, Clemens and players like Jeff Bagwell for whom there are only baseless steroid suspicions, he made it pretty clear that it is:

“When you look at the Hall of Fame elections, you see that those who are elected are representative of that era. The Hall of Fame election is a continuum. And the standards have upheld the test of time. We believe they work. We believe the voters have exercised a great understanding about the candidates in the Hall of Fame. I think when you look at who the writers have voted into the Hall of Fame, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t belong there …

… Am I worried that this era will be under-represented? No. I mean, you have a set of guidelines and rules in place. … I think we are happy with the way the voting has gone, we’re happy with the diligence of the voters who have participated, and the chips will fall as they fall.”

I think that there is a 100% certainty that voters will be citing this interview for years as a basis for being even stronger in their moral indignation at PEDs than they are now. Those who have no compunction about smearing Jeff Bagwell with both their words and their vote now have the approval of the Hall of Fame itself. Those on the fence now have the cover to join the high-horse crowd.  Those of us who find this all tremendously troubling will be shouted down with reference to Idelson’s words. We’ll be asked who the hell are we to protest when the man who runs the Hall of Fame himself has told us that he’s just fine with our playing the Morality Police. And they’ll have a good point.

But I fear that as a result of this we’ll also have a Hall of Fame on the fast track to irrelevance.  Because of the manner in which the Hall of Fame has set up the voting of the Veteran’s Committee, the Hall is now and likely forever will be without Marvin Miller, the architect of the free agency era and without Buck O’Neil, the man who did more than anyone to ensure that the Negro Leagues didn’t just disappear into the mists of history.

Because of the Hall’s slavish devotion to Major League Baseball’s official banned list, it is without the game’s all-time hit king, Pete Rose and, even if I personally oppose his induction, it is without Shoeless Joe Jackson, who many believe belongs.

And now, because it has sided with the steroids hysteria crowd, it will be without the home run king, one of the greatest pitchers of all time in Roger Clemens and countless other players who played in the 1980s and 1990s. Mike Piazza? He’s out. Pudge? Gone. Bagwell? Forget it.  And of course, given the total lack of scrutiny on the matter every other player of that era could suddenly and baselessly find themselves blacklisted like Bagwell has been. Indeed, if the voters are intellectually honest about it, they’ll have no choice but to give the entire era a miss.

What will become of the Hall of Fame if it continues down this path?  I raised that question on Twitter last night. Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe and I discussed it a while. He (and many others) believe I’m overreacting. I suppose that’s possible.  But I think the Hall of Fame is important. And it’s important not by some immutable law of the universe. It’s important only because people believe it’s important. They go way the hell out of their way to a village in upstate New York because they believe the museum represents something official and — though I cringe at the invocation of divinity — they believe it is hallowed baseball ground.

What happens when people in Texas stop believing its important because Jeff Bagwell isn’t in there? When Giants fans scoff at it because Bonds is out?  When Rangers fans — or hell, Latino fans — think the place unfairly kept out Pudge Rodriguez?

None of those exclusions is major in and of itself, I suppose, but legitimacy can be a fickle thing. I already believe that the moral standards being applied by the BBWAA and the Hall are out of step with that of most baseball fans. I think, with Idelson’s words, that trend will accelerate.  And I fear that as it accelerates, the Hall of Fame will find that it speaks to fewer and fewer people as time goes on.

UPDATE: For some more spleen on this, go check out Bill’s take over at The Platoon Advantage.  Also, the comments to this post are shaping up to be quite strong so far, so I highly recommend that you check them out below if you don’t normally do so.

UPDATE II:  Crashburn Alley takes things even further. Is the Hall of Fame [gulp] like that museum on Creationism?

  1. JM Lattanzi - Jan 6, 2011 at 7:10 AM

    I read the interview last night. I was a bit dismayed at the almost nonchalant attitude of Idelson. It’s clear that the Hall of Fame views itself as the ultimate gatekeeper – the BBWAA are merely the guards who enforce.

    I think you nailed it, Craig. Irrelevancy. That’s going to be the issue. Quite honestly, I don’t think I would want to return to Cooperstown for a fourth time if the Hall of Fame is going to essentially be a stripped down shadow of itself within five years.

  2. spergler - Jan 6, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    The Hall could, I think, turn fans off based on both geography and time.

    Bagwell is far and away the best Astros player to come up for election, and that franchise is nearly fifty years old. If he’s not elected, the writers are essentially saying that baseball played in Houston doesn’t count as much as baseball played elsewhere. I don’t mean this as a mark of bias–a Minnesota Twin and a Toronto Blue Jay were elected yesterday. But it is what it is. I remember growing up in Texas knowing about five sure-thing no-doubt HOFers: Bagwell, Biggio, Palmeiro, Pudge, and Juan Gonzalez (who fell apart, of course).

    And that brings me to the second point, time. If you fail to honor the era of my childhood, why would I take my kids to the Hall? My dad took me and we looked at the plaques for his heroes growing up. The bottom line for me is that if going to the Hall of Fame won’t allow me to tell my children about the summer of ’98 and where I was when Big Mac hit #62, and the chase that captured the attention of the nation for its sheer joy … well, I just won’t go, I suppose. The writers are robbing my generation of the chance to share memories like that, with no regard, of course, for the fact that their childhood heroes also took PEDs.

    • JM Lattanzi - Jan 6, 2011 at 7:33 AM

      Well said. I had the exact same experience with my father at Cooperstown.

    • tigerprez - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:46 AM

      I didn’t realize that the HOF wouldn’t allow you to tell stories about Mark McGwire while taking your children through the museum. Do they have staff there to throw you out if they hear you mention his name? The last time I was there, they even had quite a bit of memorabilia from the steroid era. I didn’t realize they had changed their policies so much.

      • jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:52 AM

        I realize that your comment is merely facetious. However, omitting the stars of a particular era, no matter how that era is otherwise commemorated, is an obvious failure on the part of the Hall to “preserve history, honor excellence, and connect generations”, which is its stated mission (at least in the formulation on its main webpage).

    • evanhartford - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:12 AM

      Craig, you are overreacting. Idelson didn’t say much of anything up there. He just reiterated what we already knew; that writers have the freedom to vote for whom they wish (limited to people on the ballot) for basically any reason. Its not a perfect system. But as you point out, in the last 150 years they’ve missed on a handful of people that (in your opinion) deserve to be in. Is that really THAT bad?

      Most players that find themselves in Bagwell’s position could easily be building support, but virtually all of them have hidden behind the fifth amendment. Instead of becoming advocates for educating kids on the dangers of steroids and “greenies” they’ve virtually disappeared. Instead of admitting anything, they’ve denied everything and avoided the subject at every turn. Instead of being the “Larger Than Life” characters that they’ve been throughout their careers, they’ve become hermits. Hell, Bagwell chose to tell the world he doesn’t care if people juice. Is that really the kind message that the above-referenced writer wants to send to his son? The character clause might not be perfect, but none of these guys, save for maybe McGwire, are helping their case.

      I think for you this has nothing to do with steroids. Steroids provide a convenient argument for your “anti-character clause” platform. But sports aren’t just about numbers, statistics and records. Sports are about culture, society and ultimately, our values. We value competition, good character and success. The HOF voting process attempts to encompass that. Does it always work out perfectly? No. Is it pretty darn good? Yes!

      The ironic thing about Shoeless Joe Jackson is that his exclusion has been the best thing that could have happened to his legacy. As a casual fan, I can only name 2-3 players from his era. All the other guys from his era that got into the HOF have virtually been forgotten. Shoeless Joe had goddamn movies made about him! I’m not saying that Palmeiro, Bagwell, Clemens and McGwire should be jumping up for joy over their potential exclusion. I think they (and all of you) should be reminded that their legacy doesn’t end with the Hall of Fame.

    • lardin - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:12 AM

      They are not omitted, There are exhibits or will be exhibits about Bonds, Clemens, Sosa Big Mac and Pete Rose. Its not like baseball took an eraser to baseball history. What these players dont get is a bronze plaque and the ability to write HOF after there names.

      • jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 12:00 PM

        Specious argument. Every bit as sound as “separate but equal”.

  3. paperlions - Jan 6, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    It will be funny that more pitchers than hitters from the steroid era will be elected despite the fact that more pitchers than hitters have been associated with steroids.
    .
    Steroid use by pitchers (non-Clemens division), appears to be okay. It is too bad Pettite isn’t going to pitch a couple of more years to strengthen his HOF case; I’d love to see the mental gymnastics that justify voting for him and not for clearly superior players with less evidence of PED use.
    .
    Use of amphetamines obviously is okay.
    .
    It is amusing that this guy is applying the character clause to on-the-field stuff, as if it is more important to these high-horse riders that players didn’t cheat on the field than if they were miserable human beings. Of course, in reality, they don’t care if players cheated, only if they can be connected to steroids, because cheating has never affected the vote before.
    .
    With this economy, all museums are doing poorly. The HOF is going out of its way to alienate potential visitors and to reduce attendance during its most important weekend of the year….all in the name if misguided and disingenuous morality….remember, these are the same guys that repeatedly and immediately requested game memorabilia from the HR chases even though they knew that those players had PED associations. So they wanted the free historically relevant stuff in the musuem, just not the people responsible for making the stuff relevant in the HOF.

  4. iftheshoefits2 - Jan 6, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    The crux of the question at this point centers around this: who does the hall of fame belong to?

    If you believe its the members, you have one viewpoint. If you think its the writers, you have another. If, like me, you think its the fans- well, you take a completely different approach. When my (hypothetical) grandkids think about going to Cooperstown, all the people influencing the debate today will be dead. So does the hall belong to the fans, or to those whose agenda reflects only a myopic view of what the hall means?

    Shouldn’t the hall reflect the fans, who are the reason all of this is even a discussion, and the reason the hall exists?

  5. tadthebad - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    Why Rose and Jackson?

    • tadthebad - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:07 AM

      Pardon, why Rose and NOT Jackson?

      • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:11 AM

        I understand people disagree, but I draw a line between Rose’s behavior as a manager and his performance as a player. Jackson actively and intentionally tried to throw games as a player.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:14 AM

        Also, while Rose’s gambling was extremely dangerous, as far as I know there has never been a credible allegation that he threw a game as a result, or that even tried to do so.

      • tadthebad - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:40 AM

        Well, that seems, well, wrong. That is a rule clearly stated that has been in place for a long time. The invitation of outside influences into baseball is what I thought was the true reason for “outlawing” gambling in MLB. And not that I’ve done any research, but didn’t Jackson play very well during the 1919 series? Pretty fine line you’re drawing there, which is something you’ve criticized other writers for in the past, iirc. If you’re going to keep one out, then both have to be kept out.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:42 AM

        Yeah, but it’s baseball’s rule for keeping him banned from holding a position in the game. I have no problem with baseball keeping Rose banned because I think he still represents a danger given his activities and addictions.

        But there’s no reason why the Hall of Fame — a museum, not a sports league — needs to automatically keep out people who are banned from baseball.

      • Chipmaker - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:02 AM

        @tadthebad — not every game was thrown. Jackson’s performance in the clean games was markedly better than in the thrown games. It’s too little data, I think, to support either position, “Jackson was clean” or “Jackson was throwing”, but it doesn’t help the pro-Jacksonists a bit, so they conveniently overlook this point.

      • tadthebad - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:14 AM

        OK, but then under that criteria, I don’t understand the resistance to Jackson for the Hall. We’re talking one series, not a pattern of behavior. No biggie, just seems odd is all. Chipmaker: I’m not a pro-Jackson guy, just interested in the debate. Thanks for the info.

      • dondbaseball - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:05 AM

        I am surprised at Craig’s observation on Rose. If he bets on his team to win games 1 and 2 of a series but doesn’t bet on game 3, doesn’t it make sense that he either a) spent all his bullpen on games 1 & 2 to win or b) will not be trying as hard to win game 3 due to his match-ups. Evidence then showed he would bet on game 1 of the next series putting speculation further on game 3 of the previous series. The gambling aspect and the character aspect both would have been mitigated if Rose came clean right away about it. But lying for 15 years, besmirtching O’Dowd’s, Vincent’s and Giamatti’s integrity on it and then writing a book to make a buck clearly irritated everyone within the game and has cost him the election he so intently desires. He is the quintessential over-achiever but at the same time one of the true low-life’s of the game-tax evasion, drugs, gambling and lier.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:11 AM

        Is there any evidence of that? I’ll grant that it’s quite possible that Rose did that sort of thing, but I’ve never seen anyone make a case for it. As for the tax evasion, etc., I’m no more a moralizer about off-the-field stuff as I am on steroids.

        Rose is a liar and he’s pathetic. And for all of the reasons you cite I wouldn’t want him in any position of authority in baseball at all. I don’t think harm would come to anyone, however, if he was in the Hall of Fame. Not going to the mat for it or anything — won’t lose sleep if he’s never in there — but I can see a case for making a distinction between what he did as a player and what he did subsequent to his playing career.

  6. kinggeorge96 - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    I think I read once that Rose actually only bet on the Reds to win? I should probably check that out before I post this, but I’m short on time and I wanted to say it first if I was correct! And I totally agree that all this does is alienate Cooperstown from it’s main source of funding… visits by baseball fans. Although I know if I dont’t go now, I won’t be missing much because it’ll be pretty much the same in 20 years… if it still has $$$

  7. Jonny 5 - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    Craig, I’m afraid what you speak of in reference to the HOF has already been taking place for years.

    407,000 in 1993

    290,000 in 1997 (labor issue related, so I hear)

    301,000 in 2009 (oh, so the labor issue is still, an issue?)

    The HOF has lost one fourth of it’s patrons that it used to have in 1993, and hasn’t gained them back yet. While baseball popularity and game attendance is gaining.

  8. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    If I wanted to visit a place with a holier than thou attitude, moralizing on individual’s lives, I’d spend more time in church. Today’s sermon: Won’t someone think of the children!

    Also, let’s not forget the cheaters are always ahead of the testers. The only reason BALCO was found out is Trevor Graham sent a dirty needle to the gov’t for testing. Athletes are always going to look for an edge, and with the money they make, they can afford to pay a few scientists to engineer PEDs that will be undetectable.

  9. Chipmaker - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    Idleson should be asked how interested he will be in having an empty slate of new honorees giving zero speeches on Induction Sunday. Yeah, that’ll draw the crowds.

    Seriously, who is going to show up for the Frick and Spink* Award winners, now to be presented on Saturday, and not on the Sunday with the new honorees? Oh, they’ll skirt this problem this year, they’ve got three big names — but next year? If the BBWAA doesn’t deliver — and there are some HUGE names coming under their purview soon — the only fallback is the VC, where (a) the pickin’s are mighty slim anyway (and Santo, alas, is dead), (b) the format tends to be excessively finicky, and (c) one of the three committees cannot possibly find a living candidate to elect.

    Gonna make for some spare summers, and winters, in Cooperstown. But, hey, we gotta hold high the banner of principle.

    * Also headed for irrelevance, at least should be. Every beat writer and columnist who missed the steroid scandal in real time (i.e., all of them) who has turned today into an anti-PED scold should be deemed permanently ineligible. Oh, hell, just discontinue the Spink altogether. There is no writer still worthy.

  10. Adam - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    When you look at the Hall of Fame elections, you see that those who are elected are representative of that era

    I don’t understand how you can say this line and then say you’re okay with the moral indignation of the voters. If you ask almost any fan what debate defines the 90s, you’ll undoubtedly hear “PEDs”. As has been mentioned before, many players were taking them, some were not, we’ll never know. The fact of the matter is that the MLB front office, MLB players and sports writers HAPPILY ignored the issue at the time. After all, the surge in offense was bringing attendance numbers up, we were getting to see a great home run chase between McGwire and Sosa and everything smelled like roses. Since there was no testing you have to, in my opinion, consider everyone guilty or everyone innocent in regards to what they accomplished.

    I’m only 28 and I’ve never been to the HOF. My son, however, is not likely to go if I can’t show him the plaques of Bonds, Bagwell, Biggio (my favorite player of the era), Piazza and their counterparts. After all, I never saw any of the players before the mid-80’s play, why would I think it worth it to spend the money to go show him their plaques? He can read about it online, I’d rather take him to a stadium we haven’t been to together.

    In regards to the writers who are moralizing about PED users, I’d like to know, how many of them have written an article apologizing for not pursuing the issue of PEDs during the 90’s? If they don’t think they’re partially to blame for this then they are sorely missing the boat.

  11. metalhead65 - Jan 6, 2011 at 8:53 AM

    bonds and clemmons accusations are baseless? realy?you seriously cannot believe that either of those guys did not do them or that taking them did not help their performance.of course they are going to deny doing them but in bonds case you only have to look at his body before he set the home run record and after to know that it was more than hard work and weights that that enabled him to go from hitting 50 to 80 or however many he hit. I am not talking about his rookie year picture either,look at a picture the year before he set the record and you will notice his head and body are ywice the size.just because his buddy won’t testify against him does not mean he did not do it.if you want to stop the accusations against everyone who played in that era then release the names of of the 100 or so who tested positive and that should end it.if bagwells name is not on it then that should end it. bonds was agreat player before he juiced but steroids got him the records and attention he craved. I would not have a problem at all with him not being in the hall.ok now is the part where you rip my writing and english skills and try and make me feel stupid but that is not going to change what I believe but go ahead if it makes you feel better about yourself.

    • Adam - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:38 AM

      Bonds in 2000 (year before he hit 73): http://www.checkoutmycards.com/Cards/Baseball/2000/Fleer_Gamers_Extra/79/Barry_Bonds

      Bonds in 2001 (year he hit 73): http://www.checkoutmycards.com/Cards/Baseball/2001/Topps_Gold/497/Barry_Bonds

      I don’t see a lot of difference. Did he take PEDs? Probably. But the punishment for PEDs is 50 games, not banishment. And that’s now. Back then there was no punishment, which is something baseball will have to live with.

    • ThatGuy - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:50 AM

      “Asked if that means that the Hall is fine with keeping out Bonds, Clemens and players like Jeff Bagwell for whom there are only baseless steroid suspicions”

      I believe Craig meant that as Bonds and Clemens(whom their is actual evidence) and then players like Jeff Bagwell, whom there is no evidence besides he was a big guy.

  12. Detroit Michael - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    I think Craig is reading way too much into the interview. He basically said the Hall is fine with the current guidelines and won’t second guess the writers. He did not say please keep out all of the suspected steroid users.

    • lar @ wezen-ball - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:52 AM

      Very fair point. And that may be exactly what Idelson was trying to say, however poorly and inelegantly.

      But it was doesn’t matter what he was trying to say. It matters what words he used and how writers, who are always looking for a reason to justify their thought process/sanctimony, perceive it. Craig is pretty spot on about how these types of writers are going to use these words.

      It was a bad, bad interview from Idelson.

  13. phillysoulfan - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    Craig, you are 100% right on this. His comments are ridiculous. They go against everything the Hall was setup for. The Hall was setup to represent the very best of every era. What difference does it make if Bonds used steroids or not? Unless you are in complete denial, Canseco was right about there being about 80% of players using in that era. So Bonds is the very best cheater of an era that cheated.

    Plus, if you are taking the stance that they cheated, how is Gaylord Perry in the Hall? If you are taking a morality stance, how is Ty Cobb in the Hall?

    People need to get off their moral horse. Heaven forbid we start looking into the writers about who knew, what they knew, and when they knew it and didn’t report it because it was “off the record”.

  14. jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    But I fear that as a result of this we’ll also have a Hall of Fame on the fast track to irrelevance.

    I don’t think you’re overreacting. I think that’s the inevitable outcome, should the general course of things remain steady.

    Thomas Edison’s Laboratory in East Orange, New Jersey is a nice place to visit, and one can learn much about Edison’s methods, accomplishments, and era there. But it’s not (and of course doesn’t pretend to be) a general “science museum”. Take the class to the Ben Franklin in Philadelphia for that.

    Idelson chosen to allow the Hall to become more like Edison’s Lab and less like the Franklin Museum. You’ll be able to learn much there about Ray Schalk’s era, and Mickey Cochrane’s, and Yogi Berra’s, and Jojnny Bench’s. Whatever you learn about anything after that will be incomplete at best; you’ll have to go elsewhere for that.

    And elsewhere will exist. The people will come, Ray. Just not to Cooperstown.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:46 AM

      And elsewhere will exist. The people will come, Ray. Just not to Cooperstown.

      Doesn’t this make the HoF irrelevant then? Not trying to get into a if-a-bear-shits-in-the-woods-and-no-one-is-around philosophical debate here, but if no one visits Cooperstown b/c writers stop voting in players of this era, what relevance is there? A poster above mentions how there would be no reason to bring his son if his heroes weren’t enshrined.

      • jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:57 AM

        Well, yes, I was agreeing with that general sentiment.

        I think “elsewhere” will be mostly be online. And maybe already is.

        Too bad the Hall has exclusive privileges to exhibit some of the stuff up there. There will always be exhibits I’d like to see, but it’s less and less likely that I’ll make a special effort to go.

  15. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    A few weeks ago, I wrote that sportswriters need to work hard at simply telling the truth. Many were strongly opposed to that idea. The reasoning was that it is only important to get some things right and not at all important to get other things right. In the HOF vote we can see where this leads. Had the HOF voters had simply looked at the truth, the voting would have been different. Instead, many of the HOF voters thought that some higher purposes (keeping baseball clean for the next generation?) outweight simply voting the truth as best they knew it. This is because playing fast and loose with the truth is how they roll.

    I don’t look for moral guidance from sportswriters. I do look for the truth in good reporting.

  16. Jonny 5 - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    I find after months, maybe years even, of him hawing, reading, debate, more reading, more debate. That my opinion hasn’t changed much in reference to the HOF and it’s inductees, and how they’re selected. I always felt, and still do feel, the HOF is an institution for fans to view, honor, and/or share with others their baseball heros and the baseball heros of others.
    Sure I want to see Pete Rose and Joe Jackson there regardless of “the crime”. Sure I want to see Bonds and Clemmens and Sosa regardless of “the crime” they committed. Sure I went through a period where I felt PED users were scoundrels, for what they did. I felt as if they should be banned for screwing up what I looked at as a perfect game, or as close as you can get to that. I internalized what it must feel like being a clean player who faces down one with an unfair advantage. I internalized what it must feel like to be a clean player who’s knocked off the HOF ballot to clear space for users of PED’s. I was angry about it.
    But when it’s all said and done, when I go back and think about it. Do I want to stand by as people try to punish players by excluding them from the HOF? Because this is exactly what the HOF is being used for in this case, just as much as it was for Joe J and Pete R. The HOF is not an institution of punishment, nor do I want it to be. These Journalists are playing Juror to a man’s guilt and they don’t know the facts. The punishment? The HOF. Really? Is this what fans want the HOF to be?
    I want the HOF to be a museum to honor the best in the sport. I want it to be something it claims to be, not the final outlet of punishment for players who did nothing but try to be the best, and were. It stinks that for a time it meant using PED’s to get there, but that’s a non erasable part of history. So let’s show it HOF, we know it happened. Induct the best players ever as you’re supposed to do, and allow history and documentation be their punishment.
    The HOF is not what it’s supposed to be when you exclude the best players ever because you feel they did this, or that. It isn’t what it’s supposed to be when it excludes the best players ever even when we know what they did. I think the entire premise of “character judgement” is ridiculous actually since the HOF is supposed to measure talent. I think banning players for betting is ridiculous if they were good enough to get in. And today I think keeping out guys for PED use is as well. Not because of the morals. Not because I think it isn’t a big deal, because I do. But because I strongly feel, as I did over betting, that the HOF should not be a place to exact any form of punishment on any player for any reason. Why? I’m a fan, it’s my HOF, and I want it to document all of the best players of all time. NOT to be an outlet for punishment.

    • paperlions - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:33 AM

      Well said.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:50 AM

      nothing to add, just quoting this for emphasis:

      I want the HOF to be a museum to honor the best in the sport. I want it to be something it claims to be, not the final outlet of punishment for players who did nothing but try to be the best, and were. It stinks that for a time it meant using PED’s to get there, but that’s a non erasable part of history. So let’s show it HOF, we know it happened. Induct the best players ever as you’re supposed to do, and allow history and documentation be their punishment.

      • evanhartford - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:24 AM

        nothing to add, just repeating for emphasis:

        Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character. Character.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:57 AM

        Evan, what type of “Character” does it take to implicate a man of wrong doing, with little to no evidence, Judge him, then punish him for it?

    • evanhartford - Jan 6, 2011 at 12:35 PM

      Jonny 5,

      It’s in the eye of the beholder. Its unspecific and undefinable. It really is discretion. Its telling somebody to “do the right thing.” Whatever that means.

      As I said up above, this isn’t about steroids. Its about whether or not the voters should be able to use their discretion. I think they should. In a roundabout way, many of you think they shouldn’t.

      Instead of telling me how bad it is, why not present a viable alternative? How would you design a fair and equitable system for voting people into the HOF? If you let fans vote, then every ball player to wear pinstripes or red socks would be in. If you let Selig do it, you know he’ll built a throne for himself right on top of the Ruth exhibit. If you make the voting rules more rigid or the list less long, you’re basically going with the Selig option. What would you do?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 6, 2011 at 12:48 PM

        Instead of telling me how bad it is, why not present a viable alternative?

        The writers never cared about character before, why should they now? Let the writers continue to vote, but rather than change the game, just continue how it was done previously.

      • evanhartford - Jan 6, 2011 at 1:43 PM

        That’s not true and not even close to a viable alternative. That would be the equivalent of asking teams to stop using relief pitchers and to go back to doing what they used to do.

        You don’t think that some past writers refused to vote for certain players based on stuff other than baseball? Did every single writer in America vote for Jackie Robinson? I don’t think so.

        Again, your just upset because they’re not voting the way you want them to vote.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 6, 2011 at 1:53 PM

        “How would you design a fair and equitable system for voting people into the HOF?”

        I’d insist that all and only things stat related be taken into account, and hope the members follow that guide. I’d also invoke discussion about it between members so when people compare the numbers, they have all the facts and all angles so they can make an educated decision. Right now they shoot from the hip as evidenced with Bert B. He was excluded because he wasn’t popular. Even sportswriters didn’t know how good he was, even after looking at his numbers. To be honest it takes some serious Mathmatical ability to take everything into account and form a good decision. One thing is for certain to me, the HOF should not be about anything but quality of play. And taking into account suspicion is seriously overstepping the boundries of fairness. Put them in, also put in a whole story about the era if that atones a person’s moral obligation.. But don’t leave out the best players for any reason, the HOF is no place to punish.

      • jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 2:00 PM

        You don’t think that some past writers refused to vote for certain players based on stuff other than baseball? Did every single writer in America vote for Jackie Robinson? I don’t think so.

        No, and for whatever reason some members of the voting body believe that unanimity itself — speaking of non-baseball stuff — is a pertinent issue.

        But that is no reason to encourage voters to go even farther off the rails. We salute the ballplayer, not the man. That is clearly the established practice. Right Cap?

        In sum, let’s not add special provisos for particular groups according to our newly emerging ethics regarding PED use — or regarding anything else. We apply our ethics to our era. We honor that past according to the ethics of its era. Seems like a “viable alternative” to me, and indeed is the implicit standard of prior practice.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 6, 2011 at 2:15 PM

        Open discussion between those voting is extremely important. And there needs to be someone in charge of keeping open dialogue. Look at Barry Stantons ballot, Jeez louise…. He obviously isn’t fit to do the job, and he needs to be educated. Not saying he’s not smart, just not fit to pick for the HOF as he is.

        Right now the BBWAA is most closely as an entity “Blaine the Mono”

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 6, 2011 at 2:39 PM

        @evanhartford

        That’s not true and not even close to a viable alternative. That would be the equivalent of asking teams to stop using relief pitchers and to go back to doing what they used to do.

        It’s not the same. The character clause has been since Landis (citation needed), and yet was never invoked when players who were caught cheating during the game(!) and still voted in.

        You don’t think that some past writers refused to vote for certain players based on stuff other than baseball? Did every single writer in America vote for Jackie Robinson? I don’t think so.

        So past ignorance is justification for future ignorance? Good call!

        Again, your just upset because they’re not voting the way you want them to vote.

        Yeah, no. I’m upset b/c we have a bunch of individuals, with a 5th grade gym understanding of steroids*, act like the morality police when they’ve conveniently never invoked this clause before.

        *ask yourself this, why is taking steroids so bad? If it’s cheating the game, then so is doctoring the baseball, throwing spitballs, corking your bat, etc. Is it because it’s a chemical enhancement that gets you back on the field? Well so is cortisone (which is a steroid btw), tommy john surgery, and other treatments. If it makes you a better player than you were before, so is Lasik surgery. How about just some consistency from the writers, or is that too much to ask?

  17. jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    Welcome to the National Monument to Baseball The Way Some People Think It Should Have Been, formerly the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

  18. lar @ wezen-ball - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    “What happens when people in Texas stop believing its important because Jeff Bagwell isn’t in there? When Giants fans scoff at it because Bonds is out? When Rangers fans — or hell, Latino fans — think the place unfairly kept out Pudge Rodriguez?”

    But you see, Craig, it’s not important because Red Sox and Yankees fans will always go (because of Ruth, Gehrig, Yaz, etc). At least that’s what Pete Abraham said yesterday.

    And I don’t bring it up to denigrate Pete. I bring it up because I bet a lot of people believe just that. With the huge fanbases of the Yankees and Red Sox, and with Cooperstown being so close to both cities, they’re always going to go in big numbers. To a lot of people, that might be all that’s necessary. After all, were Texas fans going to come all the way up to upstate New York anyway (another point by Pete, but very representative of a New England feel, I’m sure)?

    It’s wrong, of course. And I agree 100% with you, Craig. But if people feel that way, it makes it easier for them to keep doing what they’re doing and believing what they’re believing.

    • jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:00 AM

      What happens when people in Texas stop believing the Declaration of Independence is important because Thomas Jefferson isn’t there?

      Ooh, sorry. Wrong forum.

  19. tigerprez - Jan 6, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    I think maybe we need to get off our moral high horses in criticizing these writers who refuse to vote for steroid users. It all feels so judgemental to throw stones at these guys, and we’ve convicted some of them without clear evidence (only rumors) of their unwillingness to elect any players who used steroids. This is becoming another form of McCarthyism, I think. I mean, c’mon, why don’t we just list their names on this site and burn these writers at the stake for being witches? That’s the next step.

    • jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:18 AM

      That’s a comment that’s entirely exempt from criticism, on the grounds that it’s unworthy of it.

    • paperlions - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:23 AM

      It is 100% fair to expect people to be consistent, and many voters are not, and obviously so. No one is asking that people vote for “cheaters”, but people are asking why only one form of cheating bothers them or why only the cheating of a few. Calling out hypocrites is always a good idea.

  20. hank10 - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Murderer? Check. Racists? Check. Admitted cheaters? Check. Amphetamine users? Check.

    If a player’s body of work is such that he should be in the HOF, then he should be elected. If the HOF wants to make a notation that he played in an era where PEDs were prevalent, then that is their call and leave it up to the fans to draw their own conclusions if a certain player was a user or not.

    Dead-ball era and live-ball era players are represented. So it’s OK when MLB sanctions their own form of cheating?

  21. dondbaseball - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    I think we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves in the observation of the steroid era. How do we know what the BBWAA will do when Bonds and Clemens come up for election? I think most know they were HOFers before the steroids but may “punish” them for a year by not voting to make a statement but I choose think more positive on people and believe those players will get in. As far as Bagwell, he seemed to get significant more support than McGuire did his first year on the ballot and with the various Sabermetric zealots (in a kind way) out there his totals will rise and I suspect he will get in. I personally don’t think that McGuire belongs in as I firmly believe his HR totals were significantly enhanced by PEDs. I think Pudge Rodriguez will be the most interesting case as his dominant years were right in the middle of the PED era and it will be hard to tell what benefit that contribute to what is obviously a HOFer.

    Let’s try to not react too hastily on other people’s thoughts or motives with more empirical evidence.

    • jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:20 AM

      Barry McGuire is mainly recalled nowadays as a one-hit wonder. No Hall of Fame for him. And anyway, that Hall’s in Cleveland.

  22. lardin - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    I have mixed emotions about the PED users getting elected into the Hall of Fame. But its not like they will be wipe away from the Hall’s memory if they are kept out. Bonds and probably Arod will be in exhibits talking about how they broke the Home Run Record. There will be an exhibit on Clemens and his 5000 strikeouts and 350 wins. There will be an exhibit about Sosa and Big Mac and the home run chase that saved baseball. Its the same for Pete Rose. There are exhibits on the big red machine and Pete setting the hits record.

    What these players dont get is a bronze statue and the ability to write HOF after their name. They will still be recorded in history and will be part of the museum.

    • jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:59 AM

      In other words, they will not be considered for inclusion on the same broad terms as Anson, Cobb, and all the others from prior eras. I don’t have mixed feelings about that — it’s patently biased and unfair.

      But, it’s a museum. If its director and board decide it should commemorate and celebrate the way things were up to the late 20th century, and then the way things weren’t in the late 20th century, they’re free to do so, of course.

      And we can choose to be paying customers or not.

      • lardin - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:27 AM

        They do do that by having exhibits showcasing the talents of the individuals and teams regardless of whether they cheated or not. People need to differentiate between the Hall as a museum and the room in the Hall where all the bronze plaques are. Just Because Bonds, or Clemens or Arod, or Rose does not get a bronze plaque, does not mean they are excluded from the Hall of fame. There are plenty of exhibits honoring the greats of the game including those I just mentioned. Your right, it is a museum and according all the players that I just mentioned are showcased in the museum, where they can be compared to the players of the past present and future. In terms of what happened in the 90’s and 00’s, There is in exhibit on Big Mac and Bonds and the Home run record. There is an exhibit on Clemens and his 20 strikeout games. There is an exhibit on the Big Mac and Sosa Home run chase.

        What these guys might not get is a bronze plaque in one room of the Museum. These players will all be mentioned in the Hall, some more so than others. The history of baseball will not be altered by the refusal of sportswriters to give them a bronze plaque and the ability to write HOF after there name.

      • paperlions - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:32 AM

        …and it doesn’t seem just a tad be intellectually inconsistent to have exhibits commemorating those events in the museum but to support not electing such players to the HOF?
        .
        If they have a “steroids are evil and these are the nefarious deeds perpetrated by morally bankrupt players while the world cheered and looked the other way, but now we hate them” exhibit…that would be intellectually consistent.

      • jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:41 AM

        You want to go, you go. Turn left at Schenectady.

        “Cheating” — your judgment, and we don’t need to argue it. But if you don’t want to kick Burleigh Grimes out, it’s pretty weak to me.

        In your Hall, they had better also have an exhibit about self-importance, hucksterism, and moralizing in 21st Century sportswriting, or visitors of the future won’t understand why in blazes Bonds and Clemens were treated specially by the BBWAA. If there are any.

  23. psousa1 - Jan 6, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    My ass they sent a message. “We won’t let the steroid users in!” “But sorry Fred McGriff and Barry Larkin your numbers don’t compare to the steroid users in the era in which you played say we’re not voting for you.”

    The BBWA. What a joke.

  24. stevem7 - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Hate to say it but the writer is a true joke. He opposes Shoeless Joe’s entry when it was proved back in the day that Joe was innocent. The writer isn’t smart enough to understand that Pete Rose should be in as a PLAYER, because his betting came as a manager. And he totally shows his lack of knowledge about anything with his statement that the home run king won’t be in the HOF. The home run king is already in the HOF and his name is Hank Aaron. Willie Mays’ godson is nothing more than a sham pretender to the throne, needing chemical substances to do anything. Roger Clemens doesn’t belong in the HOF if he juiced and I’m a Yankee fan saying that. Lastly, the writer has no proof at all that Bagwell did PED’s and yet he lumps him into that category. One really wonders at the intelligence of the men and women who pay idiots like this guy to write column’s. Worse yet, the HOF using the BBWA to decide who gets in …. it’s time to move past this biased group of fools.

    • stevejeltzjehricurl - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:21 AM

      Look, I disagree with Craig and think Joe and Pete should be in the Hall. But:

      (1) Joe Jackson was found not guilty in a court of law, but that doesn’t mean he was innocent of the crimes of which he was accused, nor does it clear him of wrongdoing in the case in question, and it definitely doesn’t clear him if baseball chooses to hold him to a higher standard than society.

      (2) I believe Hank has admitted to using PEDs in the form of amphetamines, so perhaps the mythical title of home run king belongs to the Babe. Regardless, the guy who hit the most home runs in MLB history is Barry Bonds.

      (3) I think you’re misreading Craig if you think he’s alleging steroid use by Bagwell. He’s putting him in the category because several BBWAA voters believe, with no evidence save anecdotal information, pictures, and allusions to his minor league numbers, that Bagwell juiced. Craig’s defended Bagwell from such crap, but he’s right to note that it’s unlikely that Bagwell will make the Hall because too many voters want to punish everyone who might have juiced, and live in fear of the idea that they vote for a guy who later is proven to be a cheater.

  25. stevejeltzjehricurl - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    As an aside, good interview by Joe. BTW, if there’s a way to convince more writers to take their vote as seriously as Joe does his ballot, I think you’d hear far less bellyaching from people like me about the writers thought processes. I may disagree with his final calls, but I can respect Joe’s thought process.

    Idelson’s quotes read like a politican’s and, if I had to hazard an educated guess, reflect the current sentiment in the mainstream world of the Hall of Fame establishment (including the adminstrators, the writers, MLB, etc.). Over time, I tend to think sentiment will move closer to the position Craig articulated and that others in this comment thread have mentioned — that baseball’s attempt to whitewash its own history out of collective embarrassment will likely fail, and only diminish the institutions who seek to do so. And people will come to realize this, and eventually, even the worst of the cheats will be inducted if their numbers justify it.

    The shame of it is that if MLB and the Hall took proactive steps, they could find a way to fix the problem; instead, it’s going to be festering sore that lasts well into the 2030s and beyond, as the controversy over whether Clemons or Bonds or whomever should be in the Hall will recur every year until they’re off the ballot, and then beyond (based on the Pete Rose experience). Then again, asking Bud Selig to take a proactive step on anything is like asking Congress to spend less money. The Hall will be diminished, and baseball will be further diminished.

    On the good news side, it should drive blog traffic for Craig and boost sports talk radio numbers.

    One other thought — the numbers cited earlier on the Hall’s declining foot traffic should mean something to them, and it’s all the fans can do. I think it would mean even more if players (and perhaps individual franchises, like the Astros) began protesting inane Hall voting decisions by refusing to support the Hall and send them exhibits. Imagine if Roy Halladay suddenly decided that nothing from his playoff no-hitter was going to the Hall. Or if the Astros accomplsied a historic feat and opted to withhold stuff from the hall due its failure to recognize Bagwell. I realize such a course of action ahs its dangers (the Yankees doing this to protest Big Stein’s exclusion might qualify as a mid-point on the slippery slope). I also realize that they would be punishing the Hall for the decisions made by the writers, but the Hall gave the ballot to the writers, and they can change the ballot if they so wish so as to outline clear standards for the voters to follow. They may ignore them, but at least we’ll have real standards in place.

    • jkcalhoun - Jan 6, 2011 at 11:58 AM

      The shame of it is that if MLB and the Hall took proactive steps, they could find a way to fix the problem; instead, it’s going to be festering sore that lasts well into the 2030s and beyond

      I don’t think it will fester that long. People don’t stay on the cusp of outrage — they turn away. If there’s no redress, the Hall will just settle into a zone of import somewhere in the neighborhood of the Golden Globes.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 6, 2011 at 12:45 PM

      Over time, I tend to think sentiment will move closer to the position Craig articulated and that others in this comment thread have mentioned

      The problem is that not everyone has that “time”. Take for instance Kevin Brown, who has dropped off the ballot for not getting the requisite 5% of the votes, yet arguments have been made comparing him favorably to Schilling, and better than Morris. Brown no longer has the gift of time.

      Or another instance, we can look at Bagwell. Certain writers, as mentioned here by Craig and anothers, wanted to wait on Bagwell to see, whatever they wanted to see. But imagine every writer took that stance? Thus no one voted for him, and he’d drop off the ballot as well.

    • Chipmaker - Jan 6, 2011 at 12:48 PM

      Don’t have teams withhold artifacts — have them submit meaningless artifacts.

      A no-hitter? Fine. Send the rosin bag to Cooperstown. Maybe a mustard-stained napkin that blew past first base. Ziploc baggie of dirt from the home plate area. Grass clippings.

      Include a note that, if they want anything from the player(s), they should get over to eBay. Quickly.

      Funnel the auction receipts into lobbying campaigns.

      • paperlions - Jan 6, 2011 at 1:00 PM

        Or teams could just keep them and display them in their own mini-museums, which many already do….or sell them and give the proceeds to charity…or you know, pay cities and states back for building the team a nice new stadium.

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