Wednesday, January 9, 2013

You Blew It, BBWAA

You said it yourselves. You had the "toxic ballot." This is the year that the steroids controversy, that most of you dutifully ignored in the 90's, but later determined to be the greatest sin in baseball history, came to roost. You weren't going to allow Clemens and Bonds to take their place among the games greatest, to sully the halls that houses such honorable men as Ty Cobb, Gaylord Perry and Cap Anson. Think of the children, and all that. On this loaded ballot, there are several names you just can't bring yourselves to check off.

But on the same ballot was your salvation. Another first ballot option. No steroid stain on this guy. He played hard too. Jersey always dirty, helmet caked with grime. You could even call him gritty. You guys LOVE gritty. As for qualifications, he met and exceeded what you always looked for. You like numbers? How about 3,000 hits? One of only 28 players in history. 15th all time in runs scored. 5th in doubles. That's right, Tris Speaker, Pete Rose, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb and then this guy. Everyone knows he is going into the Hall of Fame. Question is when.

And he has a teammate on the ballot. Not only a teammate, but a player he played alongside for 15 years. Both began and ended their careers with the same team. Unheard of in these times, when players only care about money. More like in your day, when players played solely for the love of the game. And boy is he qualified. Top 50 all time on base percentage. Top 40 slugging. A first baseman with 449 homeruns and 202 stolen bases? This was not the one dimensional slugger that typified the steroid era. He has been on the ballot for two years, and several of you have said you want to wait...for something. Its never been clear what. But this was your chance.

Instead of an empty podium, you could have had these two greats share the stage again. Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, inducted together.  You could have made this induction ceremony all about the Houston Astros, a great franchise who has never had a player wear its cap in the Hall. Their fans, who definitely need some positives right now, would flock in droves to Cooperstown to celebrate their favorite players being honored.

Instead, you got cute. You decided you would not consider any player "in the steroid era" , at least, not on the first ballot. You looked at Biggio's body of work, and decided doing things only a handful of players have ever done was not dominant enough for you. At least not yet.  About Bagwell, you are still waiting...Still not sure for what. Or you did truly silly things, like send in your ballot blank, in protest of something, or rate perceived character over playing ability. Or look over this truly loaded ballot, and pick only the pitcher with a 3.90 era. In other words, you made this process about you, rather than about the players. Or the fans.

And that's who the Hall of Fame should really be about. The fans. Without the fans coming to Cooperstown, which is not the most convenient locale, the Hall of Fame would not exist. And this year, unless Deacon White has a loyal fan base I am not aware of, they won't come. So congratulations. You have preserved the integrity of the Hall of Fame. I just hope it can survive your protection.