Green Room

Whither Cooperstown?

posted at 10:09 am on January 9, 2013 by

The tradition of MLB’s Hall of Fame continues today, with an announcement due on the Class of 2013.  The Steroid Era’s biggest figures — pun definitely intended — are now eligible for enshrinement.  Names like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens are on the ballot.  However, my friend Paul Mirengoff points out that sportswriters and baseball fans are in a catch-22 that may end Cooperstown’s luster once and for all:

Regardless of the outcome, the Hall is in an untenable position. What sense does it make to have a Hall of Fame that doesn’t include the most successful hitter (Bonds) and the most successful pitcher (Clemens) of the past 50 years? Both players presumably would have coasted into the Hall of Fame based on performance that preceded the period during which they are believed to have been on steriods.

On the other hand, it seems like a breach of good faith to bestow baseball’s ultimate honor on cheats. That, at least, seems to be the sentiment of a number of Hall of Famers who have said they will boycott its ceremonies if Bonds, Clemens, or Sosa is admitted.

In my wasted youth (i.e., up until the age of 45), I used to spend hours pouring over baseball statistics trying to determine, say, the top 20 second basemen of all time. Who in his right mind would indulge in such a hobby now, when we don’t know (1) which players from the 1990s and early 2000s gained an unfair advantage through drugs, (2) the precise period in which they gained it, or (3) the extent of the advantage?

If the game didn’t care enough to maintain the integrity of its history, why should we care enough to obsess about that history or even to worry who makes the Hall of Fame?

I lost my enthusiasm for baseball in the Steroid Era.  I’m pretty sure that was not a limited phenomenon.

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eventually they’ll cave and let all these people in just like they will with Pete Rose after he dies most likely.

gsherin on January 9, 2013 at 10:13 AM

Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame before any of them. He didn’t cheat during his playing career like these guys did. If they admit any of these guys and leave Rose outside looking in, they lose all credibility.

cooperkp on January 9, 2013 at 10:18 AM

I lost my enthusiasm for baseball in the Steroid Era. I’m pretty sure that was not a limited phenomenon.

Same. I don’t watch anymore, and I don’t care. The game left me, and I used to love it.

NotCoach on January 9, 2013 at 10:31 AM

cooperkp on January 9, 2013 at 10:18 AM

“Shoeless” Joe Jackson deserves to get in before any other rule breaker because he likely didn’t break any rules.

NotCoach on January 9, 2013 at 10:34 AM

I lost my enthusiasm for baseball in the Steroid Era. I’m pretty sure that was not a limited phenomenon.

Yet you’ll paint your head for the chemical apes of the National Fraud League? Look, if we can keep out a high-achieving scumbag like Pete Rose, we can sort our way through the a-holes like Roger Clemens. And you can paint your head up to look like a baboon’s arse and go get all moist for Ben Rapeyburger.

M240H on January 9, 2013 at 10:43 AM

No steroids in the Hall of Fame. Simple as that.
In the end, the Hall is about the the Game, not the players.
The absence of these players will say much about the blemish they stuck the game with.
Honor the Game.

Jabberwock on January 9, 2013 at 10:47 AM

A similar quandary presented itself regarding Joe Jackson, and it will likely be resolved in the same way, with them being recognized in the Museum without being actually enshrined in the Hall…

oddball on January 9, 2013 at 10:54 AM

This year’s actually easy, since there are a number of stars who weren’t first ballot Hall-of-Famers. So keeping Bonds, Clemens, etc., out in 2013 would simply be an initial sit-in-the-corner time-out for their bad behavior. The problem comes in the ensuing years, as they remain on the ballot and new violators like Manny Ramirez begin to qualify for admission.

jon1979 on January 9, 2013 at 11:06 AM

I’m no fan of baseball. But as a lawyer, it seems that this issue isn’t for Hall of Fames in any sport. Its up to the judicial process of that league (usually the Commissioner). Its that process that should be able to, as a sanction, ban someone from the HOF. Barring such ban, the Hall of Fame’s process is not set up for such determinations.

hayekorbust on January 9, 2013 at 11:06 AM

They should just have a wing dedicated to cheaters. That way they’d be in, and scorned at the same time.

portlandon on January 9, 2013 at 11:13 AM

eventually they’ll cave and let all these people in just like they will with Pete Rose after he dies most likely.

gsherin on January 9, 2013 at 10:13 AM

Pete Rose does deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but dying didn’t get Shoeless Joe Jackson’s lifetime ban revoked (and he’s been dead for 52 years), so I wouldn’t hold your breath.

I predict they’ll let in at least one cheater – I’d guess Clemens has the best shot. Cheapens the whole game and the Hall.

Waggoner on January 9, 2013 at 11:19 AM

I lost my enthusiasm for baseball in the Steroid Era

But you loved it in the segregation era?
How about the amphetamines era?
Or the Tommy John surgery and Lasik era?

And if you think any other sport with millions & billions of dollars at stake is “clean” you are hopelessly naive.

I’m still waiting for the Olympics to take back the 1976 East German women’s swim team medals.

rbj on January 9, 2013 at 11:24 AM

But you loved it in the segregation era?

I wasn’t alive in the segregation era.

Ed Morrissey on January 9, 2013 at 11:29 AM

love baseball. love the giants. love bonds.

steroids or no, that man was the most amazing athlete i have ever seen. better than jordan, better than jackson, better than woods. he got maybe one tow two pitches to hit, almost surely by accident, a GAME. they never pitched to him in any situation of importance at all. EVER.

i watched a game where Pujols was in his prime, in the 4th inning with the game close and a runner in scoring position, he was pitched to. this never ever ever happened for bonds. in that case, automatic 4 balls to first base.

over a .600 OBP!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! if you have any understanding of baseball, that alone is enough, no matter how hard he was ‘cheating’.

most amazing athlete ever, and it isn’t even close.

truecon on January 9, 2013 at 11:31 AM

I wasn’t alive in the segregation era.

Ed Morrissey on January 9, 2013 at 11:29 AM

But Babe Ruth’s and Walter Johnson’s records were accomplished in part against opponents who were so inferior, they’d have been replaced by better players except for the color of their skin. So shouldn’t Ruth’s & Johnson’s feats be discounted a bit?

My point isn’t that steroids helped Bonds & Clemens, they probably did. But to subject steroid users to a squeaky clean standard that has never existed before and isn’t applied to other performance enhancing medical procedures, is not merely hypocritical, it flies in the face of reality.

You want steroids out of sports (325 lb linemen? really?) I’m right there with you. But it can’t be a retroactive thing when everyone knew what was going on. Players, owners, the commissioner, reporters (remember when McGwire had a bottle of andro in his locker, a local reporter asked about it and national reporters told him to shut up) and even us fans either knew or should have suspected.

rbj on January 9, 2013 at 11:54 AM

most amazing athlete ever

truecon on January 9, 2013 at 11:31 AM

I think the contention is that his greatness wasn’t due to his athleticism as many measure it, but due to enhancement from steroids.

GWB on January 9, 2013 at 11:55 AM

The whole thing is ridiculous. That our servants in DC wasted the time to have hearings about anything to do with baseball is inane. I just don’t understand people getting all worked up about it.

Besides, the Baseball Hall of Fame is in the middle of NY state. Put it in a free state where we can visit it and I might work up a give a *bleep*.

deepdiver on January 9, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Besides, the Baseball Hall of Fame is in the middle of NY state. Put it in a free state where we can visit it and I might work up a give a *bleep*.

deepdiver on January 9, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Cooperstown in September or early October is a spectacular place to visit.

Jabberwock on January 9, 2013 at 1:06 PM

I suspect they’ll have to let the cheaters in eventually. Baseball is always changing and you have to look at players in the context in which they played. Barry Bonds may be a horrible human being, but he would have been a great player in any era. If you could bring Lou Gehrig into the modern era, he’d be a great player, too.

It sounds like there’s a good chance that none of the modern-day players will make the HOF this year, which is a shame because there are several really good candidates outside of the steroid users. If I had a ballot, I’d have voted for Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell and Tim Raines and perhaps Dale Murphy. All were outstanding players when they were on the field.

Mr. D on January 9, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Yeah, but if I interrupt a “continuous journey” through/around NY state for any reason, even to sight-see, the unloaded and locked up sidearm in my trunk makes me a criminal in NY state. That means getting a hotel room in PA or VT, leaving my sidearm and ammo in the motel room (doesn’t sound safe), driving round trip to Cooperstown for a day visit. That’s like 5 hours or more round trip driving same day just to visit. I just can’t imagine that it is worth all that. Actually, can’t imagine anything in NY state is worth that.

deepdiver on January 9, 2013 at 1:19 PM

Yeah. No one in the Hof already never cheated in any way. Right.

And anyone that ever voted for Gaylord Perry can shut up about cheating.

Moesart on January 9, 2013 at 2:02 PM

I think the contention is that his greatness wasn’t due to his athleticism as many measure it, but due to enhancement from steroids.

GWB on January 9, 2013 at 11:55 AM

But according to most sources, he started using after the 1998 season because of his anger at McGwire/Sosa capturing all the headlines. He was already one of the greatest players ever due to his performance from 1990 to 1996.

Good Solid B-Plus on January 9, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Pete Rose.

OxyCon on January 9, 2013 at 2:14 PM

And anyone that ever voted for Gaylord Perry can shut up about cheating.

Moesart on January 9, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Yep.

Mr. D on January 9, 2013 at 2:18 PM

They should just have a wing dedicated to cheaters. That way they’d be in, and scorned at the same time.

portlandon on January 9, 2013 at 11:13 AM

Maybe just special bathroom stalls. They’d probably have lines.

TexasDan on January 9, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Who cares? Is there some higher law that says using steroids or hgh is cheating? For all I care every sportsman should take them to even their chances. To say “it’s for the kids” is a crock.

AH_C on January 9, 2013 at 2:36 PM

The votes have been counted and…no one got elected into the HOF this year. Sounds fair. I do think guys like Bonds and Clemens should make it in one day, but their association with PEDs absolutely should have disqualified them from being elected on the first ballot. Make them wait 10-15 years like the marginal HOF players have to wait.

joejm65 on January 9, 2013 at 3:03 PM

Morris & Biggio should be in. Neither cheated and both were great.

Conservative4Ever on January 9, 2013 at 3:07 PM

http://www.mccoveychronicles.com/2013/1/9/3855486/big-important-opinions-on-barry-bonds-and-the-hall-of-fame

a giants blogger’s (not me) rationale on bonds and the HOF. he is a very good and funny writer, kind of reminds me of AP (they are both very self-deprecating and like cats….hmmmm, maybe there is a cause and effect thing there). an excerpt:

“Long rant short: Keeping steroid users out is an exercise in ignoring context. It makes the Hall of Fame a museum without context. That’s like a movie without images, a smore without graham crackers, or a copy of Snow’s Greatest Hits without “Informer.” Or, for that matter, a DVD of Snow’s greatest hits without Game 2 of the 2000 NLDS. What’s the point? What is this whole thing for? Shouldn’t you just stop and call it something else?

The only way to argue otherwise is to see the Hall of Fame as nothing but some sort of reward for the players. If that’s the point of the Hall of Fame, maybe we need a separate museum that tells about baseball’s history instead. I’d rather go to that one.”

truecon on January 9, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Morris & Biggio should be in. Neither cheated and both were great.

Conservative4Ever on January 9, 2013 at 3:07 PM

Being the winningest pitcher in the 80′s should have gotten Morris in on the first ballot. His World Series performances late in his career were really just icing on the cake.

NotCoach on January 9, 2013 at 3:22 PM

Being the winningest pitcher in the 80′s should have gotten Morris in on the first ballot. His World Series performances late in his career were really just icing on the cake.

Preaching to the choir! I can’t tell you how many games I saw Morris at Tiger stadium…what I can tell you each game I saw him there I always thought “this is a for sure HoF pitcher”

Each year that goes by saddens me…..Now let’s talk Trammell!

Conservative4Ever on January 9, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Piazza should have gotten in.

VanPalin on January 9, 2013 at 3:33 PM

I lost my enthusiasm for baseball in the Steroid Era. I’m pretty sure that was not a limited phenomenon.

Was it the ‘Roids or the strike/lockout that immediately preceeded the ‘Roids?

Steve Eggleston on January 9, 2013 at 3:34 PM

Each year that goes by saddens me…..Now let’s talk Trammell!

Conservative4Ever on January 9, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Lol. Or even Whitaker. Admission should be judged by performance at a player’s respective position played. Whitaker’s stats as a second baseman compare well to other second basemen’s stats in history.

NotCoach on January 9, 2013 at 3:34 PM

Pete Rose never cheated at the game. Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Clemens and others did.

If the Hall of Fame inducts them but not Rose it loses any shred of integrity or legitimacy. I blame Bud Selig who is about as good a commissioner as Weepy Boner is House Speaker that these cheats are even on the ballot and that their existence hasn’t been WIPED OUT of the record books.

As far as I am concerned the Home Run King is still Hank Aaron. The single season record holder is still Roger Maris.

If the commissioner had the power to ban the Black Sox from baseball for life despite their acquittals for fixing the 1919 World Series (won by my Reds, incidentally) for the good of the game he can ban the steroid cheaters from the game and wipe out their statistics.

wildcat72 on January 9, 2013 at 3:49 PM

Lol. Or even Whitaker. Admission should be judged by performance at a player’s respective position played. Whitaker’s stats as a second baseman compare well to other second basemen’s stats in history.

These reminders by you of Tigers being ignored by HoF!! Are you trying to get me to stroke out?!?! :P

I can’t tell you how many of these conversations I had with family & friends. If my grandmother was still alive she would be fuming

Conservative4Ever on January 9, 2013 at 3:51 PM

Conservative4Ever on January 9, 2013 at 3:51 PM

:P

I was a child of the 80′s myself. I grew up with these guys. One of my all time favorite Tigers was Tommy Brookens.

NotCoach on January 9, 2013 at 3:56 PM

Ed, there’s an update on this summed up in one word for the steroid crew…DENIED!!

Liberty or Death on January 9, 2013 at 4:27 PM

Lol. Or even Whitaker. Admission should be judged by performance at a player’s respective position played. Whitaker’s stats as a second baseman compare well to other second basemen’s stats in history.

NotCoach on January 9, 2013 at 3:34 PM

I think all those Tigers are in a tough spot. I am a Brewers fan and it always seemed like Trammell and Whitaker were overshadowed by Robin Yount and Paul Molitor; they played against each other hundreds of times and in the overall stats, Yount and Molitor have the better argument, since they both ended up with well over 3000 hits.

Having said that, Alan Trammell was a tremendous player — one of the smartest guys I ever saw on a baseball diamond and an outstanding fielder and hitter. Clutch as hell, too. And Whitaker was a really fine second baseman with sneaky power. The only second baseman of that era who was better was Ryne Sandberg. I’ve never understood why Whitaker got thrown under the bus. I don’t think Whitaker is better than Roberto Alomar or Craig Biggio, but he’s close.

Mr. D on January 9, 2013 at 5:08 PM

Roger Maris’ record stood for 37 years. Then it was broken six times in four years.

After baseball cracked down on steroids, no one has hit more than 57 homers in a season.

Clemens, Bonds, and Sosa do not have a place in the Hall of Fame. Their records were achieved through cheating.

halfastro on January 9, 2013 at 5:15 PM

I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for baseball, but I’ve lost my enthusiasm for slugging records. Roger Maris, who btw isn’t enshrined in Cooperstown, and Hank Aaron, who quite rightfully is, have been robbed.

My husband and I went to the Hall of Fame for the first time last summer. It was a great experience. But I will lose my enthusiasm for Cooperstown if they induct the likes of Bonds, Sosa and Clemens. And that goes for Mark McGwire as well should his name come up again.

SukieTawdry on January 9, 2013 at 5:58 PM

Pete Rose never cheated at the game.

Yes he did, too, and in a much worst way than even Barry Bionic Bonds. When players bet on baseball, they threaten the honesty of the game. It turns it into ‘pro wrestling’, a play, not a game, no matter how athletic the participants are. At least the steroid stooges weren’t a threat to throw the game.

I suggest a compromise. Since steroids, etc., weren’t even against MLB rules for at least part of the era in question, how about if we tell these guys they can have either their name on any records they set or membership in the HOF, but not both? (Subject to them admitting steroid, etc., use, naturally)

Knott Buyinit on January 9, 2013 at 6:34 PM

love baseball. love the giants. love bonds.

steroids or no, that man was the most amazing athlete i have ever seen. better than jordan, better than jackson, better than woods. he got maybe one tow two pitches to hit, almost surely by accident, a GAME. they never pitched to him in any situation of importance at all. EVER.

i watched a game where Pujols was in his prime, in the 4th inning with the game close and a runner in scoring position, he was pitched to. this never ever ever happened for bonds. in that case, automatic 4 balls to first base.

over a .600 OBP!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! if you have any understanding of baseball, that alone is enough, no matter how hard he was ‘cheating’.

most amazing athlete ever, and it isn’t even close.

truecon on January 9, 2013 at 11:31 AM

That’s an opinion, and, considering that he had to cheat in order to achieve what was an essentially superhuman level of performance, the athleticism he displayed after he began taking steroids and whatnot deserves an asterisk next to it.

Pre-steroids Bonds was not nearly as impressive of an athlete as either Wilt Chamberlain or Bobby Orr were at their respective peaks.

Anti-Control on January 9, 2013 at 6:35 PM

If they ever let Bonds and McGwire (or other steroid-users) in, their names should be permanently followed by asterisks.

Bigfoot on January 9, 2013 at 6:37 PM

I think it is worth consideration that performance enhancing drugs were not illegal in the sport at the time that Bonds, Sosa and Clemens used. Also, Bonds was by far a shoe-in for the HoF, and it is often speculated that upon seeing Sosa and McGwire breaking HR records while obviously on PEDs, that Bonds decided that if MLB was going to allow that, he might as well enhance his stats and show everyone what a real athlete could do enhanced.

Listen, just like with Armstrong, when everyone is using, the elites will look around and see that if the violators aren’t being punished, then in order to maintain their livelihood they will start using as well to keep up. The best athletes aren’t going to stand being 2nd rate compared to others that they *know* are less talented, it isn’t fair and they have no way of remedying the problem short of sounding like a bunch of crybabies. Their window of money making is very limited and by no means guaranteed, so in essence their jobs are on the line if they can’t perform at the level of the enhanced athletes.

This is MLB’s fault for not enacting rules and being diligent in enforcing them.

Bonds and Clemens should be in the HoF, with no *.

Geministorm on January 9, 2013 at 8:33 PM

Pre-steroids Bonds was not nearly as impressive of an athlete as either Wilt Chamberlain or Bobby Orr were at their respective peaks.

Anti-Control on January 9, 2013 at 6:35 PM

That’s crazy. Pre-steroid use, he was already considered the best athlete baseball had ever seen, and this was during Griffey Jr’s heyday as well. Old timers thought so, sports analysts thought so, the guy just had every tool in his bag and it was the best. Other athletes may have been specialists, Rickey Henderson comes to mind, but look at what Bonds did, only Willie Mays and Barry’s dad (Bobby) were close to the 500/500 club.

Look at just the 10 years prior to Bonds meeting his trainer from BALCO.

8 Gold Gloves
8 All-Star appearances
7 Silver Sluggers
3 NL MVP

That right there is enough for the HoF.

Geministorm on January 9, 2013 at 8:49 PM

Baseball was my first love.

The 1994 World Series that never was was the Separation.

Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds forever soiling Roger Maris’ and Hank Aaron’s marks were the divorce.

I never watch baseball anymore and I don’t care.

Baseball is dead to me. if it’s on TV, I change the channel, including the World Series.

cane_loader on January 9, 2013 at 8:58 PM

In my wasted youth (i.e., up until the age of 45), I used to spend hours pouring over baseball statistics trying to determine, say, the top 20 second basemen of all time.

Loser.

lorien1973 on January 9, 2013 at 9:00 PM

That’s crazy. Pre-steroid use, he was already considered the best athlete baseball had ever seen, and this was during Griffey Jr’s heyday as well. Old timers thought so, sports analysts thought so, the guy just had every tool in his bag and it was the best. Other athletes may have been specialists, Rickey Henderson comes to mind, but look at what Bonds did, only Willie Mays and Barry’s dad (Bobby) were close to the 500/500 club.

Look at just the 10 years prior to Bonds meeting his trainer from BALCO.

8 Gold Gloves
8 All-Star appearances
7 Silver Sluggers
3 NL MVP

That right there is enough for the HoF.

Geministorm on January 9, 2013 at 8:49 PM

Bobby Orr and Wilt Chamberlain were more dominant over their peers at their peaks than Barry Bonds ever was, prior to his steroid’s usage – it’s craziness to say otherwise.

Anti-Control on January 9, 2013 at 9:29 PM

That’s an opinion

Anti-Control on January 9, 2013 at 6:35 PM

ha ha ha. you think? people’s insecurities never cease to amaze. brilliant.

truecon on January 9, 2013 at 9:33 PM

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