Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The Hypocrisy of the Baseball Hall of Fame
On January 9, the Baseball Hall of Fame chose not to induct a class for 2013. Three of Major League Baseball’s most notorious suspected steroid abusers (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa) were eligible for the Hall of Fame. While it takes 75% of the votes to be elected, none of the three received more than 38% of the vote. Although none have ever tested positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED), the class of 2013 will forever be referred to as the “steroid class”.
For the self-righteous baseball writers who vote for the Hall of Fame to really prove their point, even Craig Biggio, who would never be accused of using PED’s, only received 68% of the vote. This guilt by association is the height of hypocrisy. After the 1994 strike, which led to cancellation of the World Series, baseball interest was lagging until the exciting 1996 race by Sosa and Mark McGwire upon Roger Maris’s single season home run mark. Major League Baseball ownership and the sportswriters celebrated the home run as the salvation of the sport. When rumors of performance-enhancing drugs were whispered, everyone looked the other way. After the sport was saved by the long ball, the public as well as those in baseball expressed a negative reaction when an arrogant Barry Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron’s all-time home run total.
Should all players be denied membership in the Hall of Fame because of the widespread drug use that was in some extent encouraged by baseball management and the now holier-than-thou sportswriters? Drug usage has always been a part of baseball. From chewing tobacco and alcohol to the amphetamines that were present in most clubhouses during the 1960s and 1970sand rampant cocaine use in the 1980’s, drugs have been a mainstay .
Issues of character (Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa) have certainly been raised when voting for Hall of Famers, yet the voters have certainly condoned much worse by crowning Hall of Fame status on violent racists such as Ty Cobb. And what about the issues of race and cheating? Should athletes who played in the first four decades of the twentieth century have their records questioned because they never had to face black pitchers such as Satchel Paige or hitters like Josh Gibson? Although forms of cheating such as stealing signs and doctoring baseballs have always been part of the game, Hall of Fame pitchers Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry were certainly acknowledged for their skills.
The Hall of Fame hypocrisy will always be present, but after a period in purgatory it is likely that a new generation of sportswriters will elevate the “steroid class” to Cooperstown. But, an asterisk could be attached to each name who played during the PED era.