Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Solving the Baseball Hall of Fame Problem

For those of you over the age of 50, you might have known today the Baseball Hall of Fame results were released.  The Baseball Hall of Fame is a hallowed institution designed to bring people to bucolic Cooperstown, New York, which the institution has done.  Of course, recently, baseball, alone amongst all major American sports is receiving scrutiny over its drug testing and stars, leading to campaigns to clean up the game, while scads of nimble 300 pound behemoths perform every week for the NFL or stars have their blood recycled to improve their healing in the NBA.

Personally, I am not opposed to performance enhancement.  It is all about entertainment and it is far more entertaining to watch genetic freaks play games at the highest level than maintain a level playing field.  Life is many things, but a level playing field is not one of them.  We all know that being born to rich parents or having exceptional gifts make life easier and rewards richer, why shouldn't sports be the same way.  If someone is willing to have their legs repeatedly broken to be taller or inject themselves with human growth hormone to play better, then it should be allowed.  Heck, if we can strap rocket packs to humans and let them run track, I'll watch.  I don't want fairness, I want spectacle and choice for these brave young men to maim themselves for my entertainment.

Which gets us back to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are two of the best players in baseball history.  Any objective standard holds them up as potential candidates for the greatest of all time at their positions, yet here they are, stuck at under 40% of the ballot, as the guardians of the game, writers who wrote about baseball for at least ten years, withhold their entry into the museum in the name of morality.  Of course, as reporters, they largely turned a blind eye towards investigating as this was happening, but the money wasn't there, unlike with outsized offense and home run records.

Because of this, some writers now submit blank or nearly blank ballots to protect the sanctity of the game, because steroids are evil, though the amphetimines used by many of the heroes of the 1960s and 1970s were perfectly acceptable.  Morality being what it is, it will always slide to where you want it to be to get the optimum result on the issue, but that is a story for another day. 

To take the process back, something needs to change.  Now, it could be the balloting process, but that would mean taking something from people loathe to give it up, since the joke goes four writers at Golf World vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is the most exposure golf writing ever gets.  However, what needs to change is the perspective on performance enhancing drugs.

What I think the ideal solution would be is for someone like Greg Maddux, presumed by the sportswriters to be clean and elected with nearly 98% of the vote to come out and say he used performance enhancing drugs during his career.  I have no reason to suspect he did, but doing so would likely end all of the speculation about who is clean and who is dirty and likely have the same effect as Ted Williams' Hall of Fame acceptance speech where he expressed his disappointment with the lack of Negro League players in the Hall of Fame.  If someone who was thought to be clean and beyond reproach came out and said he used, then wouldn't everyone else then be allowed in. 

Of course, since we are talking about old, white guys who want to save something long gone, it might also lead to no one ever getting elected again and a new balloting system put into place, because that's how things roll.  But I would like to think that something like this, brave and on point, would end the madness and restore a new normalcy.  And perhaps, just perhaps make baseball relevant for the right reasons again.

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