|He had to wait far too long.|
The Hall-of-Fame is a museum. It is not a holy shrine, even for die-hard baseball fans like me. It is a museum, a secular shrine if you will, of the history of baseball. There are wonderful human beings like Hank Aaron, Harry Kalas, and Jackie Robinson, that people love, and say did their jobs playing or announcing, or whatever else, better than other people. There are perceived awful human beings, like Ty Cobb, in there too. There's even the in-betweens, the Babe Ruth's of life who were amazing talents, but very real people in their personal lives. Even totally disgraced people like Bill Conlin, the former Phillies writer who was accused of molesting young girls, don't have their plaques taken down after the fact. They're all in there, because in their eras in the majors, they were the greatest players, managers, announcers, and writers of their day.
For this reason, I say that all of the questionable characters of the steroid era should be in the Hall-of-Fame, including Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Roger Clemens. No, they wouldn't be my very first picks this year. With just ten slots, I think it's important to start with the obvious ones that most likely weren't on steroids. Start with Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Morris, Schilling, Biggio, and McGriff all should get votes. In fact, I'd probably vote for all seven of them, yes including Jack Morris, who was the hallmark of durable and ready for the ball under pressure. After those seven though, I would immediately cast my vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and yes, Mike Piazza. I'd totally understand if you held them out to vote for Lee Smith, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker, or Edgar Martinez (not as much for Don Mattingly, though I think someday he should get his day too, perhaps as a player and manager if all goes well). If you hold them out because they are "tainted," I'm not with you. Same down the line with Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire. Obviously I move the guys most tainted behind the guys least tainted, but I put them all in.
Why? Because they deserve it. Purists hate this argument, but they're wrong. Athletes have sought advantages as long as they have existed. Players took speed in times gone by to deal with the tiring of the season. Players in the 1990s took steroids. Here's the thing- MLB had no rule against it at that time. They had no rule at all. This isn't Pete Rose violating a said rule at the time on gambling (and I would still put him in), this is players doing something that MLB neither tested for, or banned. Sure, most steroids were illegal (not all, such as andro, which is not a technical steroid, and was legal in those days), but legality isn't really a part of this. Players have violated laws forever. So what? There are criminals in the Hall already.
On top of being allowed in their era, steroids were not uncommon. Jason Grimsley was a mediocre middle reliever, and he was a kingpin in the steroid era. Larry Bigbie was a journeyman bench outfielder, and also a kingpin. There were a lot of not-very-good big leaguers on steroids, because a lot of players were on steroids, period. Essentially, it was putting you on an even playing field to take steroids. Sure, I give extra credit to those who didn't use, and I'd let them jump the Hall's line. I don't think you should hold some guys out though because you don't like what they did.
I'm glad that a lot of the writers who are holding out these guys don't stay anonymous, and I hope they don't go anonymous in the future. As a fan, it tells me there's an inflated sense of what they are doing in their every day job, and that I probably won't agree with them much. It also allows honest conversation on these matters, as Tom Glavine did about Mike Piazza recently. It allows fans and other bloggers to give these guys grief, because we're honestly discussing it, and that's good. If we're going to allow the museum known as Baseball's Hall-of-Fame to be historically accurate, then we have to pressure the voters to make it so. If not, we're going to have a whitewashed, inaccurate view of baseball history. That happens enough already, and does no one any good.