Thoughts From A Seamhead: The Great Hall Debate

Every year when the baseball Hall of Fame nominees are announced several debates arise. The biggest debate currently surrounds players and the “steroid” era. Now I have written a couple of articles and done research into steroids so I’m not going to use this article as another soap box as to how they really don’t help as much as one would think. Instead I’m just going to simply discuss the usage and its place in history.
To say the players cheated isn’t exactly true when you consider the fact that Major League Baseball itself first turned a blind eye to steroids and PED’s in the beginning. In fact baseball itself cheated as well. After the 1994 strike attendance was at an all-time low at virtually every ballpark. Something needed to be done to bring the fans back. What do most fans like more than anything else? Home runs. What did MLB do about it? They introduced a livelier baseball that would travel further. A juiced baseball coupled with juicing players led to more home runs which led to a renewed fan interest.
It really wasn’t until congress stepped in and the Mitchell Report was completed that Bud Selig began to really crack down and began testing. Major League Baseball was just as culpable as the players themselves.

Now some of those “cheating” players are finding themselves on the HoF ballot and being ignored for the most part. Players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire aren’t being admitted by the BBWAA because of their association with PED’s. Clemens and Bonds never tested positive yet the assumption is enough.

The following is straight from MLB’s website in reference to voting: “Voting will continue to be based upon the individual’s record, ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the game of Baseball.”

The writers use integrity and character when explaining why they won’t vote in steroid users. So even though Bonds and Clemens were two of the all-time greats before they supposedly juiced they’re not getting in while if you’re one of the best and you stab a man (during your playing career) it’s okay?

I’m speaking of Ty Cobb who once slapped a black elevator operator because he didn’t like his attitude and when a black night watchman came to assist, Cobb stabbed him. In case you weren’t aware Cobb was a well-known racist. Cobb was also known for sharpening his spikes and purposely sliding spike first into opposing players. He was insufferable jerk but he was one of the game’s greatest players if not the greatest of all.

Hank Aaron was one of the game’s greatest sluggers and was the home run king until Barry Bonds broke his record. Aaron was a also a known “greenies” user as were many other players in the late sixties and seventies. Greenies, better known as amphetamines, gave players an edge as they increased awareness and strength. Hmm, that sounds like cheating to me even though some of the players who used are now in the HoF. Oh yeah, that’s because MLB ignored the problem. I wonder what would have happened if congress had intervened back then?

Now another complaint I hear is that the players of today are not nearly as good as the players of yore. But is that necessarily true? Until 1920 the game was dominated by pitchers like Christy Matthewson. Back in Matthewson’s heyday pitchers were allowed to rough up a ball however they wanted. That included rubbing dirt on it and spitting tobacco on it. In 1920, Cleveland Indians’ shortstop Ray Chapman was beaned in the temple by a spitball thrown by Yankees’ pitcher Carl Mays. Chapman died the next day and Major League baseball instituted a new change for the following season; the spitball was banned and pitchers would receive a new “clean” ball after each hit.

So would those great pitchers of the early 1900’s be able to throw against the players of today knowing that they had to use scuff-free balls? There’s no way we’ll ever know but it’s unfair to say that players today don’t “stack up” to the legends of yesteryear.

The final debate surrounds players who should be in but have been banned from the game for life. Yes I am speaking of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose. I’m not going into detail about what they did because I assume if you’re reading this then you know enough about the game and this is not a history lesson. I believe that their bans should be lifted and they should be allowed in. So do thousands of other people including members of the BBWAA. Here’s the thing though; if you are going to vote Jackson and Rose in then you CANNOT deny entry to players like Bonds and Clemens. Hypocrisy should not be allowed amongst the voters.

James Holland is a Senior Columnist for Shutdown Inning. He can be reached at James.Holland@shutdowninning.com or @SDIJamesHolland on Twitter.
James Holland

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