Thursday, January 3, 2013

Balking at Drugs in the Baseball Hall

Balking at Drugs in the Baseball Hall
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 3, 2013

While Jack Frost may be nipping at our tuchuses and pitchers and catchers don’t report for duty for about six weeks, there is some important baseball business needing immediate attention – the upcoming vote on who will earn entry into the Hall of Fame.

“Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” ( This is the standard by which the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) is to do their jobs if they have not already cast their ballots for the Class of 2013.

The key words here are character and integrity – neither of which were exhibited by the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, or Sammy Sosa, each accused of using steroids during their playing careers. Whether for one season or an extended period of time, these players’ bad behavior should not be rewarded. They only way they should be allowed into Cooperstown is with a paid ticket for admission.

Yet one such BBWAA voter, Bruce Jenkins, a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle, is willing to overlook the importance of character and integrity. “Whether it was gambling, scuffing the baseballs, corking bats, amphetamines or steroids, players have been cheating like crazy forever.”

That shoddy excuse for Jenkins to boast about his plan to vote for Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa should be enough to be disqualified as a voting member of the BBWAA. Justifying bad behavior with other bad behavior is disingenuous at best. Did he vote for McGwire in any of his six previous ballot appearances or Palmeiro’s two priors?

The “steroid era” of baseball is more of a black mark than the Black Sox scandal of 1919 that temporarily stained the game and gave the game a commissioner. Steroids have tainted baseball from the top down – from the majors to high school where players are under such pressure to perform, maintain a level of performance, and procure high dollar contracts.

While the aforementioned accused players managed to escape a 2005 Congressional hearing not determining their steroid usage, the overwhelming majority of people were not so easily duped. Fooling Congress, after all, can be attained in one’s sleep. But it was clear that the leaps and bounds in the performances of Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa were nothing short of manufactured.

And while convicting Bonds, Clemens and Sosa in the court of public opinion is not how the system of American jurisprudence operates in these United States, those retired players are not facing judge and jury, but instead the 600-plus members of the BBWAA for whom the words character and integrity loom large.

Those words, character and integrity, have meaning and should be upheld while casting votes in favor of some of the past generation’s great players on the field, and honorable men off the field.

Were I casting some of the precious votes to determine the Class of 2013 inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame, four former stars would appear on my ballot.

Craig Biggio spent the entirety of his 20 years in the majors with the Houston Astros. The seven time all-star also earned four Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers. Biggio managed to appear in many offensive leadership categories while playing for a typically sluggish Astros team. The former second baseman should be a first ballot entrant.

Jack Morris pitched for 14 of his 18 major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers and could soak up the innings as though he had a rubber arm, tossing 175 complete games. Morris pitched in three World Series, was a three-time 20-plus game winner, including winning 21 at age 37. The five-time all-star also pitched for the Twins, Blue Jays, and Indians. Having pitched from 1977-94, Morris is in his 14th year of eligibility, inching closer each year to Cooperstown.

Because Mike Piazza played nearly eight of his 16-year career with the Mets, naturally he a favorite. However, the 12-time all-star cracked 427 home runs, batted .308 and earned 10 Silver Slugger awards all while catching 1629 games – top flight numbers regardless of what team he played for. Piazza, the 1993 Rookie of the Year, spent the first six-plus years with the Dodgers, a year each with the Padres and A’s as well as five minutes with the Marlins. Piazza’s place in Cooperstown is all but bronzed.

Last but not least on my ballot would be Curt Schilling, bloody sock and all. The six-time all-star pitched 20 seasons in the big leagues – three with the Orioles, one with the Astros, eight-plus with the Phillies, three-plus with the Diamondbacks, then calling it a career with the Red Sox. Schilling tossed 83 complete games, appeared in three World Series, and had three 20-plus win seasons within a four year span at ages 36, 38, and 39. Schilling should have his ticket stamped this summer.

While it is important to not sully the Baseball Hall of Fame with the likes of Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Palmeiro, and Sosa, the focus should be on the greats who will be enshrined this July and how they will continue to be the true ambassadors to the community as so many before them have been.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He has been a Patron-level member of the Baseball Hall of Fame since 2007.

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