SPORTS GALORE: HOF voting overlooks the game

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 9:59 am on Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were selected on Wednesday by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

The trio will join managers Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre in the Class of 2014. The six of them will be joining legendary names like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays.

Each year in January, baseball fans eagerly wait for the announcement to find out who will join the oldest Hall of Fame (first class was 1936) of the four major sports.

I am one of those fans who eagerly wait for the announcement each year. For myself it’s for a variety of reasons, but none more important than I just love the game of baseball.

Unfortunately, the past couple of years and for the next several years, many will follow each January’s announcement for the circus the voting process has become. With the best players of the 1990s and 2000s — otherwise known as the Steroid Era — reaching the ballot, the voting process has turned into a major debate about more than what was done on the field of play.

I am and have been torn with regards to the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs  (PEDs) in professional sports. I tend to look at this in a couple of different ways.

First, I’m glad baseball is doing all they can to eliminate the use of these drugs by their athletes. Even though the effort will never stop all from trying to gain an edge. Baseball players have been looking for an edge since the game began and will continue until the game ceases to exist.

Second, and this thought will upset some of you, but Major League Baseball and all involved with the game, including the writers that covered the game, chose to ignore the use of PEDs until pressured by the government.

They allowed for this era to spiral out of control and now they want to ignore some of the best players in the game.

Even after a bottle of Androstenedione, a steroid precursor, was found in the locker of Mark McGwire, the focus was on McGwire’s race with Sammy Sosa to break the single season home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris. The players were lifted up on pedestals from the same guys not voting for them now.

I just think — I agree with Miami Herald sports writer and ESPN personality Dan Le Batard — the voting process has become hypocritical.

I don’t agree with what Le Batard did with his Hall of Fame vote, but voting members of the BBWAA seem to have positioned themselves as judge and jury over potential inductees.

There are character issues with plenty of current Hall of Fame members. There are bigots, womanizers, drunks, drug users and cheaters already with busts in Cooperstown. No one is perfect, so let’s not pretend that the players we watch for entertainment on the diamond are. Especially, when so many of the voters have vices of their own.

I wish we could just vote for what was done on the field. That thought is probably more intended for a fantasy world.

But to not vote for Greg Maddux because he played during this era, as Ken Gurnick of did, is foolish. To hold back a vote so someone isn’t worthy as a “First Ballot” inductee is silly. To not vote for Mike Piazza or Jeff Bagwell because of a suspicion is absurd. To vote for Jacque Jones, Armando Benitez or J.T. Snow is just plain dumb.

Really, it’s a good thing these voters are baseball writers and not judges in a court of law.

Voting for the Hall of Fame is debating the worthiness of Jack Morris and Alan Trammell and how they played a game and stacked up against other contemporaries.

But let’s remember this is still just a game. Fans have paid to see these players, these “suspected PED users” and I’m sure would pay to see them in Cooperstown.

Not voting for players from a certain era will not take away the fact that this happened. Heck, Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre are riding the coattails of suspected PED users right into Cooperstown.

I say put Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in the Hall of Fame. Also acknowledge what they did, or believed to have done and the era in which they played.

And while we’re at it, clear out a place for Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson.


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