Baseball Hall of Fame in the Steroid Era

Who WILL get in, I really don’t know, though I’ll guess Piazza, Schilling, Bagwell, and Morris.

The ballot for the 2013 inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame has been announced. Two of the greatest players ever, outfielder Barry Bonds and pitcher Roger Clemens, are on the ballot for the first time; both have been implicated as users of performance-enhancing steroids. Sammy Sosa, a great home run hitter, is also in this category.

These are the other first-time nominees: Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Mike Piazza, Kenny Lofton, David Wells, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Steve Finley, Roberto Hernandez, Jose Mesa, Mike Stanton, Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo, Reggie Sanders, Jeff Conine, Royce Clayton, Ryan Klesko, Aaron Sele, Woody Williams, Rondell White, Todd Walker.

The following players received between 5 and 74 percent of the BBWAA vote in 2012 and have appeared on no more than 14 previous BBWAA ballots, making them eligible to return to the 2013 ballot: Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, and Bernie Williams.

The ones in italics above won’t get the 5 percent to get on the ballot next year. Sandy Alomar could be on that list too, though his brother was a Hall of Famer and that might help him just hit the threshold. Julio Franco (played a LOT of years), Shawn Green, Mike Stanton, and Steve Finley could go either way. I think the others will get at least 5% including David Wells, if only because he once pitched a perfect game.

Here’s some information on all the candidates. If I were voting, I would not vote for any of the steroid suspects in the first round, but might in subsequent rounds.

My ballot:
Mike Piazza- one of the best hitting catchers of his time
Curt Shilling – pivotal in World Series wins for two different teams (2001 Arizona, 2004 Boston)
Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell – I like the idea of two of the Houston Astros’ Killer B’s getting in together
Mark McGwire – he’s also been tainted by the enhanced performance brush. But it wasn’t banned until afterward. And it’s his 7th time on the ballot, so yes.
Larry Walker – my bias against playing in a mile high stadium where the hit ball carries better (Denver) has been overcome by his decent play away from home
Lee Smith – a one-time career saves leader; should have been in years ago

Now I have to think about the last three. As a Yankees fan, I’m biased against former Yankees Mattingly and Williams, because their predecessors were so great. Edgar Martinez was primarily a designated hitter, and I STILL hate the DH rule. But I might vote for all of them down the road. I’ll pick three players who’ve been on the ballot a long time: Alan Trammell (12th year on the ballot); Jack Morris (14th, and I would have voted for him before); and Dale Murphy (15th and final shot).

Who WILL get in, I really don’t know, though I’ll guess Piazza, Schilling, Bagwell, and Morris, two first-timers, and two who’d been up before.

There’s also a separate ballot for the Pre-Integration Era, six players, three executives, and one umpire from the origins of the major leagues through 1946. I’d pick:
pitcher Tony Mullane, who “won 284 games in 13 major league seasons from 1881-1894”
St. Louis Cardinals executive Samuel Breadon, who “created the blueprint for the modern farm system with minor league clubs owned or controlled by the parent club. Presided over nine pennant winners and six World Series championships”
executive Jacob Ruppert, who owned the New York Yankees from 1915-1939, with his teams winning six World Series titles and nine American League pennants during his ownership.” He purchased Babe Ruth’s contact from the Red Sox, and “led the construction of Yankee Stadium”
Hank O’Day, who was major league umpire “from 1888-1927, officiating 10 World Series, tied for second-most in history. Was selected to umpire the first World Series in 1903. Also played and managed in the majors, as a pitcher from 1884-1890”

The announcers’ awards are also out, but I have no opinion.

One of my Facebook friends wrote: “I’m going to argue that before any of these guys get in, how about considering inducting John R. Tunis, Charles Schulz, and the guy who invented Little League“; that would probably be Carl Stotz. “It’s about time that some of the people who used their talents to promote baseball also get their due in the Hall.” Last I was there, a Peanuts cartoon exhibit WAS in the Hall.

Baseball union leader Marvin Miller died recently. I agree that he belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame as well.

Baseball on PBS

Still, the series may be more enjoyable for those less familiar with recent baseball history, or those with lousy memories. And I have to think that if I watch it a decade or more from now, it’ll become more interesting.

I’ve been watching Baseball recently. Not baseball, which I have viewed from time to time, but the TV “two-part, four-hour documentary film directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick,” BASEBALL: THE TENTH INNING. I’m a big fan of the original nine-part series and have even borrowed the expansive coffee-table book associated with it.

For me, I think the problem is that much of the information was a bit too recent, and the conclusions drawn generally unsurprising, which is to say, I noted to myself, “Yeah, I thought that, too.”. I remember watching, in real-time, the Braves vs Pirates NLCS, 1992 game 7 with former Pirate Sid Bream beating the throw from left fielder Barry Bonds. I recall well the 1994 strike, and how it almost destroyed the sport.

I remember the 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, which revived the sport; I’m sure I watched, again in real time, probably on FOX Sports, McGwire hit home runs 61 and 62. In fact, when I saw the show, I said, “Number 62 goes right down the left-field line, just over the fence.” I DID forget that at least a sports writer tried to blow the whistle on performance-enhancing drugs, but was ignored; and, of course, I do remember the steroid scandal. Don’t know if I’m projecting, but I sensed a bit of, if not sympathy, then at least understanding about what drew Barry Bonds to steroids. It makes the interesting, if unoriginal point, that by Roger Clemens sullied by the scandal, it made going after Bonds more palatable; Bonds is black, a position player from the National League, and sullen, while Clemens is white, a pitcher from the American League, and at least more civil.

My favorite parts involved, unsurprisingly, the information I did NOT know: the exploitation of the players from the Dominican Republic, and background on Ichiro Suzuki of Japan.

Still, the series may be more enjoyable for those less familiar with recent baseball history, or those with lousy memories. And I have to think that if I watch it a decade or more from now, it’ll become more interesting. Also, for those largely unfamiliar with baseball, the website does contain a great deal of information from the past 20 years. The Tenth Inning will be rebroadcast on November 8 and 15 on PBS.

I did not know this: former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams has played with Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of the Yankees, I will definitely have to watch the broadcast of Game Seven of the 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees, when it will be broadcast on the MLB Network. Film of the game was recently discovered in the wine cellar of the late Pirates’ part-owner Bing Crosby.

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