Over the last few weeks there has been quite a bit of talk on TV, radio, and print media as well as social media, blogs and message boards about the upcoming Hall of Fame selection. The BBWAA voters were required to submit their ballots before 12 midnight Eastern on December 31, 2013, and the selectees/honorees are scheduled to be announced tomorrow at 2 pm Eastern . There are over 30 players eligible for selection this year, and the writers may vote for no more than 10 of those players. Many of the players are appearing on the ballot for the first time, including 2 of the “Triumvirate” of the 90s Atlanta Braves pitchers, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Also appearing for the last time on the ballot is Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris.
While the Hall of Fame selection has always been a time of great debate, it has never been more so than now, when the players of the so-called “Steroid Era” are coming onto the ballot. Players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire have been on the ballot before (it is the 2nd year for Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, and the 8th year for McGwire), and they have all failed to get the requisite 75% of the vote to be selected. While these four players are the most well known of the “steroid players”, only McGwire has admitted to using, and Sosa tested positive in a survey test in 2003 but still insists he never took performance enhancing drugs. Bonds and Clemens have never failed a test or admitted to use, but both were implicated in a 2006 congressional investigation into the use of steroids in professional sports. Rafael Palmeiro, who is also on the ballot for the 4th year, tested positive in 2005 and was suspended for 10 days, but denied and continues to deny he ever intentionally took a performance enhancing drug.
In addition to the players aforementioned, suspicions have fallen upon other players who played during that era and are on the ballot. Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, and Jeff Bagwell have all been subject to varying degrees of speculation as to their possible use of performance enhancing substances, though none have been formally accused or investigated by Major League Baseball and have not failed any drug tests.
While the voting process for the Hall of Fame is secret, many writers have volunteered their ballot choices in the public domain. As a result, their choices are out there for public scrutiny, and many have been getting plenty of it. Ridiculing the Hall of Fame choices of certain writers has become a spectator sport on social media and elsewhere. The amount of vitriol expressed against voters whose criteria for choosing seems suspect to many, is quite extraordinary. Calls for certain voters to be banned from voting, or for changes in the requirements for who can cast a ballot have escalated. Arguments in the extreme have occurred on TV and radio on this issue.
Is this kind of dissension good for baseball? While I don’t agree with some of the methods some voters have used to determine for whom to cast their ballot, I am not sure that public ridiculing and shaming is a productive method for change. Perhaps the Hall of Fame should investigate the notion of giving more guidance to voters on how to maneuver through this snake pit of the Steroid Era hall-eligible players. Writers who decide to blanketly exclude all players who played during the Steroid Era is an extreme example of how the process has become unwieldy and to some, farcical.
It is time for the Hall to step in before the Hall of Fame becomes irrelevant.