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Saturday Morning Quarterback
Jan 13, 2013 12:00 am
Hall of Fame speeches may come from the grave
Among the most breath-baiting questions raised by this week's Baseball Hall of Fame announcement: Who will make the induction speeches in Cooperstown this summer?
No one acquired 75 percent of the votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.
Were it not for the steroids scandal which has tainted a 15-year history of the game, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would be slam-dunk first-ballot Hall of Famers. But because they are the poster children of the Steroid Era, they received just over 35 percent of the votes needed for induction. Historically, when someone receives such a low percentage, he'll never acquire the needed 3/4 majority in the 15 years needed to do so.
But we're in uncharted territory here as writers have had to decide how they will handle the election of players tainted [accurately or not] by the scandal which has undoubtedly tainted the game. At this point, the majority have decided to keep them out.
Arguments have been made on both sides of the argument: What the players did wasn't technically against the rules at the time they juiced up. Players who are widely believed to have cheated, such as pitcher Gaylord Perry who relished his reputation of doctoring the baseball, are in the Hall and no one raises a fuss. In fact, on the field, players are expected to play to the boundary of the rules, and if they go over the line a little bit [such as the second baseman just breezing his foot past the bag on a double play] and get away with it, it's considered part of the game.
But the vocal majority of baseball fans, as well as many former players and media, contend there should be a special place in the eternal baseball dungeon for those players who may have gained an advantage by doping up.
And cyclist Lance Armstrong can join them.
Unlike other sports, baseball statistics have largely remained consistent over time. One can make a legitimate comparison between players of different eras by their stats. But when Bonds was putting up numbers in his late '30s [an age when Father Time catches up to us all in an athletic sense] that were superior to what anyone posted before, that skewers the history and context of the game.
And more importantly, there are the young people who might emulate the Bonds, Clemens, McGwires and Sosas and juice up to gain an advantage. That's not just unfair to their honest competitors, that's hurting their health long term. Whatever ailments Perry has in his 70s, they weren't caused by spitting or applying a lubricant to a baseball.
For that reason alone, players linked to performance-enhancing substances should be kept out of the Hall. It may be the deterrent which keeps kids from juicing up.
Before anyone ever heard of the Cream or the Clear or any other steroid, Jake Ruppert was building the New York Yankees into a dynasty, Hank O'Day was calling balls and strikes and Deacon White was catching them without a glove.
Those three gentlemen will be formally enshrined into the Hall at Cooperstown in late July based on the selection by a panel which considers individuals from before 1947. A handful of other players, including Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby, who were enshrined during World War II but never received a formal ceremony because of wartime restrictions, will also be honored.
All of them are long deceased. And I'm not sure there are even many family members remaining who really remember them first-hand.
Can't wait to hear the speeches from the great beyond.