As I’m sure you know by now, former Commissioner Bud Selig will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame next year. He received 15 votes among the 16 members of the Era Committee for “Today’s Game”. The fact that he will be inducted into the Hall doesn’t come as a surprise, and there’s no logical flaw in his induction that I see. You either think he’s deserving, or you don’t. However, some of the discussion since his election has been centered on the Steroid Era and his role in it. Some writers have said that if Selig can be inducted, we now must open the doors for PED users.
While I support the induction of anyone whose stats merit it, PEDS or no PEDs, I absolutely don’t understand this logic.
As I understand it, some BBWAA members believe that since the Commissioner of baseball who presided over the game during what’s called the “Steroid Era” is in the Hall, there’s no reason to keep the players who played during that time outside of the Hall – even if they used PEDs. Susan Slusser and a growing number of BBWAA members who haven’t voted for steroid guys in the past seem now willing to do so. Here’s what Slusser tweeted:
“Senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.”
Some people who have long voted against the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have done so with the idea in mind that the character clause of the Hall’s voting criteria means they either can or have to keep players out who they believe cheated the game. While that’s not an argument I buy, it’s not illogical. It’s also supported by the voting criteria itself. Take a look.
“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.”
I don’t want to get into the argument that on-filed ability is so highly under-valued in the written criteria. I also don’t want to get into the idea of writers playing morality police, or whether and at what point PEDs broke a character clause. I just want to talk about logic here.
The character clause allowed writers to justify withholding votes for over-qualified players and be logical at the same time. Those PED moralists used it, and used it effectively.
In reality, nothing. The character clause is still there. If the use of PEDs violated that clause a week ago, a month ago, or a year ago, it still does.
Here’s what I think maybe has changed. Some writers, maybe Slusser, once had a very strong anti-steroid stances. And sometimes when you make an argument and double down on it, it essentially becomes part of who you are. Such arguments can be difficult to get away from just because of ego. You fear that you may lose face if you go back on something you argued so vehemently. And I really think this has happened to some people.
What they’re doing now, perhaps, is suggesting that there’s an out. Since 15 people voted for Bud, the entire Hall has changed. And they can get out of their “no” votes for Bonds, Clemens, and others.
There is no doubt in my mind that players had a great deal of responsibility for PED use. So did managers, general managers, and Bud Selig.
And there’s another group who’s responsible. The media!
I understand why Jose Canseco would inject himself and teammates. He believed it made him better. It made his teams better; it made him money. I understand why Tony La Russa would look the other way. It made his teams better; it made him money. And I understand why Bud Selig would look the other way; it made the game better in the minds of some; it made the owners money.
The media gained no advantage from steroids. They certainly didn’t make the money that Canseco, La Russa, Selig, or the owners did. To me they are tremendous failures in the PED story. It is their job to report what’s going on. They wouldn’t even do their job. Shame on them.
I don’t anticipate the added votes will get steroid users into the Hall through the BBWAA. They’re still going to go to whatever Veterans Committee is in charge of the voting once their ten years expire. It’ll be nice if they get closer. There’s sentiment that players who reach a certain BBWAA threshold will be inducted by their next set of electors. While I don’t know if I buy this sentiment – I don’t know that future votes will fall like past votes – it does present hope for Bonds, Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, and others.
And for me, anyway, that’s a good thing.
But not a logical one.