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A Hall of Fame vote for sanctimony

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  November 29, 2012 09:35 AM

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Buckle up.

The 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot has been released, and the next month is going to be inundated with individual members of the esteemed Baseball Writers Association of America explaining to you why or why not they’re voting for certain nominees, most notably suspected or confirmed steroid users Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, and they may even tell you why, really, Aaron Sele deserved that fourth-place vote. Cue the non-stop fascination.

Look, I love a good Cooperstown debate as much as the next person, but it’s hard to take the BBWAA voters seriously based on how they’ve conducted their stance over the past 20 years. This was an organization that had its collective heads in the sand during the Steroid Era, repeatedly failing to bring the truth to light with an historic blank stare. The phrase, “How do steroids help him hit a fastball?” comes to mind.

Of course, once things became obvious, the BBWAA thumped its chest in judgment, decrying the Hall of Fame status of any users that may come down the road. “For the good of the game” is a phrase that comes to mind.

And now, because judgment day has come, the voting members are backtracking, mainly because they will be the ones who keep legends like Bonds and Clemens out of the Hall. Make no mistake, both will get in, and it will be the result of a flip-flopping election body that serves its own agenda.

The phrase “cowardly” comes to mind.

This space has no problem with electing Bonds or Clemens to the Hall, because frankly it is what it is. Performance-enhancing drugs were part of the fabric of the game, and if we ignore their contribution, we might as well ignore the entire Hall of Fame. If it’s all about being a squeaky-clean Walton, then nobody is getting in. The Hall is currently devoid of any users? Please. Go back to Pollyanna.

But the overwhelming stance that the BBWAA is taking is laughable. The argument seems to be that these two particular players were so important to the history of the game of baseball that to deny them entry would be detrimental. Agreed.

So, here’s what voting members need to do then: Write in Pete Rose and Joe Jackson.

Neither is on the ballot, but if voters really want to make this Hall of Fame argument about the history of the game, then give Rose and Shoeless each a first-place vote. Cross out Mike Stanton and Jeff Conine, and simply write in “Rose” and “Jackson.” If, as the voters say, this is about the narrative of the game, then lump those cheaters in with the ones that apparently pass muster in 2013.

The BBWAA members treat the Hall of Fame as if it contained the Ark of the Covenant (obviously, boxed in the warehouse), so if we’re insisting on this being a complete museum for the game, Rose and Jackson belong just as much as Bonds and Clemens. What’s the argument against it? Ask yourself who embarrassed the game more, then just for confirmation, look at the all-time home run record.

Oh, boy what a process. The reason this can’t be as simple as Springfield, Toronto, or Canton is mainly because of the sanctimonious nature of the election body. Jack Morris will likely make it in his 14th year on the ballot, a ridiculous stretch of decision time that speaks to the arrogance of a party that can never make up its mind. Morris is better today than he was when he last pitched in 1994? Flip. Flop.

The same is true with the most controversial Hall of Fame ballot we’ve ever witnessed. The very guys that the BBWAA championed against are all of a sudden darlings of the ballot. It’s just easier that way, you know?

But let’s not pat them on the back vigorously for making a stand. If they really want to make a point, put Rose and Jackson in first. Until then, save the righteousness.

(And can you throw Rondell White a late-vote bone while you’re at it?)

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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