Category: Sports Opinion
Mark McGwire has admitted that he used steroids. That should shock absolutely no one. After all, during the legendary 1998 season a sports reporter spotted a bottle of "andro" in McGwire's locker and reported it.
Now for who really needs to come clean: the sports writers who have the responsibility of inducting people into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
First things first: these people, whoever they are (allegedly the list is secretive to prevent buying a vote), are so snooty they make Charles Emerson Winchester III look like Mother Teresa. Cal Ripken Jr. received 98.7% of the votes, and his fellow 2007 inductee Tony Gwynn received 97% of the votes. While that superficially sounds terrific, the problem is with the 1.3% and 3% who did not vote for Ripken and Gwynn, respectively. There are people who you literally want to grab by the shirt collar, shake them until their teeth fall out, and yell, "What is wrong with you??" The people who did not vote for Cal and Tony are in that category, and this can only be traced to some misguided opinion that nobody deserves to be in the Hall of Fame "on the first ballot" (or that nobody deserves a unanimous vote). Even when they try to appear humane (e.g., waiving the five-year waiting period for Roberto Clemente in 1973 to induct him on the heels of his death in a New Year's Eve 1972 plane crash), there are still holdouts (Clemente only received 92% of the vote). Who are these moronic hold-outs? Yes, we can argue all day long over things like "who was the greatest pitcher" or "who was the greatest left fielder," but to deny a particular individual's greatness and contributions to the game of baseball when they are so apparent a caveman can see them (thank you, Geico) is simply ridiculous.
And, in the end, does it really matter if someone makes it on the first ballot or the fourteenth? There is absolutely nothing on Tony Perez's Hall of Fame plaque that says "he only had 2.7% over the minimum votes required" or "he didn't make it until his eighth year of eligibility." The only place it matters is in the minds of the people who arrogantly look themselves in the mirror and say, "Ha, I sure kept Cal from being unanimous, didn't I?"
Stay tuned, this is going to happen in five years when Randy Johnson becomes eligible. Johnson is one of the most, if not THE most, dominant pitcher of this generation. His numbers speak for themselves. He holds the record (with Cary Wood) for most strikeouts in one game (20) and is second only to Nolan Ryan in strikeouts (and nearly 900 behind him). There were actually six people who did NOT believe Nolan Ryan belonged in the Hall of Fame. Those people don't deserve to vote. They might be saying with their vote, "He doesn't belong 'this year'," but they are insulting the responsibility they have been charged with by making such ridiculous misuses of their votes.
And that leads to the second problem with the writers: the pick-and-choose attitude toward who can get a pass over their transgressions versus who cannot. The most recent poll I saw, prior to McGwire's announcement today, said that about a fourth of the Hall of Fame voters would vote for McGwire (meaning 75% would not). The very same people who think McGwire has committed such an unpardonable sin are TWICE AS FORGIVING for Barry Bonds (nearly 50% said they would vote for him) -- and, may I point out, McGwire is not under federal indictment, while Bonds is.
The steroid era isn't over, and it probably won't be for years, if not decades. They are an awful fact of baseball life, but a fact of life they are. We cannot erase the past two decades or so from history simply because we don't like steroid use anymore than we can erase the past two decades' history of professional football that has seen the "F" in "NFL" come to stand for felon instead of football (and necessitated the joke, "I predict our team will go 10 and 6 this year: ten arrests, six convictions"). The baseball writers, therefore, need to do one of two things: look at the records, regardless of the steroid use or non-use, and vote accordingly (which makes McGwire a lock for the Hall of Fame); or put them ALL in the "I'll vote for Pete Rose first" category. No picking and choosing -- saying Bonds' sins are forgivable but McGwire's or Palmeiro's are not -- because that makes them smell worse than the people they're passing holier-than-thou judgment on.
Remember the 90s: the baseball strike that eliminated the 1994 post-season and World Series nearly eliminated the game of baseball in its wake. The 1998 season was credited -- by these very writers -- with "saving the game of baseball." A large part of that magical year was the McGwire/Sosa home run chase. Whether he was juiced or not, Mark McGwire did save baseball, and for that he should be in the Hall of Fame.