1+1=2. There’s not much room in that equation for debate or discussion. There are no square circles. That pretty much speaks for itself as a factual position statement. Other things, like whether chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla (it isn’t), are subject to opinionated debate. Have your opinion by all means, but come to the debate prepared to argue it on the merits. Unfortunately, that’s not what gets you into baseball’s hallowed halls. People vote, and when people vote, there’s no telling what can happen.
The Hall of Fame will have a ghostly ceremony this year as no living players will be inducted. Baseball Writers voted noone into the Hall, and noone has to argue the merits of their positions. No debate takes place to determine if Mike Piazza, who hit more home runs than any catcher in MLB history, can make the Hall based on offensive numbers alone, as his defensive skills behind the plate were not particularly noteworthy. No one has to discuss how steroid usage, confirmed or not, impacted whether Barry Bonds or Roger Clemons made the cut. Both are clearly among baseball’s elite performers, impact players for years, yet a simple vote determines yay or nay.
I’ve never been a fan of voting as a means of determining success or failure. It’s why I’ll watch Olympic gymnastic athletes compete, but don’t bother to see who’ll win. It’s why the joke about the Russian judge still works as everyone assumes they’re not being fair and impartial. It’s why there’s always hurt feelings after All Star voting because surely some deserving players were snubbed. I’m uninterested in MVP, Rookie or Manager of the Year awards. Success should be measurable, and certainly being inducted into a museum designed for the game’s finest players should be the pinnacle of success. Perhaps someone can argue against the career performances of players like Bonds and Clemons, that both their individual statistics and more importantly, the impact they had on their respective teams were not worthy of the ultimate recognition, but it’s hard to imagine the points they would make. The real debate regarding those particular individuals is not related to on field performance and it’s a discussion that needs to be had.
How will the steroid era impact the future of the Hall of Fame, and the records and statistics of players that used performance enhancing drugs, even if they continue to deny it indefinitely? Where is the appropriate forum for that conversation and who will be involved? Without clearing this hurdle, writers will be faced with straight up or down votes on some of the game’s most influential players, and their votes may be based on their personal bias about drug use, about criminal prosecution for obstruction of justice or lying to Congress. These are contentious issues that have no clear and simple answers, but they must be addressed, because when clear Hall of Fame caliber players like Bonds and Clemons get less than 40% of the voters supporting their entry, Cooperstown: we’ve got a problem.