Hall of Lame: Cooperstown Keeping Worthy Players Off Plaques?
The Veterans Committee unanimously elected managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, and Tony La Russa to the Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this month. But many prognosticators believe that when the Baseball Writers Association of America announce their selections in early January, just one lonely player—Greg Maddux—will join them.
No Tom Glavine. No Frank Thomas. No Craig Biggio. The steroids-stained crew of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens isn’t even a part of the conversation.
Are the standards for players stricter than those for their counterparts in the dugout, press box, and executive suite? The question has generally centered on the hypocrisy of treating player beneficiaries of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) as pariahs while rolling out the red carpet to their enabling managers.
“I do find it humorous that the one player who helped Tony La Russa win a lot of those games, Mark McGwire, can’t get in, but La Russa still can,” Sean Forman of Baseball-Reference.com tells Breitbart Sports.
ESPN’s Rick Reilly similarly writes, “It’s just another year in the Hall of Farce, where the codes of conduct shift like beach sand; where the rules for one set of men are ignored for another; where PED poppers can never enter, but the men who turned their backs to the cheating get gleaming, bronze plaques. Hail The Great Enablers!”
Last year, the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to elect a single player into the Hall of Fame. The Veterans Committee made three new Hall of Famers, an executive, an umpire, and a lone player who competed in the 19th century for a team that went defunct almost twelve decades ago. Since the class of 2008, an equal number of players and non-players have been enshrined in Cooperstown.
Forman points out that the system for electing players and non-players differs, so the results of those elections will naturally differ. “The basic issue is that the writers are refusing to elect otherwise qualified candidates for reasons related to known or suspected PED use,” Forman tells Breitbart Sports. “This has created a logjam where the PED tainted players effectively block lesser but non-PED tainted players. When I look at the players ballot, I see probably twenty players who have good to great HOF credentials and that doesn’t even start to include players like Lee Smith and Jack Morris.”
With managers likely to outnumber players in this coming year’s class, more Hall passes will likely have been issued since 2008 for achievements off the field of play than for achievements on it. By way of comparison, in the decade previous, players constituted 85 percent of inductees. The recent player-non-player parity in enshrinement deviates greatly not just from recent classes but from all classes. About four-fifths of the honorees in the Baseball Hall of Fame gained entry for playing baseball.
So what recent players might be penalized for the seemingly altered criteria?
Tom Glavine won more than 300 games, a milestone that has ensured a plaque in Cooperstown for every pitcher who has reached it. Natural-born slugger Frank Thomas hit more than 500 home runs, which, prior to the steroids era, also guaranteed a Hall of Fame spot. Craig Biggio amassed 3,060 hits. Save for gambling on baseball or popping positive on a steroids test, every player in the 3,000-hit club is also in the Cooperstown club.
Other players face a far bleaker outlook. Jack Morris and Curt Schilling both excelled in the World Series for three different franchises. But neither seems to be anywhere close to the 75 percent voter threshold for entry. Dale Murphy won two MVP awards but few friends among the journalists who vote for the Hall of Fame, so he dropped off the ballot this year. Fred McGriff won home run titles in both leagues. Alas, he did so for the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Diego Padres and not the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
So, will Greg Maddux, as respected baseball analyst Bill Deane has predicted, be the lone player representative in the 2014 class when Baseball Writers Association of America announces its Hall of Fame selections in a few days? “I would have agreed with him two months ago,” Forman admits, “but an early count of the ballots published so far says that Glavine will probably make it as well. I think Thomas, Biggio, and Morris barely miss this year.”