On Wednesday, the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted three new members: Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, and Tim Raines. All worthy candidates who deserved a spot in baseball lore.
As a huge baseball fan myself, it was nice to see Piazza and Pudge get elected in back to back years. Both players were the best catchers in their respective leagues for 10+ years. Piazza did it with the bat, while Rodriguez was a master defensively. Bagwell was another player I distinctly remember growing up. Crouched down in an awkward stance and ready to absolutely unload on the ball at any moment, he was truly one of a kind. Tim Raines was just before my time as a fan but from everything I have read on him and heard, he is a much deserving candidate who waited many longs years before finally getting that infamous call.
Notably absent from the selections this year were Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero. Hoffman only missed by 1% so he’s a shoe in for next year. Vlad about had 71.7% of the vote so it’s very likely he gets in next year as well. He was probably the most intriguing player I ever saw play. The man hit balls nowhere near the strike zone miles over the fence, and had the definition of a “cannon of an arm”.
Also absent were Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. This year about half of the Baseball Writers had to make their ballots public. On those ballots Bonds and Clemens had about 60% of the vote. Still short of being elected but a significant improvement over previous years. There is no hiding the fact that when the voters couldn’t hide behind an anonymous ballot they were more likely to vote for those two superstars. I understand the notion of not letting in Bonds and Clemens, who were the two best players in their era, because they were steroid users. The only problem is, literally every other player from that era was also on steroids. It’s called the Steroid Era for a reason.
Look at this year’s selection, specifically Ivan Rodriguez. In 2003, Rodriguez tested positive for steroids. He denied taking them but years later basically admitted to the fact. So why does he get a pass? Barry Bonds could be considered the greatest baseball player of all time. It seems to be this factor that is keeping him off the ballot. Pudge, Bagwell, Piazza were all suspected (over proven) steroid users. Yet because their overall numbers are still great but not AMAZING, that they deserve to get in. Is there less suspicion because their numbers look pedestrian to Bonds’? Why punish the best, when you let in the good of players who committed the same injustice?
I believe that with the installment of public ballots, writers will eventually come around and vote Bonds and Clemens in like they should have done years ago. Baseball fans will understand that their numbers aren’t necessarily an accurate representation of who they actually were as a player, but you could make that argument for almost any era in baseball. Bob Gibson and Sandy Kofax pitched on elevated mounds which gave them an advantage. Hell, Babe Ruth never played against black players or Latino players. That isn’t their fault as players either. You show up, play the game in front of you with the rules set forth, and if you are the best of your time you deserve a plaque in Cooperstown.
Congrats to the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2017. It was an honor watching you guys play.