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Friday, October 31, 2014

Many current members don’t want cheaters in Hall of Fame

baseball hall of fameThough the writers are taking most of the blame (rightfully so) for no players being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013, there is one aspect of the entire debacle that is being overlooked. In one sense, the Baseball Writers Association of America votes represented the feelings of many of the current inductees.

Numerous members of the Hall of Fame have made their feelings clear that they do not want anyone who cheated the game elected to Cooperstown.

Last March, we shared comments from George Brett (inducted in ’99) who said the current members would boycott the hall if a cheater were elected.

“I wasn’t a home-run hitter,” Brett said, “but I know from talking to guys in the 500-home run club, guys like Schmitty (Mike Schmidt) and some other guys like that, if those guys make it in then they’ll never go back. Meaning those guys will never go back and attend (the Hall of Fame inductions) if the cheaters get elected.”

In December, former Cincinnati Reds MVP shortstop Barry Larkin (’12), said cheaters don’t belong in the Hall.

“I think if you cheated, no, you don’t deserve it because I know how difficult it was for me to get there and how difficult it was for me just to compete on an everyday basis,” Larkin said. “I think if you cheated I think you made a decision and I don’t think you belong.

“I look at what has happened with Pete Rose. Pete Rose is not a Hall of Fame player, banned from baseball. But if you go up to the Hall of Fame all of his records, his bats, everything in is represented in the Hall of Fame — 4,256 (hits),” Larkin said. “I see a very similar thing happening with guys that are associated with or been accused of using steroids. I think they will recognize their accomplishments but I don’t think those players will be admitted to the Hall of Fame.”

Larkin doesn’t want to keep out those who aren’t proven cheaters citing the innocent until proven guilty axiom.

Former Detroit Tigers outfielder Al Kaline (’80) was among those who was happy nobody was elected this year.

“I’m kind of glad that nobody got in this year,” Kaline told The Associated Press. “I feel honored to be in the Hall of Fame. And I would’ve felt a little uneasy sitting up there on the stage, listening to some of these new guys talk about how great they were.

“What really gets me is seeing how some of these players associated with drugs have jumped over many of the greats in our game,” Kaline said. “Numbers mean a lot in baseball, maybe more so than in any other sport. And going back to Babe Ruth, and players like Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson and Willie Mays, seeing people jump over them with 600, 700 home runs, I don’t like to see that.

“I don’t know how great some of these players up for election would’ve been without drugs. But to me, it’s cheating,” he added. “Numbers are important, but so is integrity and character. Some of these guys might get in someday. But for a year or two, I’m glad they didn’t.”

It’s hard to imagine anyone having a stronger opinion on the matter than relief pitcher Goose Gossage (’08).

“I think the steroids guys that are under suspicion got too many votes,” Gossage told The Associated Press. “I don’t know why they’re making this such a question and why there’s so much debate. To me, they cheated. Are we going to reward these guys?

“If they let these guys in ever – at any point – it’s a big black eye for the Hall and for baseball,” he said. “It’s like telling our kids you can cheat, you can do whatever you want, and it’s not going to matter.”

The Hall of Fame and BWAA voters were massively unprepared for this election period and they still haven’t figured out how to handle the situation. Guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens cheated the game, but they were also the top players during a time when cheating was part of the culture.

You cannot ignore history by excluding an entire era of players from the Hall of Fame. The Hall needs to recognize that, and so do the voters. As for the current members who are opposed to cheaters being inducted, there is a simple fix: just create a special wing, or make a notation on the plaques or above the plaques of the players inducted from the Steroids Era. That lets everyone know that cheaters or suspected cheaters are in the Hall, but it at least ensures that the greatest players in history will have a place among the game’s best players.



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