On Wednesday, when it was time to honor the best baseball has to offer, it wasn’t the players who played the game that made the headlines, it was the writers that followed them that decided to not make the headline. For the first time since 1996, Major League Baseball will not be inducting anyone into the Hall of Fame this year, something that has some fans and writers up in arms.
The New York Times protested (and blankly highlighted) the fact that we won’t be inducting anyone into Cooperstown this year, by running a blank front page to their sports section. Tee headline above the mass of blank space both sarcastically and truthfully stated: Welcome to Cooperstown.
While most writers are ducking for cover after a rash of backlash from fans and colleagues alike, some are stepping to the plate to say that they won’t vote for someone who used steroids during their career to get them to Cooperstown. But while that’s a justifiable stance to take, the flip side of the discussion is just as valid.
It’s easy to understand if a traditionalist who covered the game in the days of Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski wants to keep cheaters out. But one of the many hypocrisies in this whole debate are guys that made their own names writing about barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and the lot in the nineties who are now turning their backs on them.
The flawed, but valid, argument is if those guys didn’t juice, and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa didn’t make the summer of 1998 the most thrilling in recent baseball history, a lot of the guys that are now well known sports writers publishing books and memoirs wouldn’t be nearly as popular as they are today.
Mike Lupica wrote a great book detailing the Summer of 1998 and what it meant to not only baseball but to a country dealing with a presidential scandal. If Lupica leaves off McGwire and Sosa from the ballot, should he return the money he made profiting off a book written about their fraudulent accomplishments?
I’m not even sure Lupica gets a vote, but the point is, if we want to pretend Sosa, McGwire, Bonds and all the juicers didn’t exist, then we equally have to go into the archives and burn every single article, book, television show and interview with them as well. We can’t have it both ways when it comes to someone’s legacy.
Besides, these guys are already in the Hall of Fame anyways; all the BWWA is doing is keeping a bust of their face out. Barry Bonds has at least two home run balls framed and mounted in Cooperstown, Mark McGwire’s bat is in the Hall of Fame and so is various other memorabilia from every person the writers are trying to keep out.
Even Pete Rose, the best made example by Major League Baseball when it comes to who’s never ever getting into the Hall of Fame, is indeed already in the Hall of Fame.
It’s really a technicality to keep these guys out. What, do they think we’re all stupid? If Barry Bonds get elected to the Hall of Fame that will somehow vindicate him and absolve him in the eyes of the stupid baseball public? If Bonds gets in, everybody is going to know the steroid scandal that surrounds him, it’s already part of his legacy.
Guess who’s legacy it’s also a part of.
Baseball writers seem to think baseball fans have a short memory, but it’s they who are the foolish ones. If there’s one sport in the history of all professional sports that has a fan base ingrained within it’s history –living and breathing it everyday– it’s baseball. Fans remember stats from 100 years ago, they’re not going to forget about a steroids scandal just because a guy is elected to the Hall of Fame.
It’s a sad day for baseball when the writers who made their money and put their kids through college on money they earned writing about ‘cheaters’ turn on them and block them from the Hall. It’s the classic partner turns on the hero storyline that’s in every action movie every made.
Only in this story, no one is a hero and everyone is just holding each other down trying to escape the burning building they created.