Monday, January 08, 2007

Thoughts on the Baseball Hall of Fame

I do not have a ballot in the Baseball Hall of Fame vote this week. I wish I did, but only hall of famers and AP types get that honor. I bring this up because I commentate on sports periodically on this blog (Florida 34-Ohio State 14 at halftime as of this writing), and the Hall of Fame ballot for Major League Baseball is gearing up this week.

There are two home runs this year: Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. Both were phenomenal baseball players that I actually got to see play live. I have no problem whatsoever with those picks. My general rule of thumb in evaluating Hall of Fame candidates is my two rule method:

1. What have you done for/in baseball?
2.What have you done for/in the community?

I have to be able to give checkmarks to both questions before I consider a former player to be worthy of Cooperstown. The baseball side of the first question is usually pretty easy; you can just look at the stats. High batting average, career wins, whatever. Occasionally there is a marginal player that almost makes the grade for the first question, and if he can make the grade for the second question, I may give it to him. For instance, Andre Dawson got close to 500 home runs but never quite got there. Dawson had a stellar career but I do not think he was quite into the "great" category. He did do a lot of stuff for charity though over his career, so I am willing to consider him as a hall of famer because as baseball gives to a player, I think a baseball player also has to give back to the community.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is Barry Bonds. I think it is bloody obvious he used Steroids, and therefore ineligible for the HOF. For sake of argument, we will pretend he never used steroids. In that event, statistically no question. I would still not vote that man into the Hall of Fame (steroids aside) because he is a grade A number one jerk that never did anything for the community, short of walking off and not signing autographs. I believe his exact quote the one time I was near a field and seeing/hearing him warm up one night in Atlanta a few years back was, "Signing autographs is fo' suckas!" The day that man gets into the Hall is the day I never watch another Major League Baseball game.

But then there is Mark McGuire. He's up for the ballot this go round. Statistically, McGuire is in with over 500 career homers, but again there is the shadow of steroids hanging over the man. McGuire was before the Congressional committee a few months (years?) back and refused to answer any questions (pleading the 5th) on the subject of steroids. He was much maligned for it in the press, and will likely not get into the Hall of Fame this go round at least.

I have little doubt he used Steroids, and so I am willing to say maybe he should not be in the Hall. There is no evidence linking him to 'Roids, nor was it technically illegal to use them at the time he was supposed to have used them. I am irritated, however, at the hypocrisy of some of the voters for the HOF who are blackballing McGuire because he pled the 5th in front of Congress, something that was his right. I actually admired McGuire for pleading the fifth. I wish he would have come clean, but at least he didn't look the Congressmen in their eyes and lie to them like at least one did (cough)Raphael Palmeiro(cough). If he had just up and lied and gotten completely away with it, would he somehow now be eligible for the Hall of Fame?

He may have used steroids, but McGuire also did an incredible amount of charity work with abused kids amongst other things. He also stayed in St. Louis at a lower pay when he could have bolted to the highest bidder. Maybe steroids disqualifies HOF candidates point blanc, but if giving back to the community is factored in, I say give McGuire another consideration for integrity.

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