Don't worry about Cooperstown, it'll be fine
Hall of Fame will survive the increasing number of players kept out for using PEDs
Just one request. That's all I have after watching baseball deliver the most suspensions it has since the Black Sox scandal.
Let's avoid the P-word during the next few weeks, months, years and decades. Not only am I referring to the P-word involved with "performance-enhancing drugs" but the P-word that shouldn't become synonymous with our national pastime.
Panic. Avoid panic.
There is absolutely no reason to panic.
In particular, folks shouldn't get in a tizzy over how baseball's string of PED scandals will affect Cooperstown. Despite the growing number of those wringing their hands over this steroid-tainted guy or that one when it comes to his Hall of Fame candidacy, Cooperstown will be just fine, thank you.
That said, I hear the moaning. The Hall of Fame. Steroids guys. This year's shutout in Cooperstown. Maybe the powers that be should make it easier for the candidates. How about taking the voting away from the notoriously picky members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- you know, even though they've performed with distinction (OK, I'm biased as a Hall of Fame voter) since the start of it all in 1936? I mean, what in the name of Mark McGwire is the game going to do with such a dilemma?
I've got the answer. Nothing. This is a dilemma that doesn't exist, and Alex Rodriguez makes my point. For the longest time, he appeared to have enough numbers to waltz through the Hall of Fame doors, but then came the revelations -- even one confirmed by himself -- that many of his numbers were artificially manufactured. How many of those numbers? Nobody knows, not even A-Rod.
What we do know is that Rodriguez admitted to using PEDs, which means he cheated. Which means he doesn't deserve a bronzed plaque anywhere near the likes of Hank Aaron or Johnny Bench.
This actually is pretty simple, but Rodriguez's supporters try to make it complex by pulling that Barry Bonds thing. Like Rodriguez, Bonds was linked to PEDs, and like Rodriguez supporters, Bonds supporters say their guy had Hall of Fame numbers before he began using the stuff. But here's why it's simple: Even though nobody hasn't a clue as to when Bonds, Rodriguez and all the others in this category started and stopped (if they ever did) using PEDs, it doesn't matter. If the preponderance of evidence shows that somebody was juicing during any part of his career, he doesn't get into the Hall of Fame. Period. That's not me playing baseball god. That's what the straight-forward rules require Hall of Fame voters to do.
In particular, it says in the Hall of Fame guidelines that voters must consider the "integrity" and "character" of the candidates. That eliminates Rodriguez in a hurry. You needn't go further than the actions and the words this week of Commissioner Bud Selig.
After a thorough investigation of the Biogenesis case, Selig delivered the harshest suspensions in the game since Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned eight White Sox players for throwing the 1919 World Series. While Selig gave 50-game suspensions to 12 players -- in addition to the 65-game one that Ryan Braun accepted last month -- he nailed Rodriguez for 211 games for doing more than just juicing.
Selig said in a prepared statement that Rodriguez was reprimanded for "his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years."
That's bad enough, but Selig added that Rodriguez's expanded punishment also was "for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation."
That doesn't sound like the stuff of "integrity" or "character." Therefore, it is irrelevant that he began the Yankees game against the White Sox in Chicago on Monday night with 647 home runs, a lifetime batting average of .300 and 2,902 hits. It also deserves a shrug that he has made 14 All-Star Game trips, won three American League MVP awards and has 10 Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves and a batting title.
Rodriguez cheated, and that eliminates the most gifted player of his era not named Bonds as a Hall of Famer. The same goes for Bonds, who said he didn't "knowingly" use steroids. Either way, Bonds and Rodriguez were connected to PEDs in negative ways, along with Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and a slew of others. Speaking of Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, they were eligible for Cooperstown for the first time last December, but they were shunned by most Hall of Fame voters, including myself.
Thus, there were no living 2013 Hall of Fame inductees.
Instead, there was the posthumous honoring of Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day and 19th-century catcher Deacon White. It all contributed to a low turnout this year at Cooperstown, where just a few thousand spectators joined the 32 Hall of Famers who attended. The ceremony normally attracts as many as 15,000 fans and around 50 Hall of Famers.
In contrast, the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies occurred last weekend in Canton, Ohio, with seven inductees. They were alive and vibrant before a crowd the size of those vintage ones for Cooperstown. Not only that, 150 Pro Football Hall of Famers came to that affair, which means you can hear more groans from those comparing and contrasting Canton with Cooperstown. This was the first time baseball didn't elect a living person into its Hall of Fame since 1965. And, given the depth of players associated with steroids, there likely will be more lean years in Cooperstown when the end of July rolls around.
Not next July, though. That's when Cooperstown will welcome three new members on their first try: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. There also will be the likely induction of Craig Biggio, who came close last year with 68.2 percent of the 75 percent of the vote required for entry. Mike Mussina and Jack Morris also have outside shots next year.
So why panic?