When I was 8 years old in the Summer of 1989 somehow my mom allowed me to pick our summer vacation. I picked Cooperstown, NY home of the BASEBALL HALL OF FAME!!
In retrospect it’s kind of an odd choice for an 8 year old. After all I was way too young to have ever seen any of the players in a game. That year Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, and Red Schoendienst were inducted. Both Bench and Yastrzemski had retired in 1983, when I was 2 and Schoendienst retired in 1963 (I didn’t know that name now or then to be honest).
This was also the same year Field of Dreams was released and baseball felt both nostalgic and magical. And in the Hall that year looking at those plaques I felt that magic too.
Each plaque captures their face, their playing years, their hat (oh that important hat with their desired team) and a list of their achievements. Yeah, these guys are heroes.
And yet, even though baseball has co-mingled the heroes with cheaters. Back then my mom was an advocate of Pete Rose being voted into the Hall of Fame. She thought his baseball skills outweighed his gambling. Heck, even Field of Dreams is centered around the friendly ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson.
So why is it so hard for me now to support Baseball’s Hall of Fame?
I think partly because while the HOF has emphatically banned the likes of Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson they have never done the same with players that tested positive for PEDs. And now we have a ballot that is self policed by the voters as not a single player that has doped as been elected….yet. Most notably Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are on their 8th year on the ballot.
Barry Bonds was worth 162.8 WAR and Roger Clemens was worth 139.2. That’s good for 4th and 8th OF ALL TIME!! Barry Bonds was better than Willie Mays, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron. Roger Clemons was better than Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux and Bob Gibson. Heck the guy I grew up thinking was THE MAN is #33 on the pitchers list (Nolan Ryan).
Those two were the Greatest Of All Time and yet they cheated. Barry Bonds accrued 99.6 Career WAR by 1998 when he allegedly because using PEDs. That total would have put at 33 on the all time list. By 1998 Roger Clemens (who has denied ever using but there are allegations that his use would have started the same year) had 100.7 WAR. These were GOATs no doubt, so why did they cheat????
Let’s put those two aside for the moment. And instead let’s look at Derek Jeter who appears on the ballot for the 1st time this year and is expected to be a first ballot entrant into the Hall. He was worth 72.4 WAR. The only players on the ballot in 2020 worth more are Larry Walker, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemons and Barry Bonds. Jeter wasn’t much of a homerun hitter, his 260 total looks tiny compared to the totals of Bonds (762), Manny Ramirez (555), Garry Sheffield (509) or Sammy Sosa (609). But Jeter was a batter for sure, he accumulated 3,465 hits (6th all time) and a .310 batting average. And though while not always celebrated for being a great defensive player he did win 5 Gold Gloves! He is also the owner of 5 World Series rings and won 7 pennants total.
So, Derek Jeter is going on my ballot, but who else?
Larry Walker – Could Larry Walker become the 2nd Canadian and 1st Colorado Rockie inducted into the Hall of Fame? Well, this is his last chance and I think he deserves to be voted in. Colorado is a newer franchise since they were created in 1993 and they don’t have a single member in the hall. It’s time to stop the snobbery against the Coors effect and whom better to be inducted then their only NL MVP award winner? Though his only win was in 1997 it should be noted that he got MVP votes during 7 other seasons including 2 with the Montreal Expos. His career slugging percentage ranks 12th all time. Those ranked higher than him on the list and NOT in the HOF are PEDs users and Mike Trout.
Curt Schilling – Here’s the thing, I know his personality sucks. But this guy was the ace of my childhood team the 1993 rag tag Phillies and the NLCS MVP for that team. He then went on to win 3 World Series rings and has the best winning percentage of any MLB pitcher with at least 10 decisions. He also has 3116 regular season strikeouts making him a member of the 18 pitcher 3000 strikeout club. Only he and Clemens are not Hall of Famers. AND HE NEVER TOOK PEDS!!! If we are really going to start taking a long hard look at personality there may be quite a few players that would be removed from the Hall.
So do I let in anyone with PEDs associations? Gary Sheffield 507 home runs and a .907 OPS but admitted to taking a substances from good friend Barry Bonds. Manny Ramirez has 555 home runs, 2574 hits and 2 PEDs suspensions. It almost makes his staggering numbers meaningless. I guess that’s my thing, I can’t let in Bonds or Clemens either. Maybe on their 10th and final ballot I could decide to let in the 2 best PED users. Because let’s be honest it’s going to be embarrassing if Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez manages to get voted in but not Bonds or Clemens. But I’m not quite ready to let them in yet. I don't think 8 year old Brooke would approve, she wanted heroes to believe in. Not cheaters with lots of homers. And let's be honest here, MLB does have a cheating problem *cough* Houston Astros *cough*. Let's stop rewarding that behavior.
My Ballot: Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Curt Schilling.