Solution for Hall of Fame – PEDs Dilemma

The Baseball Hall of Fame voting results will be announced at some point today. No doubt there will be some people disappointed by the news, since the voting process makes it very difficult for a player to “enter” the Hall.

More to the point, there is the major dilemma of the PEDs issue — specifically in regard to Rafael Palmeiro, who failed a test, and Jeff Bagwell, who some feel was a PEDs user. The “can of worms” was opened a few years ago when Mark McGwire appeared on a ballot, but as the years go by it becomes more and more of an issue that can no longer be ignored. With each new year, and new ballot, more and more players from the “Steroids Era” are eligible. Who knows whether Bagwell cheated … or Roberto Alomar, for that matter? For all we know, some players already voted in were cheaters … we have absolutely no idea for sure.

This dilemma makes the voting incredibly difficult — and will continue to be more and more difficult for the next ten years at least. But what to do?

I have a solution: end the vote.

That’s right, you heard me — end it. No more voting. No one gets “inducted” into the Hall of Fame for the rest of eternity. Before you go nuts, consider the concept of being “inducted” into the “Hall of Fame” in the first place — it’s rather silly. Why must someone be “inducted”?

Consider this: the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is a museum. Do you know of any other museum that requires “induction” to be part of it? For example, was the Tyrannosaurus Rex “inducted” into the American Museum of Natural History? Was the Star of India? Did the Mona Lisa wind up in the Louvre because a bunch of newspaper art critics voted her in? Of course not. So why must we vote for, and induct, individuals into the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Instead, why can’t players — and their individual achievements — be accepted into the Hall of Fame by the museum’s curator, or curator committee, or whatever is the standard process of bringing pieces of history into a museum. There’s such a thing in place already; if you go to the Baseball Hall, you’ll see many, many baseballs from historic homeruns, fielding gloves, uniforms, bats, etc., that were donated to or otherwise acquired by the Hall to commemorate an interesting event in baseball history. Why can’t it be the same way with players? It would be a heckuva lot easier, and there would be no more debates about whether or not Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, or Roberto Alomar “deserve” to be in the Hall. Create displays for ALL of them, as well as other players who marked baseball history in one way or another. Raines can go in with a display detailing his incredible stolen base prowess; Blyleven can be decorated for his shutouts and knee-buckling curveball; Alomar can be recognized for his ability to play second base and hock loogies for record-breaking distances in postseason play.

There are already some players “in” the Hall for one reason or another — such as Roger Maris for his 61 homers, Mark McGwire for his 70, and Barry Bonds for his asterisk-marked #756 ball. If there is no vote, there is no longer any concerns about whether or not a player “used” or not — if they did something noteworthy, they and the event / record / etc. goes into the Hall of Fame inside a glass display case, for all current and future generations to see. If it’s necessary to note that whatever they did happened during “the steroid era”, so be it — it’s part of history, and that’s ultimately, all that matters when it comes to a museum.

No one would have kept T-Rex out of the museum because he was a carnivorous dinosaur. Similarly, no one would have prevented The Starry Night from entering MOMA because Vincent Van Gogh painted it under the influence of opium and absinthe. Who cares what the person did or didn’t do to accomplish what they did? The point of a museum is to accurately present history. Showcase the events and “records”, provide all the related information, and let people draw their own conclusions. And, put a stop to judging whether or nor individuals “deserve” to be “inducted”. If the person is part of baseball history — its good or bad — then they should be inside the walls of the Hall.

For a very long time, being a “Hall of Famer” was something that could literally change a person’s life — mainly, financially. If a player was an HOFer, that meant he could charge much, much more for his autograph, for example; he could charge a significant premium for speaking engagements and appearances; his baseball card would be worth a ridiculous amount of money. But as players from the late 20th and early 21st centuries appear on the ballot, the financial ramifications are lessened considerably. As a result of doing steroids, Rafael Palmeiro went from a singles hitter to a cleanup hitter, and cleaned up at contract time, earning around $100M in his career. Do you think he “needs” to be a “Hall of Famer”? Even benchwarmers from the late 1990s and early 2000s made more money than you or I will ever see, so the HOF label no longer matters, monetarily speaking to those players — its only value, to them, is to feed their ego.

We don’t need the Baseball Hall of Fame to recognize who are the “greatest players of all-time”. We have the internet, and we can easily list the “best” based on whatever stat you wish to use. Conversely, we can argue it out on blogs and forums. We don’t need newspaper writers to tell us who they deem “Hall of Famers” — we can decide for ourselves. Heck, newspapers are dying and will be long gone in a decade or so — and then who will be voting for potential inductees? ESPN columnists? Fantasy site operators? Bloggers? Fans? See, the vote is already moving toward something more communal.

It’s the easiest way to end the hemming and hawing over who “deserves” to be in and who doesn’t: end the vote, completely. God doesn’t want us to be judgmental, anyway.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. friend January 5, 2011 at 10:56 am
    Very cute rant, but it is predicated on a widespread misconception. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an entity that includes both a hall of fame and a museum, whereas the American Museum of Natural History, as well as all the other museums mentioned, are strictly museums. The standards for hall of fame inclusions are justifiably and imperatively higher than those for museum inclusions. (Hmmm, Emily Litella? Never mind!)
  2. NormE January 5, 2011 at 12:54 pm
    Come on Joe! Next thing you’re going to want to do away with Santa Claus.
    The off-season often seems interminable. The Hall of Fame voting generates a lot of baseball enthusiasm and interesting opinions. I love Joe Posnanski’s HOF blogs. It’s fun to compare his thoughts with those of Murray (“I hate blogs”) Chass, among others. This dialogue gets us ready for the season and has opened up new ways of thinking about how to evaluate ballplayers.
    For all its warts the HOF is my second most favorite structure in the US, next to only the Lincoln Memorial.
    Don’t be a grinch!
    • Joe January 5, 2011 at 2:14 pm
      Hey! I didn’t say CLOSE the Hall of Fame, I just suggested that the voting stops. Keep putting displays of players and their records into the museum, but stop with the judgement of who is a “Hall of Famer” and who isn’t … all the players, HOF or not, put on their pants one leg at a time, after all.
  3. gary s. January 5, 2011 at 1:01 pm
    Joe, i’ve seen pictures of the T-Rex before and after he was put in the Museum of Natural History.He looks a lot smaller to me after he was accepted..The large head (ala Barry Bonds) always made me suspicious of possible P.E.D. use during his peak marauding years.
  4. Professor Longnose January 5, 2011 at 1:01 pm
    I’ve felt for a long time that the player plaques are the least interesting part of the place. I’d much rather see Ted Williams’ locker than his plaque.
  5. Walnutz15 January 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm
    I’m actually surprised at the “shock and awe” element associated with some Bagwell supporters, who felt he should have been voted in on the 1st ballot.

    Your thoughts, Joe?

    I was a huge Bagwell fan growing up, especially since I played ball with Matt Galante, Jr. in H.S. – he was always bringing in stuff from Biggio (gloves, that crazy flower pin he used to wear on his hat), and got me an autographed Bagwell ball back in the day.

    Great player, of course…..not 1st ballot, and if someone like Big Mac isn’t going in, then Bags is likely going to have the same kind of problem on his end (with Bagwell obviously being the superior all-around player).

    I’d definitely have my suspicions about his performance at the very peak of the steroid era of baseball….but that’s just me, and hate double-standards.

    • Joe January 5, 2011 at 5:27 pm
      I always enjoyed watching Bagwell play as well. HOFer? Maybe, but certainly not a “no-brainer” – mainly because of the era he played in.

      Steroids or not, the time that he played was one of extreme hitting and ridiculous offensive numbers put up by many, many players, so it’s hard to fairly compare hitters from other eras to those who played in the 1990s-early 2000s.

      Bagwell was an elite first baseman for a 10-year period. Was he the very best in the game at his position during those ten years? Maybe, but it’s a loaded category. His contemporaries included Todd Helton, Carlos Delgado, Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, Mo Vaughn, Rafael Palmeiro, and Jason Giambi — all of whom put up comparable numbers within a similar timeframe. Are they all HOFers as well?

      If Jeff Bagwell is an HOFer, then why isn’t Steve Garvey? Why isn’t Don Mattingly? Cecil Cooper? Dick Allen? Those players don’t have the eye-popping, PlayStation stats of Bagwell, but when you compare those players to others who played 1B in their eras, there is a similarity in how Bagwell compared to 1Bs in his era.

      Does that make sense?

      • Walnutz15 January 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm
        Of course it does. Just wanted to see where you stood on the issue.

        The Hall, for me, should be reserved for no-doubters…..but we’ve seen through the years, that this isn’t the case anymore. Until the steroid issue is cleared, there’ll be alot of guys on the outside looking in.

        I don’t know if they’ll ever come to a resolution…..and so many of the guys on the committee are dead-set against even voting for someone who’s even been suspected.

        It’s a shame, because you can’t really pick and choose like that. I’m just of the belief that everyone during that time period at least tried something.

        Whether or not you stuck to it?

        Nobody has a clue.

  6. Rafa January 6, 2011 at 5:43 am
    T-Rex was totally a juicer.

    You have to respect a guy like Brontosaurus who accomplished a lot by stringently adhering to a vegetarian diet.

  7. Animal January 6, 2011 at 5:47 am
    I actually disagree, Joe. I think that the debate about who is a HOFer and who isn’t is fun, lively, and interesting. Further, the impact of steroids on the game and whether or not juicers should be inducted involves a judgment that transcends baseball.

    Similar to the Hot Stove, it’s also something that gives us baseball fanatics something to talk about in the winter.

  8. murph January 6, 2011 at 5:56 am
    Hall of Fame voting may never make sense to some people, but there is definitely enough rigor in the process, and ample time to review the merits of one’s candidacy.

    – First, a player’s career must sit on the shelf for 5 years before its first review.
    – Then, a player gets a 15 year period for the merits of their career to be debated. Obviously, some players benefited by the passage of time (Dawson, Blyleven, Sutter)
    – Finally, if a player seems to have fallen through the cracks, the veteran’s committee gets a chance to correct any omissions from the original voting process.

    If, 20 years from now, the voters feel that PEDs were no big deal, then certain players may get inducted. If PEDs are still an issue, maybe they won’t. Time will tell. We don’t know the final outcome of the PED era, because we are technically still in it.

  9. Nathan January 6, 2011 at 11:34 am
    Nice Joe, I like your idea as an idea. It’s a fresh look to a complex problem. I have a hard time with who is being voted in and who is being kept out. By the way just a thought but what if the Mets were one of the few teams that seriously discouraged PED use. This would go a long ways to explain why every FA we got went to crap once they got here. Just a thought.
  10. gary s. January 6, 2011 at 10:40 pm
    Nathan. i think it has more to do with the word that begins with m and ends with s across the front of the jersey.