Those entrusted with policing the National Baseball Hall of Fame, by voting upon who gets in and when (or not at all), have always been a questionable lot.
Wednesday removed all question. This is a motley crew at best. At worst, they reveal the 2013 Hall of Fame voting results during a live TV special that was so short of being truly special that it veered toward maudlin.
Of course it did. There was something oddly funereal about the ballot before it was even printed. Anyone with an abiding love for the game, or an ax to grind against it, has been wringing his or her hands with worry or spiteful glee since we all realized this was likely the litmus test for anyone associated with the “Steroid Era.”
That we have a difficult time defining and quantifying said era only serves to further cloud the murkiest of matters.
Now we’re told, by those charged with honoring the game’s greatest players, that nobody is good enough this time around. Given the unquestioned greatness of some of the players upon whom so many backs and blind eyes were turned, we can assume that we won’t be seeing ANYONE inducted for quite some time.
If we do see, say, Barry Bonds inducted next year after he fell more than halfway short this time around, it’ll make the Hall voters look even worse. If a player is worthy of Cooperstown, he should go in the first time he appears on the ballot. Anyone deeming someone a “second-ballot” Hall of Famer is making a “political” statement nobody really cares about.
But it’s likely Bonds won’t get in next year. Or the year after that. Or maybe ever. Hell, Craig Biggio got closer than Bonds.
Say that out loud: Slappy, scrappy Craig Biggio got closer to induction than Bonds, one of the greatest natural talents you’ll ever see — yes, natural, as in God-given ability, and his regrettable choice to enhance that talent chemically late in his career doesn’t change a damn thing.
Then again, so much of the Hall is laughable, starting with the voting body. It’s made up of the men and women of the Baseball Writers Association of America who have been members for 10 consecutive years. Not just beat writers who have watched the game intimately for 10 consecutive years. Not broadcasters who have called the games forever. We’re talking about columnists who work for newspapers with a BBWAA affiliation and therefore are eligible voting members.
Columnists who, in some cases, cover about 15 big-league games a year. And spend the majority of those days bullshooting with fellow columnists.
This isn’t to bash the entire BBWAA. The current president, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, is the kind of voter in whom I firmly believe. She has integrity and takes her job, her vote and her position within the national pastime very seriously. Ditto a columnist such as the Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins, or the San Jose Mercury News’ Mark Purdy, or KGMZ (95.7 FM) The Game’s Mark Kreidler.
But some of the others are straight-up frauds, and collectively they’ve chosen to ignore part of the game’s history.
It’s a history we’re not particularly proud of, but it’s history nonetheless. That’s what the Hall of Fame is for: to document history.
It happened. Deal with it. Recognize it. And for God’s sake, get over it.
And while you’re at it, get over yourselves. Shameful.
Mychael Urban has covered Bay Area sports for more than 22 years as a contributor to Comcast SportsNet, CSNBayArea.com, KNBR, MLB.com, ESPN The Magazine and various newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.