Thursday, January 10, 2013

No One - Updated

The Baseball Writers and the Baseball Hall of Fame trustees need to talk.

A significant part of the Hall of Fame mission is to recognize exceptional players. But the larger part of that mission is to chronicle and preserve an accurate history of the game and to provide an equally accurate narrative of that history to successive generations, a mission consistent with all museums.

The writers have been empowered to assist the Hall in fulfilling the lesser mission, charged with the responsibility of electing Hall inductees during the first fifteen years of a potential inductee’s eligibility.

It is the responsibility of the trustees to determine processes for recognizing the greatest players of the steroid era, one of the most controversial and intriguing eras in all of baseball, preserving an accurate history of that era and presenting an informative narrative. The trustees, to the extent that they choose to involve writers in those processes, need to reach mutual agreement with writers on clear definitions and criteria as regards how players are selected for inclusion into the Hall’s archives.

Rob Dibble rightly points out that the steroid era began in the 1970’s, continued for over thirty years with writers, owners, and fans wildly supporting the PED driven homerun barrage of the late 90’s, until, finally, the players union insisted on a testing program. Without clearer criteria for selecting inductees, writers have, de facto, become Morality Police, Morality Judge, and Morality Jury, responsibilities that they are woefully prepared to fulfill.

In the best of times some writers have demonstrated either stupidity, hubris or indifference in their selections. The voting group that took two years to select Robbie Alomar, probably the greatest second baseman that ever stepped on a field, remains largely intact today.

Inductees to the Hall include the tenaciously racist Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat during baseball’s apartheid era, and the 'One Hit Wonder', Bill Mazeroski, a player who never dominated any era but had one of the biggest hits in the early history of Word Series television. Character, integrity, sound values, or even long-term performance, have never been consistently used criteria for individual acknowledgement. There are performances that simply demand historical recognition to the extent that they define an important moment in baseball history or, in the case of Bonds, Clemens and others, they define the boundaries of an era. 

The Hall can no longer be considered the game's principle archiver until it treats the most recent decades of the game, the steroid era and it’s players, with the depth of honesty required for any meaningful history – including mechanisms for highlighting the performances of not only those players who writers ‘believe’ are squeaky clean but also the rise and fall of those players that writers ‘suspect’ of PED use, and those who have tested positive or are self-admitted users.

Or, they can continue to drink Denial Kool-Aid, forget three or four decades of the game, put water slides in the Hall, wine tasting in the lobby and stop pretending that they are the custodians of baseball’s history.

Vod Kanockers

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