The Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome two new members next summer. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were both well above the 75% threshold in terms of votes received to merit their induction. Griffey was an absolute no-brainer; the voting is done by the members of the BBWAA – the Baseball Writers’ Association of America – meaning that everyone who has a vote is someone who is involved in covering and following baseball over a period of time. It is inconceivable that anyone who follows/followed baseball as the means to make his/her living could have seen Griffey play and not recognize that he was one of the all-time greats. About the only thing he never did was to come out before the game with the grounds’ crew and help them lay down the chalk for the foul lines.
Mike Piazza was another story. He has been eligible for 4 years and there had been a “PED cloud” over him. However, that cloud was as much innuendo/rumor/whispers as it was “evidence”. If you saw Piazza’s numbers standing alone, you would have to say he was Hall of Fame worthy but the BBWAA voters had issues with him. Perhaps it was exactly those “issues” that pressed forward changes in the BBWAA itself. Last year, a little more than 100 Hall of Fame voters lost their voting franchise because they had not covered baseball for the last 10 years.
Some folks have suggested that it was this “purging” of “old-timers” whose views on PED usage were ossified at best that propelled Piazza into the Hall of Fame. In prior years, there were almost 600 ballots distributed; this year, there were only 450. I do not read minds, so I will not try to tell you how or why folks voted the way they did. However, there is some math to suggest some validity here.
Barry Bonds “benefited” from the “purge”. In his three prior years of eligibility, Bonds got 206, 198 and 202 votes. This year, he got 195. He seems to have a stable core of writers who believe that he belongs in the Hall of Fame and if the objective is to get to 75% of the votes, it will be easier to get there with only 450 voters than 600 or so voters. It will mean there are fewer minds to change. However, please note that Bonds’ vote this year is still well below 50% and not within hailing distance of the 75% needed for induction.
Roger Clemens similarly “benefited” from the “purge” in the same sense that Bonds did. Like Bonds, Clemens seems to have a constant base of support for his candidacy. In his 3 years of eligibility, he has gotten 214, 202 and 206 votes; this year he got 199. Once again, his percentage is up because he got about the same number of votes while the total number of votes declined, but he too is still south of 50% of the vote.
I think the “PED cloud” will not dissipate until the BBWAA members have a chance to vote on the poster-child for PEDs – Alex Rodriguez. Like Griffey, Bonds and Clemens, no one could look at A-Rod’s numbers without a name attached to them and conclude that the player who achieved those numbers is unworthy of the Hall of Fame. Moreover, after A-Rod sat out an entire year on suspension for repeated PED use, he came back and played (purportedly) clean at age 40 and had a commendable season. The writers will have to decide when A-Rod is on the ballot what their collective stance will be for PED users because there is no question that he used them during his career. With both Bonds and Clemens, there is still that lingering argument that neither ever failed a drug test. [Aside: It must be pointed out here that Lance Armstrong never failed a drug test either and we know how that all turned out…]
I think that Mike Piazza indeed benefited from the “BBWAA purge” but I am not outraged by that in any way simply because whatever “evidence” there was that he was a “PED-cheat” seems far more flimsy to me than is the “evidence” in the Bonds or Clemens situations.
In any event, Piazza’s induction is a “rags-to-riches story” that might inspire a biopic somewhere down the line. He was hardly a “5-Star recruit” or a “top prospect” in his youth. In fact, in the 1988 MLB draft, Mike Piazza was selected by the LA Dodgers in the 62nd round; he was the 1390th overall pick that year; every team passed over him again and again and again… The lore is that the only reason the Dodgers “wasted” a pick on him is that Tommy LaSorda and Mike Piazza’s father were close friends. If that was the “only reason” then LaSorda and the Dodgers got awfully lucky; if there was a scout who put Piazza on the Dodgers’ draft board notwithstanding the LaSorda/Piazza Sr. friendship, that scout surely deserved a nice bonus.
One other note from the Hall of Fame balloting this year is that this was the last year of eligibility for Alan Trammel and Mark McGwire. Neither made it into the Hall. Now, they will fall under the scrutiny of the Veterans’ Committee and that body has been most stingy with its admissions to the Hall of Fame over the past several years.
Changing topics – and sports – Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Picked-up piece: With its victory over Michigan State in the CFP semis, Alabama won more games at Jones’ AT&T Stadium this season (2) than the Cowboys (1).”
I include that here because I know that one long-term reader of these rants is rabidly anti-Cowboys; and although he realizes that Jerry Jones is not the anti-Christ, he is certain that Jones and the anti-Christ are best buddies. If he had not already put those pieces together, I know he will read those words and give them a fist-pump. It is just another of the services I provide…
Finally, here is one more observation from Bob Molinaro.
“Another lifeline: After he was almost inexplicably retained as Colts coach, Chuck Pagano said, ‘This is absolutely the best day of my life.’ If he says so. But what about the time doctors told him that his cancer was in remission? Presumably that wasn’t such a bad day, either.”
Seriously now, better than the day you got married? Better than the days on which your kids were born? Better than the day you heard the word “remission”? Sigh… Coachspeak run amok.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………