The big baseball news today, of course, is that the Baseball Writers of America elected no one into Baseball's Hall of Fame for this 2013 class. This is the first time that this has happened since 1996, and it is most noteworthy today because this is the first year of HOF eligibility for noted PED users Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa. These men, who have racked up some mind-boggling statistics in their careers finished with, respectively 206 (36.2%), 214 (37.6%), and 71 (12.5%) of the votes. As you no doubt know, 75% of the vote is needed to gain induction.
(As an aside, I will once again quote my friend Fred Shugars who today postulated that many of these same BBWA members who have shunned Barry Bonds today, no doubt took part in voting him seven MVP Awards over the course of his career, and in many of those MVP seasons, the whispers of Bonds possible PED use were well known. I would like to hear some of those writers explain those MVP votes of several years back today.)
I am not sure where I stand on this issue. Part of me says, Yeah, no way that these cheaters should ever go into the Hall of Fame. Another part of me buys the argument that says, Hey, we'll never really know who was dirty and who wasn't in the PED era, so let's forget the pretense and vote these guys in if we think that they are worthy. Even the Hall of Fame itself seems to be unsure how to go, as this picture of some label copy that I took on my last visit to Cooperstown in 2011 attests:
Keep in mind that the institution in Cooperstown is called the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Personally, I am glad that the Museum part of the institution (as opposed to the Hall of Fame where the plaques are displayed) recognizes all historic and noteworthy players. Thus, when you visit there you will see that Pete Rose is the all-time leader in hits, and that Joe Jackson has the third highest batting average of all-time, just as you will see that Barry Bonds has the most career home runs. I am glad that no asterisks are attached, and that no attempt has been made to vacate these records. As the sign above says, only the perspective of time - and that may be 50 years from now - will enable us to really see the big picture of this era.
I also know from having visited Cooperstown five times that the Hall of Fame is the economic engine that drives this charming little village, and no weekend is as important to the Village of Cooperstown than Induction Weekend. This year there will only be three inductees voted in by the Veteran's Committee (or whatever they are calling that committee these days): Umpire Hank O'Day, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, and 19th century player Deacon White, all of whom are dead. I can't imagine that the Hall of Fame as a business enterprise can be happy about the fact that only three dead guys are going to be honored at their big party this summer, and that guys who do get elected in the future will only be guys who may get in there by default only because somebody has to go in there. That can't be good for business.
And in a side comment, many of us Pirates fans have to be disappointed that in his first year of eligibility, Jose Mesa received not a single vote and will now forever be removed from the ballot. Those of us who recall the glory days of 2004-05 (aka, Years 12 and 13 of the Losing Streak) and those 70 saves that Jose racked up for the Bucs have to be bitterly disappointed. Cleveland Indians fans, no doubt will have a different perspective on Mesa's shunning by the BBWA.