MLB – COULD PARAGRAPH 5 BE CREATING AUTHORITARIANS OUT OF HOF VOTERS?

This year, zero players have been elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  That hasn’t happened since 1996.

A shocking outcome, considering that 37 players were eligible for the honor.

Perhaps that was the point, though.

Among others, the 2013 HOF ballot included first time candidates allegedly linked with steroids during their baseball careers like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa.

Evidence suggests that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) “sent a message” by not voting a majority on any candidate to express their overwhelmingly negative views about players allegedly linked with PEDs.

Presumably, Bonds, Clemens & Sosa include the first batch of more players to become eligible for the HOF and who have been linked with PEDs.

In my November 29, 2012 post, “Lack of fairness – 2013 Hall of Fame Ballot”, I discussed my disagreement with such a philosophy and outlined how the process is failing due to Paragraph 5, or the “character clause”: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

I wrote that the vagueness of those criteria actually encourages HOF voters to speculate about players accused of steroid use, which is unfair given the fact that MLB ignored steroid abuse before the January 2004 Drug Policy was introduced.

But, last week, as I was watching one my favorite morning sports programs, I became convinced that not only is Paragraph 5 confusing the HOF voting process as I suspected, but could also be creating authoritarians out of the Hall of Fame Voters.

The day I came to this realization was on July 29 during ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” program when Bill Madden, Columnist for the NY Daily News, spoke about his opinion regarding why he failed to vote for Bonds, Clemens, or Sosa for the HOF.  (Madden is a respected veteran sportswriter, member of the BBWAA, has served on the Historical Overview Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005, 2007 and 2008, and helps to select candidates for the final ballots presented to the Veterans Committee.)

Madden said, “I voted for the integrity of the game”.  He also said “There’s a clause on the ballot that deals with character, sportsmanship & integrity. I believe the Founding Fathers of the HOF put that clause in there for a reason.  And, as long as it’s there, I’m going to abide by it.”  But, before that he said, “These guys cheated and deserve to be punished”.

First, beyond Madden’s opinion as to why he thinks Bonds, Clemens, or Sosa somehow violated the criteria of the character clause based on speculation, his use of the word “punish” disturbs me.

It implies that Madden feels it is his personal responsibility, as a Hall of Fame voter, to make Bonds, Clemens, or Sosa pay for cheating.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall Paragraph 5 or any part of the BBWAA Election Rules addressing anything to do with punishing players for cheating, or otherwise.  The character clause was set up by the “Founding Fathers” as guidance to help voters make a decision about whether or not a player should be awarded the ultimate honor for their achievement in the game of baseball.

In fact, the Baseball Hall of Fame’s motto on its website says, “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations”.  It doesn’t add, “Punishing Players”.

Second, even if Madden thinks certain players should be punished for taking steroids while playing baseball, using his Hall of Fame vote to do so is wrong.  It is MLB’s job to assess punishment, not his.

Does Madden think that just because he has a Hall of Fame vote, it gives him the power to use it like a vigilante to seek out justice for MLB?  Does he think that because the sport failed to address this issue back when the abuse was allegedly happening, he can do so now?

Further, I have a problem with Madden saying “I voted for the integrity of the game”.

Is that really for him as a voter to decide?  By virtue of Paragraph 5, voters are asked to look at the integrity of each individual going into the Hall, but not set it as their personal mission to preserve it as a whole.

It correlates with the part of the interview when Madden spoke about voting for those individuals who may be on the cusp of strong suspicion without proof, like Mike Piazza.  He said that he didn’t want to vote for someone to get into the Hall of Fame who later may be accused of PED use.

Again, what right does Madden have to question the possibility that a player may be found guilty of cheating later?  Where is that criteria in the Rules?  And, what if that speculation about that player never comes to fruition?

Later on, Madden also said he failed to vote for Mike Piazza who was on the ballot for the first time, because he acknowledged that he wasn’t as talented as Johnny Bench, the only catcher to go into the Hall on the first ballot.  And, he remarked that even Yogi Berra didn’t go in the first year he was eligible.

So, Madden implies that if Piazza got in on the first ballot, he would be considered as talented as Johnny Bench and more than Yogi Berra, meaning – that is wrong.

To me, if you think a guy deserves to be in the Hall, just vote him in.  Why hold back a year (or 2 or 3) to show respect for other players?  Where is it in the BBWAA Election Rules that you have the power to do this?

And, where is it in the Rules that the year a player is inducted into the Hall determines his excellence level?  Is a player seen less talented if he got in year 15 (the final year of eligibility), as opposed to his 7th chance?

What right do voters have to toy with a person’s destiny like that, because they personally think Yogi Berra is more talented than Mike Piazza?  Did the BBWAA just make this a silent rule?

Then, there’s the portion of the interview where Madden is asked about Alex Rodriguez.  Madden admitted that he said ARod was “the biggest mistake the Yankees ever made” and that we are seeing it now by all the “nonsense he’s put everybody through” regarding fighting the imminent Biogenesis suspension with all “these distractions and everything else”.  He said, “Who knows what else he is going to be putting us all through as far as the courts and everything else here on out”.

Us?  Again, with Madden’s comments, it’s like he feels he has been personally wronged due to ARod’s actions. What does ARod have anything to do with him?  It seems as if Madden is taking players’ actions too personally.

Perhaps, then, that ultimately is the point.

Paragraph 5 asks a Hall of Fame voter to get personal.  It forces a human being with morals and life experiences to personally assess the actions of another, beyond his baseball talents and accomplishments, and determine if that person is worthy enough for the most ultimate accolade in the sport.

And, by asking a voter to determine integrity and sportsmanship in one, voters seem to think the Founding Fathers meant it as a whole.

But, in my opinion, I don’t think that is what the Founding Fathers originally intended.  I think they wanted the Hall of Fame to simply preserve history, honor excellence, and connect generations.

 


Sources :

Baseball Hall of Fame: http://baseballhall.org/
BBWAA: http://bbwaa.com/13-hof-ballots/
Baseball-Reference.com: http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/hof_voting.shtml

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