The 2013 MLB Hall of Fame ballot was just released this week.  And, to say it will be a controversial issue until Jan 9 when the new inductees are to be announced is an understatement.

Among the 37 players included on the new ballot for the first time were Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa.  Those players, whose historical numbers are outstanding and worthy of consideration, have unfortunately been linked with steroid allegations over the years.

As a result, several of the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) (who actual do the voting) have publicly announced that they will not consider any players linked with steroid use, even if the player had not actually tested positive for it and had not been formally reprimanded by the MLB.

I have a problem with that.

Without actual proof, and without a formal charge from the MLB for violating the drug abuse policy, how could a voter just look at a player’s year to year statistics and make a decision about whether or not they think a certain player may have used banned substances in the past?

Simply put, MLB did not formally deal with the epidemic of steroid use in the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s.  Now, voters are free to hold their own courtrooms in their minds.  That just doesn’t seem fair.

And, it gets trickier.  Check out the BBWAA Election Rules.  Paragraph 5 states:  “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.”

It seems rather odd that the criteria include “integrity” and “character” without further description.  They also seem vague and open to a wide array of interpretation.  Each voter may have a different interpretation of those words.

Also, how do the voters even gauge what the “character” of a player is anyway?  Based on what?  Speculation in the newspapers and on the internet?  Do the voters even know each player personally?  Have they met the player’s family?  Do they go out and interview the player’s friends, former teammates, high school coaches, girlfriends, barbers, grocery store clerks?  Or, are voters only supposed to rely on the statistics and their guts as rendering a decision about a player’s character?

Is it too silly to suggest that the BBWAA should have each player on the ballot fill out some kind of application before they render their decision as to that player’s true character?  This way, specific questions can be addressed and the player is held to full disclosure.

No, to me, the BBWA rules need to be shored up with regards to Paragraph 5.

Let’s be more specific as to what character and integrity should mean to a voter.  Or, maybe even have the voters interview the eligible players and look them in the eyes.  If character and integrity are such huge components of HOF consideration, then voters need to ask questions and make their determinations based on something else rather than statistics mixed with gut reactions.

Alas, if the paragraph 5 rule doesn’t change, then I suggest that the HOF voters should still consider the integrity and character of players as clean, IF a worthy player currently on the HOF ballot has not tested positive since the January 2004 Drug Policy was introduced, and the player was not officially suspended as per that rule.  Penalties for players who tested positive began in 2004, and suspensions for a first positive test started in 2005.

I suggest this, because before 2003 the MLB did not have a hard and fast rule for addressing these individual players using banned substances.  At least after 2004 there is some kind of formal way to hold players to testing.  Yes, it seems to be a weak drug policy, but it’s something.

My final is word is that we should grandfather in all eligible HOF players who had not been suspended for drug abuse before 2004 and their character considered “clean” in this regard.  Either that, or move forward with a better Paragraph 5 description.  In the least, voters seem to need a better way to judge steroid abuse amongst accused players because by the current rule for voting, they are actually encouraged to speculate and that just doesn’t seem fair to anyone involved.


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