Snub of former Astro shows real world consequences for baseball’s bias
The National Baseball Hall of Fame – that’s the official name for our pastime’s hallowed halls in Cooperstown – will announce its Class of 2022 next Tuesday.
It appears that only one player from the modern era, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, has a chance of tallying above the 75-percent threshold of votes cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
More noteworthy, this year marks the last gasp of eligibility for two of the greatest players in the history of the sport, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. And it’s likely they won’t be elected.
It’s that pesky good citizenship clause in the requirements to be elected to the Hall of Fame:
“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.”
Uh-oh, did they say “integrity” and “sportsmanship” and “character?” Also, the rules state that any player on baseball’s “ineligible” list can’t be on the ballot.
So we have baseball essentially banning from its Hall of Fame:
Bonds, arguably the game’s greatest player ever, career and single season home run champion and only 7-time MVP.
Clemens, arguably the game’s greatest pitcher ever, 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts and only 7-time Cy Young Award winner.
Pete Rose: inarguably baseball’s all-time leader in hits, games played, at bats, and most seasons with 200 hits. Rose is banished for violating baseball’s rule against gambling on games.
Curt Schilling, whose pitching stats probably warrant entry to Cooperstown, is expected to fall short on votes this year. While there is no specific rule against being a complete jerk and high-grade idiot (in 2016 he appeared in public wearing a T-shirt that said, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.” Uh, you are aware that journalists vote on who gets into the Hall of Fame, right? His T-shirt suggesting lynching journalists pales in comparison to other incendiary comments on race and politics.
Alex Rodriguez has all the stats to gain induction, 3,000 hits, 696 home runs, three MVP Awards, five American League home run titles, career mark for grand slams and a batting title. But A-Rod was an outed steroid user, which included a 211-game suspension.
About half of the approximately 400 voting members of the baseball writers have revealed their ballots and Ortiz appears on 86 percent of them, according to Hall of Fame tracker Ryan Thibodaux. However, writers who keep their ballots secret tend to be fuddy-duddy traditionalists who look askance at players suspected of having used performance enhancing drugs. While Ortiz never flunked an official steroid test, he did pop a positive result in MLB’s anonymous drug-testing survey in 2003 – a year before baseball implemented its drug policy. Ortiz never tested positive after 2004.
Baseball's commissioner has asked Hall of Fame voters not to hold Ortiz’s 2003 test result against him. “Even if your name was on that (anonymous) list, it’s entirely possible that you were not positive. I don’t think anybody understands very well what that list was,” Manfred said.
Leave it to baseball to “name names” on an anonymous list.
If Ortiz sinks below the 75 percent mark when all the ballots are counted, 2022 would be the second consecutive year with no player from the modern era elected to the Hall of Fame. The plaque-maker also filed for unemployment benefits in 1945, 1950, 1958, 1960, 1965, 1971 and 1996.
Baseball writers can be a picky bunch. They have been electing players to the Hall of Fame since 1936, yet only one was ever voted in unanimously – reliever Mariano Rivera in 2019. That means there were, one would think astute, baseball writers who surveyed Willie Mays’ career and said, “Nope, not a Hall of Famer.” Some writers turned thumbs down on Cy Young, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Henry Aaron at some time during their eligibility.
Craig Biggio had to wait three years to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Jeff Bagwell was in Cooperstown’s waiting room for seven years.
You mean some writers didn’t vote for Babe Ruth? What does a guy have to do around here to get in the Hall of Fame?
We will find out in 2025 when Ichiro Suzuki comes up for a vote. He notched more than 3,000 hits in MLB (one of the benchmarks for induction) and that was after winning seven straight batting titles in Japan. He holds the MLB record for most hits in a single season (262). If you add up his hits in MLB and Japan, it fritzes out the calculator at 4,367, far out-distancing Pete Rose for the crown of baseball’s true Hit King.