–– It’s Wednesday, January 26, 2022. Winter is 40% over.
— It’s the 88th birthday of Bob Uecker.
He’s a Baseball Hall of Famer despite a lifetime batting average of .200 as a catcher with three major league teams. Of course, that’s because Uecker built an amazing career after his playing days – comedian, actor, play-by-play announcer.
Uecker was elected to the hall’s broadcasters’ wing in 2003.
— Bob Uecker is in the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens aren’t.
There is a lot of handwringing among baseball fans and participants about yesterday’s announcement that Bonds and Clemens failed in their final attempt to gain election. It’s heightened by David Ortiz’s success in his first try on the ballot.
All three men have, at one time, been linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The big difference is that Ortiz got a sorta pass from baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. In 2016, Manfred said the 2003 test Ortiz was reported to have failed was tainted and that it shouldn’t be considered in evaluating the Boston slugger’s candidacy.
While that and some other off-the-field issues kept several voters from checking his name, Ortiz’s career and his Big Papi personality were enough to get him past the 75% threshold by just about 3 percentage points.
Bonds and Clemens are in a different league.
Both men had stellar careers going before the steroid era came around. But both faced questions about their use of steroids – to the point that both Bonds and Clemens faced legal consequences. Bonds had a conviction overturned; Clemens was eventually acquitted of lying to Congress about his steroid use after a former trainer and teammate testified otherwise.
Despite all their numbers and accomplishments, particularly before the period their achievements were questioned, it’s important to remember that being elected to the Hall of Fame is not a right.
The writers who voted against the two men don’t have to consider the acquittals and overturned convictions. They have to decide whether what they think these two did was more detrimental to the sport than what they contributed to it.
— Lots of people are bemoaning the fact that the man who hit the most home runs in baseball history and the winner of the most Cy Young Awards for pitching are excluded from Cooperstown. Here’s why I think the writers did the right thing.
Yes, it does seem out of whack that Bonds and Clemens aren’t enshrined. I never rooted for them when they played, but I always recognize achievement – I absolutely agree that Met killer Chipper Jones was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and would have voted for Met killer Jimmy Rollins who barely survived the 5% cutoff in his first try.
But it’s wrong to think that there are no victims of what Bonds and Clemens are perceived to have done. There sure as hell are.
I’m talking about the men who played against them.
How many pitchers – particularly in the National League West – saw their career stats diminished because Bonds might have had an unfair advantage at the plate? How many batters – particularly those who more often faced the Yankees and Astros – saw their strikeout totals increase because Clemens might have had an unfair advantage on the mound?
And how did their performances affect the teams they faced, denying them better records and possible post-season glory?
The Hall of Fame gives players additional chances after the writers are finished with their consideration. In the case of Clemens and Bonds, they will be eligible for election in December when the Today’s Game committee, which considers those who played after 1988, meets.
The committee consists of 16 members, including players already inducted in the Hall, as well as baseball executives and veteran writers. And what the writers have done is leave this matter to them. If 12 of the 16 members approve, Bonds and Clemens can get in.
Ideally, the people who decide this should include players whose names aren’t on plaques. Players like, well, Bob Uecker – guys who pieced together six- and seven-year careers in the majors and lived in fear of the visit to the manager’s office to hear about a demotion to the minors.
But since that’s not how it works, it’s fine that at least some players – a few of whom might be Bonds’ and Clemens’ peers – get a say in this. If they get in, that’s OK.
It’s not about the writers’ personal agenda. It’s about who honors the game with their presence in that hallowed room in Cooperstown. Not enough writers think Bonds and Clemens belong there.
They rightly deferred it to others in a different – maybe even more appropriate – position to judge.
And if you’re a writer who’s not happy about that, consider this: for all the numbers and accolades they garnered in their career, Bonds and Clemens couldn’t get the same honor – being voted in by the writers – that many others with less stellar statistics attained.
They – and you – will always know that.