Cooperstown Calamity?

Brendan Birth ‘15, columnist

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Believe it or not, I have passions other than politics. I used to watch baseball, especially the New York Mets, but I gradually lost interest due to the cloud of Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). However, one baseball story grabbed my attention: nobody got elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. Was there something wrong with the voters or the system itself? Is 75 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America not capable of agreeing on players that should be voted in? Most of these reactions are based on this year’s voting alone and is therefore reactionary. Some baseball fans and analysts acted like 2013 was the first time nobody got into the Hall of Fame. To the contrary, this also happened in 1996. With few exceptions, at least one player has been voted into the Hall of Fame each year, but it is not the end of the baseball world when there is a year when nobody receives the honor. In reality the voting system is just fine—the calamity is due to the players on this year’s ballot.

When someone looks at this year’s ballot, it’s understandable why the Baseball Writers of America voted for nobody. Players that either took PEDs (Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Roger Clemens, to name a few) or were suspected of taking PEDs (most notably Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell) were up for a vote. Other players were just not considered worthy of being in the Hall of Fame this year. For example, many voters thought that Craig Biggio was never dominant enough to get into Cooperstown on the first ballot. While he got over 3,000 hits in his career (a feat accomplished by fewer than thirty players in the history of baseball) he never finished higher than fourth for Most Valuable Player voting. Between confirmed PED users, suspected PED users, and players who were never dominant in the game, it’s no surprise that nobody got more than 75 percent this time around.

Some may argue that it shouldn’t be in the hands of the baseball writers to decide the fates of potential or confirmed PED users. As the argument goes, the writers shouldn’t act like cops. However, the Baseball Hall of Fame has a character clause that puts the responsibility of determining the “good guys” in baseball from the “bad guys” on the voters. If such a responsibility were to be removed from the voters, then best course of action may be to remove the character clause entirely.

Others may say that this year will begin a pattern where very few players get into the Hall of Fame. That is unlikely, because there may be three Hall of Famers next year on the first ballot: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas. All three were dominant during the steroid era, yet none of them were ever attached to PEDs. In fact, Thomas was vocally anti-drug for years before baseball did anything about the problem. 2015 and 2016 will also feature Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr., both of whom should win the first ballot. If any of these players are not voted into Cooperstown by the time I graduate from Dickinson, then baseball fans can say there is something wrong with the current system. Until then, the flaw is with the players, not the Baseball Writers Association of America.