The results of this year's baseball Hall of Fame voting will be released here in a few hours, and we'll then get to find out which former stars the BBWAA judged worthy of having a plaque of their face stuck to a wall in a building in rural New York. Hall of Famers, they'll be. The best of the bunch, the leaders of the pack, the all-time leaders in the categories we grew up being told were important!
Barry Bonds was the best baseball player I ever watched - and was possibly the best who ever picked up a bat - but he won't be one of the approved. He only walked more, intentionally walked more, and whacked more dingers than anyone else who ever played.
The best right handed pitcher who I ever watched, Roger Clemens, won't either. His seven career Cy Young Awards are the most ever won.
Mark McGwire hit baseballs harder, farther, and hard and far more often per swing than most anyone who has played the game in its 150+ years of its existence, but he won't be elected, either. (Forget the 405 dingers he hit in the 1990s, more than anyone else.) Rafael Palmeiro and his finger wag will again get bypassed, too, since the 3,000 hits and 500 dingers he compiled (that only Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Eddie Murray can match) got morally booted from the ballot after last year's measly 4.4% performance. Heck, those other three never even won a Gold Glove as a DH!
Larry Walker won't get elected because he was fortunate enough to play baseball where Major League Baseball deemed a franchise was worthy, yet unfortunate enough to play baseball where the BBWAA has judged statistics as irrelevant. Jeff Bagwell was pretty much the single best right-handed hitter in the National League for an entire decade, yet he and the one player who could legitimately challenge him for that title, Mike Piazza, will get to have their entire careers questioned now by a scribe army that didn't choose to question them when it all actually happened on the field.
So while Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz are likely to get a chance to make a long, deserved speech in Cooperstown this summer, we'll all again get to wonder why there's an organization of writers out there that somehow gets to dictate an alternate history of what happened in the game of baseball during the 1990s and early 2000s. The Steroid Era. The Whatever Era. The Era of baseball folks my age grew up with yet now get to be told didn't count, didn't matter, and shouldn't be more than a footnote in the game's history.
In a week, I turn 29 years old for the third or fifth time. If you're of my generation and grew up a baseball fan, there's a damn good chance you fall into one of two categories every time this day rolls around each year: you either get a tad bit pissed off that the same folks who made their living covering the game you watched growing up have made themselves judge, jury, and alt-history writers for an entire era of baseball, or you've reached a point where you just have to shrug, sigh, and just not care so much. The BBWAA has done their damnedest to make sure that there's no way to look at baseball's Hall of Fame without a snicker or a grain of salt.
Which sucks. I mean, the same organization that voted to give Bonds more MVP awards than anyone else ever won't acknowledge how dominant his career was after the fact. The same organization that voted Roger Clemens as the game's best hurler seven times will admit one of his peers whose career pales in comparison for yet another year. It's a foolhardy way of taking what we watched, what we formatively watched, and tossing it out the window as if we'll simply not notice.
Well, we've noticed. If you watched any 1990s baseball, you watched a ton of Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Clemens, Bagwell, and Piazza. Thanks to Jim Bowden's ability to make the Cincinnati Reds largely terrible during the bulk of those players' careers, I think I saw as much of other teams play as the team I was 80 miles south of. I watched those players because they were the best, and their teams were the best. They were on TV, they were in the All-Star games, and they were in the playoffs. They were baseball, rightly or wrongly, and even though the riot police wing of the BBWAA has chosen to wring their hands of them due to steroid suspicion ex post facto, there's not a thing their ballot malfunctions can do to make my generation un-see the game we grew up watching.
So now, the Baseball Hall of Fame has backed itself into a corner where now its own integrity is as questioned as each and every player who played through the last thirty years, and they just don't seem to understand that this stand, or whatever, is making them look guiltier by the day. The BBWAA is comprised of baseball writers, writers who have made careers writing about the game of baseball, yet they're the very same group that's now using their collective voting powers to script what they wished would have happened instead of what actually happened. It's a cop out, and it's sad. They're kicking a can filled with stories and history that should be told in some light, and they're kicking it so far down the road that some other generation is going to get to try to sort it all out well after things get sillier and sillier.
What's worse, even, is that a good many of the organizations' members have openly recognized the damage that their group is doing to both the Hall and the annals of baseball history, yet their numbers have been too few to stop it from happening altogether. Just tell the damn story, and tell it with the best characters involved. Say that Barry Bonds probably cheated, but don't leave his 762 dingers out of the place where people come to learn about dingers. Don't act like Roger Clemens didn't throw a shattered bat at Mike Piazza in the World Series - the World Series! - because a trainer said one juiced and Murray Chass has a bacne obsession.
That's history! It happened! And if the steroid issue is, to you, a big enough issue in the game's rich history, do us all a favor and tell us about what happened, and why, and why you have such a huge moral vendetta against those that used them. Don't, though, try to make us unremember what we baseball consumers watched for decades and still expect us to take you seriously.
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz are going to be Hall of Famers, and they all should be. Unfortunately, being a Hall of Famer no longer means being the best of the baseball best as it once did. Rather, it simply means the best who don't have a grudge levied their way by the bulk of the BBWAA, and that's ultimately what apparently matters.
I'm not even mad. I'm just disappointed, BBWAA.