Hall of Fame politics
Baseball has two more "immortals." Hurrah! Neither of them is named Marvin Miller. Boo!
Somehow they've done it again. They've managed with the customary and clever corporate gymnastics to again insult the equally irascible and brilliant labor-leader whose landmark and historic impact on the game they are determined to deny. Five years after he departed this mortal coil and for the seventh time overall, Miller is given the bum's rush at Cooperstown. But then he predicted as much. Somewhere in the great beyond the old fox is laughing uproariously.
They like to keep such details secret up at the Pantheon. But sooner or later the vote will leak out. Marvin could only afford to lose four votes from the 16 committee members and six of them were owners or high-ranking executives. As soon as the committee appointments were revealed you knew he had no chance.
Call it a set-up, if you wish. But why? That's a good question. Near death, Miller had pleaded to not be reconsidered. It's likely he'll get his wish now. This fiasco is over.
None of which should detract or in any way sully the selection of the two chaps who made the cut. Black Jack Morris, the big horse of a stopper who won 254 games, was the dominant right-hander of his era, and inspired four world-champions was a wonderful pick. He should have been elected by the writers 15 years ago. I'll never understand the problem they had with his candidacy.
Precious less worthy is Allan Trammell, who stationed himself at shortstop for the Tigers like a Stonewall Jackson and stayed there unwavering for 20 years. Profound in his fundamentals, Trammell was an inside-baseball treat who never did anything dumb. Such players are the shock troops of the game.
In Morris and Trammell, Cooperstown gets two gems. Marvin Miller would be pleased.
Next on the agenda will be the regular annual HOF election and the one in which only writers who are active members of the scribes' sacred fraternal society, the Baseball Writers Association of America, can vote. We get their verdict in late January.
Understandably, they fiercely protect their precious franchise and there's a large bloc of writers who truly believe their way is the only authentic and honorable path to canonization. It's a narrow perspective and if it were the case there would be less than half the chaps now enshrined in Cooperstown, with the denied including a good many fan favorites, a larger number of highly worthy old-timers, and all the chaps on this year's "Modern Era," ballot. The obsession some writers have with limiting the membership can get a little wacky, I think.
Anyway, the contemporary scribes have interesting choices and lots of potential controversy but no ''slam dunks'' to consider. Among those new to the ballot are Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones, Omar Vizquel and Jim Thome none of whom demand to be elected first time around, although Chipper and Omar are tempting. Also viable are two chaps who very narrowly missed last year -- reliever Trevor Hoffman and slugger Vladimir Guerrero -- and if it were up to me they'd miss again this year. I mean, What's the hurry?
Much more interesting, it seems to me, are candidates who've waited long enough and been too casually over-looked. Mike Mussina, dominate pitcher of his era and a gentleman with a perfectly clean slate, is a great example. So is Fred McGriff whose numbers compare favorably with a couple of dozen Hall of Famers and who clearly did what he did without getting juiced by steroids. If I had a vote Mussina might top my ballot.
And that's mainly because of the bloody "steroid issue," which won't go away despite the best efforts of more and more electors to ignore it. The writers -- understandably frustrated by the impossible task that's been dumped on them -- have greatly roiled these muddy waters by electing three highly suspect (if never proven) steroid abusers in the last two years. But it's the veteran's committee panels that have really made a mess of the matter by elevating the Commissioner who presided over it, and the General Manager who had the most clout, and the three most able and influential Team-Managers of the entire Steroid era.
All of which has convinced many that the argument is over. The "juicers" have won!
Enter Joe Morgan, himself a Hall-of-Famer and now the Hall's Vice-Chairman and member of its Board of Directors. Ever a cranky fellow, Little Joe has issued a bitter communique to the writers demanding they elect "no cheaters."
But who are the proven "cheaters"? Morgan defines them as the unlucky few named in the Mitchell Report or outed here and there along the way. But everyone knows that is but a small sample. You can't fry the "unlucky" when you are certain the ranks of the "lucky," who would emerge unscathed, are much, much larger. Morgan's ultimatum settles nothing and only guarantees more bickering and anguish.
Don't be surprised when the likes of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and even maybe that most soiled of the alleged suspects -- our own Manny Ramirez -- inch closer in this year's balloting, making their eventual anointing a virtual cinch.
- Clark Booth is a renowned Boston sports writer and broadcast journalist. He spent much of his long career at Boston’s WCVB-TV Chanel 5 as a correspondent specializing in sports, religion, politics and international affairs.