... if I had a vote this year, I'd vote for Ortiz, Clemens, and Bonds, but not for anyone else.
Well, the votes are in. They just haven't all been counted yet -- at least not as of this writing. But the Hall of Fame voters have spoken. By doing so they've opened the gates for the rest of us. Whaddyaknow? We're talkin' baseball again! Not for long, I'll grant you, but for a while, anyhow.
Who's in the Hall of Fame, and who isn't? There's been a blackout on baseball news since labor negotiations broke down and a lockout was imposed way back at the beginning of December. But now an election has been held and it's not against the rules to talk about it. So let's do that.
First of all, where do you stand on the candidacies of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens? I lump them together because the controversies surrounding them are the same. Both of them are widely assumed to have used performance-enhancing drugs although neither has been convicted in a court of law. The standard I apply is if we assume that the steroids issue did not exist, would they be in the Hall? The answer, I submit, is yes, both were Hall of Fame caliber players well before there was any talk of PEDs. Both witnessed as the powers-that-be in baseball purposefully looked the other way and did nothing while Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, with the aid of steroids, laid waste to existing home run records. It was only after the use of performance-enhancing drugs got out of hand that baseball decided to come down heavily against it. Besides, even if we assume that Bonds and Clemens used PEDs and that those drugs added 50 wins and 100 home runs to their respective totals, Clemens would still have more than 300 victories in his career and Bonds would have well over 600 homers, enough to make them sure-fire Hall of Famers. Put 'em both in, I say.
In 2003, David Ortiz was among those players who were guaranteed anonymity for taking a drug test for MLB. Guarantee or not, he later found his name plastered all over The New York Times for having tested positive. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has since absolved Ortiz of any wrongdoing, suggesting that the 2003 test contained a number of false-positive results and shouldn't be held against Ortiz. Further, in numerous drug tests held between 2004 and 2016, when he retired, he never failed another one. Still, there are those who cite the 2003 test as a reason for not supporting his candidacy for the Hall. There are others who harbor a prejudice against designated hitters, but the DH has been a fact of life for almost half a century now. Ortiz's record as one of the great clutch hitters of all time outweighs all of those things and will eventually get him elected to the Hall of Fame, but will it be this year? I hope so.
Which brings us to the case of Curt Schilling, the only man ever to talk his way out of the Hall of Fame. Last year, he came within 16 votes (out of a total of 401 cast) of the needed 75 percent for election. Who is to blame for doing Schilling in? Alas, it was Schilling himself.
His divisive statements on Twitter might have fired up his right wing base of supporters, but they have alienated countless others. Calling baseball writers, the very people who vote on his candidacy for the Hall, "morally corrupt" is not a recommended way to garner support for your cause. On this, his 10th and last year on the ballot, his support is expected to shrivel.
It's not like he was otherwise a slam-dunk Hall-of-Famer anyhow. He was a great big-game pitcher, and his "bloody sock" performance in Game Six of the 2004 ALCS will go down in baseball lore as one of the great clutch games in history. But Luis Tiant has more victories (229 to 216), a lower ERA (3.30 to 3.46), and many more complete games (187 to 82) than Schilling. In addition, Tiant has been an excellent ambassador for the game and is beloved by fans; but he is not in the Hall of Fame. So why all the fuss over Schilling?
Also, on the ballot this year are Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. Both possessed Hall of Fame talent but both used PEDs when they knew it was against the rules and both were caught red-handed. They knowingly cheated and now they are both paying the price for it.
Other candidates worthy of consideration include Gary Sheffield and Jeff Kent, but it appears that they'll have to wait another year or two, at best.
To sum up, if I had a vote this year, I'd vote for Ortiz, Clemens, and Bonds, but not for anyone else. As for predictions, I think Ortiz will make it, but I'm not sure; and I think Clemens and Bonds will come up short, but I'm not so sure of that, either.
We now turn all baseball talk back to the lawyers for MLB and the players' association, who will continue on their thus far wildly-successful quest of shrinking the fan base.
- Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox "Poet Laureate" and The Pilot's recently minted Sports' columnist.
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