Later tonight the 2016 Hall of Fame class will be announced. A couple of former Yankees are on the ballot — Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Gary Sheffield, etc. — though I don’t think any of them will get in this year. I wasn’t planning to write anything about the Hall of Fame, but then some stuff popped in my head, and, well, here we are.
1. I don’t think I’ve ever cared less about the Hall of Fame than I do right now, and that’s a shame. All of the focus these days is on guys with performance-enhancing drug ties, and we end up having the same inane arguments year after year. Remember when we used to spend time arguing about borderline candidates instead? That was so much more fun. I’d rather argue over whether Larry Walker is a Hall of Famer. Or Fred McGriff. Or Edgar Martinez. That used to be fun because fans are passionate and the internet allows you to seek out smart folks to debate with. Now everyone spends their time ballot shaming because someone didn’t vote for a player for PED reasons. This isn’t good for baseball.
2. I’m not sure who decided keeping a player out of the Hall of Fame is an appropriate punishment for PEDs, but I think it’s garbage. I watched Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire race to the home run record in 1998 and it was the coolest thing ever. They helped save baseball following the 1994 strike and pushed the league into an era of unprecedented prosperity. And now the Hall of Fame voters — full disclosure here: I’m in the BBWAA and am on track to have a Hall of Fame vote in nine years — are basically trying to tell me my memories of that era as a fan don’t matter because McGwire cheated and Sosa and whoever else may have as well? Get outta here. Players cheat. They always have cheated and they always will cheat. That’s just the way it is. The baseball I remember and fell in love with as a kid is no more tainted than any other era in the game’s history.
3. All of this PED nonsense can be avoided if the Hall of Fame just comes out and makes some sort of ruling on how to treat these players. If there’s hard evidence a player used PEDs — a failed test, an admission, etc. — then vote as you see fit. If there’s no hard evidence, the player is to be assumed clean. Boom. There’s the solution right there. Maybe not that exact standard but something along those lines. Something to provide clear guidance. That would help move things along. Instead we have this ridiculous ongoing PED issue and some of the greatest ballplayers in the history of baseball are being left out of the club built specifically for the greatest ballplayers in the history of baseball.
4. Know what’s crazy? Jorge Posada will be on the Hall of Fame ballot next year. It still feels like he just retired, but Jorge hasn’t played in four years now. Geez. The Core Four is a dumb nickname — oh hi Bernie Williams and David Cone and everyone else, sorry but you weren’t important enough for a catchy nickname — but Posada will be the first member of the Core Four to hit the Hall of Fame ballot, and that’s going to be a big deal. (Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will appear on the ballot for the first time in 2019 while Derek Jeter will follow in 2020.) I’m curious to see what kind of support Posada gets when the time comes. He was one of the best hitting catchers of his generation and also an important piece of the most recent Yankees dynasty. I think it’s fair to say Posada is a borderline candidate. He seems like someone who might fall into Edgar Martinez cult hero status.
5. I guess I might as well close with a prediction: I’ll say both Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza get in tonight while Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines fall just short. American hero @NotMrTibbs is collecting all the public ballots, and right now both Bagwell and Raines are over the 75% needed for induction. The non-public ballots have historically dragged everyone’s voting percentage down — I guess the voters who don’t make their ballots public are small Hall guys — so I think Bagwell and Raines will fall just short of the threshold. We’ll see. In the words of Marc Topkin, “the Hall is a museum to tell the story of the game’s best and most successful players, not a cathedral to deify those deemed worthy by arbitrary holier-than-thou standards.” One day all of the best players will get in. I think.