I was watching SportsCenter last night largely by accident when my attention was grabbed by an interview with retired NFL wide receiver Cris Carter regarding his recent induction into his sport’s Hall of Fame. Carter was choking up over the immense honor he was given, clearly grateful to be enshrined among the greats in his field despite early personal problems he had to overcome. I don’t actually follow the NFL with any regularity anymore, but it was nice to see such an honestly emotional moment, and the list of names entering the league’s Hall was an impressive one. So why can’t my favorite sport enjoy the same warm, fuzzy feelings when it’s time to elect a new Hall of Fame class?
I suspect a large portion of the problem lies in the hands of the bitter, PED-obsessed voting crew Major League Baseball entrusts its historic annals with. Instead of getting to witness several players some of us admired and owned baseball cards of in our youthful years take their rightful places among the game’s greats, we’re getting exactly zero new members of the baseball Hall this year. Zero! I’m just as much for strict entrance guidelines as the next guy, but this most recent ballot was absolutely loaded with deserving candidates.
As I alluded to briefly above, it really seems as if MLB’s Hall voters are out of touch with the game today. If there is so much as a whispered rumor by a drunk fan in front of a urinal trough that a player used steroids, you’d better believe that player will never pass muster with the voters once his career has ended. For a group that seems bothered and daunted by the prospect of learning a stat that wasn’t in newspapers a half-century ago, it seems curious that such rapt attention is devoted to sports-related tabloid rumors.
Oh, and if rumor mongering isn’t enough to convince you that something has to change, what about those delightful writers who take it upon themselves to hop up on their imaginary thrones and vote for no one each and every season out of some sort of ill-conceived respect to the original Hall of Fame classes? Can you even imagine being that terrible at your job and getting to keep it? No research is done, no numbers are crunched, and no brain activity is necessary. These writers and alleged historians scoff at every fan out there who believes a baseball player has had a right to greatness beyond the prohibition era.
Seriously, some of these omissions are just shocking. Craig Biggio had an incredible career and stands among the best at his position in the history of the sport, and yet he didn’t get through Cooperstown’s gates. Biggio doesn’t have a speck of dirt on him, but not even his clean bill of media health even seemed to matter when it came time for ballot punching. I’m in the crowd perfectly willing to let the jaw-dropping work of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens stand for itself, but at least those taking a stance against known steroid users are, well, taking a stance at all. Keeping out players like Biggio and voting more heavily for the mediocre stylings of Jack Morris is just embarrassing.
I grew up as a baseball fan in the 90’s, and I can’t help it that I want to see the stars of my generation get something resembling fair treatment. I’m not going to waste any time getting on my “disregard PEDs” soapbox (not for now, anyway), but I am going to demand better of Major League Baseball when it comes to honoring its legends. It wholly seems that the sport is getting further away from justice when it comes to cementing its legacy, and witch hunts don’t make fans choke up quite like seeing a hometown hero take the podium five years after a storied career. Let’s do something different so that recent, current, and future generations of fans and players get what they want and what they deserve. If Ken Griffey, Jr. isn’t getting a plaque made in a few years, all hell’s going to break loose. I didn’t save this 1995 Wheaties box for nothing.