Prominent baseball insider, John Heyman of CBS Sports apparently does not like Roger Clemens, but, although he believes that the Rocket used steroids fuel, he will still vote to send him to the Hall of Fame.
“I figure he was a Hall of famer before he was linked to roids.”
Mr. Heyman suspects that the reason Clemens is making a comeback at age 50 is to delay his first year of Hall Of Fame eligibility, hoping that an extra five years will allow the voters memories’ of his “link” to steroids will fade. Also, a cohort of the writers will walk into the cornfield and be replaced by a new generation of writers who were not raised on the “Reefer Madness” and “Devil’s Harvest” ad campaigns.
To his credit, Mr. Heyman is able to separate his personal judgment and values from the official legal status and stats of Mr. Clemens. Unfortunately, too many of his fellow union members in the BBWAA will allow their personal assumptions and feelings about Clemens to muddy the issue and vote NO.
Beyond the statistics, there are already other vague criteria applied to the HOF voting process; was the player the most prominent at his position during his “decade” or “era?;” even, did he play in the World Series?, as if he had control over that factor.
Now we add the question: Did he use banned performance enhancing substances?
For some voters the question will be: Was he linked to banned performance enhancing substances?
Or, worse: Do I believe he use banned performance enhancing substances?
Take the case of Barry Bonds. Was he convicted? Yes. He was convicted of using a banned performance enhancing substances? No. Really: no. He was convicted of “obstruction of justice“ by a jury; he was found not guilty of using a banned performance enhancing substances.
Would you vote for him for the Hall of Fame?
Consider this criterion: Was he convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony?
In some states “obstruction of justice” is not a felony; it is a felony in California.
Suppose two players are convicted of “obstruction of justice”—one in a state that defines it as a misdemeanor; the other in a state that deem is a felony.
In theory, the Hall of Fame or MLB could clarify the issue thusly:
“Any player convicted of any crime defined as a felony in any of the states of the United States is banned from the Hall of Fame.”
In this hypothetical case, Bonds is banned.
Mr. Clemens was not found guilty of anything and, although you or I, or a member of the BBWAA,may personally suspect or believe that he used a banned substance, it is wrong to deny him our vote.
Whether we agree with the jury’s verdict or not is not relevant to the vote.
Imagine a teacher, based on his observed “unusual” behavior, was “suspected” of using illegal drugs. A few parents gossip: “He seems like he’s out of it…” and they take their assumptions to the Principal.
The Principal tells the teacher that some parents suspect he is using illegal drugs. The teacher hires a lawyer and the case goes to court. The teacher was prescribed anxiety medication for OCD, but did not want to make it public. His attorney asserts his client’s right to privacy.
The jury finds that he was not guilty of “using illegal drugs.”
It turns out that the time frame that the parents became concerned was when the teacher’s MD was attempting to tweak the dosage and the teacher was taking a tad too much of the medication; the following week the MD reduced the dose; as a result, the patient, was on the correct dosage and was “cured.”
Case closed? Not really.
When the school budget was cut, this teacher and three others, with equal seniority and performance records, were on the drop list; the other three teachers were retained and he was let go citing “budget limitations.” Worse, when he applied for other teaching jobs, because he was “charged with,” “linked to,” “suspected of” using illegal drugs, he was unable to find employment.
To avoid these problems with Hall of Fame voting, the HOF and MLB should update their criteria for banning a player and codify them in specific language. They need to separate the subjective from the objective.
While I may personally believe that Bonds was a surly person, who was voted the player you would LEAST want to have as a team mate by his fellow players, or believe that he used a banned substance, it is my moral responsibility to set those subjective factors aside, when I cast my HOF vote.
If the HOF and MLB made it clear that any player convicted of a felony was banned, I would have objective grounds to vote NO. [NOTE: If Mr. Bonds wins his appeal, is not a felon, I would have to vote: YES.]
And, one more thing: It is time to take the baseball writers out of the HOF voting process. Writers collect bias barnacles in the course of their daily work; they have frequently admitted that they vote on the basis of personal assumption and feelings.
In a fair system, each voter is given a ballot, created by the HOF and MLB, with the names of all the players who qualify and the active players and HOF members check YES or NO. Then, let the Veterans’ Committee select from a ballot of players who received less than 5% of the vote, retired players, and non-playing personnel who made their greatest contributions to the sport prior to 1947, called the “Pre-Integration Era” by the Hall. [Wikipedia]
The legal principle of being judged by a “jury of your peers” should apply to the voting for the Hall of Fame.