Peter Gammons: The Hall of Fame ballot

hall-of-fame-ballot

The 2005 Induction ceremony was over, and inductees, friends, guests and well-wishers were winding back to the Otesaga Hotel. Outside the entrance, Bud Selig was on his cell phone, his voice raised in what obviously was a heated discussion. We later learned that Selig was in a discussion about a piece of news that he did not want taking away from the inductions of Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg and wanted announced the next day: that Rafael Palmeiro had been suspended for a failed drug test.

Selig fought long and hard for drug-testing. Oh, now we hear voices claiming that Selig was in some way a conspirator in the Steroid Era, but those voices never had to sit in hallways and street corners during labor negotiations when every attempt to address testing was greeted with a chorus of ”Nyet!”; in fact, Selig badly wanted testing in the 2002 agreement, but settled on the experimental, anonymous testing in 2003 (which led to the industry testing beginning in 2005 under which Palmeiro failed) because he felt that the game could not afford a second strike in eight years and the potential of again cancelling a World Series.

Palmeiro’s career ended that August, retiring with 569 homers and 3020 hits.  He never got more than 12.6% of the votes before falling off the ballot, because he had undeniably tested positive in the first season of industry-wide testing. Babe Ruth may have broken the law by drinking alcohol during prohibition, but he never violated a serious, bargained baseball rule. In 2005, baseball had a drug-testing agreement.

There has never been a clear guide to Cooperstown disqualification, except for gambling on baseball games and failed tests within the system that was bargained for and monitored by principled advocates like Gene Orza. Baseball has a strong testing program, and suspicions, appearances or grandfathering Androstenedione—which many players, including Mike Piazza—admitting to using when it was not illegal or a banned substance in the game, isn’t a slammed door.

Manny Ramirez twice was suspended for usage, suspensions that the union agreed upon. Ramirez was a great hitter, but those highly publicized suspensions seemingly eliminates him, as it likely will Alex Rodriguez. Jeff Bagwell has been a victim of suspicions, although he never tested positive, his name never turned up in the Mitchell Report and when his body shrunk later in his career, he could no longer lift weights and train properly because of congenital arthritis in his right shoulder. Pudge Rodriguez did not test positive. Or Piazza. Jose Canseco’s book may have been closer to the truth than realized when it was published, but it never proved anything similar to the goods MLB had on Ramirez (and, believe me, few were more outraged by Ramirez’s trail of usage—which cost more than a dozen people in the Diamondbacks organization their jobs after 2008—than Scott Boras, who represented Manny when he shot his way out of Boston.)  

Eddie Vedder, such a purist that he keeps score with a pencil, has written “there’s no wrong or right, but I’m sure there’s good or bad”, which sums up the dilemmas and contradictions with which many of us struggle in the month after we receive our Hall of Fame ballots. The Hall of Fame is the museum of baseball history, hence I am at the point where the best player in the last 40 years and arguably the best pitcher ever need to be parts of that museum, with whatever addendum is deemed necessary for their plaques. So I voted for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, and I struggle with my own sense of fairness in not voting for Sammy Sosa, just as I try to bring closure to mailing in my ballot without Fred McGriff, Larry Walker or Billy Wagner.

Let’s face it, our views on “cheating” change over time. We dismiss the notion that while players in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s used and were often aided by teams to get and use amphetamines, many look at baseball records and, while admitting that players performances may have been enabled (how many players in that era would have reached 500 homers without them?), they do not consider them enhancers like steroids. As Jack Moore points out in a brilliant essay in the 2017 Hardball Times annual, Jim Brosnan and Jim Bouton wrote about amphetamines dating back to 1960, and Moore quotes Penn State professor Charles Yesalis—a noted expert on sports doping—as warning that amphetamines are not only highly addictive, but more dangerous than anabolic steroids; I know of one player whose use of amphetamine red juice led to his death, another whose usage eventually blinded him.

A decade ago, a player known to smoke marijuana was labeled a pothead and likely traded (after putting private investigators on the road with the Red Sox late in the 1976 season, a half-dozen players thought to be smoking dope were traded or dumped in the next two seasons). Minor league players today still get suspended for testing positive for marijuana, which is now legal in several states. One general manager and one manager this week privately estimated that close to 50 per cent of major league player occasionally use marijuana, and the general manager says “it should be treated like alcohol, not to be used when driving or in any situation where being impaired in any way is a danger to others.”

Last spring, Barry Bonds said to me, “you know I am a Hall of Famer.” He didn’t say it with any hint of anger, no staccato, just a matter-of-fact sentence about his ability and his career. As Jay Jaffe points out in his Sports Illustrated series on HOF candidates, if, as we believe, Bonds took to the PED route out of jealousy for the heroic characterization of Mark McGwire and Sosa after 1998, he still  had 411 homers, 445 stolen bases, a 99.6 WAR (third all-time among left fielders)…and finished the all-time home run king, winner of seven MVP awards, second in extra base hits, a .444 on base percentage (fourth all-time), 182 OPS-plus (third)… As one whose respect for Jaffe’s JAWS is boundless, Bonds’ JAWS is 117.6, followed in the left fielder category by Ted Williams (86.2) and Ricky Henderson (84.1).

Turn to JAWS and starting pitchers, the only pitchers with a better career number than Clemens are Walter Johnson and Cy Young, whom Clemens tied on the Red Sox all-time win list before he was allowed to leave in “the twilight of his career.” Seven Cy Youngs. Third in Pitchers’ WAR (the only two in the top 25 in that category not in the HOF are Clemens and Mike Mussina). Third in strikeouts. The first pitcher with a 20 strikeout/0 Walk game. The second pitcher with a 20 strikeout/0 walk game. His 9 1 0 0 2 15 start against the Mariners in the 2001 ALCS is the best post-season start I have ever witnessed (second best? Mussina’s one-hitter in the 1997 ALCS against the Indians, the best offensive team of that era).

My suggestion is to put a separate alcove section for Steroids Era inductees, or maybe a spot near us ink-stained wretches. But this is no longer an evangelical issue.

I looked at this ballot and saw four distinct categories:

  1. Bonds and Clemens.
  2. I don’t know how I feel when I wake up on the morning of this July’s induction, or next December’s ballot arrival. Will I feel the same as I have the last three weeks? For now, I remind myself that this vote isn’t about me, it’s about players and the game they and many of us love and the work and care that has made the museum on Main Street, Cooperstown, N.Y. one of the great museums of American life in our country.
  3. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Edgar Martinez, for whom I have previously voted; I have voted for Bagwell every time they’ve been on the ballot and, depending on your Mariner fandom, either pulled a four corners or changed my mind on Edgar and the DH issue; 72% of Edgar’s at-bats were as a DH, 88% of David Ortiz’s at-bats were as a DH, and while we can debate Martinez’s place among great hitters v. Ortiz, no one can argue the impact Ortiz had on a city, a franchise, a fanbase or historic moments. Check, check.

I will write on Bagwell later in the week, but by almost every measure he’s among the six best first basemen, ever, the best since World War II and MLB integration other than Albert Pujols. Great baserunner. Incredible first baseman whose star soccer feet allowed him to get off the bag and throw to second with a baserunner as well as any righthanded first baseman since Vic Power.

Raines is the best leadoff man other than Henderson, who may be one of the dozen best position players ever. He reached base more times than Tony Gwynn, Ichiro Suzuki, Lou Brock and Roberto Clemente, all 3000 hit guys.  

4. Mussina and Schilling. I have voted for each every time they have been on the ballot. Each is among the 30 best starting pitchers, ever. Schilling had a great post-season record of 11-2, 2.72; Mussina had an exceptional 3.42 post-season ERA, beat Randy Johnson twice in the ’97 ALDS, had a 16 strikeout and nine inning one-hitter in the ’97 ALCS, was winning 1-0 against Barry Zito when Jeter made his flip and enabled the Yanks to the 2003 ALCS by taking over for Clemens with the bases loaded, no out in Game Seven, his only relief appearance. His 270 wins are the most of anyone who made the majors after 1990. A talk jock said he voted Schilling over Mussina because Schilling pitched in the AL East. Mussina signed professionally 4 ½ seasons after Schilling. pitched his entire career for the Orioles and Yankees, made 242 starts in Camden Yards, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Skydome; Schilling made 74 in those four hitters’ parks, and his earned run average in those parks was never lower than 3.92.

 

In his 2014 masterpiece “Fools Rush Inn” Bill James has a piece on big games pitchers, which, typical of James, is extraordinarily researched with appreciation of gray matter. Mussina is no. 11 on his 1952-2013 list; Roy Oswalt is number one (not shocking when one studies it out and talk to teammates), Bob Gibson is two, Randy Johnson three. Point: Mike Mussina was everything, and could have won 300 if he didn’t care about kids back home.

The newcomers. –Pudge Rodriguez is a no-brainer. Joe Torre once said in an interview with me that Pudge “probably is the best catcher of all time.” Leads all-time catchers in games caught, hits, runs, RBI’s, threw out 46% of opposing baserunners (league average in his career 31%), more homers than any catcher other than Piazza and Pudge Fisk.

Vladimir Guerrero. He was scary, he could hit balls out of the park when the pitch bounced to home plate…but his skills out of the batter’s box, while good, were not great. Maybe I undervalued McGriff, a fearsome 30 homer metronome playing most his career in pitchers’ parks. I know, I know, Larry Walker played 150 games in a season once, but we have never quantified the recovery issue in Denver, or what hitting at Coors Lite and then the road did. Walker was a defensive right fielder in the Clemente/Dwight Evans/Roger Maris class, a great baserunner, had a 72.6 career WAR to 59.3 for Guerrero, a .965 OPS to Guerrero’s .931. Those 250 intentional walks tell us what opponents thought about Guerrero.

Trevor Hoffman. My friend, respected colleague Joe Sheehan would throw a laptop out a window if he read this, but closers are so unique and still subject to heated debates that I tend to take Jay Jaffe’s combination of metrics to measure closers, and only Mariano Rivera, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dennis Eckersley and Goose Gossage exceed Hoffman. He was in many ways the ballast of a franchise for 15 years, and while I wish saves were not an accepted stat, I do know that this is a human game. And I defer to one of the people I most respect, Brad Ausmus, who caught 18 years in the majors and has managed and says “I had the best seat in the house to know there is a difference between the ninth inning and other roles and that Trevor was really special.” I strongly believe that some things can’t be quantified, and one of them is the man who can deal with what a ninth inning failure entails and deal with it.

In 1984, the Blue Jays made a run after the Tigers started 35-5. But the Toronto bullpen imploded, time after vital time. One of those times Bobby Cox threw a chair in the visiting clubhouse at Tiger Stadium in frustration. “A closer can change the way his fellow pitchers pitch, the way his teammates play games, most of all the way a manager manages,” Cox said that September. “He can infect everyone’s thinking.”

Cox has been there. Ausmus spent 18 major league seasons reading pitchers’ eye and body language. Jay Jaffe is right—they have yet to be defined analytically, they have yet to be judged historically. Ausmus is right: it’s great to speculate that every manager should use his bullpen the way Terry Francona used Andrew Miller, but there’s only one Andrew Miller.

So, in a winter when Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen got paid, I bought on Trevor Hoffman. He’s one person with whom I’d trust my dog Becky for two weeks, and that beats a save stat, any day.

The character clause thing is past. It was invoked in 1941, eight years after Ty Cobb retired, but there is subjective validity in what teammates value in character. Clemens had it. Bagwell really had it, as did Mussina, Guerrero, Hoffman, Edgar Martinez, McGriff. Ask those young 2003 Marlins starters about Pudge Rodriguez.

The ballot is not an analytics exercise at The Sloan School or the University of Chicago School of Business. It is a human game, with human fragility. It’s why Chase Utley is one of the favorite players in the careers of Charlie Manuel and yours truly, why if I could have played I’d have been Don Mattingly, George Brett, Dustin Pedroia or Rickey Henderson,

But I couldn’t. I wish it were definitive, it’s not, but it damn well matters.

Comments

  1. why are folks willing to “forgive” Bonds, Clemens, even 2x caught cheater Manny, but refuse to vote for Sosa?

    • Precisely. If Bonds and Clemens go in, why can’t Palmeiro, Sosa, McGwire, etc.? How can Gammons refuse Sosa, yet love Pudge Rodriguez? Pudge was a juicer. He lost 30 lbs one Winter. It’s not possible to go from 215 to 185 in 3 months and be healthy. Unless you stop taking the PEDs you’ve been cheating with for years. These players all new they were doing something wrong—or they would have openly admitted what they were doing. They were ashamed to admit the truth. There’s no better barometer for whether you think you’re doing something wrong or not. And a clean guy like McGriff gets hosed. I’m shocked that Gammons hasn’t thought through this better.

    • Because Sosa never did anything without steroids .

    • Bob Shallenberger says:

      Probably because of the stark difference in his pre-steroid game and appearance and after Sosa was juiced. McGwire was clearly more massive at 70 than when he was a rookie, but he did smack 49 HR as a rookie. Sosa was a fleet footed CF turn slow basher in RF nearly twice his previous size and strength. All the others looked about the same from start to end of career.

      • Jerry Mileurhttp://m.mlb.com/news/article/212785832/players-travel-to-israel-for-baseball-tour/ says:

        Drugs aside, neither Sosa nor McGwire had careers that merit HOF. There are more important things in baseball than home runs and home run records. Members are supposedly the game’s best players, not one dimensional players.

  2. Michael Grant says:

    Really enjoyed the article. Glad you recognize Mussina and Schilling’s historical greatness.

  3. Charles Monagan says:

    I love the write-up but I can’t tell who you voted for. Can you just list them at some point in the piece?

    • Ghost of Fenway says:

      Perhaps this is what he was going for. cause at the end of the day it doesn’t matter who he chooses but rather the process of which he makes those decisions

  4. Like you said Peter, how can you leave out, arguable the most valuable player in the history of the game in Bonds, and Rodger Clemens who was the best pitcher most living baseball fans have ever seen. But like Rich said above, I don’t know how you can do that and not vote for Sosa, and McGuire for that matter. They are going to do a 30 for 30 someday on McGuire and Sosa and the theme is going to be how we turned our back on the 2 guys most responsible for keeping the game alive at one of its most desperate times.

  5. It is a sad, sad day when a writer I respect above all others for his integrity has compromised his principles and cast votes for Bonds and Clemens. The damage the steroid users did to the game is immeasurable and the thought of celebrating these cheaters when there are several well qualified players (Murphy, Whitaker, Trammell, Cone, etc) who never sniffed Cooperstown because their numbers were unfairly dwarfed by these overblown cartoon characters is tragic.

    You once told me Mattingly was your favorite player. How is it fair to him? If he had taken steroids he could have undoubtedly recovered from his injuries faster, he may have avoided the back issues that zapped his power, and he too could have sailed in to Cooperstown on a lie. I’m sorry Peter, but I am truly disappointed. Here’s hopin’ these guys miss this year and you get another shot to protect the history of the game.

    • Stan the Man says:

      You can’t uphold the integrity by ignoring history or pretending players didn’t exist, they did exist and they were 2 of the greatest performers to ever put on uniforms and take the field. Not celebrating cheaters, we are celebrating 2 all-time players that played in an era where PED’s were available. Had Mattingly been born 10 years later and started his MLB career in 93 instead of 83… maybe, just maybe, we are not talking about the heroic Don Mattingly and how he didn’t use steroids.

      • Oh, I don’t know…we seem to have ignored Joe Jackson for nearly a century and the Hall of Fame has gotten on just fine without him.

      • The way I would do it would to represent the events/ history that the PED users were a part of—–without giving them a PLAQUE. For example, Clemens’ 20K game memorabilia can be displayed in the HOF, but he doesn’t get a plaque. Put Bonds’ size 10.5 cleats (when he was clean) in next to the size 13 cleats he wore after years of HGH use. Put in his bats. Balls. But no plaque.

    • Tim Hayee says:

      Amen!

  6. Peter, I think your ballot is perfect. If I had a vote, I would pick the exact same 10 players. I applaud yours and others’ change of heart on Bonds and Clemens. When Jose Canseco says Ivan Rodriguez used PED’s, I believe him. But it’s not proof so I-Rod thus be in the Hall even though lots of people think he probably used. We’re more certain about the PED usage of B & C, but we’re also 100% CERTAIN that they’re two of the greatest players we ever saw. I’m with you on Hoffman also. He wasn’t ONLY a “clean 9th inning closer.” He stranded 80% of 346 career inherited runners (Mariano’s strand rate was 71%). I feel your pain leaving off Crime Dog but sadly he’s a lost cause for the writer’s ballot. Great ballot. Happy New Year old friend!

  7. Respect your opinions, but the one thing that bothers me most after seeing a lot of these columns from writers who are starting to add Bonds/Clemens is the one type of player who is the true victim here – the Fred McGriff type player, the Alan Trammells of the world. In the case of McGriff, it seems to be widely believed that he was one of the clean ones in the time of abuse. I can’t help but think if PHDs didn’t exist, he might be considered one of the greatest players of the last 30 years. And that eats at me… a lot. I think along similar lines, Trammell coming onto the ballot at a time when these monsterous steroid enhanced power hitters were dominating the league, along with the introduction of the new breed of shortstops (Jeter, A-Rod, Nomar, Tejada) made people look at him as less than he was, which was the best shortstop in the AL over a 15 year span not named Ripken. I don’t know what the answer is, but these types of players being overlooked is disgraceful.

  8. Peter Gammons has failed the game of baseball with his surrendering of his principles. To vote for cheaters like Bonds & Clemens is pure, unmitigated cowardice. Shame on you Peter! You are no better then them if you do freely stand with them and the damage they have done.

    • Jeff, tone it down a bit. Thee have been “cheaters” in ALL sports for as long as these sports have been around. If you think that steroids are NOT a problem in the NFL, you are as naive as they come.

      Because it’s not really possible to know who took what & when, I say, LET THEM IN!!! Or keep ALL of the MLB players since 1998 out. But that just isn’t plausible, is it???

  9. Jeff Heilman says:

    I agree with Stan the Man’s comments. Don’t put these known cheaters in the Hall! The known and unknown players have cast a doubt on most if not all players who have excelled during the steroids era. They have changed the record books and qualifications for induction forever. Although it was not discussed above I must ask why in the world did they elect Bud Selig? That guy is Not a Hall of Famer. He along with these cheaters has damaged baseball. WAKE UP !!!

  10. Clemens and Bonds are in the hall of fame. Almost all the steroid guys are. The history of the game is in the hall. They are just not members. Same with Rose and Jackson.

  11. Francisco Martinez says:

    I think both bonds and clemens had incredible careers and should be considered. They made the game interesting enough and you can be as strong as the hulk but you need to see the ball to hit a home run. You still require talent. I wish Edgar makes it this time he made the position of dh relevant. In a league that created this batting position how can you not vote for hall of fame a guy who has excelled at dh? Just because the national league doesn’t use it? If Edgar and Ortiz don’t make it nobody with a decent batting average will want to play dh since it will be career suicide to play it.

  12. Regardless of any individual vote, THIS is the gold standard of how to think, analyze, and arrive at a decision.

  13. always hated the “Bonds was a HOFer before he started juicing” argument.
    a) no one knows exactly when he started using
    b) if you’re playing golf with a guy and he starts cheating on the 12th hole, what is he?
    he’s a cheater.
    period.

    • There are propably more cheaters in the hall than we would care to admit. There is probably guys that did steroids with a plaque right now. There is definitely guys that did amphetamines with a plaque right now. There is definitley guys with a plaque right now that would have done both if they were available to them.

  14. When Peter was with the Boston Globe I would get the Sunday edition just to read his column. I am disappointed in his decision to back Bonds and Clemons. Like Shoeless Joe, they should never get into the HOF. I have visited the HOF a number of times and hope that the next time I visit Bonds and Clemons re not residents.

  15. “closers are so unique and still subject to heated debates that I tend to take Jay Jaffe’s combination of metrics to measure closers, and only Mariano Rivera, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dennis Eckersley and Goose Gossage exceed Hoffman.”

    Well, no, not even if you limit it in this extraordinarily narrow manner. Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Joe Nathan, Dan Quisenberry, and Billy Wagner all have higher JAWS scores than Hoffman. Also, Jonathan Papelbon, and Francisco Rodriguez both have JAWS scores which are not meaningfully different than Hoffman.

    But more importantly why are we trying to so narrowly define what we’re looking at to try to squeeze someone whose role is so limited into the HOF? Look at the other specialist, Martinez, and he has over twice as much career WAR as Hoffman. Apologies to Mr. Ausmus’s seat, and Mr. Gammons quantifying abilities, but this should tell you all you need to know about the lack of value of a closer. If not, then please at least compare him to other pitchers. Baseball is a game of failure, there are far more failures for both hitters and starting pitchers than closers, so the idea that a closer has to be special to deal with the very rare 9th inning loss just doesn’t hold water.

  16. I to this day, do not understand why Mr. Gammons and company keep saying Bonds was and is the greatest player of all time. How much of his stats are really him?

    • Bonds is great from the eye test. He is not only a top 10 hitter pre-PED era but is also the #1 hitter who used PED’s!

      The eye test showed me Sosa and McGwire were not Hall of Famers.

      The eye test showed me also Bonds would never win a Mr. Congeniality award. But he knew the strike zone better than anyone with power. Griffey or Bonds really is the debate on who was better. For people to not see Junior gain muscle mass is blind. For people to turn a blind eye on Bagwell on not only PED use but also heroin using best friend Ken Caminitti are kidding themselves. Remember people who grow beards as long as Bagwell at that same exact time may just be a little suspicious.

  17. Peter,

    I have know and respected you like no other writer since you joined the Boston Globe the same day as the other great writer Bob Ryan.

    But you as respected as any prove a pint that writers should not be voting for MLB players to be enshrined. I personally have heard you in interviews when asked if Mike Mussina is a Hall of Famer and you said you didn’t think so. You have been voting for him though? Your 2016 HOF Ballot had McGriff and Larry Walker on it but this year they are not. So one year they are in forever in your eyes but no way the next year? Hoffman you added in 2017 understandably he may have been your 11th player last year ok.

    A few years ago you had Lee Smith on your ballot I believe at least two times. But once again not on there? If 30 teams had to draft btw Larry Walker, Fred McGriff and Curt Schilling in what order would they be taken knowing their final career stats. You can’t predict if a player will be in the preseason much and if you added Teddy Ballgames playoff stats he would have a hard time on some writers ballots

    What’s worse Manny Ramirez testing once for HGH and once for the female hormone (not a PED) or Ty Cobb going into the stands to beat a black woman’s or killing a black man and paying off that family to hush it up? Andy Pettite I do not think lied about Clemens taking PEDs. I don’t think his friend misremembered so I consider it a different type of test ( an admission of guilt) .

    Doris Kearns Goodwin I listen too as well. I respect her opinions too. If there was a person I would start with to put on a commute to replace writers voting, she is one person I would start with. Bill James too. I respectfully say writers need to relinquish there votes. Oh when another of your colleagues “Dan Shaughnessy” is enshrined anywhere like he was this week, it just reaffirms there is something wrong with writers voting. He unlike you and Bob Ryan took is own version of PED for his columns over his career! Bush league, lazy journalism not based on research or facts with the emphasis always on the negative. Mike Felger has more credibility!

    Either way in Larry Walker and the Crime Dog McGriff are a Hall of Famer in 2016 on any Ballot they should be on the 2017 ballots too. The PED users should get in when there is a year when there is room on the ballot. Congress didn’t have Schilling there too because they did not suspect he was taking PEDs too. Look at his early years he did nothing then he is great? Just because your fat or thin does not mean you didn’t use PEDs (DEE GORFON Mr Skinny)

    • Typos aside take this other thought into consideration if writers continue voting

      Since only 10 players can be voted on one ballot every year then the HOF should retain the votes by all voters anytime they vote. In 2016 if a writer voted for a player then it just carries over every year. In 2017 the same writer need not got vote for that player again as its a vote that’s permanent. The writers still vote for 10 new players in 2017. It’s helps with the 5% vote too.

      In essence in 2016 Larry Walker get 80 votes then the remaining writers can vote for Walker in any following year. In 2017 maybe Walker get 35 more votes from different voters. So he will have 115 votes going into 2018.

      THE PERMANENT VOTE

      UNLIKE POLITICIANS who change what they say to sway your vote, baseball players career stats do not change!

      It’s IP yo the Hall of Fame which is privately owned to change and improve their system! Plus they will make more profits!

  18. Peter,

    I’m curious, why do you think there has been such a change of opinion vis a vis Bonds and Clemens over the last couple of years. Their Hall votes stood pretty firm around 36% for the years 2013, ’14 and ’15. Last year, they each jumped about 8 points and it looks like this year, they may have a real shot of getting in.
    I appreciate your thoughts on why you changed your mind and maybe that’s all you can offer, but I’m curious why writers and the public seem so much more willing to forgive PED transgressions with Bonds and Clemens over the last two years, than they had before.

    Thanks

  19. Best line of this article “I remind myself that this vote isn’t about me, it’s about players and the game”
    I wish that other voters would act the same but everyone is different and have their own beliefs.

  20. Boko Fittleworth says:

    These comments decrying cheaters would be more credible if the same outrage was voiced when Gaylord Perry was up for the Hall of Fame. But there was no outrage and no outcry about cheating then. Nobody really cared that he was an admitted cheater and most people were fine with him going in.

    Either you are stridently against cheaters in the Hall of Fame or you aren’t. You don’t get to ignore one cheater going in and then get all self-righteous about others going in and claim that it’s because you care about protecting the integrity of the Hall. Cheating is cheating, you either accept it or you don’t. You all accepted Perry the cheater going in, which is fine.

    But don’t try to say now you are so vehemently against cheaters in the Hall. You aren’t. You are only against some cheaters who cheated in a certain way. You are fine with spitballing cheaters and amphetamine- using-cheaters and bat-corking cheaters going in, so this outrage against certain types of cheaters going into the Hall is hypocritical nonsense.

  21. Larry Howser says:

    Here’s the thing – Bonds and Clemens would both have been hall of famers before the time when most would agree they began to use. Sosa and McGwire would have had solid careers but very likely would not have been hall of famers. Bonds would not have broken the single season or career home run records, but he was already at almost 100 WAR before steroids. I believe that has to be the line – what did a player do before/without “help”

  22. Joshua Jude says:

    Cheaters in the Hall of Fame: Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb both threw at least one game, and blackmailed MLB when they were about to be questioned about it.
    Whitey Ford kept a pile of gunk on the mound (umpires even knew about this and let is slide) and threw all kinds of shine balls. He did this nearly every start of his career. Opposing pitchers were not allowed to touch his mound of junk.
    Mickey Mantle, on at least some occasions, used a corked bat and according to his trainer, took a concoction of steroids and amphetamines on at least one occasion (in 1961 no less when he was racing Maris for the home run record).
    Babe Ruth allegedly took animal testosterone, much like Pud Galvin did in an earlier age (Galvin even received endorsements for it…Ruth’s bellyache heard round the world is a suspected usage of animal testosterone).
    Willie Mays has admitted to amphetamines use. Ditto Hank Aaron. Ditto Mike Schmidt. Ditto Willie Stargell.
    Cap Anson was a notorious racist who was as or more responsible than anyone for eliminating African Americans from MLB baseball.
    Gaylord Perry was a notorious spitballer.
    Plenty of players corked their bats throughout their careers (Mickey Mantle is one example that is confirmed and eventual HOFer Pete Rose also allegedly corked his bat and Robin Yount has been suspected as well. Non HOFer Norm Cash, Amos Otis used a corked bat throughout his entire career and believe that many others did the same).
    Plenty of players used scuffballs and/or doctored the baseball (besides Perry and Ford, Don Sutton, eventual HOFer Smoltz (plus the rest of the 90s braves pitching staff including maddux and glavine) were all alleged).
    Many baseball players who played in the 60s and 70s say not only were amphetamines used by most players, but that steroids was also becoming huge in the game.
    What Mark McGwire did was not against baseball’s (collectively bargained) rules. There were no (collectively bargained, and thus meaningful) rules about performance-enhancing drugs until 2006, which means the vast majority of Barry Bonds’ career fell without the jurisdiction of the Joint Drug Agreement. Ditto for Roger Clemens.

  23. Anthony P Cowen says:

    They waited until after his death to put Durocher in. Just sayin’.

  24. Dear Mr. Gammons:

    I’ve been a reader or admirer of yours most of my life, so I’m happy to discover this website via Buster Olney’s podcast. With that said, and with the greatest respect, I believe your thinking about the Steroid Era is muddled.

    There’s only 1 reason to vote for Bonds and Clemens. With Bonds you capture it here: “he still had 411 homers, 445 stolen bases, a 99.6 WAR (third all-time among left fielders).” The reason Bonds and Clemens are worthy of your vote is that they are both clear first-ballot Hall of Famers without steroids. There’s no ambiguity about it. Personally speaking, I’m on the fence about whether I’d vote for Bonds and Clemens, because steroids were such a scourge on the game and I’m loathe to honor the biggest contributors. But I don’t take issue with you or others who vote only for them.

    (Andy Pettitte didn’t have a Hall of Fame career. But if he were just a bit more talented and had a lower career ERA and 275-300 wins to go along with his 5 World Series rings, I would apply the above analysis to him, given the circumscribed timeframe in which he used steroids.)

    In contrast, this is irrelevant: “As one whose respect for Jaffe’s JAWS is boundless, Bonds’ JAWS is 117.6, followed in the left fielder category by Ted Williams (86.2) and Ricky Henderson (84.1).” Why is Bonds an outlier? Obviously it’s because of steroids, which fueled his unprecedented performance in his mid to late 30s and early 40s, when Williams and Henderson (and everyone else) had declined. This is all the confirming evidence you need that Bonds cheated! You don’t need a failed drug test! Unless Barry Bonds were Superman, it was impossible for him to have legitimately exceeded Teddy and Rickey by over 30.

    (And please don’t tell me that it wasn’t cheating at that point because it wasn’t reflected in the collective bargaining agreement; it was illegal under Federal law, and people were hiding what they were doing. The players knew it was cheating. Mark McGwire left his andro in full view of a scrum of reporters. Nobody left their steroids out in the open.)

    What I’ve written above about the steroids segment of Bonds’s career leads to why you shouldn’t feel guilty about excluding Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro and some others– and especially Mark McGwire. The putative Hall of Fame status of these players is entirely due to steroids. Unlike Bonds and Clemens, they are creatures of steroids. To illustrate this, just let me point out that every 60 home run season other than Roger Maris’s is a product of steroids. As such, none of these seasons should factor into a voter’s evaluation. They are all phony.

    If you aren’t inclined toward the Pete Rose/Shoeless Joe absolutist approach toward the Steroid Era — very reasonable in my view — then you should only vote for the legitimate Hall Famers. Bonds and Clemens aren’t any different from Ken Griffey Jr. and Greg Maddux in this respect, so vote them in. Perhaps a couple of other confirmed steroid users fit into this category (as a Yankee fan who actually likes A-Rod, I struggle with him). But McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, etc. simply aren’t Hall of Famers, so you shouldn’t vote for them. It’s as simple as that.

    Sincerely,
    James S.

  25. I would throw this out to the people who suggest relievers aren’t every day players – position players aren’t every pitch players. Only the pitcher, and for the most part, the catcher are every pitch players. A position player may only see 15 or 16 pitches in a game. A closer may throw that many pitches in a game. Also, a closer pitches with the game on the line and often against the best hitters in the lineup. What’s a position players OBP or OPS in the 9th inning of a tight game? Just a little food for thought.

Speak Your Mind

*