Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Uses Guilt by Association to Bring Down Good Men

Written by: Ken Fallon

And now, ladies and gentlemen, your Class of 2013 inductees into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame!

Barry Bonds is pictured as a young baseball player, and later in his career.

Barry Bonds, who made his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot this year, is shown as a young baseball player (left), and later in his career. Bonds is at the center of baseball’s steroids scandal, which caused voters to elevate no one to the Hall of Fame this year.

If that announcement had actually been made, if a ceremony were to be held for this year’s inductees, the only thing that might show up on stage would be a cricket or two.

You see, the Baseball Writers Association of America has spoken, and its members decided no one deserves to join the hall this year. There are just two many question marks, they say — question marks that revolve around the idea of who used performance-enhancing drugs, about who cheated.

OK, I get it. I understand the desire to keep steroids out of baseball’s most hallowed institution.

Barry Bonds juiced. Or did he? A jury convicted him of obstructing justice because of his denial during his 2003 grand jury testimony about whether he used PEDs. Ironically, the grand jury deadlocked on whether he actually lied to them.

Roger Clemens juiced. The Mitchell Report said so. Jose Canseco said so. But, of course, the jury didn’t concur.

Sammy Sosa juiced. The New York Times said so. Never mind that it was an anonymous test. Everyone believes the Times.

Rafael Palmiero and Mark McGwire, making repeat appearances on the ballot? Guilty by self-admission.

But everybody? All 37 on this year’s list?

Curt Schilling made a good point; everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use,” said Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. “This generation got rich. Seems there was a price to pay.”

Really? The entirety of Major League Baseball was either using steroids or turning a blind eye to them?

Guilt by association works if you want to lump Bonds with his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, a convicted steroids distributor and money launderer. But to say that you can’t vote for, say, Craig Biggio, because he was one of roughly a thousand people who played major league baseball at the same time as Bonds or Sosa or Clemens? Isn’t that a stretch?

Biggio, in his first year on the ballot, was respected enough to earn the highest number of nods among Hall of Fame voters this year, but he was still 39 votes shy of the 427 needed. One of the hardest working players in the game and holder of numerous Houston Astros records, he thinks he was bypassed because of his first-year status, but also because of the company he kept on that ballot.

“I think it’s kind of unfair, but it’s the reality of the era that we played in,” he said. “Obviously some guys are guilty and others aren’t, and it’s painful for the ones that weren’t.”

How about Mike Piazza, considered by many as one of the best hitting catchers to play the game? Or consider Biggio teammate Jeff Bagwell? Neither Piazza nor Bagwell has been linked to steroids, other than by rumor, but they must have used PEDs, right? Look at what was expected of them when they were drafted. Look at their early career numbers compared to their major league numbers. Look at how their bodies changed over time.

Such allegations are as egregious and unfair as the Department of Homeland Security interrogating every Muslim it sees in an airport. But in an era where the latest rumor can spread on social media faster than a Randy Johnson fastball, it doesn’t take long before allegations take the place of legitimate debate and hard evidence.

Players like Biggio, Piazza and Schilling (and even Bonds, Sosa and Clemens) are first-year balloters who have many more years to convince the voters otherwise. But unless the baseball writers admit that none of them has a crystal ball spelling out who used PEDs and who didn’t, the guilt by association will take down some good men who did nothing wrong — except grow up in the wrong era.

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