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.

One of Baseball’s Best Says Goodbye to Seattle, and Baseball, for Good

"The Kid" was known as the Michael Jordan of baseball

Junior had one of, if not the, best and most recognizable swings in MLB history.

Not only was he a baseball hero in Seattle, Ken Griffey Jr. was an icon and role model to baseball players and fans worldwide. Wednesday, June 2nd 2010 will be a day that will forever be remembered in the sports world, it is the day “The Kid” officially announced his retirement from Major League Baseball… exactly 23 years to the day that he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners (not to mention the exact date that fellow legend Babe Ruth retired). 40-year-old Griffey told the M’s manager Don Wakamatsu that he would no longer be playing, leaving Wakamatsu to make the announcement to the team and media shortly before Seattle faced Minnesota. Without doubt, No. 24 will greatly be missed.

This announcement marks the ending to one of the greatest careers in baseball history. Fans attending Wednesday night’s game were informed prior to the first pitch while the grounds crew put Griffey’s #24 in the sand behind second base.  His official statement is very touching and reminds us all of why he is so admired and will be missed by Seattle. He truly is the heart and soul of the franchise.

“I’ve come to a decision today to retire from Major League Baseball as an active player. This has been on my mind recently, but it’s not an easy decision to come by. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to have played Major League Baseball for so long and thankful for all of the friendships I have made, while also being proud of my accomplishments.

I’d like to thank my family for all of the sacrifices they have made all of these years for me. I’d like to thank the Seattle Mariners organization for allowing me to finish my playing career where it started. I look forward to a continued, meaningful relationship with them for many years to come.

While I feel I am still able to make a contribution on the field, and nobody in the Mariners front office has asked me to retire, I told the Mariners when I met with them prior to the 2009 season and was invited back, that I will never allow myself to become a distraction. I feel that without enough occasional starts to be sharper coming off the bench, my continued presence as a player would be an unfair distraction to my teammates, and their success as team is what the ultimate goal should be.

My hope is that my teammates can focus on baseball and win a championship for themselves and for the great fans of Seattle, who so very much deserve one. Thanks to all of you for welcoming me back, and thanks again to everyone over the years who has played a part in the success of my career. “

On the books he was one of the game’s best. Junior’s highlights include averaging .284, 630 HR’s (off of 407 different pitchers, leading the franchise with 417 of them in a Seattle uniform and fifth on the all-time list), 1,836 RBIs, 2,781 hits, 1,192 extra base hits, 524 doubles, 7 Silver Slugger awards, 13 time All-Star, 1 Most Valuable Player award and 10 Golden Glove awards. He was also voted to the All-Century team before the age of 30. As you can see, after 22 Major League Seasons his stats are nothing shy of impressive, but he meant more than numbers to Seattle. The only thing he lacks is a World Series appearance, but somehow that does not take away (at all) from his remarkable career. Let’s just hope he wants to come back and win one on the coaching side of the game!

One of the most viewed Seattle Mariner's pictures

Junior was a valuable leader and teammate to the Seattle organization

He was the first overall pick in the 1987 first-year player draft and played his first 11 seasons with the Mariners. He then spent the next 8 and half with the Reds, playing a brief stint with the White Sox in the latter half of the ’08 season. He then knew he had to finish his career where it all began. He returned the Seattle Mariners in the 2009 season and had many wondering whether he was going to come back in 2010 or not. The rest is history.

Junior might have started and ended his MLB career in a Mariner’s uniform, but he has not reached his final stop on one of the most talked about baseball journeys. In about 6 years from now, we will all be watching in excitement as this first-ballot future Hall-of-Famer finds himself in Cooperstown. Still, this end of an era will forever remain bittersweet for Seattle fans. It is sad to know the irreplaceable Ken Griffey Jr. and his departure has finally come, but the city is supportive and more than grateful that their hero decided to end his career where he grew up.

Former Cy Young Winner Eric Gagne Announces Retirement

Once regarded as the most dominant closer in Major League Baseball, Eric Gagne never regained his dominant form following significant injury complications in 2005 and 2006.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne officially announced his retirement from Major League Baseball on Sunday, marking an end to the career of one who—for a time—was considered to be the most dominant closing pitcher in Major League Baseball.  From 2002 through 2004, Gagne’s was career reached a peak as he closed out a Major League Baseball record 84 consecutive saves.

Despite his immense level of success as a closer Eric Gagne’s dominance on the mound would be short-lived, as he was forced to miss much of the 2005 and 2006 seasons due to injury and underwent Tommy John elbow surgery for the second time in his career.  Following his second Tommy John surgery and a back operation to address two herniated disc in Gagne’s back, he enjoyed moderate success after being acquired by the Texas Rangers in 2007, but never fully returned to his originally dominant form.

In 2008, it was revealed in the Mitchell Report, in the investigation into steroid use among players in Major League Baseball, that Eric Gagne had been linked to a dealer of Human Growth Hormone—to which he admitted having used during the 2004 season to heal a knee injury, according to a Los Angeles Times interview in February of 2010.  Whether or not his use of performance enhancing substances led to an early end to his dominance in his Major League career is a subject of uncertain debate, however it is safe to say that there are more than a few who believe that some of the negative long term-effects of steroid use may have contributed to a premature end to the career of one of the game’s most dominant pitchers.