Hall of Fame Who Cares?
Earlier this week, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano was suspended 80 games for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy. In an instant, Cano shifted from a shoo-in for baseball’s Hall of Fame to just another name on the list of “cheaters” that may never step foot in those hallowed halls. But let’s be honest, earning induction into Cooperstown isn’t exactly the honor it’s cracked up to be.
May never make to the Hall of Fame
Some of the sport’s greatest talents are not, and may never be, selected to the Hall of Fame. No one has hit more home runs than Barry Bonds, but he was kind of a jerk and people “think” he was juicing, so he’s out. Pete Rose has the most hits in MLB history, but he’s a creep and bet on some games, so he’s a no go too. Joe Jackson, despite being one of the finest players of the early-20th century can’t get in because his teammates were corrupt. And Curt Schilling may be the best postseason pitcher ever, but he can’t get in either because he is a xenophobe in an era where that is, rightly, no longer accepted.
The “character clause”
Hall of Fame voters utilize the “character clause” in their decision making. The clause indicates that voters should consider things beyond the playing field in determining who should and should not make the Hall. These should be people of dignity and class, not just superior athletes.
That’s a fine criteria to have in place. An organization, understandably, does not want to reward crummy people just because they were really good at something. It makes sense. The problem is that this clause has not been evenly applied during the Hall’s existence.
Ty Cobb’s well-known racism was OK by the voters since it happened in the 1920s. Kirby Puckett didn’t have his spousal abuse held against him. Joe DiMaggio, Rogers Hornsby and Mickey Mantle get a pass because it was a “different era”. Heck, even Babe Ruth was far from perfect, but this was before 24/7 media, so it got swept under the rug.
The line is blurred
The point here isn’t to say that the players mentioned earlier should be inducted or that the guys discussed later shouldn’t. The point is that the line is blurred. Is using steroids a worse crime than assault or public drunkeness? Based on the voting record, it seems so.
Cano won’t be on the ballot for another decade, at least. He has five more years on his contract in Seattle and there is a five-year waiting period between retirement and when players can receive votes. By that point, the opinion on steroid usage and other off-field actions may have totally shifted. But even if it doesn’t, people shouldn’t worry about one of the best second baseman of all-time not making the Hall. He will have plenty of company on the outside looking in.