My love for the game of baseball developed during the 1990s: the era of Bill Clinton, the Backstreet Boys, and steroids in major league baseball.
I devoured anything associated with the sport. I played the game. I watched the game. I talked the game. I cheered for my favorite team, the Texas Rangers, as they won their first three division titles in club history. I amassed a collection of tens of thousands of baseball cards.
But today the Baseball Writers Association of American (BBWAA), whose members control entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame, said many of the greatest players I grew up watching are unworthy of the game’s highest honor.
Not a seven-time Cy Young recipient: Roger Clemens.
Not a seven-time MVP recipient and major league baseball’s all-time home run king: Barry Bonds.
Not a 12-time All-Star catcher: Mike Piazza.
Not the men who helped resurrect the game: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa.
Not even 3,000-hit club members: Rafael Palmeiro, Craig Biggio.
Here’s a dictionary definition of “hall of fame”: “A group of persons judged outstanding, as in a sport or profession.” Undoubtedly, many of these players were outstanding, but a group of people who are as responsible as anyone for the steroid era—the media—is choosing to feign moral superiority in order to pretend they had nothing to do with it.
The BBWAA is effectively saying the 1990s didn’t happen by refusing to vote in any of these candidates. They’re saying we didn’t see what we saw. We didn’t cheer for our favorite stars. Our teams didn’t win those championships.
But it all happened. I still have the baseball Sosa tossed to me on the front row at a 1998 Houston Astros game to prove it.
Make no mistake: I’m a huge believer in following the rules. But in an era when almost no one did, it’s unfair to hold only the best players accountable for their actions. It’s foolish to think wiping out a generation of Hall of Famers will solve the problem, and we’re kidding ourselves if we try to say the Hall of Fame doesn’t already have cheaters in it.
If we’re going to permanently exclude some of the best players the game has ever seen, we need to create an alternate Baseball Hall of Fame in which they can be enshrined. At this rate, it might end up better than the first one.
I’m not happy that some of these men cheated to attain such heights of greatness, but I am grateful for the careers they played. They supplied my generation of youngsters with plenty of fun, entertainment, and inspiration.
No baseball writer’s vote will ever change that.