However, if your brain is turned on, choosing the right person to vote for is difficult. Forget about politics where a vote determines employment , look at something like the baseball Hall of Fame. Simply by voting a person’s life work or legacy is defined and categorized. Folks unfamiliar with the sport will immediately attach some value to a Hall-of-Famer even if they have no clue what the person did to earn the honor.
So yeah, voting is tough. In fact, for those members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who are qualified to vote for the Hall of Fame, this year’s ballot might be the most difficult in recent memory. But in a strange little twist, the difficulty will come not from voting players in, but deciding which players to keep out.
Oh yes, the so-called Steroid Era is not over yet. Call this part of it the aftershocks following an earthquake.
What happens now that Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Larry Walker are finally eligible? After all, there are four MVP Awards, two Major League Player of the Year awards and a Rookie of the Year divvied up amongst that group. With credentials like that it would appear that a large Hall of Fame class will make the trip to Cooperstown this August. The thing is, there isn’t a slam dunk in the bunch.
Looking at the numbers on the stat sheet paints a different picture. Palmeiro, of course, is one of a handful of players to collect 3,000 hits and 500 homers. The other members of that club—Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray—are enshrined. The difference, though, is that Aaron, Mays and Murray never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs after getting that 3,000th hit, nor did they test positive shortly after wagging their fingers at Congress to scold anyone from thinking he would ever take a performance-enhancer.
Ironically, Palmeiro was the spokesman for Viagra during the latter years of his career.
Gonzalez was the AL MVP in 1996 and 1998 where he slugged his 300th career homer before his 28th birthday and became the first player in 63 years to reach 100 RBIs before the All-Star Break. Gonzalez had all the makings of a once-in-a-lifetime career until he reached his 30s and his body seemed to fall apart. Back injuries led to an end that saw Gonzalez bounce from organization to organization before finishing with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.
Certainly being named in the Mitchell Report or in Jose Canseco’s tell-all steroid book hasn’t helped Gonzalez’s case much, either.
Bagwell, on the other hand, is the guy no one knows what to do with. More than the gaudy numbers he produced, Bagwell was one of the biggest stars of the 1990s, and though the stats certainly matter, it was something Billy Wagner told me about Bagwell carries much more weight. According to Wagner, Bagwell was the best teammate he ever had. Moreover if respect from his peers counted for votes, then Bagwell is a landslide winner.
We just don’t know about the guy. Sure, he never tested positive nor did he ever show up in the Mitchell Report. But Bagwell seems to be guilty by association for having played with admitted steroid users Ken Caminiti and Jason Grimsley during the era where dabbling in such things was seemingly the norm.
Besides, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds never tested positive during their careers, either, and the consensus is that the record-breaking statistics those guys piled up are tainted. The fact that McGwire hit 583 homers yet never got more than 23 percent of the votes in the BBWAA balloting explains what the electorate thinks of his records.
So is Larry Walker a first ballot Hall of Famer and/or the only guy voted in this year? Is Walker good enough to be considered in such a lofty group and did anyone think he would have a plaque in Cooperstown when he’d come to the Vet to play against the Phillies with the Expos?
If those other guys are guilty of falling prey to the silently accepted norms of the game, does Walker get penalized for playing in Colorado and the performance-enhancing altitude?
Probably not. After all, someone has to get in. Given that only Andre Dawson was voted in last year while Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven fell less than five votes short, Walker could be the lone first-ballot inductee alongside a few others.
Then again, last year the MLB Network set up cameras at Alomar’s home because they were sure he was getting the call. Some suggested that Alomar fell short because of the unfortunate incident where he spit on umpire John Hirschbeck during a disputed call late in the 1997 season. The theory was that some writers held the mistake against Alomar despite the fact that he and Hirschbeck have buried the hatchet and become friends. This protest vote was made despite the fact that Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Cap Anson, and Juan Marichal are Hall of Famers. Among those names are men who attacked a crippled fan, punched an umpire, beat an opponent on the head with a bat, and helped foster nearly a half-century of institutional racism.
Some say without Cap Anson, baseball never would have been a sport that denied the inclusion of some because of the color of their skin.
But, you know, Alomar spit at a guy...
Nice Hall of Fame you have there, baseball. Apparently spitters, steroid users and gamblers need not apply. But for the violent types and the racists, sure, come on in.
Nevertheless, here’s one man’s ballot for the 2011 class of the Hall of Fame:
• Larry Walker
• Roberto Alomar
• Bert Blyleven
• Tim Raines
• Jack Morris
• Fred McGriff
• Barry Larkin
• Edgar Martinez
• Lee Smith
 More than ever it seems as if the only folks who get into the politics business do so because they can’t keep a job doing anything else. Check it out sometime… would you hire most politicians to do a job at your home? Why is it then we give those dregs the keys to everything?