Hall of Hearsay: Baseball Writers and the “Guilty Until Impossibly Proven Innocent Principle”



Today, flawed people judged other flawed people.  Mistaken people judged other mistaken people.  The greedy judged the greedy.

Judges generally have nothing at stake other than their reputation, which can easily be forgotten when the next case comes through.  The judged are the ones who have to live with the consequences.

The Baseball Writers of America decided today that swift justice, no matter who got stuck in the crosswind, was acceptable when voting who would not make the Hall of Fame – and that was every player eligible for induction.

Not only did the swing strike the obvious defendants – the McGwires and Sosas of the world – but also those that had little or nothing to with the Steroid Era, outside of playing in it.

Has Craig Biggio ever been accused of taking anything?  Tim Raines?  Jack Morris pitched against many of those the writers are automatically assuming took drugs, but his stats get punished for that too?

Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, who both indeed hit many, many home runs in their careers, suffered despite not even being in the realm of accusations that Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds received at the peak of their careers.

The writers have shown no qualm allowing in fringe players to the Hall in recent years to prevent no one from joining, but in a year where many different types of stars that most likely eclipsed these that have come before come along for induction, no one gets in.

It is something that will make Cooperstown suffer; many businesses, including the Hall of Fame itself, depend on that one weekend a year for tourism dollars.  This year, they will have to hope a bunch of centenarians decide to travel, because the three going into the HOF via the Veterans Committee all were dead by the 1930s.

But beyond that, the sport of baseball has taken a tragic blow.  A scar has been ripped open by the writers and the innocent were guilty without the chance to be proven innocent.

Baseball, a sport that draws its strength from its majestic history, now allowed its center of this, to become flawed.  A place for education, for learning, for being able to build your own idea of what baseball is, will no longer be the best place to do this.  Writers have chosen against finding ways to educate on a mistaken era and instead just try to erase it from our memories.

An asterisk, a section, a writing…anything could have been done by the plaques of steroid era players, allowing those that come in the future to learn and digest the past themselves.

Instead, the place just holds a bunch more questions.  Having Shoeless Joe Jackson missing from the Hall is one thing; there is a World Series for the year the Black Sox cheated to understand.  Even having Pete Rose missing can be okay – it is making an example by exclusion of the hits leader.

But when you start eliminating almost everyone from an era, how to you explain this?  Is there a chance to break down and determine the worth of each player now?  No.  Is there a way to separate Biggio from Bonds?  No.  Both missed the Hall of Fame in a year no one made it for a blanket reason.

We have to come back to the writers.  They are the ones that follow the teams and players we love and ultimately get to judge their careers in the end.  Many do their jobs correctly and well.  Many more took the time to do their homework, come up with parameters, and base their votes on that.

Others, like Jill Painter, seemingly just picked out of a hat whoever she liked.  More, like Howard Bryant, talked about in my HOF preview column, chose to abstain from voting out of confusion.

There was no “right” and there was no “wrong” way to vote.  It is hard to judge the qualifications and qualities of the writers and their analysis.  Who can say what they should feel or what they shouldn’t feel?

For writers, there will always be a next year.  People will forget Painter’s and Bryant’s stance in a few weeks or months.  What happened to Biggio and Bagwell and Raines and Morris will be remembered for their lifetimes.  What happened today will live on in their legacies forever.

Justice can be found in many ways.  What we wind up left with today is nothing, instead of something.  Hard to keep the historical foundation of baseball continuing into the future with just empty pages ahead.


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One response to “Hall of Hearsay: Baseball Writers and the “Guilty Until Impossibly Proven Innocent Principle”

  1. Pingback: Dan LeBatard Is Not a Hero, But He’s the Baseball Hall of Fame-Voting Writer We Need [Thanks, Deadspin] | Too Much For Tweets

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