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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hall of Fame: is it business or personal?

Many of us are familiar with one of the famous lines from the movie "The Godfather": it's business, it isn't personal.

However, in the book it's the opposite.  After the line had been used multiple times, Micheal tells Tom Hagen that everything is personal and that his father had told him that.

The baseball Hall of Fame seems to be personal, very personal.  With the release of the list of players eligible for the first time there is a sudden awareness that the steroid era, roughly 1995-2005, must be confronted head on and that neither the hall nor the writers charged with voting have had the integrity to deal with the issue by establishing policy instead of having the chaos that currently exists with each voter deciding what is meant by character, which is about half the criteria for election.

For me, it's the lying.  Players essentially lied to my face.  Well, not literally, but figuratively.  However, for the voters, the writers, the lying was done, literally, ... to their faces.  The players were in their faces and they lied and I think the writers take that personally, very personally, much more than they would for football or basketball players.

The fans both take cues from the media and have their own version of in your face intimacy with baseball players.  When I was a kid I thought that baseball was loyal, that it was there for me, often in the daytime, every day for six months.  Football was on Sundays but then it disappeared.  Basketball was a distant third on my sports radar.  Today this is reflected in the number of regular season games:
Major Baseball League (MBL): 162
National Basketball Association (NBA): 82
National Football League (NFL): 16.

For the six months of the regular season baseball is there, in your face.  If your face is perceiving lies, then you will take that personally.

I've written many times on this blog about steroid use and the irrational emotional view that many people have, how it is skewed towards baseball, rather than the other two team sports, and even in baseball towards the home run record.  For some reason that I have been unable to understand, despite my considering the home run race of 1961 as the signature sports year of my youth, the home run record evokes team sports hysteria among Americans like no other subject.

Home run hitting clouds our judgement.  Combine that with our natural revulsion with having someone lie to us regularly for years and there can be odd, irrational statements, actions, etc.
Barry Bonds lied.  His body lied.  His records lied.  He is the most obvious, considering his pre-steroid performance.  He was obnoxious about it in the extreme.  I often wondered, with his arrogance, why Bonds didn't just state: yeah, I use steroids, so what?

Roger Clemens lied.  He insisted on telling lies to Congress and then insisted on battling charges of telling lies to Congress in court, escaping conviction in part because his old buddy and former protegee Andy Pettitte "misremebered" in reverse and weaseled out of his original testimony.  Clemens was also an unabashed head hunter, someone who relished throwing a baseball at a batter's head.

When the voters examine the character of the two greatest players of their era:, Bonds and Clemens, the question they should ask is how important is the truth?  Is lying a serious enough character flaw to hold it against a player and, if so, what lies and to whom?
What about breaking marriage vows?  What about paying taxes?  What about faking injury on the field to gain an advantage (see Derek Jeter)?

The first players inducted included at least one who consumed illegal liquids, which were performance detracting.  Also, a player who fought with both opponents and teammates.  Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb are members of the Hall of Fame.

So is Gaylord Perry.

Gaylord Perry pitched his way into the Hall of Fame from 1962 to 1983.  In 1974 he wrote a book indicating that he had thrown illegal pitches (spitballs) but that he would stop.  The sports writers elected Perry to the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Some people can make themselves sick with revulsion over steroids.  They only consider something like Perry's violations when confronted.  They then state that spitballs are different.  In fact spitballs are considered gamesmanship, a cute entertaining part of baseball's charm.  Baloney.  It's cheating.  So is using an illegal bat as Sammy Sosa did.
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If voters want to apply the character part of the criteria to oppose the candidacy of players whose performance should compel their election, then those voters should fully explain themselves including any possible inconsistency in their voting for football and/or basketball players for their halls of fame, even though those other halls do not address character.

Simply whining about cheating that they knew about when it was happening is not good enough.  It's not even close.  And they had better be prepared to explain the Gaylord Perry conundrum and not continue to laugh it off along with other forms of on field cheating as well as head hunting.  Otherwise, maybe character should also be a criteria for the voters and we should vote on them before they vote on the former players.

It's personal, not business.

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