The announcement of the MLB HOF class of 2013 is coming on Monday, and I will most likely be in the air during the announcement. This year, more than most, has been a whirlwind of balloting, grandstanding, analysis, and very interesting thoughts about what the merit of a HOFer should be, is at the moment, and will be in the future.
The specter of the era that has just passed, and that has extended into the present day, gives pause upon the validity of the accomplishments of those on the ballot and those soon to come. There will be no erasing or vacating of records as in college sports (which I never understood), but a certain prism has to be turned upon the numbers to refract them into the pieces which help to understand them.
As the rules currently stand, there are 15 years to sort the first wave of this mess out. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have been in a holding pattern since they first hit the ballot, though I can see how their cases would lend themselves to be on multiple ballots even without the current circumstances (most similar HOF hitter types for each more or less were Killebrew and Cepeda, respectively).
The landslide and granddaddies of the performance enhancing era, Bonds and Clemens, have hit the ballot, and this is really where the parsing and defensing and putting back in place has really come. There are some who would call them a HOFers because of what their career was before the allegations (and evidence), there are others who would call them HOFers because the entirety of the career should be judged within the context of their era and peers, and there are still others who draw the line in the sand and say that the specter outweighs the accomplishment.
I´m happy I´m not voting this year (or ever since I´m not a sportswriter) because it´s not the morality or the validity that causes me to consider and reconsider considerations about what constitutes a HOFer for this ballot and ballots to come. I am more inclined to judge them through the prism of the era and call them what they were on their plaques, evidence suggested that performance enhancing drugs were involved.
However, without evidence about how many players actually failed testing or an estimated quantitative effect on how these substances influence other baseball skills besides strength (and possibly stamina), the prism becomes cracked and splintered further.
For example, if those who used substances are not voted in because their relative merits to the peers and other HOFers were not deemed unworthy.....doesn´t that then mean that those who conclusively (or as close as we can get) should be elevated to HOF status as the best of their era? Would this then lower the statistical standards of the HOF further than has been done with previous controversial/dubious selections. On the flip side, since there is no conclusive evidence for these othere players and then evidence is found, that would distort the line further in this hypothetical.
If there is no definitive line, then how do you separate Bonds and Clemens from the circumstantial accused such as Bagwell and Piazza? Or do you already separate them because circumstantial evidence and guilt by association is not evidence for anything in this case beyond speculation?
As can be easily drawn from this thought exercise, is that there are no easy decisions in the voting process.....and it will only build up and get worse as ideas come to light, fall into shadow, or become grayer.
If I had a ballot, based on the information, statistics, and who I would feel defines being a HOFer (there is feel involved too).
My both introspective and off the cuff ballot would be Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens....and I would still be uncomfortable with it.
My prediction is that only one candidate (either Jack Morris or Craig Biggio) will get enough votes to be voted in, and that the debate will continue apace in 2014.
For a happy note to end this post, here are portraits of two of my favorite Phillies HOFers, Steve Carlton and Richie Ashburn, voted in by different means, but no less thought of as HOFers.