A sportswriter’s job, primarily, is to write. But sometimes the job of the sportswriter is to vote.
On Wednesday, the sportswriters who get to cast a ballot to determine the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees elected Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.
Nobody can quarrel with the qualifications of those three.
Maddux was the first player in MLB history to win four consecutive Cy Young Awards. He has 355 career wins, more than 3,000 strikeouts and the all-time record for Gold Gloves with 18. Glavine won 305 games which included five 20-win seasons. Thomas hit 521 homers, had a career batting average of .301 and averaged close to 100 RBIs per season.
Left out of the Hall were Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.
Good. Keep those cheating bums out. These guys enhanced their stats with performance-enhancing drugs.
Palmeiro and McGwire have each publicly declared their own guilt. Bonds said he did use PEDS, “but unknowingly.” Ultimately Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice in 2011 when his use of PEDs was being investigated.
Despite overwhelming public evidence that they, too, were cheaters, Sosa and Clemens haven’t yet come clean that they weren’t clean.
In beautifully spoken English, Sosa gripes to the media about the Chicago Cubs not retiring his number. But to those same media guys, when he’s asked whether or not he ever used steroids, his response is, “Yo no hablo Ingles.” I don’t speak English.
Sosa was thin as a toothpick when he played for Texas and then the Chicago White Sox. His season home run totals were 8, 15, 10, and 8. Then, in his second season with the Cubs, 1993, things suddenly changed. Sosa became the Incredible Hulk. His head got so large, he needed a bigger cap. Massive gains in the size of his biceps, triceps, forearms and shoulders made him change to a bigger uniform.
So the once-skinny Sosa became a home run hitter. And not just a guy knocking out 30 taters a year. Sosa became the only player in MLB history to hit more than 60 home runs in three different seasons. Babe Ruth never did that. Neither did Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, nor Willie Mays.
Sammy Sosa, one of the greatest home run hitters of all-time? Bah humbug.
Clemens was named in the Mitchell Report as a steroid user. While Clemens denies PED use, there’s a ton of evidence that contradicts him.
Of course this entire issue of who gets in the Hall and who doesn’t isn’t so cut and dried.
Two former collegiate baseball players who are now high school baseball head coaches, Salado’s Chad Krempin and Belton’s Eddie Cornblum, each brought an interesting perspective to the electoral process of the Hall.
“I grew up during that heavy-steroid use era,” said Krempin. “And I think during that time, this steroid use is something the writers, fans and players knew about. But these guys — Roger Clemens, Bonds, Big Mac McGwire — provided a lot of entertainment. Everyone knew and looked the other way. These players did what they did for the money. But here’s an interesting question: Who’s to say that the guys that are now getting voted in didn’t cheat themselves?”
“I’m a purist,” Cornblum said. “I believe in the integrity of the game. But I understand why these players that used steroids did so. They had a family to feed. The guy next to him in the locker room may be doing these performance-enhancing drugs, so he may think that his own job is on the line, so he chooses to take those same drugs, too.
“I guess if the writers felt they needed to keep these guys out, it may be the right thing to do. I think keeping the integrity of the game at the highest level — and the Hall of Fame represents that high level — is very important. If a guy has a great career, but used all that stuff, do you give him a Hall of Fame bust and say, ‘Congratulations’? I don’t know. I have mixed feelings.”
As Krempin said, those that took steroids did so for the records and fame and, ultimately, what comes along with records and fame — money.
Cornblum is right, too. If you’re a hitter and you think the majority of pitchers you’re facing are doping up to bring those fastballs upwards of 97 mph, it would only be natural to think, ‘I need to get myself some more bat speed, get a little more pop in my bat.’ And then that hitter decides to dope.
And then there’s the other side to these other sides.
Those players who cheated for the money get to keep that money. McGwire and Palmeiro admitted guilt, but they’re not giving back their millions.
And not every ballplayer cheated. In fact, those that didn’t cheat were cheated. Curt Schilling, as vocal an anti-doping critic as there is, makes the valid point that his career ERA was higher than it could have been had he not faced so many doped-up cheaters.
So, for better or worse, writers write. But, on occasion, like Wednesday, the writers are right.