The Times They Are a Changing at the HOF

The Hall of Fame Class of 2017 NY Media Day, 1/19/2017 HOF President Feff Idelson, Jegg Bagwell, Tim Raines, & Ivan Rodriguez Photo by Dr. Kevin Gee

The Hall of Fame Class of 2017
NY Media Day, 1/19/2017
HOF President Jeff Idelson, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, & Ivan Rodriguez
Photo by Dr. Kevin Gee

With the selection of Jeff Bagwell for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2017, there seems to be a growing domino theory among the talking head media pundits that his success was simply another felled tile in a chain that became obvious last year when fellow traveler on the trail of steroid suspicion, Mike Piazza, finally got the call in 2016 after years of struggle against the same doubtful forces. The “if Piazza was clean enough and good enough to get in, why not Bagwell” voting force is simply continuing to roll down a perceptual change in the direction of support for those slightly soiled by their earlier association by production and body type affinity to Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa.

Bob Costas summarized it nicely, yesterday on the pre-announcement ES{N show, and earlier. I will have to paraphrase the articulate Mr. Costas here for want of recorded transcript. Since this isn’t a legal deposition, you will have to either trust that my version is giving you the true gist of his thinking, or else, simply stop reading right now and research it for yourself:

The Paraphrased Gist of Bob Costa on a Change in HOF Voting Mindset Today

“Even when the steroid era landed on baseball in the earlier years of the 21st century, baseball had no clear guidelines on two issues that are only compounded into confusion by the candidate’s use of HGH supplements:

“How good do you have to be to deserve membership in the HOF?

“How much attention should voters pay to character, lifestyle, obedience to the law, and the taking of any mind or body altering substance during a player’s active career?

“Do these steroids simply support a player’s durability – or do they also enhance a player’s performance stats?

“Baseball did learn something from the 1998 season. Remember 1998? That was the season that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa saved baseball from the horrible wounds that still lingered from the player lock out/strike and World Series cancellation in 1994. In late 1998, Time Magazine hailed McGwire and Sosa on their cover as the saviors of baseball – and there weren’t anything but words of gratitude and praise from baseball leaders for bringing fans back to the game to witness the excitement. There wasn’t any early concern about how these two men suddenly transcended from great power hitters into the two baseball gods who had come down from Olympus to treat Babe Ruth’s single season 60 HR record as if it were a piñata that someone had brought to their shared birthday party. (Ego Entry I: The piñata metaphor just flew in here from the writing gods to the Pecan Park Eagle. Sorry, Bob Costas.)

“When McGwire and Sosa both broke Ruth’s 1927 HR record in 1998, we cannot remember a single critic writing anything like the following at that time: ‘Were these guys on something? If so, is it possible that their medications helped or made the ball go farther, or more often, over the wall?

“Then came the steroids era and almost everyone took a one-eighty. Admissions, evidence, and high-octane lying by some players stung the involved players hard.  Mike McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and Rafael Palmeiro all took the biggest hits to their reputations. Today the prospects may be changing for a few of them as future HOF inductees, while others continue to  languish forever out there, somewhere – in a place called Snow Ball’s Chance Valley. (Ego Entry II: Another homespun metaphorical contribution. Give the gods credit for that one too.)

“At first wind of the serious steroids storm, the writers who vote on HOF candidacies almost completely morphed into replicas of Captain Renault, as played by Claude Rains in the classic movie “Casablanca” upon his (ahem) discovery of hidden activity at Rick’s American Cafe. ‘This place is closed,’ Captain Renault shouted. ‘I’m shocked to find that gambling is going on here!’

“It didn’t matter that Barry Bonds now led the history of major league baseball with 762 career home runs. No “cheater” was getting into the Hall of Fame. The whole truth was – no player from that era with a muscular body and big power numbers was getting in – even if he had never been caught doing ‘roids or admitted to doing illegal HGH, and even if he always tested clean on his player drug tests.

Dr. Kevin Gee and Jeff Bagwell In HOF Jersey) NYC Media Day, 1/19/2017 Selfie by Dr. Kevin Gee

Dr. Kevin Gee & Jeff Bagwell (with smile, shades, & HOF cap & jersey)
NYC Media Day, 1/19/2017
Selfie by Dr. Kevin Gee

“What’s changed by the middle of the 21st century’s second decade? Clean players from the original high suspicion group, players like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, who both admitted to the use of one HGH substance when it was legal for injury healing purposes, but never to anything illegal for performance enhancement or tested anything but clean, have shown by their behavior over time that they have stayed clean of the drugs they always denied doing. Now, with Bagwell and Piazza,  the voters don’t have to worry about supporting a player who might embarrass them later, if they voted him into the Hall of Fame on merit. In effect, the selection of Mike Piazza in 2016 may have been a big part of the domino that fell upon support for Jeff Bagwell in 2017.

“Selections today now feed upon a search for the member of the HOF who best compares with the candidate at hand. In Bagwell’s case, it stands to reason that Jeff Bagwell deserved the selection-by-steroids-shadow-removal every ounce as much as Mike Piazza did in 2016. And he got it. It is likely that the increased support for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens this year is also a good sign for their induction approvals at the 75% affirmation level at some points in their individual 10-year terms on the ballot. The prospect seems fair, right, and likely, but some people may see it as a drop in the character level of the HOF family membership.

It’s remindful of the old joke by Groucho Marx about why he had refused an invitation to join a certain social club in LA. – “‘I don’t want to have anything to do with a club that would invite me to be a member.’

“It’s not that bleak; it’s just changing. Presuming the steroids era never returns, there may be improvement in voters’ capacities to forgive those great former late career steroid athletes who have set some incredible records as big leaguers on the way out the door. In the heat of the political and insulting issue that HGH became in baseball a few years ago, it is easy to forget that both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were two of the greatest natural talents to ever have played the game long before there ever any known steroid abuse in MLB of any kind.

The Lesson of Piazza and Bagwell

The Lesson of Piazza and Bagwell may be the indicator we now have an awareness among many voters that forgiveness is a bird that flies higher with greater understanding over time. Piazza and Bagwell were only guilty of not being able to prove their innocence. If that’s true, there may be room further down the timeline for forgiveness in the cases of Bonds and Clemens, and a few others who did once error in their use of performance enhancement drugs, but that it is now better understood by all with eyes to see that those drugs were not what really made either Bonds or Clemens the Hall of Fame great level players they each truly were. Those guys were Hall of Fame talents long before the arrival of the so-called steroids era.

Congratulation, Jeff Bagwell!

Today, in Astros Nation, especially, we celebrate the knowledge that we now have a date with destiny. On June 30, 2017, Jeff Bagwell will be reunited with the other great founder of “The Killer Bees”, Craig Biggio (HOF Class of 2015), as a 2017 induction class member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with two other deserving inductees, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez. – Congratulations to all of you. Every single one of you has been deserving of this supreme baseball honor for a very long time.. None of you have improved as players since your last game on an MLB field. But it often takes time for the people who do the voting to gain perspective on how you can no longer be ignored. And that seems to be happening.

Thank You, Dr. Kevin Gee!

Thanks to Dr. Kevin Gee of the UH School of Optometry for making these two photos he took of the first media conference he attended in New York today for the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017. We also appreciate the expeditious work of Dr. Sam Quintero, also of UH Optometry, for making Dr. Gee’s timely contribution to today’s story possible.

Take that, Houston Chronicle! The Pecan Park Eagle can stay current with you when we really want to make the effort. We also know how to get by – with a little help from our friends.

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

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One Response to “The Times They Are a Changing at the HOF”

  1. Larry Dierker Says:

    In my opinion, all the players with HOF numbers should be voted in except for Sosa. He had no exceptional years outside the steroid era and five sensational years in the middle of it. The only case against Bonds and Clemens is their personalities.

    Why would the writers punish players who used drugs anyway when MLB and their own union were saying “go ahead.” If you want to blame anyone for steroids, point your finger at Bud Selig and Don Fehr.

    As for the writers, I could compile quite a list who were HOF wordsmiths while taking drugs. Anthologies are full of them. Should their work be removed to protect our children?

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