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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gwen Knapp: Baseball is in an intriguing period of PED amnesty

Well, so much for Antonio Alfonseca getting in on the first ballot…from the person that threw a HOF vote to Ken Caminiti.

One has to wonder whether people within the game would embrace McGwire as a Hall of Famer. We can’t know because the vote belongs to baseball writers. In a few weeks, they will each receive the Class of 2013 ballot, the first to carry the names of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. I am supposed to get one. I don’t want it. I gave up voting a long time ago. I’d rather that the entire task, and especially the doping question, go to a committee of enshrined players.

Their verdict would mean more. If the writers leave out Clemens or Bonds, the most accomplished pitcher and hitter of the last generation, large portions of the public will simply disregard the message. After all, the media have already had their say on the topic of PEDs. This vote won’t reveal anything new. But it’s never been clear what former players think, if there is anything resembling consensus. Only a few speak up loudly. Most duck the issue. It’s too much for them. They fear sounding like blowhards, or worse, bitter old men jealous of the buff studs who replaced them and make much higher salaries.

But placed in a room for a long weekend, knowing they must debate their peers and arrive at a decision, they will take the responsibility seriously. The game would benefit from creating the forum for such a conversation, even if we never hear details of it. Instead of giving random interviews on the topic, players like Goose Gossage, who is ardently anti-doping, and Mike Schmidt, who has said he understands the temptation, could express themselves with a purpose.

Everyone in the room would have something precious at stake. Henry Aaron had no way to defend his home-run record; he was discouraged every time he tried to express reservations about Bonds’ late-career power surge. Given the ballot, he could defend the meaning of the Hall of Fame, whether that means barring Bonds or saying that 762 home runs count as an unimpeachable qualification.

This voting method would also greatly reduce the risks of rejecting certain suspects while admitting a player who doped but didn’t get caught. If that player gets in, he will know that the Hall is not a fortress of purity. When he becomes a voter, he is more likely to take a permissive view toward dopers on the ballot and try to rectify the imbalance he represents. There’s no guarantee of that, but it’s an absolute certainty that writers cannot gain the same insight.

Repoz Posted: November 10, 2012 at 09:02 AM | 0 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, hof

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