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Friday, December 28, 2012

Rosenthal: Saying no to steroids in HOF ... for now

or…The HOF: Why I stopped voting…for really great players

I’m wavering.

No, I’m not ready to vote for confirmed steroid users or even certain alleged users for the Hall of Fame. But I’m so torn, I’m closer to saying, “yes,” than ever before.

Doesn’t mean I will next year. Doesn’t mean I will in five years. It just means that my own internal debate continues, and if I sound indecisive, so be it. This is not an easy question to decide.

This year, I did not vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or any of the other first-time candidates. I generally do not for any player from this era on the first ballot, though I have made exceptions before and probably will again.

As I’ve written previously, this is my way of distinguishing, say, Bonds from Hank Aaron, players from a dubious period from the greats of the past. To those who ask, “What about players thought to be clean?” my response is, “They all were part of a union that had the power to implement change.”

Obviously, my stand could lead to a major problem — if every voter followed suit, first-time candidates would not get the necessary five percent of the vote to remain on the ballot. But to my knowledge, no other voter takes the same approach. So, I’m comfortable proceeding in this fashion.

The real question for me will be how to vote on Bonds, Clemens and others linked to performance-enhancing drugs in the future, knowing that each will be eligible for 15 years and that 75 percent of the vote is required for induction.

Roboballot - Jeff Bagwell - Edgar Martinez - Fred McGriff - Tim Raines - Lee Smith - Alan Trammell

Repoz Posted: December 28, 2012 at 04:51 PM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof

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   1. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 28, 2012 at 05:25 PM (#4333857)
"No one on the first ballot" is dumb for reasons Rosenthal himself outlines in this very column, but it's a very minor kind of dumb compared to much of what we see in Hall of Fame voting. The only name on this ballot I really don't like is Smith's. I can squint to see a case for McGriff, and I love seeing Raines and Trammell listed. No Morris.

And this "wavering" thing is basically Rosenthal waiting for Bonds and Clemens to poll ~50% in their first year. Once it becomes clear that it's not just a tiny minority of writers voting for them, once it becomes clear there's a crowd to follow, he'll join. As will most of the other "no" voters. Bonds and Clemens will be inducted by 2015 or so, I expect.
   2. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 28, 2012 at 05:29 PM (#4333859)
Note also that Rosenthal's discussions of the players on his ballot focus on OBP, SLG, OPS+, ERA, and ERA+, with a few relevant mentions of baserunning and defense. That's laudable. The exception is Smith, where he just talks saves and "dominance".
   3. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 28, 2012 at 06:29 PM (#4333890)
My ballot means it's a great idea, but possibly not, and I'm not being indecisive!
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 28, 2012 at 06:48 PM (#4333900)
This is probably the best approach for the steroid tainted "no-doubters", like Bonds and Clemens. You can't really keep them out (they were HoFers long before they allegedly started 'roiding) so you make them stew for a bunch of ballots.

I'd like to see 'em wait at least 5 years. That way the voting record permanently makes people ask "Why wasn't Bonds/Clemens a first ballot guy?"
   5. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: December 28, 2012 at 06:53 PM (#4333905)
I've never been much of a fan of Rosenthal's unwillingness to vote for players on the first ballot. He says it's not a statement that these guys all used steroids, but instead is a kind of punishment for being a part of a union that allowed the steroid era to flourish. OK. But then he acknowledges he's made exceptions in the past, he'll make exceptions in the future, and five'll get you ten that the exceptions are guys we all "know" weren't on steroids. He'll probably vote for Maddux, Glavine, Pedro and a few others like that. Maybe not Glavine because Tommy was such a big union guy.

Now, that's fine: Maddux, Glavine and Pedro all deserve induction, and all deserve unanimous first ballot induction. But don't these exceptions, when carved out for a specific kind of player, serve as a kind of exoneration? In other words, if you only vote for first ballot guys who we all know weren't on steroids, isn't that at least some kind of implication about all the first ballot guys for whom you aren't voting?
   6. vivaelpujols Posted: December 28, 2012 at 06:57 PM (#4333908)
This is dumb or naive or something:

But to my knowledge, no other voter takes the same approach.


At least some other writers definitely have a first ballot policy, Robothal can't honestly believe he's the only one.

That being said, good ballot. I really appreciate Bagwell, Walker, Martinez, Raines and Trammell. Lee Smith and McGriff are pretty dumb, but whatever. Still no Kenny Lofton - I'm guessing he gets way less than 5% of the vote, and it's not even by force as most guys aren't turning in 10 player ballots. Shame.
   7. andrewberg Posted: December 28, 2012 at 07:05 PM (#4333910)
I appreciate that he's attempting to be thoughtful and wrestle with this issue, but the cynical part of me sees his stance as a way to dodge criticism in spite of the fact that he knows he's wrong. Now hr can give a conciliatory response rather than defending his position. Also, MLBPA is a closed shop that bargains collectively. Short of illegal direct dealing or publicly undermining the elected leadership, there's nothing practical that a member could have done that we would hear about.
   8. Bitter Mouse Posted: December 28, 2012 at 07:24 PM (#4333915)
But to my knowledge, no other voter takes the same approach.


I know what you are saying in #6, but if you think you are the only one with an "idea" like this maybe you should see that as a hint. Either genius or stupid (and btw it is not genius).

Oh well not the worst ballot ever, but at least there is a bit of underlying logic and it is not just random assertions (Well Lee Smith, but whatever).
   9. Tripon Posted: December 28, 2012 at 07:30 PM (#4333918)
Its just remarkable that the writers are sure that the steroid era only started in the early to mid 90s.
   10. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 28, 2012 at 07:42 PM (#4333926)
Dr. Emmett Brown explained that anomaly already. Whenever someone alters key events that have already occurred in the past, they effectively create an alternate timeline for their point of entry, thus erasing the original timeline. This becomes the new working reality despite the fact that "inoperative" events from the destroyed timeline can still be remembered by others. Also, their forward motion is powered by garbage.
   11. puck Posted: December 28, 2012 at 08:00 PM (#4333939)
Its just remarkable that the writers are sure that the steroid era only started in the early to mid 90s.

PEDs were ok in the beginning, but they just went too far.
   12. Squash Posted: December 28, 2012 at 08:02 PM (#4333940)
I personally feel that writers who knew there were steroids going on but didn't say anything should be penalized by having their columns taken away from them. We don't have any proof that these writers knew, but come on, just read them. We know.
   13. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 28, 2012 at 08:26 PM (#4333952)
This is not an easy question to decide.


One wonders what is so difficult.
   14. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: December 28, 2012 at 08:27 PM (#4333953)
Now, that's fine: Maddux, Glavine and Pedro all deserve induction, and all deserve unanimous first ballot induction.


If Glavine had had to actually throw the ball over the plate, I wonder how much closer to the line his HOF case would be. I swear I saw a Braves game once where he may have thrown one strike, but my friend and I agreed that it probably just missed. No other called strike was even arguably a strike.
   15. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 28, 2012 at 08:27 PM (#4333954)
As I’ve written previously, this is my way of distinguishing, say, Bonds from Hank Aaron, players from a dubious period from the greats of the past.


Voters are not supposed to use their vote to "distinguish" Hall of Famers from Hall of Famers. If they feel the candidate is deserving, they should vote Yes.
   16. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 28, 2012 at 08:36 PM (#4333958)
It's just part of a long tradition; for instance, the 23 writers who distinguished Hank Aaron by not voting for him.
   17. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 28, 2012 at 08:43 PM (#4333964)
Rosenthal:

Consider all of the living Hall of Famers who played the game without chemical enhancement (and no, I don’t believe that even users of amphetamines gained the same edge as users of PEDs). Many members are appalled by the prospect of juicers entering their elite club. The sentiments of those all-time greats should not be ignored.


The issue is not whether amps players gained "the same edge" as the steroids players; the issue is whether one can come up with a meaningful distinction between the two for HOF purposes.
   18. John Northey Posted: December 28, 2012 at 09:22 PM (#4333975)
Well, you see cheating is OK as long as it isn't too effective. Of course, the spitball is extremely effective but many made it doing that cheat but I guess it is 'cute' or something.
   19. Moeball Posted: December 28, 2012 at 09:24 PM (#4333976)
Also, MLBPA is a closed shop that bargains collectively. Short of illegal direct dealing or publicly undermining the elected leadership, there's nothing practical that a member could have done that we would hear about.


Which raises the following question(s):

1)If, in the early days of steroid use (which was when exactly?), a "Bonds"-type player (and personality) that was using would have stood out as quite an anomaly, yes? Given that such a player probably would not be popular with other players and would be seen as having a truly "unfair" advantage, wouldn't the MLBPA as a whole pretty much want to put a stop to this ASAP and vote accordingly to get testing/punishments in place?

2)If, on the other hand, many players were using, wouldn't it be next to impossible to get the union to vote for implementation of testing? Who would want to vote for such a thing when it could kill the goose laying the golden eggs? If you're using and I'm using and most of the guys on your team and my team are using - who is going to want to stop this? If attendance - and $$$ - are on the rise largely because of the results of using ("chicks dig the long ball") - why put an end to it?

So I wonder about the progression through the timeline of the MLBPA - was it a situation where, at first, there was a lot of resistance to testing but, gradually over time, players came to see that it was the way to go? Sounds like the writers and their views of Bert Blyleven's HOF campaign.

I find it ironic that Mr. Bonds is really the major lightning-rod to the steroids equation given that he was kind of late to the party. It's pretty clear that steroid use was fairly widespread before 1999, which was when Barry jumped on board the train, at least if you buy the "Game of Shadows" rhetoric. Was it the 2001 assault on the record book that really turned the tide of union opinion on the matter? Was it ok to have a lot of players using as long as Bonds wasn't one of them?
   20. Walt Davis Posted: December 28, 2012 at 10:02 PM (#4333983)
So I wonder about the progression through the timeline of the MLBPA - was it a situation where, at first, there was a lot of resistance to testing but, gradually over time, players came to see that it was the way to go?

a) To his dying breath, Miller opposed drug testing, primarily on privacy rights concerns. Orza probably shared a fairly similar opinion.

b) In negotiations, you don't give anything up without something in return. Drug testing, especially effective drug-testing, is a big thing to give up. The owners were never willing to concede anything of real value to the players to get drug testing. OK, let me back off -- we don't know this, we weren't in the negotiation room. I don't recall any leaks though about MLB offering anything of substance, just whining that they were doing everything they could if not for the obstinate union. Of course god only knows what it would have taken to get the Union to accept testing in the early 90s -- everybody was getting ready for war.

c) In the end, political and public pressure became too strong. I tend to doubt that federal legislation would have ever been passed but the Union was going to be under constant pressure to clean the game up. The Union had also lost the PR war to the owners over this issue, especially with the media. (while Congress didn't audibly laugh at Selig's ridiculous testimony, I think it's pretty clear in the transcript that they were not happy with MLB.)

d) So by that time, I'm not sure the players could have done much to stop the introduction of testing short of going on strike. Nobody was willing to take that step, there was way too much money at stake. How weak they were was evidenced by their almost instant caving on the original 10-game suspension policy.

In retrospect, it may have just been bad timing. The NFL and NBA agreed to more superficial testing early, basically as a PR move to circumvent future issues. Maybe the MLBPA would have done the same thing but that was the height of the labor wars. Lockouts, strikes, collusion -- would you accept a drug testing plan from an employer you didn't trust and maybe even despised?
   21. AJMcCringleberry Posted: December 28, 2012 at 10:30 PM (#4333996)
I don’t believe that even users of amphetamines gained the same edge as users of PEDs

So he doesn't even consider amphetamines to be PEDs?
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: December 28, 2012 at 11:03 PM (#4334009)
b) In negotiations, you don't give anything up without something in return. Drug testing, especially effective drug-testing, is a big thing to give up. The owners were never willing to concede anything of real value to the players to get drug testing. OK, let me back off -- we don't know this, we weren't in the negotiation room. I don't recall any leaks though about MLB offering anything of substance, just whining that they were doing everything they could if not for the obstinate union. Of course god only knows what it would have taken to get the Union to accept testing in the early 90s -- everybody was getting ready for war.


I think the biggest problem was that this was entirely backwards. The owners had no reason to want drug testing. They weren't footing the bill for steroids. They weren't taking the legal or health risks associated with juicing. If steroids worked, they were simply getting improved productivity/faster recovery from their employees at the same price. And if a policy were implemented, they'd be expected to foot the bill for the testing system. So why would they want this?

On the other hand, the hands-off approach to steroids created no new jobs (in fact, if it did allow for faster recovery, it would have kept more people off the major league rolls, albeit whatever effect would be tiny), while the union's members were at risk of legal woes (as we've seen) or health issues (while it may be true that a regimented schedule presents few risks, surely some of the fringier guys may not have been able to avail themselves of the costlier services), or feeling pressured to do things they'd otherwise prefer not to in order to keep up. The union should have been leading the charge against PEDs on workplace safety grounds, rather than objecting on private pee ones.



   23. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 28, 2012 at 11:46 PM (#4334028)
This year, I did not vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or any of the other first-time candidates. I generally do not for any player from this era on the first ballot, though I have made exceptions before and probably will again.

As I’ve written previously, this is my way of distinguishing, say, Bonds from Hank Aaron, players from a dubious period from the greats of the past. To those who ask, “What about players thought to be clean?” my response is, “They all were part of a union that had the power to implement change


First, he's not applying this standard evenly, and thus not fairly. Exceptions? Makes no sense.

Second, this would mean that a single player (e.g., Frank Thomas, assuming he's clean) who advocated for testing yet had no power to set the direction for the union would nevertheless see a vote withheld by Rosenthal.
   24. Lassus Posted: December 29, 2012 at 12:08 AM (#4334042)
Robothal stopped being adorable long ago, and I will offer my protest by not casting a click on his article.

However, does he at least mention some kind of idiot reason he's not voting for Piazza? Other than "because, even though I have before?"

Is it this stupid every year? I don't think so. The PED stuff has made it worse and stupider, hasn't it?
   25. Repoz Posted: December 29, 2012 at 12:17 AM (#4334044)
Rosenthal is leaving the MLB Network?

Having to carry a plesac-lunch every day to work must of gotten to him.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: December 29, 2012 at 12:59 AM (#4334057)
The owners had no reason to want drug testing.

Well, except for the impending PR nightmare which was completely predictable (especially by the late 90s).

Nobody has incentive to implement drug testing to keep the game "clean"-- athletes have always been willing to sacrifice future health for performance, winning and dollars; owners just care about the dollars. Drug testing arises out of a perceived risk to the "legitimacy" of the competition which is why the public buys tickets. If it had been the US women's swim team growing facial hair rather than the East Germans, steroid use would probably have been publicly accepted. The Olympics and the media decided PEDs were evil.

And the owners were always fond of bashing the players ... so, yes, they had no incentive to give up anything major for drug testing unless the PR shifted from anti-player to anti-baseball. Which is largely what happened and quickly both sides decided to cook up a plan.
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: December 29, 2012 at 01:08 AM (#4334063)
Well, except for the impending PR nightmare which was completely predictable (especially by the late 90s).


And what that were the negative consequences for the owners of that PR nightmare?

Nobody has incentive to implement drug testing to keep the game "clean"-- athletes have always been willing to sacrifice future health for performance, winning and dollars; owners just care about the dollars.


Athletes by themselves obviously have no incentive to implement drug testing. A union of them, however, might see a bigger picture.

   28. Scott Ross Posted: December 29, 2012 at 01:14 AM (#4334066)
Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Yogi Berra, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews all failed to get in on the first ballot. Paul Molitor, Kirby Puckett, Lou Brock, Willie Stargell and Eddie Murray all got in on the first ballot. Let's dispense with the notion that first-ballot staus is reserved for the best of the best.
   29. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 29, 2012 at 01:36 AM (#4334068)
Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Yogi Berra, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews all failed to get in on the first ballot.

Man, poor Tris Speaker really got screwed.
   30. Squash Posted: December 29, 2012 at 03:25 AM (#4334086)
The first ballot thing is relatively new. As I read it, a bunch of all-time greats didn't get in on their first ballot because of vagaries of the ballot (and because voters were asleep at the wheel/it wasn't nearly as a big a deal as it is now) - systemic issues more so than anything. It's become an intentional thing only much more recently, and the justification is usually just that, pointing to all the greats who weren't first ballot guys, yet completely ignoring why. We were dumb in the past, therefore we must continue being dumb in the future.
   31. odds are meatwad is drunk Posted: December 29, 2012 at 04:00 AM (#4334093)
29. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 29, 2012 at 01:36 AM (#4334068)
Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Yogi Berra, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews all failed to get in on the first ballot.

Man, poor Tris Speaker really got screwed.


So I'm not the only one who noticed that.
   32. bigglou115 Posted: December 29, 2012 at 04:01 AM (#4334094)
If Glavine had had to actually throw the ball over the plate, I wonder how much closer to the line his HOF case would be. I swear I saw a Braves game once where he may have thrown one strike, but my friend and I agreed that it probably just missed. No other called strike was even arguably a strike.


What year was this? That's the one thing I think a lot of people miss when they make this point about Glavine, that he got too many reputation calls. He didn't get reputation calls when he came up, he had to earn them by creating a, well, reputation.

After that he would have been stupid not to take advantage of them, and lets be realistic Glav's success was always on account of his smarts.
   33. Walt Davis Posted: December 29, 2012 at 05:08 AM (#4334099)
And what that were the negative consequences for the owners of that PR nightmare?

It mostly never came about ... as I said, once the PR started shifting "anti-baseball", once it became clear Congress and the media wasn't going to let the issue go until there was a testing program, both sides had little problem agreeing on a testing program. The 10-game suspension era lasted about 5 minutes after the moaning and groaning started after Palmeiro.
   34. MuttsIdolCochrane Posted: December 29, 2012 at 07:17 AM (#4334107)
The Hall of Fame specifically instructs us that voting “shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” I have never been comfortable with less than clear instructions that have so many useless and unnecessary words. Integrity and sportsmanship are essentially two qualities that define good character, and really are just another way of saying the same thing. The words honesty, morality, ethics, fairness and many others words are all considered synonyms for all three words (integrity, sportsmanship, character). Does the HOF want the voters to give the character requirement three times the weight? Sorry to nitpick, but the use and interpretation of language is always of paramount importance to any analysis. Voting based on "record, playing ability, character and contributions..." would have been much clearer and efficient instructions. And of course that would still cover all of the cheating like amphetamine (PED) use, ball scuffing, bat corking, foreign substances, and other immoral acts such as wife beating and more that have traditionally been ignored for many decades by these oh so consistent voters.
   35. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 29, 2012 at 09:15 AM (#4334111)
Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Yogi Berra, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews all failed to get in on the first ballot.


All of these, except maybe Berra and Mathews are irrelevant. For example, Gehrig got a bunch of votes for the HOF during his MVP season of 1936, and then got in in a special election held after his final season and you want to lump him in with Billy Williams and Juan Marichal?

edit: and Wagner did get in on the first try. Second only to Cobb on the ballot, ahead of Ruth, Johnson, and Mathewson.
   36. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: December 29, 2012 at 09:17 AM (#4334112)
lee smith?

ridiculous
   37. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 29, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4334119)
I'd like to see 'em wait at least 5 years. That way the voting record permanently makes people ask "Why wasn't Bonds/Clemens a first ballot guy?"


Why must you damn the memory of poor Johnny Mize?

I prefer to see the BBWAA's decision to leave an obviously-qualified player on the outside of the Hall for a while as a sign that many members of the BBWAA have no idea what the hell they're doing. That's much simpler, and it has the additional merit of being true.
   38. cardsfanboy Posted: December 29, 2012 at 06:09 PM (#4334271)

However, does he at least mention some kind of idiot reason he's not voting for Piazza? Other than "because, even though I have before?"


Not voting for anyone on the first ballot as a protest against the steroid era.

Again, another ballot that I don't agree with, yet another article that at least gives some reasons for their votes. I don't have a problem with this ballot, don't agree with it, but don't think this is one of those writers who should have their ballots taken away.(and yes there are those who I do think of that way)

   39. Papa Squid Posted: December 29, 2012 at 06:44 PM (#4334283)
What year was this? That's the one thing I think a lot of people miss when they make this point about Glavine, that he got too many reputation calls. He didn't get reputation calls when he came up, he had to earn them by creating a, well, reputation.


I think by 1992 he already had that reputation. They're replaying the 1992 World Series on Rogers Sportsnet through the holidays and I just caught his masterful Game 1 start. He was able to ring up Alomar on a pitch well outside. Later, Maldonado struck out swinging on a similar pitch well outside. When McCarver questioned it, McDonough (who I think is a fantastic announcer), quickly reminded that given that Glavine's been getting that outside strike that Maldonado didn't have much choice.

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