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Sunday, January 08, 2012

NY Times: Kepner: At the Hall of Fame, Forgetting History and Perhaps Repeating It

What we have are perceptions. It is fundamentally unfair to suspect all muscular players of using steroids. But players could have pushed for testing in the 1990s; management could have aggressively confronted the issue; reporters could have raised more suspicions. We all failed, and now we must decide what the mutated records really mean.

By my count, 33 players over the next five ballots (including the one to be unveiled Monday) could make a realistic case for the Hall of Fame. They may not have a winning argument, but they belong in the conversation. These 33 fall into four categories.

¶ Virtual locks, barring evidence of steroid use: Barry Larkin (2012); Craig Biggio (2013); Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas (2014); Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz (2015); Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman (2016).

¶ Possible, barring evidence of steroid use: Curt Schilling (2013); Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina (2014).

¶ Doubtful, based on playing career, voting track record or both: Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker and Bernie Williams.

¶ Left out because of performance-enhancing drugs: Based on suspicion, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza; based on admission, Mark McGwire; based on evidence, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa; based on admission/evidence/playing career, Juan Gonzalez and Andy Pettitte.

That leaves us, in 2016, with 10 new Hall of Famers elected by the writers. Seven reached a significant round number: 300 victories for Glavine, Johnson and Maddux; 3,000 hits for Biggio; 500 home runs for Thomas; 600 home runs for Griffey; 600 saves for Hoffman. Larkin was a most valuable player; Smoltz won a Cy Young Award, and Pedro Martinez won three.

The group is impressive, to be sure, but it only partly covers the era it represents. The Hall of Fame is the cradle of baseball history. However they did it, Bonds, Clemens and the rest made a significant impact. Together - with Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson - they will form the phantom limb of Cooperstown.

bobm Posted: January 08, 2012 at 04:53 PM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, steroids

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: January 08, 2012 at 07:11 PM (#4031844)
The article as a whole seemed a bit all over the place. And I'm still not sure if he's saying those guys in the first group will be elected in those years -- he says 10 HoFers by 2016 but is he really saying Hoffman gets in 1st ballot? The "possible" line are just their years of ballot entry.

And of course there really is no "evidence" against Sosa. The NY Times made it a habit to call around to people who'd seen the list to try to get them to name names. Quite a while later, they claim to have finally found more than one person to say Sosa was on it. To my knowledge, no media member has ever seen the actual list. And of course the Times hid the sources so nobody except the Times reporter knows the quality of the witnesses.

As far as I know, no dealer ever accused Sosa; no mistress ever accused Sosa; he's not in the Mitchell Report; the closest I recall a player coming to accusing him was Grace and Canseco both saying the equivalent of "c'mon look at the guy"; he categorically denied (in English despite what wacko sportswriters like to say) usage in front of Congress and nobody's brought perjury charges against him.

Sosa having used steroids would surprise nobody but the "evidence" against him is barely above Bagwell levels.
   2. cHiEf iMpaCt oFfiCEr JE Posted: January 08, 2012 at 08:10 PM (#4031871)
Is Piazza really a "doubtful?"
   3. Ray (CTL) Posted: January 08, 2012 at 08:18 PM (#4031876)
Left out because of performance-enhancing drugs: Based on suspicion, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza; based on admission, Mark McGwire; based on evidence, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa

   4. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: January 08, 2012 at 08:32 PM (#4031880)
Wasn't Sosa one of the 103 in the "confidential" 2003 test?
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: January 08, 2012 at 09:29 PM (#4031903)
Wasn't Sosa one of the 103 in the "confidential" 2003 test?

nope, Sosa was a name listed on a NYTimes article saying he was one of the names.
   6. Lassus Posted: January 08, 2012 at 09:30 PM (#4031905)
God, this is getting tiresome.
   7. MattAtBat Posted: January 08, 2012 at 09:38 PM (#4031912)
Sammy Sosa ... is among the players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003, according to lawyers with knowledge of the drug-testing results from that year.

Was this claim ever refuted or is this the extent of the evidence against Sosa?
   8. Dandy Little Glove Man Posted: January 08, 2012 at 09:42 PM (#4031915)
There is no reasonable case that could be made for Juan Gonzalez to be in the Hall of Fame.

Also, Curt Schilling shouldn't be a tier below Smoltz and Hoffman. Either bump him up or knock them down. Actually, it might be best to put the three of them into a separate "Probable" category in between the virtual locks and the possibilities.
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: January 08, 2012 at 09:47 PM (#4031917)
Was this claim ever refuted or is this the extent of the evidence against Sosa?

never refuted, never confirmed either, and never spoken of again since this was the entire case against Sosa.
   10. Don Malcolm Posted: January 08, 2012 at 09:48 PM (#4031919)
Yes, Walt, that's what he said--Hoffman on the first ballot. Of course, no pure reliever has ever gone into the Hall on the first ballot--Eckersley, who's a marginal case, got in because of his two very unusual peaks.

I think he'll go in, but not in 2016. I suspect he'll get 50-60% of the vote that year. Fingers got 66% in his first year, Gossage 33%, Sutter 24%. Fingers still held the saves record after the 1990 season.

It's unfortunate that Kepner is so muted about the unsubstantiated nature of the "suspicion" concerning Bagwell and Piazza. He is very wan in terms of protesting the current mind-set, and while he's not all that influential amongst his peers, this lack of combativeness regarding the effect of spurious rumors is particularly disappointing.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: January 09, 2012 at 04:36 AM (#4032001)
I think Hoffman has a reasonable chance but I'd expect a debut closer to Smith and quite possibly he'll get stuck there. He has the problem that he was no Rivera. And wasn't Smith still the record holder when he was up for his first vote? And didn't Hoffman own the record for about a second before Rivera broke it?

I'm not sure Smoltz will go first ballot but he might get Eck'd.

It's unfortunate that Kepner is so muted

That's kinda what I meant about it being all over the place but your description might be better. It's like he's doing his best to not "offend" either side. And it ends on a whimper -- "the HoF won't properly represent the era but ... hey."

I suppose it's OK in that it brings the piece closer to "reporting" than "opinion" -- not "taking sides" just reporting the "facts" but in the end that serves the same purpose as supporting the status quo and if you're going to do that, just say so.

   12. MelOtt4 Posted: January 09, 2012 at 05:48 AM (#4032008)
I think he's a little premature writing off Bagwell and Raines. If the totals listed on the site are close to being accurate, both guys are going to get really nice bumps in their vote totals.

Sosa having used steroids would surprise nobody but the "evidence" against him is barely above Bagwell levels.

The evidence for many voters are the 600+ home runs. No way Sammy Sosa could hit that many homers without cheating. That should be sacred ground. On a similar note I think missing out on milestone numbers are going to help Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza when he gets on the ballot.
   13. Johnny Slick Posted: January 09, 2012 at 10:45 PM (#4032809)
Well, and the MASSIVE increase in ability so late in his career. And, well, he did get caught cheating, just not with ROIDS.

Sosa's excuse here always struck me as a massive load of BS. You got your bats mixed up? I don't believe that for a second. The nature of the modern whip-handle bat makes me a *little* skeptical that he was corking up for so long - he had to know that eventually a bat would break - but it's still possible, and to me corking his bats makes a better narrative for Sosa's career than ROIDS anyway. When Sosa was a crap player, he was crap because he swung at everything. A lighter bat with the same surface area might have allowed him to not swing through at so many pitches, making him more selective, and in turn increasing his already pretty decent power.

Or it could have been both, although I agree that you do need better evidence of "he got big, he had a weird career arc, he hit a lot of HRs, and he's a known cheater". I personally would not hold that against Sosa. The bats? I can understand how for some writers, given the dearth of information that is known about folks during this time compared to what we want to know, this is enough evidence to keep him off their ballots for now.

The bat thing though is another issue. I'd be inclined to say "hey hey it's just part of the game Norm Cash and all that" but then I do kind of wonder what the real difference in terms of fairness is between ROIDS and doing this (or spitting on baseballs, or stealing signs, etc.).

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