Thursday, January 10, 2013

The baseball fans doth protest too much, methinks, and yet ...

When you've almost entirely lost interest in the perennial baseball Hall of Fame routine well before the current "who gets kept out" controversy, it's tough being a baseball history nut, because as much as it annoys me, I still do care about it in some strange way even when I say I don't. That's frustrating.

The Hall held its election, and yesterday it was revealed that no one won. I read three solid explications, two before the fact and one after. As usual, Keith Olbermann is right on target, and he gives some love to my baseball writer hero, former pitcher Jim Bouton.

Nobody Elected to HOF: We Deserve It, at Baseball Nerd

 ... To his eternal credit (in 1998), the author and former pitcher Jim Bouton not only disagreed, but got it exactly right. Some day, he says in the interview, baseball will have to reckon with years and years of records that will be artificially inflated, distorted beyond all measure, by the effects of a drug that lets you keep working out when the guys next to you – or before you, chronologically – have to drop the barbell. It was Bouton, after all, who had written in the eternal Ball Four that if a pitcher could take a pill that guaranteed him a) 20 wins and b) that he’d die five years sooner, he would’ve swallowed it before you finished that “b)” part ...

... The path to Steroid Hell was indeed paved with good intentions. And Jim Bouton’s pills. And the drugs that he didn’t know the name of that the guy told me about 26 years ago that they also gave the East German Women Swimmers. And the stuff we saw with our lying eyes and just pretended wasn’t real.

Bill Pennington focuses on the the many creative forms of aberrant behavior previously tolerated by voters.

Hall of Fame Has Always Made Room for Infamy, at the New York Times

... Players linked to steroid use have been resoundingly rejected by Hall of Fame voters in recent years, shunned as synthetically enhanced frauds. But drawing an integrity line in the sand is a tenuous stance at a Hall of Fame with a membership that already includes multiple virulent racists, drunks, cheats, brawlers, drug users and at least one acknowledged sex addict.

In the spirit of Groucho Marx, who refused to join any club that would have him as a member, would not baseball’s 77-year-old gallery of rogues be the perfect fit for (Barry) Bonds and (Roger) Clemens?

In the process, he digs up a classic baseball boozer anecdote.

Casey Stengel (class of 1966) once called right fielder Paul Waner (class of 1952) a graceful player. Why?

“Because,” Stengel said, “he could slide into second base without breaking the bottle in his hip pocket.”

But Jayson Stark's viewpoint comes closest to mirroring my own, except that a baseball establishment refusing to recognize Marvin Miller probably can't be trusted to tell the truth about its past, and that's quite regrettable.

Let's face it: Hall of Fame is a mess; Something must be done because current system of electing players isn't working, at ESPN

... Maybe it needs to be a place that does what other great history museums do -- tell the story of a time in history, for better and for worse, wherever it leads. Maybe that's not exactly what we would hope and dream a Hall of Fame should be. Maybe, though, that's what it has to be, because if we try traveling down that other road, we'll find nothing but forks and detours and roadblocks.

But once we have that conversation, at least we'll know how to vote and how to proceed and how to build a Hall of Fame for the 21st century.

If we decide it's a museum, then we need to put all of these men -- the greatest players of their generation -- in the Hall of Fame, and let the sport do what it should have done years ago: Figure out some way to explain what happened back then.

There are many ways to do that. Put the good stuff and the bad stuff right there on the plaques. Erect informational signs that explain the context of that era -- and every era in baseball history. Just be real and honest, and let the truth carry the weight of history in all its permutations.

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