Yesterday, the New York Post‘s Kevin Kernan wrote the Baseball Hall of Fame is considering shortening the current five-year waiting period for induction to three. While Kernan doesn’t come out and suggest the move is in response to the ever-increasing number of PED-pumping superstars inching their way up the ballot, he doesn’t have to: it’s quite clear the Hall is looking for a PED distraction.
Next year, the Hall gets a reprieve: Barry Larkin, Tim Raines, and Jack Morris will headline the ballot. Larkin should’ve received the required votes this year, Raines is the pet-cause of the sabermetric community (as well he should be — there’s a compelling argument he was more valuable than Tony Gwynn), and Jack Morris is the poster boy for those writers/voters who still believe pitchers “pitch to a score” and can win games based on intangibles. At least two of those three will get in, making 2012′s Hall of Fame weekend a nice one. But once the 2012 ceremony wraps up, things are gonna get real complicated.
In 2013, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa will all find their way onto the ballot. As we speak, bloviators across the Baseball Writers Association are preparing their columns and it’s going to get ugly. Words like “integrity” and “morality” are going to be used a whole hell of a lot. In the end, we’re going to be left with maybe a one-person class (Mike Piazza) and three of the game’s greatest players sitting on the outside looking in. In the meantime, MLB says nothing. They do nothing. They continue to condemn and decry the use of PEDs in their game, yet still uphold the records of the men who maybe-kinda-sorta used a legal/illegal substance to help break them. Twenty-plus years later, MLB still has no idea what to make of these players or their accomplishments.
So, why start giving us answers now? Instead let’s leave it to the interpretation of the Hall of Fame voters, who couldn’t possibly screw this up, right? Let’s institute witch-hunts, scapegoats, assumption, and rumor as our new forms of ex-post facto drug testing. Hell, just do a Google image search of “Barry Bonds steroids” and all the answers you need about his candidacy are right there. Then, let’s throw in anyone else who wasn’t Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey, Jr. and keep them out. Who’s going to stop us? MLB? The Hall of Fame? I don’t think so.
I understand the Hall of Fame is a museum, supposedly separate from MLB — but the two organizations are hopelessly intertwined as one group provides a forum for the history of the game and the other preserves it. The Hall of Fame is already an interesting place: one of only three players with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs is about to fall off the ballot while players like Jim Rice and Andrew Dawson are enshrined. MLB, in concert with the Hall of Fame, needs to take the steps necessary to either fully reject this period of time in the game’s history or do something to legitimize it. There’s no in between.