Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Baseball Post

Well, there are two things going on, baseball-wise, right now: Hot Stove League, with lots of signings, and HOF voting.  I'll stick with the latter, for a while.  I'll go over my thoughts on the full ballot next week or the following week, but this week I'll get that other issue out of the way.  I've said it before, but it's worth saying each year: eventually, the steroids guys are going to go in.  All of them, more or less; I suppose there might be a fringe guy or two where that'll tip the balance the other way, but I wouldn't bet on it.

There are two reasons why I'm very confident about that.  The second reason is that I'm fairly certain that people down the road will care a lot less about it than people do now.  Part of that has to do with the way things always are when something disappointing is revealed about baseball players; it takes a while to put it into context, so that when you hear about Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmiero you think about the whole player and the whole career, not just PEDs.  Part of it is that sooner or later I think the odds are that people will realize that there's no reason to treat the steroids crowd any differently than we've treated Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, and the rest of the players who drank the funny coffee all those years.  And part of it has to do with the future, and the odds that sooner or later we'll have pills that can help you get stronger without side-effects, and those will be legal and accepted.  We already, after all, have surgery to improve players, and no one seems to think of that as massive cheating.

But the main reason (and this certainly comes from what Bill James has said about the Hall of Fame) is that the Hall, as an institution, needs to have inductees.  They aren't going to be able to skip a generation of players.  Moreover, if they just induct the best supposedly "clean" ones, they'll risk turning the Hall into a joke.   And remember; the only thing that makes the Hall of Fame into the "real" Hall of Fame is that everyone believes in it.  If the Hall in Cooperstown is a joke, someone is going to start their own HOF-like thing, induct the actual greats, and if people start believing in that one, the current Hall could find itself a relic.

And that's not to mention the increasing chances that someone already inducted will be found out as a steroids user, making it even sillier to keep the rest out. 

So, I'm  not sure how quickly it'll happen, but my guess is that McGwire will get in via the writer's vote before his time runs out, and eventually, as I said, they're all going in. 

4 comments:

  1. I agree with you, JB, and I'd add in another reason: no one seems to think the Hall can keep Bonds out, and if Bonds is in, than the reasoning to keep the other PEDdlers out goes up in smoke.

    For example: I'm a Cardinals fan who was positively ELECTRIFIED by Mark McGwire. BUT I don't want him in the Hall. Mostly because there's just too much baggage, I don't want to hear all the stories again.

    HOWEVER. If Bonds gets in, I'll DEMAND that McGwire gets in, too.* Granted, my demands are worth precisely nothing, but this is about my THINKING, not my actual power.

    So that's the rub. Once one's in- and by all indications, one IS in, and he's the one most associated with the scandal- you've got to let them all in.

    And that's fine, of course. While it sounds nice to have a "character" element in the Hall, the fact is, we haven't yet (and plenty of HOFers would fail that test). And hell, I don't want to leave it up to sportswriters' subjective idea of character.

    *- Actually, maybe not. I could be convinced that McGwire was too "one dimensional". But still, 500 Home Runs, man.

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  2. Colby,

    Of course, if Bonds really does go to jail, they may wind up voting against him, at least in the short term. Same with Clemens.

    But you're severely underrating Mark McGwire. Yes, it was a short career, but still there's no one remotely of his accomplishments who isn't in the HOF.

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  3. Voters may choose to eliminate alleged PED years from HOF resumes. In that case, they would cut off everything pre-1999 for Bonds and everything pre-~1996 for McGwire. That leaves Bonds with 400 HRs, 400 steals, 8 gold gloves in 9 years and a surefire, first-ballot unanimous entry into the Hall. According to Baseball-Reference.com, McGwire was most similar to Cecil Fielder and Dave Kingman before he allegedly hit the needle - hardly HOF material.

    Or voters may choose subjectively to handicap the PED years. Not only was Bonds already in the Hall, but his alleged PED years are actually quite a bit more impressive than McGwire's (admittedly also impressive) results. Bonds' prime alleged PED years were 2001-4; he was MVP in each of them, during which time he provided legitimacy to stat nerd acronyms such as WAR, WPA, REW, OPS+, and who knows what else, in leading them all by stupendous margins. Bonds' alleged PED run was a stat geek's dream.

    That said, my view is that McGwire makes it anyway, because while voters may wish to make subjective parsings for Bonds, McGwire (or more recently, Jose Bautista), its guys like A-Rod who are impossible to adjust, so such voters will simply quit trying.

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  4. CSH,

    McGwire SLGed 618 as a skinny rookie in his 23 year old season. Obviously, he then did serious weight training, and we know that PEDs were part of that, but just as obviously we would expect McGwire to add strength and power in a world with no PEDs. I think it's a joke to think that we can sort any of that out. I'm not sure which season you're calling the "before" season...didn't Canseco say he was using in the late 1980s?

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