Sunday, July 27, 2014

Baseball’s Hall of Fame is a Joke

A number of so-called deserving former players, managers, executives, etc., were inducted today into Major League Baseball’s so-called Hall of Fame. Pardon me if I don’t get all excited or take the news too seriously. My favorite sportswriter of all time was a gentleman by the name of Red Smith and he once wrote that the only solution for the sorry state of the Hall was to blow it up and start all over again. I couldn’t agree more.

For one thing, the Hall’s standards are too low and voting for entrance is too prejudicial. Since 1939, the No. 1 way to gain entrance into the Hall was by a vote of Baseball Writers Association of America, a collection of mostly white, middle-aged men — the very last group you want handling a selection process like this. Back in the day when baseball writers actually were worth reading, the players were making far less money than they are today and the relationship between the two was really too cozy for the writers to be objective. Today, the writers have to grovel just to gain access to baseball’s hallowed stars, so the relationship between the two is antagonistic. Take the case of Boston’s Jim Rice. He had a well known disdain for sports writers which is the reason it took the writers 15 years to finally vote him into the hall. Today, the Hall adopted new rules which allow a player to remain on the ballot no longer than 10 years. Hmmm.

The other way to get in is through a vote of the Veterans Committee, which should be abolished immediately. Between 1945 and 1946, the committee ran rampant, voting all of their cronies into the hall. After that — nada. I guess they just think the modern player doesn’t hack it among the greats of the VC’s era. Ha!

But that’s not my main quarrel with the hall, not by a longshot. Among its members are, to quote Zev Chaftets’ book Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame," a convicted drug dealer, a reformed cokehead who narrowly beat a lifetime suspension from baseball, a celebrated sex addict, an Elders of Zion conspiracy nut, a pitcher who wrote a book about how he cheated his way into the hall, a well-known and highly arrested drunk driver and a couple of nasty beanball artists."

And those are all living members. Among those who are no longer with us are Ty Cobb, who may have actually been a murderer, and who we absolutely know to have been a raging sociopath and an avowed racist who was a card-carrying, torch-waving member of the Ku Klux Klan (as were fellow hall members Tris Speaker and Rogers Hornsby). The hall also contains a defendant in a paternity suit, many gamblers and too many drunks to count (legendary baseball executive Bill Veck claimed Grover Cleveland Alexander pitched better drunk than sober).

During today’s ceremonies, three —count ‘em, three —managers, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, were inducted into the hall. I’ll leave it to someone else to debate their worthiness for the honor— I have no qualms about it — but I will continue to argue the success of any baseball manager is directly linked to the quality of the players on that manager’s team. Casey Stengel is in MLB’s Hall of Fame. Why? I have no idea. The reason given was because of the success of the New York Yankee teams he managed between 1949 and 1960, during which time the Yanks won five consecutive World Series titles (1949-1953) and then after failing to the win the league title in 1954 and the series in 1955, won titles in 1956 and 1958. Sounds impressive. But not really. The Yankees of that era were loaded. They had players on the bench that could start and star for any other club in the major leagues. My mother could have managed that team to the same success Stengel enjoyed. After Stengel’s Yanks lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960, he was fired and subsequently hired by the New York Mets. He managed the Mets four years and in all four of those years the Mets finished 10th in the 10-team National League. If Stengel was such a Hall of Fame-worthy genius, don’t you think one of those four Mets teams could have finished at least ninth?

And although the success of any baseball team (thus manager) is directly linked to the quality of the players on that team, there are only four — four! — general managers — the executives responsible for assembling major league teams — in the hall: Ed Barrow, Branch Rickey, George Weiss and Larry McPhail. That’s blasphemous.

But what’s worse is the baseball writers holier-than-thou, disgracingly sanctimonious decision to exclude Roger Clements and Barry Bonds from the hall. How can they justify including possible murderers, racists, sex addicts, cokeheads, drunk drivers and other nefarious types in the hall, but exclude two individuals, who were acquitted by juries of their peers in courts of law of taking performance enhancing drugs?

Pete Rose deserves a spot in the hall as well. And when he’s inducted, his plaque should note quite emphatically he was banned from baseball for life for betting on games. Yes, he did that. He even admits it now. But that does not take away from what he accomplished on the baseball diamond. He’s the all-time hits leader, for goodness sakes. I simply can’t see how the hall can exclude the all-time hits leader, the all time homers leader and a seven-time Cy Young award winner from the hall, when all the other aforementioned outlaws are allowed in.

As long as this type of bigoted attitude and these types of wrong-headed decisions exist, all I can say about Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame is "pass the dynamite."

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