Jan 09

Disappointed In Hall Balloting; Biggio Snubbed

I am not surprised at the voting numbers for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, but I am stunned at there being a total shutout and disappointed at the reasoning of some writers.

For just the second time in four decades none of the candidates were elected, and that is wrong. Craig Biggio, who was on my ballot, had 3,000, which had been an automatic ticket – save PED user Rafael Palmeiro – to Cooperstown.

One explanation I heard, which I vehemently disagree with was this reporter made it a policy to never vote for somebody on the first ballot that is totally off-base. It is a responsibility to vote, and I believe it is irresponsible and an abuse of power to exercise that logic.

Every player’s case should be judged on its own merits and not voting for a player on the first ballot penalizes him as it disregards what he did on the field. Biggio deserves to be in regardless of whom else appeared on the ballot.

I left off Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, and had my reasons for voting for Mike Piazza, Jack Morris, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez.

For Piazza, he failed no drug test, did not appear on the Mitchell Report and was never accused on the record. His only linkage to steroids was rumors.

I do not understand how a writer can leave off Bonds, Clemens and Sosa this year as a punishment, but vote for them next time. It is our responsibility as a voter to vote with our conscience, but it becomes abusive to say, “I’m punishing him for this year.’’ You are either against a player using PEDs or not.

I would change my thinking if a player’s steroid-aided statistics were denoted with an asterisk and his plaque mentioned his use of PEDs.

Jan 09

New Parameters For Hall Of Fame Voting?

The outcome of today’s Hall of Fame voting could have far reaching ramifications as to future induction parameters.

I voted for both Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, both with good but not overwhelming numbers. My criteria was not only a long productive career, but that both performed of PEDs in that they were never formally accused, named in the Mitchell Report or failed a test. It was a testament to doing it cleanly. In that regard, I also saluted Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez.

These guys, and Jack Morris, approached most of these numbers the right way. Although he fell short because of injury, Mattingly had several dominating years before he was cut down by injury. Sandy Koufax is another who had a mixed career, mediocre followed by great numbers before an injury cut him down. Mattingly’s career was in reverse, with the numbers spiraling down in the end.

As far as Martinez is concerned, he’s being penalized by an anti-DH bias. Designated hitter is an established position and he was the best. He shouldn’t be discriminated against based on his position.

You know my feelings towards the rest.

Numbers have always played a big part in the voting process, with three historically providing an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame, those being 3,000 hits, 500 home runs and 300 victories. Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds touched those numbers, but could be left out. Voters in future years could tweak those numbers, but I am not sure how they will go. Will they raise the bar or enforce them even more with a continued anti-steroid bias?

I will choose the latter. I’ll continue to respect the numbers and vote against those who used PEDs until there is a change in the acknowledgement process. I believe the Hall of Fame is a baseball history museum, and history isn’t always clean. Would you have a Twentieth History Museum and not mention Hitler, Stalin or Charles Manson? Of course not. History is also damning.

In that regard, if the Hall of Fame were to acknowledge on their plaques the linkage to steroids and the baseball record books would have an asterisk next to their names and statistics, I could see changing my vote. But to let them in under the present acknowledgement process wouldn’t be right.

It is a lame argument to claim they didn’t break any baseball rules, but they did break the law. Using steroids without a doctor’s prescription is against the law. How else to you explain Clemens getting injections in his hotel room?

Until that changes, I can’t justify voting for those who cheated, and in future ballots that will include Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz.

 

Dec 20

Casting My 2013 Hall Of Fame Ballot

piazza gfx

I am at my desk holding the official BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. It is my reward turned responsibility for covering Major League Baseball for over 20 years.

That’s close to 2,500 games, many spent watching Mike Piazza dominate his position like no other catcher with 396 homers (427 overall). That dwarfs Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane, all who played before steroids became part baseball’s lexicon.

I vowed not to vote for a player officially linked to steroids, whether by admission, a failed drug test, accused on the record by another player or baseball official, or mentioned in the Mitchell Report.

That meant Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro or Roger Clemens – all on this year’s ballot – won’t get in by me.

Then there is Piazza.

Piazza hasn’t been linked to performance enhancing drugs in any capacity with the exception of innuendo from writers who deemed that an acne-spotted back was as reliable as a blood test. If acne were the sole criteria, then most every teenager in this country would be suspected of being on the juice.

Like the gay rumors, it is unfair, unjust and irresponsible reporting. Yes, Piazza starred in baseball’s checkered steroid era, but I see him as a victim of circumstance, of guilt by association, of being painted with a broad brush.

Supposedly, Piazza confessed to an unnamed reporter. Unnamed reporters, like unnamed sources, raise suspicion and should be questioned with skepticism. It is why I put my name on everything I write.

If a reporter had that story, it would be a goldmine. If so, where is it written? Piazza has denied on the record any usage, and based by his name being absent on any official list, I believe him.

Despite his no-show before Congress, McGwire came clean; Palmeiro failed a test and was suspended; BALCO star Bonds admitted to using the clear and the cream but claimed he didn’t know what it was; Sosa has been blamed on the record and used corked bats twice; and Clemens’ former trainer produced physical evidence with his DNA.

I’m not buying the court decision on Clemens, as the government couldn’t get a conviction with a signed admission. Andy Pettitte’s most significant change-up of his career is what probably allowed Clemens to get off.

Then, there is Piazza who might be denied based on one newspaper account citing back acne. That reasoning is as pockmarked as Piazza’s back at the time.

Voting against Piazza is a writer’s right, but it can’t be based on his .308 career average, .377 on-base percentage, .545 slugging percentage, .922 OPS, 427 homers and 1,113 RBI, numbers that are off the charts in comparison to other catchers.

In case that’s not impressive enough, there are 12 All-Star appearances, 10 Silver Slugger Awards emblematic as the dominant offensive player at his position (and most ever by a catcher), and seven times finished in the top ten on the MVP ballot.

Piazza will get my vote, as will Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, Jack Morris, Don Mattingly and Tim Raines.

Piazza’s numbers are what the writers should be counting, not back pimples or whispers from those too gutless to put their names on the record.

Voting against Piazza is a writer’s right, but not the responsible choice. A journalist’s obligation is to be objective, fair and honest. Voting against Piazza on the strength of a rumor is none of those things.

It’s irresponsible and disgraceful.

John Delcos is a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America and has covered the sport for over 20 years. He has voted for the Hall of Fame for over a decade. You can read more of his insights at NewYorkMetsReport.com or reach him at JDelcos@yahoo.com.