Hank Aaron, who died last week at 86, was a head of state — that state being baseball.
The Baseball Hall of Fame, like a lot oF American institutions and millions of American individuals, suffered greatly in 2020. The Hall saw seven members — the most ever in a calendar year — pass away.
Cooperstown said good-bye to Joe Morgan, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, Al Kaline, Tom Seaver and Phil Niekro.
And the grieving has continued in 2021 with the deaths of Tommy Lasorda, Don Sutton and now perhaps the most painful loss of them all.
Aaron is still, in the minds of many, the all-time home run leader with 755. He also still holds several career offensive records, 45 years after he stopped playing.
If Cooperstown holds a public induction ceremony this summer — they postponed inducting the 2020 class last year due to COVID-19 — the event will have a pall cast over it because of those losses.
That pall would take a drastic turn for the worst if voters on Tuesday elect steroid cheaters Bonds and Roger Clemens to sit on that stage this summer.
It could be the most repulsive ceremony in the history of the Hall — coming in the year when the Hall would be expecting its greatest crowd ever with the delayed induction of New York Yankee great Derek Jeter.
Many Hall of Famers see Bonds and Clemens as cheaters and have no interest in sharing the stage with either. Morgan made that clear when, more than three years ago, he wrote a letter to all voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America urging them not to vote for Bonds or Clemens, without naming them.
“The more we Hall of Famers talk about this — and we talk about it a lot — we realize that we can no longer sit silent,” Morgan wrote. “Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans might think we are OK if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in Baseball. We don’t want fans ever to think that.
“We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.”
This is the ninth time on the ballot for Bonds and Clemens. If they fail to reach the 75% needed for election this year, they’ll have one more shot next year before being taken off the ballot. Their fates would then fall to the Today’s Game era committee.
Bonds and Clemens have gradually gained ground most of the years they’ve been eligible for election. But last year they still fell well short of the finish line — Clemens at 61% and Bonds at 60%.
This year’s ballot is among the weakest in memory, with no clear favorites for election, leaving voters to consider the prospects of finally adding Bonds and Clemens for fear of sending in a ballot with few or no players selected.
Voters have had years when no one had enough votes to qualify. But the door is perceived to be open this year — of all years, with the loss of Aaron, Morgan and so many others who would have been offended at the presence of either.
Voters had to submit their ballots before Dec. 31, three weeks before Aaron passed away. I submitted mine long before that, with the names of three players I’ve supported in the past — Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner and Jeff Kent, none of whom will likely be inducted into Cooperstown anytime soon.
Vizquel is the greatest shortstop I’ve ever seen, and I saw a lot of him (FYI, my ballot was submitted before the stories surfaced of the domestic violence allegations). I believe — since the door in Cooperstown is now wide open for closers — that Wagner was among the most dominant of his time. Kent, an MVP winner with 377 career home runs and 1,518 RBI, is among the greatest offensive second basemen to ever play the game.
No Bonds. No Clemens. No Sammy Sosa. No Manny Ramirez — all steroid cheaters.
Three of the six criteria for election to Cooperstown are integrity, sportsmanship and character. Some voters ignore these or don’t give them much weight. I am not one of them.
Bonds is an admitted steroid user, testifying under oath before a grand jury that he used the “cream” and the “clear” in the BALCO case but was unaware of what they were. Clemens, as we know, was named in the Mitchell Report. The report submitted by highly-respected former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, the man who only brokered peace in Northern Ireland, an investigation conducted by one of the toughest former federal prosecutors in the Justice Department.
Call me crazy, but I figure they have more credibility than Clemens, who has denied using steroids.
Sosa was on the 2003 positive list published by the New York Times. Ramirez has failed multiples drug tests and had multiple suspensions.
Defenders of those players like to argue that it’s unfair to judge Bonds, Clemens and the rest because steroid use was widespread and baseball didn’t test diligently — so surely there are lots of others who didn’t get caught. That’s not even a Judge Judy argument.
Others argue that the Hall has already inducted a number of repugnant players — Cap Anson and Ty Cobb among them.
But I didn’t vote for them. And I am not bound by every vote that has taken place before me. Again, how would any legislative process function if elected officials had to vote the same way that those who preceded them in office did?
Speaking of repugnant, let’s get to Curt Schilling.
Schilling pitched 20 years in the major leagues, with 216 wins. He won 20 games twice. But it is his postseason record that makes his case for the Hall — 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA. He pitched for two World Series champions and won one National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player and one World Series MVP.
He would also have to rally to be a human being.
Schilling has tweeted that the rioters attacking the Capitol were actually Antifa. He’s told his followers a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting was a paid actor. He wrote “so much awesome” under a photo of a T-shirt with the words: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.”
He later claimed it was “sarcasm.” Did it seem humorous when journalists were being attacked by the rioters who sought to overthrow the government?
The Hall doesn’t include “basic humanity” as one of the criteria for membership in Cooperstown. Maybe it should.
You having a hard time figuring out what “humanity” is?
See Hank Aaron.
Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan and on The Kevin Sheehan Podcast.
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