By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – The Baseball Writers’ Association of America continued to serve as the moral police on Tuesday.
First of all, congratulations to the newest electees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as pitchers Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz, all got in on their first time on the ballot, while Craig Biggio enters one year after coming up just two votes shy.
There is no question all four deserved to be in and while the general consensus is that this is a good day for baseball, I’m not so sure.
Yes, Cooperstown will be rocking next July with four people going in, but I’m still focused on the guys who did not get in. And I am not even talking about the Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens types. I am talking about the guys who have now been labled steroid abusers without a shred of evidence by the BBWAA.
If I had a vote Bonds and Clemens would be on my ballot, but I can at least understand why they are not on others. Someone, though, has to explain to me why Mike Piazza is not in the Hall of Fame. It was ridiculous that he wasn’t in last year and it’s even more absurd that he has to wait for a third ballot.
Piazza is the best hitting catcher of all-time. There is no dispute about that. But, the rank and file of the BBWAA has pegged him as someone who may have taken performance-enhancing drugs without any evidence.
Piazza was the closest of those not elected and received 69.9 percent of the vote and was 28 votes shy of election. He is going to get in at some point and he’s far from the best player not to get elected on his first or even second try. Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar and even Joe DiMaggio were passed over their first time around too.
Yes, Joe DiMaggio was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
This isn’t some grass-roots campaign to get Piazza in, I just can’t take the fact that people chose not to vote him in because, maybe, just maybe he may have dabbled with PEDs. Although nobody knows for sure.
There is no paper trail like there is with guys like Bonds or Clemens. The only red flag for him are the obscene offensive numbers produced by a catcher in an era where the numbers were skewed by the guys we know were using. That and speculation from blogger Murray Chass, who once noted that Piazza had a case of back acne.
So, of course, that means he is guilty. Career tarnished.
And you can throw Jeff Bagwell into that same mix too.
Now if you held a gun to my head and asked me if either of those two guys took PEDs, I’d say yes, especially in the case of Bagwell. But a whole lot of other people did in that time, too. Is it the 75-percent that Jose Canseco once claimed? I’m not sure, but it’s probably not far from that number and I’d be willing to bet some of them who did take them have already been elected.
Remember, the Mitchell Report flat out stated that as far back as 1973 performance enhancing drug use in baseball was “alarming.”
Now, there is nothing to suggest that Pedro, Unit or Smoltz ever used PEDs, but why are they not under the same scrutiny that Piazza seems to be?
Pedro and Unit were as dominant as any pitchers we have seen in the last 50 years and Smoltz had to overcome Tommy John surgery in 2000 and eventually became one of the more dominant closers in the league.
Are we 100-percent sold Smoltz did not take anything to speed up that recovery?
If you smile a lot and get along well with the press, those questions don’t seem to come up I guess.
Forget Piazza, though, the Hall will always be tarnished for me until it opens its doors to Bonds and Clemens. The same group of people who chose to give Darin Erstad and Tom Gordon Hall of Fame votes are the ones who decided to keep Bonds and Clemens out.
Makes perfect sense.
When you go to a museum about American history, are the bad times just ignored? Of course not.
And what exactly are they trying to keep so sacred up in Cooperstown?
The Hall of Fame features a guy like Ty Cobb, someone who may have been a better racist than he was a ballplayer. And that’s saying something. And Cobb is nowhere near the only bad guy in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
That’s the point.
For some reason, though, PEDs are the hill BBWAA will die on.
Now, Piazza stands a good chance at getting in next year, as Ken Griffey Jr. is really the only lock candidate on the ballot. Don’t get me started on Trevor Hoffman. He’ll probably get in at some point, but it won’t be his first time on the ballot.
Regardless, balloting has become the all powerful BBWAA getting up on their high horse and letting the world know that they are the ones who judge the game’s most extraordinary individual honor.