- - Tuesday, January 15, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

We are on the brink of opening up the well of poison that has become the Baseball Hall of Fame announcements.

Voting has already taken place among the eligible baseball writers, and the results will be revealed on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Many ballots have already been made public by voters, and I’ll make mine public here. But as I have often said, the vote often turns into a venom-filled referendum on truth and justice instead of simply a decision about a baseball player’s career.

The hostility and resentment that has come to define Hall of Fame voting is fueled by two camps — the numbers geeks who believe all you need to know about a player’s Hall of Fame status can be found on their keyboards with their courageous fingertips, and the voters who have decided that the failure of their brethren to date to vote known performance-enhancing substance abusers into the Hall is somehow a human rights violation.

The stat warriors battled against pitcher Jack Morris for the entire time he was on the ballot. But the committee known as the Modern Baseball Era committee, consisting of former baseball players, managers and executives with knowledge beyond a website, know what a standout pitcher Morris was. They elected Morris — the pitcher you wanted on the mound in a big game for a decade — in 2017.

The stat warriors who fail to recognize the difference between information and knowledge get angry enough when baseball writers ignore their petty whining. To have those who have played and worked in the game do so is the path to the destruction of Cooperstown.

“How Jack Morris complicates future of Hall of Fame pitcher selections,” read the story by David Schoenfield of ESPN after Morris’ election by the committee — a blatant case of the epidemic of “what about” that we suffer from in today’s society, as if Morris’ candidacy on its own wasn’t enough to judge.

At least that wasn’t as bad as a Sports Illustrated story by Jon Taylor last month about the committee’s decision to elect Harold Baines and Lee Smith to the Hall of Fame, which declared, “Harold Baines’ Stunning Hall of Fame Election is an Embarrassment.”

That has what it has become — a decent man who had a big impact on two franchises, with a statue outside Guaranteed Rate Field to mark his 14 seasons with the Chicago White Sox and elected to the Orioles’ Hall of Fame to honor his seven years in Baltimore, a player who suffered with bad knees for much of his 22-year career, limited to designated hitter but still slugged 386 career home runs and drove in 1,628 — is now an embarrassment to the Hall of Fame.

Committee members — specifically White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Hall of Fame general manager Pat Gillick (who had Baines on his Orioles rosters) and Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa, his manager in Chicago — had the knowledge to believe that Baines is a Hall of Famer. Of the 16 ballots on the committee, Baines was named on 12 of them. When he was on the baseball writers’ ballot, I voted for Baines. Having covered him in Baltimore and knowing the respect and reverence in which he was held by teammates, I believed he was a Hall of Famer.

Now, you may believe otherwise. And you would be entitled to do so. That’s a disagreement. That’s a debate.

It’s not a holy war.

OK, here is my Hall of Fame ballot: Roy Halladay, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner and Larry Walker. No Barry Bonds, no Roger Clemens, no Manny Ramirez and other performance-enhancing substance abusers with circumstantial evidence connections.

I’ve stated my thoughts year after year on the cheaters. Bonds admitted to using substances in grand jury testimony, but claimed he didn’t know what it was. Clemens was named in the Mitchell Report and I believed his chief accuser, Brian McNamee. Ramirez was suspended twice for violating baseball’s drug policy.

This notion that because I don’t know who else may or may not have used steroids that I can’t judge the ones that I know used is ridiculous. As far as past cheaters finding their way into the Hall, I didn’t vote for them and I am not bound by previous votes — another ridiculous notion.

Now Bonds and Clemens may wind up getting past the 75 percent needed for election in their final years of eligibility. If they do, fine. I think it will do irreparable damage to the Hall membership, some of whom have made it clear they don’t want these cheaters on stage with them for Hall of Fame weekend. But if that’s what voters decide, fine. I won’t throw a fit or boycott the voting as some of the Cheated Generation have done, as if they taking some kind of noble stand for, of all people, cheaters.

Something surrounding the baseball Hall of Fame voting may be embarrassing, but it isn’t Harold Baines.

You can hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and also on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.

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