The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has announced this year’s candidates for the Hall of Fame. It is now up to members of the Baseball Writers Association of America to decide who gets the bronze plaque in the “shrine” in Cooperstown.
There are six names on the ballot that are, well, “problematic”, to put it mildly. Four people who are on their last chance to be voted in, and two newcomers.
Those with having their last shot are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa. The newcomers are David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez.
One can make the case that all six have careers that make them worthy of the honor; four of them – Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and Rodriguez – are arguably All-Time Greats. But they’ve all got things holding them back. All but Schilling have been connected in some way with the use of performance enhancing drugs, and Schilling’s outspokenness is actually hurting him.
I suspect that Ortiz and Rodriguez will get voted in this year, while the other four will be denied the honor (at least until the appropriate Veterans Committee takes up their cases).
The allegations about PEDs are of various levels of seriousness. I’m not going to get into the details here. But there’s one thing that separates the “Gang of Four” from “Big Papi” and “A-Rod”.
Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and Sosa have done nothing to amend their reputation. Schilling can’t keep his mouth shut, and the others haven’t done anything to counter the allegations. One can’t really expect them to admit the use of PEDs, but there’s been no sign of any attempt at changing their image.
The allegations against David Ortiz are the thinnest of rumors. He’s denied them, even Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that there’s nothing to the tenuous at best connection. It all comes down to unfounded suspicion – he was an average player who suddenly somehow became a superstar after changing teams. OBVIOUSLY, he had to be using PEDs, because that has never happened at all in the entire history of professional sports….
As far as Alex Rodriguez is concerned, let’s divide his career into three parts.
First, there’s his seven years with the Seattle Mariners. A three-time All Star, and he arguably should have won the MVP award in 1996 and 1998. He was a bright young talent, liked by pretty much everyone – or at least he wasn’t a jerk. Then he became a free agent, and signed a contract with the Texas Rangers that made him the highest-paid player in all of professional sports. Suddenly, all eyes were upon him; he had to show that he was worth it. Three more All Star nods, three years of leading the league in home runs, and one MVP award said he was indeed worth it.
Then the Rangers traded him to the New York Yankees, starting the second act of his career. He became instant fodder for the tabloid sports pages; the New York press couldn’t get enough of him. And not in a good way, either. Possibly due to all the attention, he began to look like a jerk who, despite two more MVP awards and more All Star nods, would always get the blame for failing the Yankees in the playoffs. A one-year suspension for his involvement in a PED scandal didn’t help his reputation.
He hung up the spikes after the 2016 season, and started his third act. He became an analyst with FOX Sports and ESPN where he seems affable enough and has left all the sullen jerkishness behind.
That’s why I think A-Rod will eventually make it into the Hall of Fame. He’s taken steps to amend his reputation, even if he isn’t actively atoning for any wrongdoing. And he’s actually “done time” for his sins.
Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and Sosa have had fifteen years to clean up their acts. That should have been plenty of time.