Baseball Hall of Fame changes its absurd (and racist) ‘Era Committees’

25 07 2016

The Baseball Hall of Fame has improved the ridiculous structure of its Veterans Committees and corrected the egregious racism that was part of the old structure.

The three rotating committees used the last several years will now become four committees, with more frequent consideration by the committees that review more recent players. In a significant development, the revised process will allow consideration again for Negro League players and contributors.

The three Eras Committees the Hall of Fame has been using could hardly be more absurd. Each had its own nonsensical aspects:

  • The Pre-Integration Era Committee, as I noted last year, perpetuated segregation in baseball by having one committee that could consider only white players. Consideration of Negro League players of the Hall of Fame ended in 2006, and the rules for the Pre-Integration Era Committee said that it could consider only “major league” players (and coaches, umpire and executives) whose primary contributions came prior to 1947, and that meant whites only.
  • The Golden Era Committee considered players (and others) whose primary contributions fell from 1947 to 1972. Who the hell proclaimed this the “Golden Era” of baseball? Not Cincinnati Reds fans, whose team’s golden era was just getting started in 1972. Not fans of the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks or other teams that didn’t even exist in 1972. Not fans of the Philadelphia Phillies, who won their only championships after the supposed Golden Era. Hey, my childhood fell during this supposed Golden Era. In other circumstances, I might argue that this was the golden era (the Yankees won 10 World Series in the era). Isn’t whenever you grew up the “golden era” of anything? But in designating eras for Hall of Fame consideration, it’s laughable, as though players elected from this era are automatically greater, more golden, than the others. And, you know what ended the Golden Era? Let’s see, what changed about baseball in 1973? That’s when they adopted the designated hitter rule, which self-anointed purists think ruined baseball. Because it’s so much fun to watch pitchers hit.
  • The Expansion Era Committee considered players and contributors whose greatest contributions came since 1973. But what the hell did 1973 have to do with expansion? It’s the Designated Hitter Era (even though the committee hasn’t admitted anyone who was primarily a DH; the only DH in the Hall, Frank Thomas, was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America, and the Hall calls him a first baseman, even though he played more games at DH). Baseball expanded in 1961 and 1962, adding two teams each year, then in 1969, adding four. So a majority of the expansion teams, eight of 14, were added before the so-called “Expansion Era” of the Hall of Fame’s absurd Era Committees.

The committees rotated, each considering players every three years. Last year the Pre-Integration Era Committee didn’t elect anyone for induction this year.

Now we’ll have four committees: Read the rest of this entry »

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Baseball Hall of Fame president is wrong about how ‘very selective’ Cooperstown voting has been

1 02 2016

Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson is in denial about the history of the Hall and the players it has honored.

In an interview last month with Graham Womack for Sporting News, Idelson said:

A lot of fans, I believe, don’t realize that only one percent of those that played the game have a plaque in Cooperstown. So it’s very selective and very difficult to earn election.

Note that 1 percent figure; we’re going to come back to it. In the same interview, Idelson defended the Hall of Fame’s use of a Pre-Integration Era Committee that every three years schedules consideration of “major league” (which means white) players from before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Consideration of Negro League players from the same era stopped in 2006. The Hall of Fame includes 29 Negro League players and more than 120 white players whose careers were all or mostly played before 1947.

That 1 percent figure is bogus, even if it’s accurate. “Of those who have played the game” includes everyone active in the past five years, when baseball has 30 teams, and none of those players is yet eligible for Hall of Fame voting. I don’t know the history of roster size in baseball, either for most of the season or when rosters can expand in September. But more than 50 players appeared for the Yankees in 2015 and 2005, compared with 40 each in 1965 and 1955, so the recent years, because of roster size and league expansion, have more players than seasons in the distant past, when all the players have been retired long enough to be eligible for Cooperstown consideration.

And the measure of how “selective” the Hall of Fame is or how difficult it is to “earn” election is not Ken Griffey Jr., this year’s first-ballot Hall of Famer, or Mike Piazza, elected this year on his fourth year on the writers’ ballot. The players who wait decades for their Cooperstown moments are the true measure of how “selective” the Hall is: Veterans Committee choices like Deacon White, a 19th-Century player elected in 2013; Ron Santo, elected in 2012; Joe Gordon in 2009.

No player who played in 1990 has yet been eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee. So “those that played the game” includes thousands (a quarter-century’s worth of players) not eligible yet for that second-chance consideration that determines how selective the Hall of Fame truly is. That makes the 1-percent figure grossly misleading. Read the rest of this entry »





Tim Raines and Lee Smith: One more shot on writers’ Hall of Fame ballot

9 01 2016

Two former Yankees, Tim Raines and Lee Smith, have one more year on the writers’ ballot for the Hall of Fame before they fall into the bizarre world of Veterans Committee selection.

Raines looks like he has a possible shot at getting into Cooperstown next year. Smith has almost no shot. Both absolutely belong in the Hall of Fame.

And both belong there for their accomplishments with other teams than the Yankees.

Tim Raines’ chances


Raines will make the Hall of Fame eventually mostly for his achievements in 13 seasons with the Montreal Expos, and secondarily for five seasons with the Chicago White Sox. He played well in three part-time seasons with the Yankees, but those seasons didn’t push him over a threshold such as 3,000 hits (he retired with 2,605) or help him set an all-time record such as most stolen bases (he’s fifth all-time). If championship contributions mattered, Raines’ contributions to the 1996 and ’98 Yankee championships would give him a little boost, but baseball has the only Hall of Fame where championship contributions and post-season play count for nothing (because anti-Yankee bias is so strong).

Raines reached 69.8 percent of the vote this year, his ninth year on the writers’ ballot and by far his best showing. He wasn’t the closest candidate falling short of the 75-percent election threshold. Jeff Bagwell had 71.6 percent of the vote.

If the writers’ ballot had one or two automatic Hall of Famers next year, I think Raines would fall short and only Bagwell would join the automatic guy(s) in the Hall of Fame. Seldom do the writers elect more than two players to the Hall of Fame. Last year’s four-person election included three first-ballot Hall of Famers — pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz — plus Craig Biggio, who had 3,000 hits and a clean reputation and had finished at 74.8 percent of the vote in 2014. But that was a rarity. The Baseball Writers Association hadn’t elected three players in a season since 1999, when another three first-ballot Hall of Famers were elected together: George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount.

Raines would have no chance of making it into Cooperstown in such a year. And probably would fall short in a year like this year, when Ken Griffey Jr. was automatic and Mike Piazza jumped past the 75-percent threshold on his fourth year on the ballot, climbing from 69 percent of the vote in 2015 to 83 percent this year.

This year was an exceptional year, though. Baseball writers who had been retired more than 10 years could no longer vote this year, dropping the number of voters by about 100 to 440 total. Bagwell jumped from 55.7 percent last year to 71.6 this year and Raines jumped from 55.0 to 69.8. It would be surprising if at least one of them didn’t make it in next year. But to expect as big a jump for either next year would be unlikely. I think they barely make it, if they do.

But here’s an interesting twist about next year’s ballot: The two players who might have a shot at first-ballot election, based on their accomplishments, Manny Ramirez and Ivan Rodriguez, are tainted by their use of performance-enhancing drugs. Neither of them had nearly the career that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens did, and those guys aren’t even getting 50 percent of the writers’ vote (see my suggestion for a Scoundrels Committee to deal with Hall of Fame recognition for players involved in gambling and drug scandals).

Vladimir Guerrero is a certain Hall of Famer who will be on the ballot for the first time next year, but voters can be pretty stingy about giving out first-ballot recognition. I expect him to go in his second or third year on the ballot.

Given that the ballot won’t have anyone like Griffey, Johnson, Martinez or Smoltz, who absolutely has to go in on the first ballot, I think Raines has a reasonable shot at joining Bagwell in the 2017 Hall of Fame class.

However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Trevor Hoffman (67.3 percent) jump past Raines and join Bagwell in Cooperstown. I’d be more surprised to see Curt Schilling (52.3 percent) make such a jump. He’s probably two or three years from reaching the 75-percent mark.

2017 will be Raines’ last year on the ballot. Players used to stay on the writers’ ballot 15 years, if they got enough votes, but now you drop off after 10 years. If the writers don’t elect Raines, he should be an easy selection for a Veterans Committee someday (but more shortly on the huge role race plays in those selections).

Lee Smith’s chances

Smith’s Yankee tenure was so short that Yankee fans probably don’t remember him and Yankee haters probably aren’t aware to hold it against him. He pitched only eight innings, in eight games, for the Yankees, getting three saves and no decisions, at the end of the 1993 season. He struck out 11, gave up no runs and only four hits. It was vintage Lee Smith, but just a glimpse.

The Cardinals traded Smith to the Yankees Aug. 31 for Rich Batchelor, a prospect who never became a regular major league player. But Smith, who was 35, signed with the Orioles in the off-season, and led the American League in saves in 1994.

Gaylord Perry has the shortest Yankee career of any Hall of Famer who wore New York pinstripes (I think; correct me if I’m overlooking someone), pitching 10 games, eight of them starts, after joining the Yankees in a mid-August trade in 1980. Unlike Smith, Perry was well past his prime at age 41.

Smith is one of a few players grandfathered in to the 15-year term on the writers’ ballot. If you had already been on the ballot 10 years, you got your full 15, and this was Smith’s 14th year on the ballot. He has topped 10 percent of the vote only once, in 2012. He had 34.1 percent of this year’s vote and has no chance of making the Hall of Fame next year. But he absolutely should be a Veterans Committee choice someday.

Racial discrimination

I believe racial discrimination plays a huge role in Hall of Fame selection, as I noted in a series published here last fall. I don’t think that any baseball writer or Veterans Committee member maliciously or consciously thinks, “I’m not going to vote for this player because he’s black.” It’s more subtle than that, shifting standards that somehow give white players a better shot at enshrinement.

As I noted in the series, automatic African and Latino Hall of Famers, such as Griffey, get in easily. You simply can’t argue that Griffey (or Hank Aaron or Willie Mays or Roberto Clemente) doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.

But borderline selections vastly favor whites. Part of this is institutional: Baseball was segregated until 1947, and Hall of Fame selection standards were pretty low for players of that era (way more borderline white players were selected by Veterans Committees than all the players chosen by the special Negro League Committees). So the raising of standards for more recent players affects all the borderline black and Latino players in major-league history. But it also affects white players such as Roger Maris, Tommy John and Steve Garvey, whose achievements certainly would have won them Hall of Fame election if they had played in the 1920s and ’30s.

But even since players from the integrated “major” leagues started becoming eligible for Veterans Committee election, white players far outnumber minority selections among these borderline players. Since 2012, two white players have been elected to the Hall of Fame by Veterans Committees, Ron Santo that year by the Golden Years Committee and Deacon White in 2013 by the Expansion Era Committee (see my explanation of why the very existence of that committee is institutionalized racism).

That matches the number of African American and Latino players ever elected to Cooperstown by a Veterans Committee: Larry Doby in 1998 and Orlando Cepeda in 1999.

In my Oct. 8 post examining white borderline candidates who make it into the Hall of Fame and minority candidates who are excluded, I had sections on both Raines and Smith, which I will repeat here (with some minor editing because of the different context):

Tim Raines

Max Carey had a mediocre batting average for his day, .285, and had no power. But he played 20 years, got 2,665 hits, scored 1,545 runs and stole 738 bases. How is that worthy of the Hall of Fame, but Raines isn’t, with a higher batting average, more power, more runs, more stolen bases and nearly as many hits? … Carey peaked at 51 percent of the writers’ vote and was elected by the Veterans Committee. Time will ease some of this injustice for Raines and some other minority players.

I went into more detail about Raines’ case for the Hall of Fame in a post reviewing the chances of former Yankees on the 2015 ballot:

Can you name a comparable player to Raines who’s not in the Hall of Fame? Who else in the top five in any major career statistical is waiting to get into Cooperstown without a gambling ban or suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs?

Throw in four seasons leading the league in steals, a batting championship and two years leading the league in runs. Raines absolutely should be in the Hall of Fame (and mostly for achievements before reaching the Yankees; he gave them three part-time years but contributed to their 1996 and ’98 championships). In baseball discussions during their primes, he was always paired with Rickey Henderson. How did one of them become a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and the other one can’t get in?

Raines does have a possible added factor in his consideration: his use of cocaine. He testified during the Pittsburgh drug trials that he used to slide headfirst to avoid breaking the cocaine vials in his back pocket.

But cocaine is not a performance-enhancing drug, and I can’t think of another person blocked from the Hall of Fame because of cocaine use. Lots of players — Vida Blue, Dave Parker, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry — appeared to be on the path to the Hall of Fame, but derailed their careers with cocaine abuse. None of those players reached a level of career achievement where everyone makes it to the Hall of Fame. And Hall voters have honored multiple players tainted by stories of recreational drug use: Orlando Cepeda, Ferguson Jenkins, Paul Molitor, Willie Stargell.

The only players who have more stolen bases than Raines’ 808 are Henderson, Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton and Ty Cobb, all in the Hall of Fame.

Next on the stolen-base list behind Raines is Vince Coleman at 752. But stealing bases was virtually Coleman’s only skill. He hit .264, was only an All-Star twice and only scored 100 runs twice (and never led his league in runs scored).

Raines is much more like the four players ahead of him than like Coleman. Let’s set aside Hamilton, who played in the 1800’s, when baseball was much different, including counting as a stolen base when you went from first to third on a single. And let’s set aside Cobb, who was one of the greatest hitters of all time and still has the career record for batting average.

Comparing Raines as a hitter to Brock, he had better career averages at batting, on-base percentage (a leadoff hitter’s job) and slugging (and, of course, OPS): .294, .385, .425, .810 for Raines, .293, .343, .410, .753. Brock never led the league in a single batting category. Raines led the league in batting (.334) and on-base percentage (.413) in 1986 and doubles (38) in 1984. Brock was more durable, though, playing full-time long enough to reach 3,000 hits (Raines was a part-time player after 1992 and retired with 2,605 hits).

Runs combine hitting and running, and Brock had a slight advantage there. Each led his league twice. Brock topped 100 runs seven times and Raines had six 100-run seasons. Brock had slightly more career runs (in 100 more career games), 1,610 to 1,571.

Brock stole more bases, 938, and led his league in steals more times, eight, but Brock was largely a volume base-stealer. Raines was really a more successful base stealer, safe on 85 percent of his steals, compared to 75 percent for Brock. Even with all his stolen bases, Raines never led his league in times caught stealing. Brock led his league seven times. Raines’ worst season, he was caught 16 times. Brock topped that 10 times, getting caught 33 times in 1974, when he set the single-season record with 118 steals. In fact, Brock’s lead of Raines by 130 stolen bases is actually smaller than his caught-stealing lead, 307-146.

Defensively Raines was way better: He had a higher fielding percentage, .988 to .957. Brock had slightly more putouts, assists and double plays, but he played almost 400 more outfield games. But Raines committed only 54 errors. Brock made 196.

Raines was the player in baseball history most similar to Brock. And you can argue that he was a better hitter, base stealer and fielder. How is one guy in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and the other isn’t there yet?

The comparison to Henderson is not as favorable for Raines. Henderson never won a batting or doubles title, but he led his league in hits in 1981 and on-base percentage and slugging percentage in 1990 (his MVP year, an achievement Raines never matched).

For career averages, Raines had the advantage in batting (.294 to .279) and slugging (.425 to .419), but Henderson led in on-base percentage (.401 to .385) and OPS (.820 to .810). Henderson was a better homerun hitter (297 to 170) and drove in more runs (1,115 to 980).

One of a leadoff hitter’s most important jobs is getting on base, and Henderson led his league in walks four times, topped 100 walks seven times and set the record with 2,190 career walks (he’s second now to Barry Bonds). Raines had a respectable 1,330 career walks but never led his league and never topped 100 in a season.

In runs, Henderson blew Raines (and everyone in baseball history) away, setting the career record (still) with 2,295, leading his league five times and topping 100 runs 13 times.

Henderson stole 1,406 career bases, a record that’s safe for at least 15 years. He stole a record (still) 130 in 1982, one of three years that he topped 100, and he led his league in steals 12 times. He was the greatest base-stealer of all time. Raines was a better percentage stealer, 85 to 81.

So Henderson was the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time and significantly better than Raines. But Raines was the most similar player in baseball history to two first-ballot Hall of Famers. He should be in.

Lee Smith

Here’s the section on Smith from my Oct. 8 post on borderline Hall of Fame candidates:

Here are the career stats of five dominant relief pitchers whose careers overlapped for six seasons in the 1980s:

  1. Pitcher 1 led his league in saves five times, played 12 seasons, had 300 saves, four seasons over 30 saves and a 2.83 ERA. He was a six-time All-Star.
  2. Pitcher 2 led his league in saves three times, played 22 seasons, had 310 saves, two seasons over 30 saves and a 3.01 ERA. He was a nine-time All-Star.
  3. Pitcher 3 led his league in saves four times, played 18 seasons, had 478 saves, 11 seasons over 30 saves and a 3.03 ERA. He was a seven-time All-Star.
  4. Pitcher 4 led his league in saves twice, played 24 seasons, had 390 saves, eight seasons over 30 saves and a 3.50 ERA. He was a six-time All-Star.
  5. Pitcher 5 led his league in saves three times, played 18 seasons, had 341 saves, two seasons over 30 saves and a 2.90 ERA. He was a seven-time All-Star.

I’ll tell you more about each of the pitchers shortly, but first try to guess which one isn’t in the Hall of Fame and hasn’t even come close. It’s the guy with the most career saves, most seasons over 30 saves and second-most seasons leading his league in saves, even though only one of the other pitchers had a shorter career. He’s tied for second in the group in All-Star appearances. He’s also the only African American of the bunch, Pitcher 3, Lee Smith.

Bruce Sutter and teammate Willie Hernandez were among the Cubs who signed this ball, which my father gave my mother in the 1970s. Hernandez matched Sutter with a Cy Young Award and also was an MVP.

Bruce Sutter and teammate Willie Hernandez were among the Cubs who signed this ball, which my father gave my mother in the 1970s. Hernandez matched Sutter with a Cy Young Award and also was an MVP.

Pitcher 1 is Bruce Sutter, who pitched 1976 to 1988. His career was cut short by a nerve injury in his shoulder after he joined the Atlanta Braves, his third team. Sutter won the 1979 Cy Young Award and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006, his 13th year on the writers’ ballot. He had a 68-71 record.

Pitcher 2 is Goose Gossage, who pitched from 1972 to 1994. He had a 124-107 record, recording double figures in relief wins four times. He won election to the Hall of Fame in 2008, his ninth year on the ballot.

We’ll get back to Smith.

Pitcher 4 is Dennis Eckersley (and the reason that I didn’t post win-loss records in listing career achievements. His was 197-171). Eck started from 1975 to 1986 for the Indians, Red Sox and Cubs, going 20-8 his best season, for the Red Sox in 1978. His first bullpen season, 1987 for the A’s, wasn’t very impressive, going 6-8 with just 16 saves. But in 1988, he led the league with 45 saves, starting an incredible five-year run, capped in 1992, when he won the Cy Young and MVP awards, saving 51 games with a 1.91 ERA. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2004.

Pitcher 5 was Rollie Fingers, who burst on the scene anchoring the bullpen for the A’s in their 1972-4 championship run. In 1981, he won the Cy Young-MVP combo. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992, his second year on the ballot.

I’m not saying that any of these white relievers don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. They all do. But Smith was clearly their peer, matching or exceeding their achievements in the very same era when they played. And in 13 years on the writers’ ballot, his peak has been 51 percent of the vote. If he doesn’t get over 75 percent in the next two years, he’ll have another five-year wait, then be eligible for consideration by Expansion Era Committees.

I should add that two other relievers of the era were clear peers of Smith and the four Hall of Famers, at least at their peaks:

  • Dan Quisenberry led the league in saves five out of six seasons, tying him with Sutter for save titles, with more than any of the others. He was in the top three in Cy Young voting four straight years and absolutely should have won in 1983. His 1980-85 performance was the best prime of any of the six, better than Eck from 1988-92 and Sutter from 1979-84. But the Hall of Fame (except in Smith’s case) has a strong bias for longevity over peak performance, and Quiz almost vanished after 1985. Quiz made the Expansion Era ballot in 2013 but fell short of election.
  • Puerto Rican Willie Hernández had an even shorter prime than Quiz, winning the Cy Young and MVP awards in 1984 and having two All-Star seasons after that. But he was a prime closer only for those three seasons.

 

 





Scoundrels Committee: A way to recognize shamed players in the Baseball Hall of Fame

7 01 2016


Ken Griffey Jr., of course, was an automatic Hall of Famer, elected Wednesday by the Baseball Writers Association of America in his first year of eligibility. (Mike Piazza also was elected; more on him later).

But two players who had even greater careers, Barry Bonds (44 percent of the vote) and Roger Clemens (45 percent) got nowhere near the 75-percent election threshold. Neither of them got even half of Griffey’s record 99.3  percent of the writers’ votes (three idiots left him off their ballots).

Bonds’ and Clemens’ fourth year being rejected by the baseball writers comes a few weeks after Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred upheld the suspension from baseball (and Hall of Fame consideration) of the all-time hit king, Pete Rose.

A fourth all-time great, who’s still playing but bound to face a similar unofficial ban from the Hall of Fame, Alex Rodriguez, paired with Rose in the Fox outfield studio during the World Series, a bizarre illustration of how tainted many of baseball’s greatest players have become.

Rather than tolerating this continuing failure to deal with disgraced players, I think the Baseball Hall of Fame needs to formally address the discouraging but growing number of great players known as much for shame as for glory.

Sure, Rose, Bonds and Clemens belong in the Hall of Fame and A-Rod will someday, too, based on achievements. But their disgrace was as profound, or nearly so, as their outstanding play. And they have plenty of company in Cooperstown’s official and de facto Hall of Shame: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Rafael Palmeiro …

Rose and Jackson are barred officially from Cooperstown for gambling offenses. Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro are unofficially barred because of suspicion that they used performance-enhancing drugs. A-Rod certainly will join them once he retires and waits the five years everyone has to wait before getting on the Hall of Fame ballot.

The Baseball Hall of Fame needs a Scoundrels Committee to decide how to handle great players who have brought shame to themselves and the game.

Manfred hinted at such a need in his statement affirming Rose’s ban from baseball:

It is not part of my authority or responsibility here to make any determination concerning Mr. Rose’s eligibility as a candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame …In my view, the considerations that should drive a decision on whether an individual should be allowed to work in Baseball are not the same as those that should drive a decision on Hall of Fame eligibility. … Any debate over Mr. Rose’s eligibility for the Hall of Fame is one that must take place in a different forum.

As various Veterans Committees have given second chances to players passed over by the Baseball Writers Association of America, and a Negro Leagues Committee gave Cooperstown honors to stars kept out of the “major” leagues by segregation, a special committee should consider how to handle shamed players.

How a Scoundrels Committee would work

I will address the players barred (officially or un) from the Hall of Fame shortly, but first some thoughts on how the committee might work:

I envision a committee that would decide which players had shamed the game, how long they would be barred from the Hall of Fame, whether they eventually would be honored and how their combination of achievement and misconduct would be noted in the Cooperstown museum.

I don’t know whether the committee would function as one unit or would have separate subcommittees to handle investigations, punishments and eventual elections.

The committee could decide matters case by case or could set up a framework that would be strictly enforced (or from which exceptions could be granted when situations warrant). For instance, if the committee decided that involvement in gambling brought a lifetime ban from the Hall of Fame, Jackson would be eligible for consideration now, but Rose would not be eligible until after his death. Or, if the committee decided gambling merited a 25-year wait after banishment, both would be eligible now.

Or maybe the committee would give varying levels of punishment for gambling offenses, perhaps something like this:

  • An eternal ban for throwing a game (which some of Jackson’s Black Sox teammates did) or betting against your own team.
  • A lifetime ban for accepting gamblers’ money but still playing hard, as every “Field of Dreams” fan knows Jackson did.
  • A 25-year ban for giving inside information to gamblers or betting for your own team (which tells the bookies when you have confidence and when you don’t, unless you bet every day, and might influence managing decisions or risks you’d take in a game).
  • A 15-year ban on betting only on games involving other teams.

The committee might also extend a ban for a player, such as Rose, who continues gambling, or reduce a ban for a player who does some sort of service to the game or community, such as speaking to players at spring training about how he became involved in gambling and how it hurts the game.

Keep in mind that Paul Hornung and Alex Karras both were suspended for a full year for gambling during their NFL playing careers, but weren’t barred from the Hall of Fame. (Hornung is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I was surprised to see that Karras never made it.)

I can also see a range of penalties for use of performance-enhancing drugs:

  • Maybe the committee would impose a 10-year wait after retirement (as opposed to the normal five-year wait) for players judged to be minimal offenders: perhaps David Ortiz, who failed a single drug test, or Andy Pettitte, who readily admitted use of PED’s once when recovering from an injury. Maybe everyone named in the Mitchell Report gets at least the minimum sentence, with longer sentences for multiple offenses, failed drug tests and so on.
  • Maybe egregious cases such as A-Rod, Ryan Braun or Rafael Palmeiro would get a maximum sentence, such as 20 or 25 years. (At age 31, Braun is well short of Hall of Fame standards, but certainly could have a shot at reaching them. Palmeiro and A-Rod would be automatic selections based on performance alone.) A-Rod’s double offenses, Braun’s defamation of the person who collected his urine specimen and Palmeiro’s finger-pointing denial to Congress (shortly before failing a drug test) elevate them, at least in the public mind, beyond the average drug cheat.
  • I see gambling as a worse offense than cheating, and wouldn’t favor a lifetime ban for using drugs. But I wouldn’t argue if the committee applied one in extreme cases, perhaps if a player was convicted of drug-related crimes.

The committee might decide to respect court decisions, freeing Clemens and Bonds from punishment because they were cleared of drug-related perjury charges in court. Or it might enforce a lower standard of proof than the reasonable-doubt standard of criminal courts. The committee could decide to believe its eyes about the phenomenal physical growth of Bonds or decide to believe Pettitte’s initial testimony that Clemens told him about using PED’s, rather than his later testimony that he might have misunderstood. I could argue minimal penalty, no penalty or heavy penalty for either Bonds or Clemens, but I’d like to see a more formal baseball investigation and decision than the current unofficial ban based on suspicion.

Once a player has served his ban from Hall of Fame consideration, the Scoundrels Committee would decide whether he’s worthy of induction. Jason Giambi and Brady Anderson clearly fell short of Hall of Fame standards. Soon after becoming eligible, they would be dismissed as unworthy, simply on their merits. Pettitte would clearly be borderline, which might mean he never makes it or might mean he makes it after several years of consideration.

Perhaps the Scoundrels Committee would investigate players such as Jeff Bagwell or Mike Piazza, who faced some level of suspicion because their power numbers were achieved during the steroid era, though neither was named in the Mitchell Report. Piazza joined Griffey in winning election this year, his fourth year on the ballot. Bagwell, if his sixth year on the ballot, crept almost to the election threshold at 72 percent.

Maybe if an investigation officially cleared such players of drug use, they would get earlier fair consideration by the writers. But I wouldn’t count on it; as this blog has noted again and again, the writers’ choices are consistently inconsistent.

Other offenses

While gambling and drug cheats have been baseball’s biggest scandals, I suppose the Scoundrels Committee could address other matters of misconduct. I don’t favor any of these suggestions below, but the committee could consider:

  • Doctoring balls, corking bats or other types of cheating seen as less sinister than drugs, might carry shorter sentences. Maybe Sosa would get a couple more years added to his sentence for corking his bat.
  • Recreational drug use. Great players, primarily from the 1980s, who pissed away their talent on cocaine and other drugs, generally ended their careers falling short of Hall of Fame standards, despite their amazing talent. I see Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Dave Parker, Vida Blue, Willie Wilson and Keith Hernandez all falling short based on accomplishments, or borderline at best, but I wouldn’t object if a Scoundrels Committee wanted to formally address their cases and other players whose reputations are harmed but past or future use of recreational drugs.

Here are my thoughts on some of baseball’s scoundrels and whether they belong in the Hall of Fame.

Pete Rose


Ah, Pete Rose. A friend recently included an aside in a newspaper column that was mostly about journalism, noting that Rose belonged in the Hall of Fame. I differed with him good-naturedly on the Rose point, while mostly praising the column, on Facebook. I was interested by how many journalist friends sided with him on the question of Rose. I’m quite confident that these same journalists would be comfortable with — and probably enforce, if they are in a position to hire — journalism’s unofficial but mostly consistent lifetime ban for journalists who are publicly caught plagiarizing, fabricating or doctoring photo content. Some offenses are so grave and so directly related to integrity that the professional sentence is and should be a lifetime ban.

I’m completely comfortable with that, in journalism and in baseball. Pete Rose accepted that penalty, rather than formally fighting the position of the Dowd Report. He did informally fight it for years before admitting that its central conclusion — that he bet on baseball — was true.

Hey, a 26-year ban is pretty harsh, too, but Manfred detailed how shameful Rose’s behavior was and is, and why his ban must continue. Whether the Hall of Fame decides to do something different, he doesn’t belong in baseball. Hell, he bailed on that embarrassing Fox outfield studio gig because he needed to go sign autographs at a casino.

I think that integrity is worth a lifetime ban, and I don’t think Rose has done anything to deserve an exception. His records are legit, even if he was overrated. (He has the most hits ever, but he’s not really the greatest anything: lead-off hitter, switch hitter, contact hitter. He just played a long time, with a lot of great players, and swung the bat a lot and got a lot of hits.) But he dishonored the game, and I see no reason for the game to honor him. At least not during his life.

Ron Santo was a borderline Hall of Famer. I wouldn’t have been outraged if he had never made it to Cooperstown, and I can think of easily half a dozen Yankees with better cases for enshrinement. But I was outraged that Santo was kept out of the Hall of Fame for decades, then admitted to Cooperstown the year after he died. If he was a Hall of Famer, he belonged in the Hall of Fame, and they should have voted him in while he was alive to enjoy it. He was an exuberant man. No one would have enjoyed it more.

I view Rose differently. He accepted and deserved a lifetime ban. He knew that was the punishment every time he placed a bet. If Manfred or some other commissioner or a Hall of Fame Scoundrels Committee wants to cave to the fans who still love Pete Rose and disagree about how important integrity is to baseball, I think they should cave the year after Rose dies. Santo deserved his moment on the green in Cooperstown. Rose doesn’t.

Shoeless Joe Jackson


I loved Field of Dreams. But let’s be honest: Jackson shamed the game even more profoundly and deliberately than Rose. Colluding with gamblers endangers the very integrity of the game, and I don’t minimize his offense. I’m fine with Jackson getting to play ball in an Iowa cornfield (I’ve played there myself), but I think Jackson probably doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.

But he’s been dead 64 years. If a Scoundrels Committee decided to allow posthumous election of players with great careers who were involved with gamblers, I would not complain. Jackson’s offense was not as grave as his teammates who actually threw games.

Bonds and Clemens


On performance alone, setting aside enhancement suspicions, Clemens and Bonds would be automatic Hall of Famers.

They are among the best ever for their full careers (Bonds the only seven-time MVP and Clemens the only seven-time Cy Young winner). And both were multiple winners playing at a Hall of Fame level before they appeared to start enhancing their performance. Once they served their sentences, the Scoundrels Committee probably would and should elect them.

A-Rod probably falls in the same category, whenever he becomes eligible.

Did drugs make the difference?

The Scoundrels Committee might need to decide whether players such as McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield might face a second layer of punishment: After they serve a punishment and become eligible, are they elected based on their achievements? Or does the committee speculate whether they would have reached Hall of Fame achievements without chemical enhancement? These players would be automatic choices based just on their stats, but you could argue in all cases that they wouldn’t have reached Hall of Fame level, or would have just been borderline, without enhancement. I’d be OK with speculative choices if the committee is consistent in its speculation.

McGwire got 12 percent of the vote this year, his 10th on the ballot, and will no longer be considered by the writers (the term on the writers’ ballot has been reduced from 15 years to 10). Sheffield also got 12 percent of the vote his second year on the ballot and Sosa got 7 percent in his fourth year. Palmeiro was on the ballot four years, dropping below the 5 percent threshold to stay on the ballot in 2014. Ramirez will be on the ballot for the first time next year.

Ivan Rodriguez, who also will be on the ballot next year for the first time, might make the Hall of Fame based on his longevity and defense, even if the speculative approach heavily discounted his offensive achievements (which would be fair).

Minor cases

Is there such a thing as a minor case of drug-cheating? Should players such as Ortiz or Pettitte, both of whom were much admired before and after their drug use became known, get a lesser punishment? I could see a Scoundrels Committee deciding various levels of punishment depending on the details of the offense. I think Ortiz would have a better chance of election than Pettitte, but both face second levels of prejudice: the Hall of Fame voters’ demonstrated and consistent biases against designated hitters and Yankees.

Plaques should note shame

Anyway, the Scoundrels Committee would decide penalties and who gets banned from the normal Hall of Fame ballot. Then, after you’ve served your term, the Scoundrels Committee decides whether your on-the-field achievements merited Hall of Fame selection.

And the plaque in Cooperstown should note both the player’s achievements and how he shamed the game.

Personal note

My year-end post on my journalism blog, The Buttry Diary, discussed how medical treatment the past year affected all of my blogs, including Hated Yankees.