Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Ortiz in, Bonds, Clemens out … ah, perfection
Even as each must make up the criteria as they go — or because they must — Hall of Fame voters get it right
This will be about what happened on Tuesday, when the Baseball Hall of Fame ballots came in, so you’ve got that coming.
To get there, let’s take an odd rout.
To get there, let’s begin with Donald Trump, who if he ever played the game, surely bet on it, corked his bat, dipped a glove in pine tar and put it on his pitcher’s hand and told “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” and, let’s be real, not once ran out a pop-up.
Anyway, you know how Trump likes to take things he’s done that are likely criminal, like threatening to hold up military aid to Ukraine unless that nation’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced an investigation of the Bidens, or his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he said, “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes, give me a break, we have that in spades,” and rather than defend their legality or appropriateness, goes straight to jumping the shark and calling each call “perfect.”
Well, Tuesday’s Hall of Fame balloting, in which only Red Sox hero David Ortiz passed the 75 percent threshold by being named on 77.9 percent of all ballots, while Barry Bonds (66 percent), Roger Clemens (65.2 percent) and Sammy Sosa (18.5 percent) all fell short in their 10th and final year on the ballots, leaving their cases to be reconsidered years later by veterans’ committees that may be even less forgiving of their alleged performance-enhancing past, was kind of perfect in the way Trump would like us to believe his calls were.
Though not criminal, the annual vote by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America is entirely controversial, emotional, political and right or wrong, based upon criteria nobody’s ever really agreed upon in the first place, and though that may seem like the furthest thing from perfection, the opposite is true.
You know how NFL coach Bill Parcells used to say, “You are what your record says you are.”
Similarly, entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame is about what the writers decide it is, even if every single one of them has their own idea what it should be, and it’s perfect precisely because they do.
It’s not perfect because the decision went the way I’d hoped it would go, though I continue to be against the enshrinement of both Clemens and Bonds, perhaps the greatest pitcher in the game’s history and the most dominant hitter in the game’s history.
Bonds, as you may know, reportedly admitted to taking “the cream” and “the clear,” given him by personal trainer Greg Anderson, to a grand jury in December of 2003, though claimed not to know they were performance enhancing drugs, as though he naturally hit a home run every 8.1 at bats from age 35 to 38, after hitting one every 14.4 at bats from age 24 to 34, as though the size of his head and body ballooning were the most natural things in the world, too.
Clemens, meanwhile, struck out more batters per nine innings (8.8) the last 12 years of his career than the first 12 (8.3), and though he beat the perjury charges stemming from his denial of all steroid use during 2008 congressional testimony, at trial the government produced cotton balls and needles it claimed tests proved contained Clemens’ DNA, traces of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone.
All that and of his seven Cy Young Awards, the last four were earned during his 14th, 15th, 18th and 21st seasons, at ages 34, 35, 38 and 41, so he clearly found a fountain of youth somewhere.
To me, they committed fraud upon the game. For me, Mark McGwire and Sosa, did, too, stealing every future legitimate chase of Roger Maris’ single-season home-run record, only to have Bonds then fraudulently take it for himself, hitting 73 in 2001, before later stealing the all-time home run mark of Henry Aaron, perhaps the finest gentleman the game has ever known.
For me, their historic greatness, even their pre-PED Hall of Fame worthy careers, had they played no more, win them no favors given the records they fraudulently stole and who they fraudulently stole them from: all of us.
Yet, the beauty of Tuesday is, while voters who think like me have their vote, so do voters who think like the greatest sportswriter on earth, Joe Posnanski, who believes they must be enshrined for their absolute greatness.
The beauty is there are so many reasons voters want them in and so many reasons voters want them out and each must deal with their own conscience.
Some believe they don’t belong because they used steroids, while others believe they don’t belong because they’ve offered no contrition, admitted nothing and given everybody the middle finger about the whole thing.
Others want them in because the whole game was awash in PEDs, it was the times, and others want them in despite their having cheated the game, because they were still the best and how can you keep the best out?
The beauty is there’s no cookie cutter formula to deem any player Cooperstown worthy, even for performance, to say nothing of their being no systematic application to the request voters take integrity, sportsmanship, character and team contributions into account for each player on the ballot.
The beauty of it is the game’s guardians, the writers, must each decide what it all means and what should be done, and though Bonds and Clemens (and Sosa and McGwire) have their champions, they’ve not had enough to get the call David Ortiz received on Tuesday.
Had they, they’d belong in the club, but they didn’t so they don’t.
It’s not arbitrary, but the collective consciousness of the game, expressed by individuals attempting to honor the game.
Thanks for reading Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.