Today, this year’s inductees for the Baseball Hall of Fame are announced, and this will most likely be the first empty class since 1996. As fucking stupid as this is (and it is), it’s only emboldened by didactic fatheads who think their job is not solely to write about expensive diversions for a living, but to serve as moral arbiters for the unwashed masses who don’t know any better (aka “everyone who isn’t a jackass sportswriter”).
To all the sportswriters clutching their pearls with one hand while using the other to cast no vote for any known or implicated steroid user: Take your ballot, roll it up real tight, and feel free to cram it straight up your moral asshole. We’re not electing deities, we’re paying tribute to the game’s history.
The fact we have to go through this year after year is a complete and total farce, especially when we consider the quality of people doing the voting. Last year Barry Stanton, an ESPN news editor, voted for Jack Morris, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez, Don Mattingly and BJ Surhoff, which Tommy Craggs described as a “big shrieking monkey cage of a ballot” and a ballot “that eats crayons.” He’s right. So right off the bat, we’re dealing with an imperfect voting bloc filled with people who would probably answer the question, “What goes good on top of a Ritz cracker?” with such responses as “Paint thinner! A horse! Gilda Radner!”
Yet they’re charged with inducting people into baseball’s most hallowed halls, built ostensibly to serve as the physical embodiment of the sport’s history. As you might expect, a task of this sort lends itself immediately to self-seriousness and self-aggrandizement. Tom Verducci, who is normally an excellent writer, bloviates for nearly 3,500 words about why he votes the way he does. To spare you the trouble of slogging through all of that, it basically boils down to this: “When I vote for a player I am upholding him for the highest individual honor possible. My vote is an endorsement of a career, not part of it, and how it was achieved. Voting for a known steroid user is endorsing steroid use.” Fine, I guess. But he’s missing what I think is more important here.
Same with Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Most of the way through, Miller’s article is actually pretty decent as he allows for a certain of amount of self-reflexivity and room for uncertainty in the process, but he more or less slams the door on any of that with his closing line: “There comes a time to take responsibility, to make a stand, to declare right is right and wrong is wrong.”
Yeah! The thinking that leads to that type of declaration always leads to rationality! Like in debates about abortion, the existence of God, and whether or not listening to Radiohead is actually any fun. Taking a stand and remaining unwavering in that point is how you bring people together and advance cultural ideas!
Nevermind the fact that we’re talking about, back to Craggs, “a hugely self-important institution populated by drunks and bigots and flakes and syphilitic halfwits that regularly goes through a massive, public spasm of pretending it’s a priesthood.” This is fucking baseball. Remember when USA Today ran that ridiculous story about the Rockies basing their personnel moves on creating a Christian clubhouse? Todd Helton refuted the report with this great quote, “We’re scumbags like anyone else. And we’re baseball players, so probably worse.”
In 2008, Bill Simmons wrote a piece about the eerie silence around the game after Barry Bonds retired. In it, he makes a case for what the Hall of Fame is (or should be):
Quick tangent: By definition, the Hall is a museum that teaches visitors about baseball history. Shouldn’t it reflect that history? It can’t pick and choose its lessons, for the same reason the Smithsonian doesn’t ignore nadirs in this country’s history like slavery, Hiroshima or Vanilla Ice. Pete Rose’s plaque needs to be in Cooperstown and so do those of Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and every other disgraced legend, even if the plaques are crammed into a creepy, poorly lit basement that makes every visitor feel like Clarice checking in on Hannibal Lecter. The athletes would be simultaneously honored and dishonored, which is only right.
I couldn’t possibly agree more. Dedicate an entire wing to teaching visitors about the entirety of the Steroid Era. Show them the gaudy homerun totals. Show them before and after pictures of Bonds, McGwire and Sosa. Remind them that 1996 MVP Ken Caminiti is dead, and that steroids likely contributed to his early demise. Show Palmiero wagging his finger at Congress next to a loop of every TV sports personality eviscerating his positive steroid test. Include exhibits about what steroids do to your body.
Even better, since this is the process we have for election, print out every single column written by some sanctimonious, pedantic wet fart of a sportswriter up on his high horse, and wallpaper the entire wing with the scathing words of the almighty electorate. Teach visitors that while steroids might provide fleeting glory, ultimately the flaming words of the ink-stained wretches will coat you in a scent you can never wash off, and, in the words of Mark McGwire, remind them that taking steroids is “a mistake that I have to live with for the rest of my life.”
Let’s actually use this era as a throughway for learning, a nexus for dialog; not an opportunity for another million pathetic essays that condemn the athletes themselves, and, by extension, the self-important, self-appointed gatekeepers of morality that suffocate us with pretension and sanctimony.