Updated: Feb 5
By: JOSEPH SIMILE / SPORTS CO-EDITOR
The mission statement of the Baseball Hall of Fame is, “to preserve the sports’ history, honor excellence within the game, and make a connection between the generations of people who enjoy baseball.” Unfortunately for many fans they find that, year after year, the institution has failed to uphold and achieve their mission.
The Baseball Hall of Fame, a revered place in Cooperstown, NY, is a beloved shrine to baseball’s legacy. However, despite the unrelenting adoration from fans around the world, many hold a personal vendetta against it, claiming that it has grossly misrepresented much of the great players from the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
This fact has never been more prevalent than this year, when the 2022 induction class only featured longtime Red Sox slugger and fan favorite, David Ortiz. It was hugely disappointing for fans of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens who will no longer be eligible for election after this year.
Players such as Bonds, Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodgriguez, David Ortiz and many others played in an era where steroid use and scandal was believed to be rampant in the MLB.
However, despite the things that clouded the MLB during this era, the League office widely turned a blind eye. Some believe that Commissioner Bud Selig, a Hall of Famer himself, was okay letting the players abuse performance enhancing substances because revenue was increasing, fans were coming to the games, and baseball was exciting again.
To many, there seems to be a double standard in the Hall of Fame in regards to how PED allegations are handled. For example, Bonds is widely believed to be among the best baseball players of all time, but he had a damaged reputation for quite some time during his career due to PED allegations against him.
Bonds was known for being difficult and standoffish, but he has since stated his regret for how he acted in his playing days, as he said in an interview with Terence Moore in 2016, “I kick myself now, because I'm getting great press [since being more cooperative], and I could have had a trillion more endorsements, but that wasn't my driving force.”
On the other hand, David “Big Papi” Ortiz was perceived to be a funny, approachable, andopen individual who was a favorite amongst fans, players, and writers. Despite the PED allegations against him, Ortiz got into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, while Bonds is now off the ballot after 10 years.
An even more egregious double standard with the supposed “character clause” occurs when you look at who is currently in the Hall of Fame.
Early 20th century legend Rogers Hornsby was accused of being a Klu Klux Klan member and releasing Catholic players because of their beliefs. Yet another, Bobby Cox, who is the leader in managerial ejections assaulted and abused his wife.
Cap Anson, the man whose Hall of Fame plaque reads, “Greatest hitter and greatest national league player-manager of the 19th century,” was also one of the greatest driving forces in the segregation barrier in baseball, literally gatekeeping games against Black opponents.
The list goes on and on and includes the likes of Yankees fan favorite, Whitey Ford, who admitted to cheating in MLB games and encouraged aging pitchers to do the same and Charles Kaminsky who purposefully underpaid and exploited his players.
While all of these individual cases are different, there is a precedent for members of the Hall who do not pass the “character clause”. The Hall of Fame is trying to eliminate an entire era of baseball. Many of the PED accusations that are keeping legends of the game out of the Hall are seemingly widely unsubstantiated.
While people like Bud Selig are enshrined in the Hall, the players that brought positive attention to the game are being punished.
Another interesting case is Alex Rodriguez. He admitted to PED use, however where he differs from the other greats being kept out of the Hall of Fame lies in the fact that he served his suspension.
Unlike Rodriguez, most of the players being kept out of the Hall for PED use were never punished during their playing days. Even if one is a firm believer that steroids should get you banned from the Hall, A-Rod has a convincing case to be let in, as he did serve a sizable and just punishment.
Shoeless Joe Jackson, another once great player, was seemingly robbed of a Hall of Fame title due to his unfortunate link to the Black Sox scandal.
Despite the scandal, a 1993 article in The American Statistician reported a statistical analysis of Jackson during the 1919 world series and concluded that there was “substantial support to Jackson's subsequent claims of innocence.” Yet, time after time, the Commissioner’s Office, under multiple commissioners, has refused to lift Jackson’s ban, and Jackson has been blackballed from the Hall of Fame.
Finally, in the betting sphere, there is the Hit King, Pete Rose who is one of baseball’s greatest batsmen and was banished from baseball due to a gambling addiction that saw him bet on his own team to win.
To date, there is no substantial evidence that Rose ever bet against his teams which is decidedly hypocritical when you consider just how many betting partners MLB has nowadays.
Companies such as DraftKings, Bally, and MGM, are just some of the gambling and casino operators that have partnerships with MLB and while the league is free to encourage betting on their teams, they’ve outlawed one of the greatest to ever play the game, for betting on himself.
There are numerous other baseball greats being excluded from the Hall for similar reasons to the ones above such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafeal Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, and many others will continue to be erased from the pages of history if we continue on this trajectory.
Fans need to see major changes in how baseball’s greats are elected into to the Hall of Fame and also deserve to see the possibility of revoking players’ status from it as well. Above all, fans want and need there to be consistency in how it is governed.