By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Roger Clemens is a jerk. Anyone not named Suzyn Waldman can see that. Since his retirement, he seems much closer to his character of Skidmark in the film Kingpin than any sort of baseball titan he was revered as when he was winning seven Cy Young Awards.
Clemens is also much like his role in the classic episode of The Simpsons where he becomes hypnotized and thinks he’s a chicken. His cowardice at failing to own up to any wrongdoing during his career or after is fitting.
My dislike for him had me rooting for a guilty verdict in his perjury trial. Alas, it didn’t happen. The justice system has spoken, even if some people don’t like what it has said, and I accept that.
Because of that, and more importantly because of a combination of flaws in the game, its players, and the voting process, the Baseball Writers Association of America cannot keep Clemens out of the Baseball Hall of Fame, a museum that since its founding has celebrated the greatness of the game as well as the awfulness of human beings.
I went to the Hall’s website in order to be specific about the criteria for enshrinement, but the site was comically and appropriately down Tuesday morning. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.
But I do remember the Hall’s motto: “Preserving History. Honoring Excellence. Connecting Generations.” The writers who vote on enshrinement are supposed to adhere to that, even though they oftentimes have not. For them to omit someone like Clemens, and I hate to say it, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and those of their ilk, would be hypocritical.
If history is to be preserved, ignoring the “greats” from the Steroid Era would not be in keeping with the motto, would it? That era is part of baseball’s history, as ugly as it is. Just like the unfortunate decades of excluding black players are part of its history as well as the unfortunate period of the San Diego Padres uniforms in the 1970s and 80s.
Certainly glossing over a period that brought the game back to popularity after a bitter labor dispute and cancelled games—a period fostered by Commissioner Bud Selig who certainly knew very well that it was not Flintstone vitamins sourcing the inflated home run totals and inflated hat sizes and inflated egos, one of which belonged to the commish himself—would be Orwellian in its ignorance.
If generations are to be connected, the Steroid Era and the detestable figures like Clemens and Bonds should jigsaw right in place in the odd puzzle that is pro baseball. Their plaques should sit alongside that of Ty Cobb, he of twelve batting titles, rabid racism, and one assaulted invalid fan fame.
And next to class act Kirby Puckett. And Tris Speaker, Cap Anson, and several other early Hall inductees who were members of the Ku Klux Klan. And pitchers like Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton who—gasp!—admitted to cheating via doctoring baseballs yet still were voted in. (Not to mention the surely dozens of other elected Hall of Fame pitchers who have never openly admitted it.) And Sandy Koufax who was a Communist sympathizer. (I may have just made that up.)
Cooperstown is riddled with wife beaters, substance abusers, and guys generally imperfect at life while near perfect on the field. Many players during the Steroid Era are much the same. The museum often likes to act like it is some bastion of all that’s great in America, much like other jingoists refuse to acknowledge this country’s imperfections.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is difficult to respect at times because of its own hypocrisy and how absurdly finicky if not completely insane its voters are year in and year out. (That sound you hear is any chance of me ever being allowed in the BWAA flying out the window, by the way.) Votes have recently been cast for B.J. Surhoff, Tino Martinez, and—wait for it—Bill Mueller, along with other inexcusable choices.
Several writers have said for years that they will vote in Clemens and the like for reasons such as him never being proven to have cheated and mere assumption not being fair. Those include several employees at major networks who I assume have their decisions swayed by interests of not burning bridges. Some even stand up for the admitted users. But those voters are unfortunately a minority, no matter their motivations.
Screw your pretend scruples, writers. Put in the best, no matter how bitter it tastes, and move on. It would be wrong of you, who have long made this sordid bed yet would rather not sleep in it, to cluck around the issue like the cartoon Clemens on the mound and squawk about purity of the game when the game has been anything but pure since its very existence.