The rules state that you have to be a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) for 10 years before you are granted the privilege of voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I could hardly wait.
The rules also say that writers can vote for up to 10 eligible players, but that they don’t have to vote for any. In my first year, I voted for just one: outfielder Andre Dawson, who was not elected that time but was in 2010 – his ninth year on the ballot. Now, many players just didn’t have the numbers to merit my vote. Others, however, had numbers I simply did not trust.
So, with the 2013 ballot including such notorious first-time entrants as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, a word from Dawson is in order. Now a special assistant with the Miami Marlins, Dawson spoke to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post on the subject of steroids and the Hall of Fame.
“I can’t say how the voters are going to react in the years ahead but (Bonds and Clemens and others associated with steroids) wouldn’t get my vote for the simple reason rules were broken,” Dawson said. “One of the criteria is integrity of the game … . When I see records being shattered left and right for selfish reasons, just to make money, that’s when I have a problem with it.
“Nobody can say when these individuals started doing it. But all of a sudden late in your career you become twice as good a ballplayer as you were maybe in your first 5 to 10 years?” Dawson said. “That just doesn’t happen. That’s not the way it works.”
Predictably, several BBWAA members have come out and penned self-righteous explanations for why they will vote for Bonds, Clemens and others. Essentially, said writers choose to view themselves as above the fray, too open-minded to lock Cooperstown’s doors to the legions of known and suspected steroid cheats that increasingly populate the Hall’s ballot.
Let’s be blunt: Baseball desperately wants to be done with the Steroid Era. But that can’t happen when each year brings more names associated with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) back to the main stage. If writers reject all those known to have used steroids – from Mark McGwire (admitted) to Rafael Palmeiro (failed drug test) to Alex Rodriguez (admitted, and a guy who years from now will bring HOF numbers up for consideration) – then by extension they are saying that years and years of championships, games and records are tainted.
That’s a truth too painful too face. Better that they bend the rules of integrity. Better that they pretend it’s not that big of a deal. I look at the 37 names on this year’s ballot and just about all of those with Hall-worthy numbers I either know, or strongly suspect, used PEDs.
My only consolation is that I no longer have a vote. Saves me the trouble of mailing back a blank ballot.
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. He and Jon Albright host the “Jon & Don Show” on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.