Future Hall of Fame denials

DMZ · December 12, 2006 at 3:38 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

(I wrote this on commission for a different media outlet, but they sat on it until it wasn’t fresh. So, like day-old bakery goods, I present it slightly stale – but free – for your enjoyment)

At long last, Hall of Fame decisions look like they’re now based as much on suspicion and petty motives as merit. Finally! Every year, we have tiresome debates over who sports decide to honor. Was Bert Blyleven great, or just really good for a long time? Can one wide receiver be elected over another based on their performance in three playoff games? Can a great point guard make his team better in ways that don’t show up in the statistics and, if so, how should their contributions be considered in thinking about their worthiness for the Basketball Hall of Fame?

Boooooooooooooring. Let’s get to the juicy gossip, the personal axe-grinding, the knife in the back. And the sooner the better.

A survey conducted by the Associated Press found that of voters “one in four who gave an opinion plan to vote for McGwire this year.” McGwire’s being punished for not denying steroid use, like angry finger-pointer Rafael Palmeiro. For some, he’s being punished for admitting steroid use. And yet McGwire never failed a drug test, and the closest thing to evidence against him is Jose Caseco stories — and Canseco initially denied that a home run bounced off his head.

If suspicion and resentment can keep a 12-time All-Star from serious consideration in the Hall of Fame voting, what’s next? Here’s how future elections will play out for ten deserving Hall of Fame players.

The first election swayed by personal reasons not related to baseball’s drug problems comes in 2008, when all-time great Rickey Henderson is left off most ballots.
“Can’t Rickey write Rickey in his own Rickey self?” said one voter. “Oh man, that cracks me up.”
“I don’t know, didn’t he say something dumb once?” another voter said. “He stole some base and said ‘Now Rickey be the greatest’ and pointed at Lou Brock in the stands, didn’t he?”
“What?” a startled Henderson said when asked for comment. “I didn’t say that! Or do that! And Lou was there, I went over the speech with him! Where does this stuff come from?”
Henderson is forced to hire a public relations firm, send out videos of the actual speech, and finally, accompanied by Lou Brock, visit each voter at their home or work to clear up common misperceptions using a 30m audiovisual presentation followed by a question-and-answer session.
“I could have sworn someone told me talked to himself or something,” a chastised voter said after his visit. “But he never referred to himself in the third person at all when he came over.”

But steroids returned to the forefront in 2012, when despite having over 350 wins and nearly 5,000 career strikeouts, Roger Clemens is denied election. Anonymous voters say they never got over the suspicion raised when Clemens was named in the 2006 Jason Grimsley deposition, and combined with his surprising effectiveness into his forties, they felt his career was “fishy”, even though Grimsley’s charges were never substantiated and Clemens never failed a drug test.

A furious Clemens declared that at 49, he would make a comeback and prove, once and for all, that he isn’t human and doesn’t age. Though initially the subject of jokes, twelve teams tender him a contract. Clemens goes 15-3 with a 2.90 ERA, wins the National League Cy Young Award and is named the Comeback Player of the Year. Clemens, still simmering, retires again and in 2018 a still-terrified electorate votes unanimously to induct Clemens, and asks if he would please stop glaring at them.

Ron Artest, meanwhile, surprised analysts when he cruised into the NBA Hall of Fame. Voters expressed sympathy with his anti-fan actions. “I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to charge through the phone and strangle some reader who calls me up to tell me I’m a moron,” a West Coast beat writer said. “I don’t even care that he went after an innocent fan. They’re not that innocent. Good for him. Put a little fear into the rabble. Oh, I’m sure they’re going to yell at me, tell me Artest wasn’t good enough to vote for, and I’ll stand there and imagine him charging after them in the stands… yeah, that’s nice.”

The next year, things got even stranger. Greg Maddux doesn’t just miss induction despite his stellar career, but almost drops out of consideration entirely when unsourced reports circulate before 2014 balloting alleging that he doctored balls using brother Mike’s moustache wax during the early 1990s.

Retired center Shaquille O’Neal is lambasted by the press and voters alike when, only a month before balloting, he scores an even 400 points, collects 92 rebounds and blocks 87 shots in an interdepartmental charity police basketball game between Shaq’s own Miami Beach and neighboring Fort Lauderdale. “There was no need to run up the score so badly,” one voter said. “That’s just showboating, and disgraces our sport.”

Shaq was placed on administrative leave by his department for use of excessive force in both his rejections and dunks, but returned to active duty within a few weeks and was elected a year later when the incident was covered up.

Brett Favre fails to be elected to the Hall of Fame the same year when voters, confused by his Prilosec ads, ask their doctors if voting for Brett Favre is right for them.

Then in 2014, Ray Lewis is elected to Canton in his second year of eligibility. “Lewis was a dominant linebacker and won a Super Bowl,” a voter said. “Sure, he was charged with murder in 2000, but he only pled guilty to obstruction of justice. It’d be different if we thought he’d killed someone but we didn’t have any evidence. Then there’s no way I’d vote for him.”

Skip ahead to the strangeness of 2020. Tom Brady is denied election after a voters’ cousin’s uncle complains that he didn’t get the outstanding service Brady was claimed he’d receive at a Boston-area car dealership. Brady offers to reimburse anyone who had a bad experience at a car dealership he did any kind of commercial for, and ends up having to hock his Super Bowl rings when angry Chevy owners sue him because their trucks played a loop of “My Country” continually and could not turned off or even muted, making them unsellable. In his induction speech at Canton, Brady makes a point to curse out both Chevy and John Mellancamp over his newfound poverty.

Peyton Manning, meanwhile, is also rejected the same year despite his long record of regular season success. Rumors circulate that the constant exposure to initially amusing commercials that through repetition quickly turned into grating, unbearable torture so annoyed voters that they were willing to overlook his impressive career achievements in order to get him back. .

Tim Duncan is turned away from the basketball Hall of Fame. A survey of voters indicates that they found the center “too clean” to the point of suspicion. “Guys like that, quiet, kind, never attracts a lot of attention, they all turn out to be serial killers or something,” one voter said. “Duncan’s hiding something, I can feel it.”

“If that’s how people feel, that’s how they feel,” Duncan said at an impromptu press conference at his home, before stabbing 14 reporters to death with a pen. “I just played the best I could and hoped that I’d be recognized for my accomplishments.”

Duncan is elected next year by surviving voters, reassured that now they know the whole story.

But the most dramatic incident of all will come in 2025, when Albert Pujols misses election to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot when it’s revealed that he consistently voted for gray-and-white kittens on Kittenwar.com over other kinds of adorable kittens. His ugly prejudice revealed, Pujols issues a public apology in which he admits that while he holds a special place in his heart for grey and white kittens, he loves kittens and puppies of all colors and breeds. The voters say “Awww,” in unison and elect him with an extra-fuzzy 150% of the vote the next year.

Oh, you may think I’m joking. But is this any more laughable than the Judge Dredd imitation the baseball voters are already doing with real ballots, real players, and the wisps of suspicion and doubt?


35 Responses to “Future Hall of Fame denials”

  1. Josh on December 12th, 2006 3:52 pm

    Sad thing is that would have more substance than most political campaigns and voter decisions.

  2. AQ on December 12th, 2006 4:16 pm

    The saddest part to me is that this McGwire steroids debate is going to overshadow the elections of Ripken and Gwynn into the HoF.

  3. Coach Owens on December 12th, 2006 5:12 pm

    Cool post Derek. You should add Manny to it too though.

  4. Deanna on December 12th, 2006 5:27 pm


  5. msb on December 12th, 2006 5:27 pm

    you know, that Rickey, he couldn’t even remember a stand-up guy like Olerud. Keep him out of the Hall.

  6. DMZ on December 12th, 2006 5:31 pm

    Fixed, Deanna, thanks.

  7. Mike Hargrove's Cameltoe on December 12th, 2006 5:34 pm


    That one never gets old. The rest – yeah, I’m tired of it.

  8. Jeff Nye on December 12th, 2006 6:16 pm


    It drives me insane that athletes are being tried and convicted for alleged steroid use in the media on a CONSTANT basis, sometimes only on the absolute flimsiest evidence.

    Everybody deserves the benefit of the doubt, until there is CONCLUSIVE evidence given of guilt in a particular matter. And yes, I do mean EVERYBODY.

  9. Ralph on December 12th, 2006 6:18 pm

    Hard to believe this one wasn’t published. Inconceivable.

  10. isten maga on December 12th, 2006 7:06 pm

    Thanks for opening comments. While I am grateful that this site exists, the fact that comments have always been closed on steroid issues has left a rather bad taste. I suppose that your intention here is not really to open up the debate on steroid’s either. I don’t even disagree with Derek’s point of view on the matter rather I disagree with the idea that only his opinion is worth discussing.

  11. DMZ on December 12th, 2006 7:17 pm

    I have a couple responses to that:

    First, comments haven’t always been turned off on steroid-related threads. For instance, when Ryan Franklin flunked a test, comments were open.

    Generally, the thing we’ve clamped down on is steroid *speculation* – if you want to discuss the leaked Giambi testimony, for instance, that’s a grey area, but the line we drew very early is that you can’t say that you think (or whatever) that Joe Slugger is on steroids unless there’s a flunked test or similarly reasonable evidence.

    It’s not that it’s just my opinion – various USSM authors have posted and turned off comments. And it’s not that we’re particularly interested in stopping discussion – it’s that USSM, as presently constituted, can’t have it. The speculation threads spiral out of control, they’re bitter, and nasty, and they make this an unpleasant place to be. There are many examples of where this happened and we ended up closing the thread down. It just doesn’t work.

    We don’t have, as a volunteer organization, the resources to police those conversations closely enough. So we can’t have them and maintain a decent site conversation.

    Anyone who wants USSM to support steroid speculation conversation can come up with $100k to support a build out of staff and infrastructure and we’ll get right on it.

  12. QuoVadis on December 12th, 2006 7:58 pm

    I’ve wondered about the closed comments on steroids, too. I can understand that explanation and where you guys are coming from. The HOF debate about steroids is going to be there, though, for years to come and about some names that may surprise some.

    When modern names come up, I compare them to players that I saw from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and the impact they had on their era. Steroids sure muddies the debate, though.

  13. Ralph on December 12th, 2006 8:17 pm

    There seems to be this strange assumption that players need to be inducted into the HOF simply because it’s there. I would be more than happy with about 10-15 players per decade, but they have really been pushing it in recent years. If they keep using the “player with most ____ not in the HOF” excuse to let people in, it cheapens it. This isn’t youth soccer.

    A player with a lifetime .263 batting average should never be considered for the Hall just because some of his hits went 50 more feet than other .263 hitters. (Defensive wizards being the obvious exception)

  14. DMZ on December 12th, 2006 8:27 pm

    I’ve long argued for a pretty high standard for the Hall of Fame (but then, I want to see Tim Raines in there, and the counterargument I always hear is that it’s not the “hall of very good”).

    But that argument about .263 hitters is possibly the most ridiculous comment ever made about the HoF. Power is what gets hitters to the majors. Home runs are far, far more valuable than singles. So much so that you can hit .263 and still be a huge, huge contributor to your team’s success, as McGwire proved repeatedly in his career.

  15. AQ on December 12th, 2006 8:56 pm

    I thought we had already come to the conclusion that batting average is not the end-all/be-all statistic to use when evaluating hitters. Instead of looking at McGwire as a career .263 hitter, one should recognize the fact that he had a career OPS of .982 and that he exceeded 1.000 OPS 9 times in his career.

    It’s not as if McGwire was the modern day version of Dave Kingman or something.

  16. Ralph on December 12th, 2006 8:57 pm

    He contributed in One way. There were years when almost half of his RBI came when he scored himself via the home run, and he had several years where he had more walks than hits. He had some amazing years where he did contribute, but so have a lot of players. The HOF should be the best of the best.

  17. Gomez on December 12th, 2006 8:58 pm

    Power is what gets hitters to the majors. Home runs are far, far more valuable than singles. So much so that you can hit .263 and still be a huge, huge contributor to your team’s success, as McGwire proved repeatedly in his career.

    Well then, let me be the first to nominate Richie Sexson when he becomes eligible 😛

  18. AQ on December 12th, 2006 9:01 pm

    McGwire had a career OBP of .394. That would indicate to me that he got on base quite a bit, in addition to driving in quite a few runs. For about a six or seven year period, there were few players in baseball that pitchers feared facing more than McGwire.

    If you choose to argue that this is not a long enough period of excellence to garner HoF consideration, then explain Kirby Puckett.

  19. AQ on December 12th, 2006 9:02 pm

    #17 – Please tell me that you’re being facetious when making that assertion. Sexson has a lifetime OPS that is > 100 points less than McGwire and Sexson has never exceeded 1.000 OPS in his career.

  20. Ralph on December 12th, 2006 9:04 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d take him on my team any day, but not in the Hall of Fame.

    More strikeouts than hits in 8 out of 16 years? Sorry, not worthy.

  21. DiamondDave on December 12th, 2006 9:12 pm

    Derek, this was one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for posting it! I love the thing about Duncan.

    And just for the record, I totally agree that this speculation influencing the HoF voting is ludicrous. Whether or not you think Pete Rose should be in the HoF, at least we had/have hard evidence that he did something very wrong. If they denied him because many “suspected” he bet on baseball, it would be just as ridiculous as the McGwire thing. You gotta have the evidence.

    And I say this despite the fact that I don’t much like McGwire. If he didn’t get in it wouldn’t ruin my day. But the HoF is becoming too political, too much a popularity contest. It’s losing its relevance, which is sad.

  22. Ralph on December 12th, 2006 9:15 pm

    When you compare his numbers with the likes of a Frank Thomas or a Jeff Bagwell, it’s eye-opening. I would pick them over McGwire as my two 1st base representatives for this era.

  23. Hooligan on December 12th, 2006 9:40 pm

    the closest thing to evidence against him is Jose Caseco stories

    Nice job Derek. I agree with the premise of your article, but this line is absurd. The closest thing to evidence against him is the smoking gun of andro and his crying like a schoolgirl while muttering, “I’m not here to talk about the past” even though “talking about the past” is precisely what grand jury testimony is.

    I love Mac and hope he gets inducted to Cooperstown. But to call the association between McGwire and steroids “speculative” is comparable to defending Michael Jackson’s facial integrity. Just because we don’t have a plastic surgeon’s testimony – and just because Jackson has never admitted to going under the knife – doesn’t make it pure speculation.

    Sure, none of the steroid discussion would hold up in court. That doesn’t mean we have to assume innocence…we all know what McGwire’s congressional subversiveness and tears meant. And kudos to him for maintaining some semblance of integrity, unlike Palmeiro.

    Hard evidence should be the litmus test for barring someone from the hall. But logic is still logic.

  24. Wishhiker on December 12th, 2006 10:31 pm

    Thanks for the great read. Not just because I totally agree with your points, but I do.

    I’ve always thought as well that you could find a large group of known ‘cheaters’ that are already in the hall. People didn’t react the same to doctored pitches as doctored strength. I hope that’s not too off topic or controversial, but I’m tired of the steroid debate unless it pertains to people being caught and punished.

    The main point of your article seems to be that these people haven’t been caught and it’s speculation that might keep these players from the hall. That’s unjustifiable on every level and I feel it’s an outrage. Thanks for shaing this with us.

  25. CCW on December 12th, 2006 11:35 pm

    Hard evidence should be the litmus test for barring someone from the hall. But logic is still logic.

    First, I don’t think anyone should be kept out of the HOF based on the fact he took or did not take steroids. Like it or not, steroids were in fact a part of baseball for 20 years. They were. Lots of guys took them, including guys who are going to be up for consideration for the HOF.

    Second, if you are going to keep a guy out the HOF based on steroid use, you need to realize that the distinction between the guys who got caught (Palmeiro) and the guys who didn’t (McGwire) is more a matter of happenstance than of guilt. This isn’t court, and we aren’t jurors. We need to, as Hooligan points out, rely on logic, not the federal rules of evidence. If this were court, then the issue before us (whether a guy took took steroids) would have been the subject of an actual investigation – a random drug test would certainly not be the state’s only evidence. If you really want to evaluate everyone up for HOF consideration based on whether he took steroids, then all those guys need to actually be investigated. I am quite sure that if someone really dug, and interviewed 50 of McGwire’s teammates, friends, relatives, colleagues, associates, etc., he could get a pretty good idea of whether Mac used steroids.

    I don’t advocate conducting such an investigation, because I don’t think steroid use, while it wasn’t banned by MLB, should keep anyone out of the HOF. But if you’re hell bent on asking the question, you need to really examine the facts… not just rely on some half-assed drug testing policy.

  26. DMZ on December 13th, 2006 12:40 am

    I agree with the premise of your article, but this line is absurd. The closest thing to evidence against him is the smoking gun of andro and his crying like a schoolgirl while muttering, “I’m not here to talk about the past” even though “talking about the past” is precisely what grand jury testimony is.

    It’s not absurd at all. Andro was legal. That’s not a smoking gun, it’s a not-smoking Nerf ball. We have no evidence that he did anything else, beyond Canseco’s say-so.

    Now, whether or not you want to say you think his testimony damns him, or whatever, you’re free to do that – but it’s speculative. But did Raffy’s stern denial compared to Mac’s statements teach us nothing? You can’t put stock in the weakness of his denial any more than you can in the strength of Raffy’s.

    Even if you think it leads inevitably to a particular conclusion, we still have no evidence to support it.

    And once we’ve started down this path, it will lead inevitably to stranger and stranger things.

  27. terry on December 13th, 2006 5:27 am

    Aside from steroids what about another area that seems to tweak at the self-righteous nature of the voters…. Pete Rose?

    I know the Hall has tightened the rules so it would take action from the commissioner for this to even be a real issue but writers have wielded their swords of (self)righteousness on this issue too and it has affected the commissioner I believe…

    The writers (and presumably voters): “c’mon Pete…just apologize….then when he does, “your apologize wasn’t good enough….”

  28. bongo on December 13th, 2006 6:25 am

    Part of the problem here may be the reliance on absolute metrics for induction. 500 home runs used to be a ticket to induction. Today it is not clear to me that players with 500 career home runs automatically belong in the HoF; they have to be judged against their peers (some of whom also have 500 HRs).

    If we instead focus on relative performance, then to some extent the steroid allegations become less relevant. The question is then “Was Mark McGuire a top performer during his era?”

  29. vj on December 13th, 2006 7:16 am

    re 28: There was an article on McGuire’s hall of fame merits on the Hardballtimes website recently.
    Bottom line: He has a decent HoF case but it is not a slam dunk.

  30. msb on December 13th, 2006 8:10 am

    and this morning– a cage match between Larry Stone and Steve Kelley

  31. DMZ on December 13th, 2006 10:50 am

    w/r/t Rose, here’s the problem: gambling and game-fixing are far greater threats to the integrity of the game, and there are mountains of evidence against him.

    There were, certainly, a certain chunk of people who wanted Rose to admit it and try and make amends, and they were largely appalled by his partial, false admission and his “I can’t say I’m sorry” apologies.

    There is an interesting parrallel here, though – there are those who’ve said that McGwire’s failure to admit he used steroids is central to their denials. Would admission help? I’m not sure it would, even if he did use.

  32. Adam S on December 13th, 2006 11:29 am

    DMZ, great piece. I hope you got paid, even if the piece never ran.

    On Rose, I think the public as a whole doesn’t get how dangerous betting on baseball is. It usually boils down to the flawed argument — that everyone bets on baseball/sports. I openly admit to betting legally on baseball and the Super Bowl.

    When you compare his numbers with the likes of a Frank Thomas or a Jeff Bagwell, it’s eye-opening. I would pick them over McGwire as my two 1st base representatives for this era.
    Why only TWO representatives? I agree Thomas and Bagwell have better careers than McGwire but it’s closer than you suggest. But I also think all three are among the ten best to EVER play 1B and would put them all in. I can’t see how it’s reasonable to eliminate a player because he played in an era that was exceptionally strong for his position; and the opposite is even worse.

    Also it’s not true that McGwire only did ONE thing. His OBP has been brought up before, but I’d note that it’s higher than such great “hitters” as Pete Rose, Cap Anson, Honus Wager, and Rod Carew.

    More to the original topic, I’m not surprised that some voters won’t vote for McGwire because they aren’t sure about his career or that they won’t vote for him on the first ballot (though that’s totally screwy to me — either you are a hall of famer or you aren’t). But I’m amazed that three in four don’t plan to vote for him essentially because of rumor and speculation.

  33. DiamondDave on December 13th, 2006 11:50 am

    BTW, I just checked Baseball-Reference.com to see what kind of predictions they have for McGwire’s Hall of Fame chances. Note that of course these numbers are based on STATISTICS only, not speculation.

    The Bill James “Hall of Fame Monitor” has him at 169.5, with 100 the standard for a likely HoFamer. The BR Hall of Fame Standards rating only has him at 42, with 50 being an “average HoFamer.”

    But then, apparently voters don’t really give a damn about the numbers if they think the player is steroids-tainted. So it’s irrelevant.

    Hey, what about Greenies (amphetamines)? … they are now banned, are the voters gonna start to look at that? It opens up Pandora’s Box, and it will get stranger and stranger, as Derek says.

  34. DiamondDave on December 13th, 2006 11:51 am

    oops, sorry about the weird link. It takes you to BR’s page on McGwire, which is sponsored by Creatine.com. No, just kidding.

  35. Paul B on December 13th, 2006 1:27 pm

    #30, I saw those, and once more thought that a battle of wits against Kelley is like a battle against an unarmed man.

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