Baseball Hall of Fame ballot lunacy

The Hagueside by Jim Hague

follow him on twitter @ogsmar

First, let me start out by writing that it has been way too long since I’ve added a blog. It’s been over a month. A lot has taken place in that month. Avery Johnson was fired as coach of the Nets and replaced by my long-time friend P.J. Carlesimo (although P.J. probably doesn’t want that association out there). The Giants and Jets failed to make the playoffs. Christmas has come and gone. We rang in a New Year and let’s face facts, after what we all endured in 2012, we can definitely say “Good riddance.”

Between the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in places that I adored as a teenager into adulthood, like Point Pleasant, Belmar, Sea Bright and Manasquan, places on the Jersey Shore that may never recover, to the horrific story of those innocent little children in Newtown, CT, 20 of whom were murdered and the rest terrorized, 2012 was not a year to remember.

On a personal note, I survived three hospital stays and five surgeries. I lost my beloved brother-in-law, as well as several other good friends. I won’t forget memorable people like Jay Costello or Shawn Feeley anytime soon. Let’s just say that we can easily turn the page on that nightmarish year.

Now, we’ve come across the first sports controversy of 2013. The National Baseball Hall of Fame held its recent balloting for players to be inducted and remarkably, not a single baseball legend earned the 75 percent of the votes needed for induction. It was the first time the voting failed to produce a single inductee since 1996.

If I was fortunate to have a vote for the Hall of Fame, there’s no question that I would have voted for four people hands down. My ballot would have been cast for Barry Bonds, Roger ClemensMike Piazza and Jack Morris.

Let’s address each one. Bonds and Clemens should be absolute no-brainers. Bonds won an astounding seven MVP awards. The same for Clemens with Cy Young Awards. They were two of the most dominant performers baseball has ever seen.

But they both were left off of nearly two-thirds of all the ballots cast by the the Baseball Writers of America. And why? Because both have been found to have used anabolic steroids or human growth hormones during their stints in the big leagues.

My feeling is this: Both Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Famers before they were ever introduced to “The Juice” in the late 1990s. Both had collective bodies of work worthy of induction before they ever saw a needle.

Now, I personally despise both people. Bonds is the second worst professional athlete I’ve ever dealt with in my 30-plus years as a sportswriter. One time at Shea Stadium, Bonds went out of his way to totally humiliate me and about eight other writers, trying to do our jobs, waiting to get a quote.

Bonds had a handful of the cardboard boxes used to carry hot dogs and drinks to your seat at a ball game. He then proceeded to place these boxes in a square around his locker and told the sportswriters, including yours truly, that we couldn’t step inside the boxes to get to him, that we had to ask Bonds the questions from behind the boxes.

When we stupidly agreed to his rules, Bonds then got up and disappeared into the visting team’s lounge, never to be heard from again. We were duped by a classless jerk. He treated everyone with the same disdain, including his own teammates.

I had only a few times to interview Clemens, so my feelings about him are more relegated to his actions on the field, throwing the ball at undeserving opponents, throwing the broken bat at Piazza in the 2000 World Series, then tried to say he thought the broken bat was the ball, which made no sense, because if it was the ball, why didn’t he then throw it to first base and not at Piazza running up the line. He was just a hateful athlete.

However, I feel both belong in Cooperstown. They compiled enough of a resume to get there before a syringe touched their bodies. The steroids prolonged their careers and turned their careers into something never before seen by a player or a pitcher. It’s unfair to give them their just due.

In the case of Piazza, he is the greatest hitting catcher to ever play the game. Sure, he’s a personal favorite, because he’s the best position player in the history of my favorite team, the Mets. But his statistics as a catcher are not matched by anyone inducted or who have played since. Piazza is also deserving of his spot.

So why did Piazza not earn induction? Some suggest that there have been hints that Piazza took steroids, but all of that is based on rumor and innuendo. It’s never been proven. He wasn’t indicted like Bonds and Clemens, yet there is some cloud of controversy swirling above Piazza’s head. It personally makes no sense to me.

The player who got closest to getting the necessary 75 percent is Craig Biggio, who fell 39 votes short of induction. Biggio is a very nice player who got the 3,000 hits that used to seal a one-way ticket to Cooperstown. But Biggio was a .280 lifetime hitter who was never the best player on his own team. He deserves it over Piazza? That idea is simply laughable.

The one next in line is one of the best big-game pitchers of my lifetime, Jack Morris, who keeps inching closer and closer to induction, but he failed to get the votes once again. Morris is a Hall of Famer, no question.

True, this was definitely the deepest and most talented Hall of Fame ballot of my lifetime.Jeff Bagwell and my friend Tim Raines, who I worked with for two years when he was the manager of the Newark Bears, are both worthy candidates. When you add the steroid kings like Bonds, Clemens, Rafael Palmiero, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, that’s a lot of guys to consider.

So that’s the biggest reason why no one got the 75 percent. I can’t see how Biggio would gain induction over Piazza. If it’s because there’s a hint and rumor about steroids, then that’s ludicrous.

It sure makes for a very empty induction ceremony in Cooperstown come July.
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The NHL has ended its lockout and players are coming back to hit the ice this weekend for a shortened training camp. The teams will play a 48-game schedule and everything will be back to normal.

Or will it? Will the fans simply accept that they were kept away for three months, while the players and owners bickered over millions?

It’s the second time in eight years that the NHL season was tampered with because of a labor dispute. The entire 2004-2005 season was wiped away because of an owner’s lockout or a players’ strike, call it what you want.

Do hockey fans forget about the greed and avarice and welcome the players back with open arms? It’s going to be very interesting to see.
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You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.comwww.theobserver.com andwww.dailyrecord.com.
And thanks for your patience with me as I produced another blog.

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Posted on January 17, 2013, in Jim Hague and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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