Thursday, August 5, 2010
Does A-Rod Belong In the Hall of Fame?
For example, for all his questions of character, Billy Martin is in Monument Park; for all the things he achieved, Roger Clemens, as yet, is not. And even without the steroid accusations -- at this writing, still without proof -- Clemens might never have made it. After all, Catfish Hunter, Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage and David Cone did more, and in the modern era, for the Yankees as pitchers, and they're not in, either, even though the Cat and the Goose are in Cooperstown. (The only modern Yankee pitcher in Monument Park is Ron Guidry.) (UPDATE: Gossage now has a Plaque.)
The Hall of Fame has plenty of guys of questionable character. Boozehounds from Mike (King) Kelly and Ed Delahanty in the 19th Century, to Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth in the early 20th, Tom Yawkey, Joe Cronin, Larry MacPhail, Ernie Lombardi and Mickey Mantle.
Womanizers, including some of the preceding.
Vicious racists like Cobb and "founding father" Cap Anson, and out-and-out Ku Klux Klan members Rogers Hornsby and (though he later coached black players on the Indians without incident) Tris Speaker.
And both Cobb and Speaker had gambling issues that didn't get them banned like their friend Shoeless Joe Jackson, and later Pete Rose, and nearly so Leo Durocher.
This nation is a forgiving one, but for there to be forgiveness, there must be repentance. It's why Bill Clinton, who apologized for his womanizing and his misleading statements about it, served out his term as a popular President, while Richard Nixon, who never apologized for all the harm he caused, not just in Watergate, was forced to resign. It's why Mantle had so much goodwill at the end of his life, while only 3 people Cobb knew from baseball showed up at his funeral.
Mark McGwire has confessed, but it took him 5 years from the time he was asked under oath, and 12 years from the record chase. That delay may hurt his chances. He finished with 583 home runs, but he's been eligible 3 times so far and hasn't even come close. Will he get in now that he's apologized? Not in the near future.
Rafael Palmeiro lied about it, got caught, and will never get in, regardless of his 569 homers and over 3,000 hits.
David Ortiz lied about it, got caught, and will never get in. (UPDATE: It now seems likely that he will, because of the Yankee Doodle Double Standard. It's not "cheating" if a New England team does it.)
Manny Ramirez, who has over 550 homers... maybe he'll fall into the same category as Sammy Sosa, who has 609 homers, avoided the issue under oath, and won't get in.
Barry Bonds' numbers are overwhelming, but they already were big, which is what really ticks some people off: Of all the guys who used, he was the one who needed it the least. 762 homers or no, he used, and he still lies about it, and he may end up going to federal prison for it, but he will not get into the Hall of Fame.
Rose confessed to betting on his own team, but only after lying about it for 15 years, and as a result people began to think, "He's not sorry that he did it, he's sorry that he got caught, and didn't getting away with it. He's sorry that he's not allowed into the Hall of Fame and not allowed to officially work in baseball. He's sorry he's not considered a hero anymore." His chances of getting into the Hall while still alive are worse than ever. He might have been better off still lying about it today. Today's New York Daily News (if you can get past Mike Lupica's snotty column about A-Rod) quotes Baseball filmmaker Ken Burns as saying Rose should get in after he dies, saying he deserves to get in but not to know that he did.
(Sounds like Burns might be an atheist. That's harder for some people to forgive than steroid use!)
A-Rod was about to be outed as a steroid user. He confessed to using them as a Texas Ranger -- but not as a Yankee. So far, no one has any evidence of him using as a Yankee. This is not like Ortiz, who was caught in 2003 and then was the man who led the Red Sox to tainted glory in 2004. There is no evidence that A-Rod was still under the effects of steroids when he finally won a Pennant and a World Series in 2009.
That may be the key here: Not only did he confess and apologize, but the steroids didn't seem to help him and his team. The effect may have been negligible.
A-Rod is 35. Assuming no catastrophic injury, or legal reason he has to stop playing, there's no reason at all he can't play until he's 42 years old, as did Hank Aaron (755) and Willie Mays (660), and still can't be a productive player at 40 like they were. Whatever steroids he took, whenever, and how much, they haven't caused him debilitating injuries like they did to McGwire (who dropped off really fast from 1999 to 2001, his last season), Bonds (who was great when he could play, but all too often couldn't), Jose Canseco (a borderline case even if you didn't know he was dirty) and Jason Giambi (who doesn't have the stats to get in even if he was clean).
So, if A-Rod plays 7 more seasons, that means he plays his last game at the new Yankee Stadium in September (or October, or even November, thanks, Bud) 2017. Five full seasons, '18, '19, '20, '21, '22... He would be eligible for election in the vote totals that would be released in January 2023. That's 13 years away.
By that point, I don't expect to see Bonds, Sosa, Palmeiro or Ortiz in there. Or Gary Sheffield, on whom the evidence is interesting but not conclusive. McGwire is a possibility by that point, but he may have to wait for the Veterans Committee.
I think A-Rod may be punished by the voters with denial of election in his 1st year of eligibility, but will then get in the 2nd time around. So mark your calendars, and reserve your Cooperstown-area hotel rooms, for July 26, 27 and 28, 2024.
Who knows, maybe Alex and Derek Jeter will go in together. I wonder who would get the better reception.