Don’t forget my weekly Talkin’ Baseball segment on the Mitch in the Morning show. Usually around 8:30 a.m., give or take. I’m hoping he asks me about Sammy Sosa, the latest Hall of Fame candidate to be linked to steroids use. A New York Times story yesterday quoted legal sources as saying Sosa’s name is on a list of 104 MLB players who tested positive for steroids during a 2003 survey that was supposed to be kept confidential.
So far, Sosa and Alex Rodriguez have had their names leaked off the list.
If some of you think you’re tired of all this, imagine how I and other Hall of Fame voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America feel. We are now starting to have to make yearly choices on guys who played in the 1990s and 2000s — including former Mariners great Edgar Martinez, up for induction this year for the first time — and keep getting hit with these weekly “surprise!” news items about guys like A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, Miguel Tejada, etc.
I want to know exactly what I’m voting for, as much as possible, with every name that comes before me. All I know is, we already have seen a bunch of guys who swore up and down before Congress they never used, only to see them nabbed. So, I can no longer blindly trust — not that I ever did — any name put before me.
Sosa’s name would have come up for induction five years from now, so at least we were given a heads-up this time. Mark McGwire appears to have zero chance of getting in, the way the last two votes have gone. No, I did not vote for him. The reason why is that he evaded straightforward questions before Congress, which somebody with nothing to hide about PEDs would not have done. He had a chance to clear his name offered up and did not take it. In doing so, he got off the hook for any future criminal charges like Tejada faced — and which Sosa now may —
My own voting policy on steroids has been: if a guy has been linked to them by a test, the Mitchell Report, Congressional or Grand Jury testimony, or in meticulously-documented books like Game of Shadows, I don’t give them my vote. Even in a courtroom, it’s “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” not “all doubt” and we’re not a courtroom. We’re voters for the Hall of Fame. And this isn’t a one-shot trial. Eligible players will get years to set the record straight if they want to and can be considered at a later date. If I have only suspicions, but no proof, I don’t play judge and jury and look at other, on-field factors.
It’s not carved in stone. But given the lack of formal guidance on this issue, it’s the best I can come up with for now. If you’re going to exclude one guy, you can’t let others skate.
There are limits to what MLB can now do and Bud Selig said yesterday that he wants to move on from the past. Well, there is one thing that can be done, with co-operation between MLB and its players union. They can release the names of the other 102 players who did get caught in that 2003 testing.
That way, at least, it can take a little more of the guesswork out of this Hall of Fame voting, which is really the only penalty some of the game’s top players have left to face, Nobody is going to take their millions away. But there is also no guarantee that they have to be enshrined in the game’s most hallowed spot when the legitimacy of some of their achievements is at stake.
Chone Figgins of the Angels said as much yesterday and, last I checked, he’s part of that players’ union.
In any election, you’re supposed to demand information about all candidates. Even their personal lives are supposed to be fair game. I don’t want personal information. But I do want to know how the achievements of the guys I’m voting on were compiled. If MLB and the union has such information, for at least 102 players, I’d like them to make it public.
Or, if they won’t, then I want the right to retract my vote — even if it’s several years from now — if somebody I wind up voting for eventually has their name leaked. What a mess that would be.
This who “list” thing is a powderkeg that’s going to go off. The players and MLB have the power to stop the fuse, even if some players get burned in the process.
By the way, here’s one potential ballot I won’t mind casting this winter, if it gets that far. Our local Seattle chapter of the BBWAA had a vote early last week on candidates to submit nationally for the annual JG Taylor Spink Award to the writers’ wing of the Hall of Fame. We did approve, by a two-thirds majority, former AP writer Steve Wilstein. He’s the writer who broke the Mark McGwire “andro” story back in 1998. Wilstein is now amongst a pool of national candidates who will be pared down by a selection committee into a group of finalists to be voted on by writers next December.
Wilstein’s nomination by our Seattle/Northwest branch is starting to get a lot of national attention, mainly because he has a shot at getting into the “hall” (writers are not officially considered part of the Hall of Fame, but do have a side display dedicated to them) before either McGwire or Sosa.
Photo Credit: AP
June 17, 2009 at 8:06 AM