The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Lesson’s Learned: Sleep With One Eye Open

Honestly, I was not going to comment on yesterday’s Hall of Fame voting results.

Too many keyboards have suffered enough over that topic the past couple of days.  But I read a comment by a member of the BBWAA today that I have to admit irked me a great deal  (I won’t name him; there’s no reason to give him greater exposure.)

This writer said (and I’m paraphrasing) that he was very glad that no one was elected in this year’s HOF voting because it teaches our children a lesson that cheaters and cheating will not be tolerated.  Otherwise, he claimed, our children would come away with the opposite lesson, that cheating can and will be rewarded.

Fine, but here are some other lessons our children can take away from yesterday’s HOF voting:

1)  In our culture, you are now guilty until proven innocent.  Moreover, the court of public opinion (where Bonds and Clemens were convicted) is more important than a court of law (where neither of them were convicted of using steroids.)

2)  Guilt by association is not only to be tolerated, but encouraged.  Were you successful at the same time or place that some alleged cheaters were also successful?  By extension, then, perhaps you were guilty as well, even if no credible witness has ever come forward to accuse you of wrong-doing.

3)  The innocent may be punished as well as the guilty.  Call this the Rule of Collateral Damage.  Yes, it’s true that Craig Biggio was apparently as clean as a player can be, but he was on the wrong ballot at the wrong time.  Yes, we presume he is innocent, (so the argument may go), but don’t you see that a greater good was served here today by excluding every player, even if for just one year?

4)  Future generations are to be held to a higher standard of ethics and behavior than previous ones.  If you cheat, lie, or otherwise finesse the rules in the future, you can bet that your punishment will be swift, severe, and final, unlike past generations of scoundrels who we have arbitrarily declared off-limits to meaningful moral judgment.  Too much of our sepia-toned childhood nostalgia rests in the mythology we have created for ourselves regarding the so-called Golden Age of baseball.  To objectively re-analyze all of that risks fatally puncturing the baseball dreams dancing around in our collective psyches.  Screw that!

Thus, HOF’er Goose Gossage declared today that if Jeff Bagwell or Mike Piazza do make it into The Hall in the next couple of years, and if they did actually use steroids, and should that info come out after they’ve been inducted, then it would be justifiable to remove their plaques from Cooperstown.  He suggested that if they know in their hearts that they are guilty, they should sleep with one eye open.

Yet at no time has anyone ever suggested before that someone who is already in The Hall of Fame should perhaps have their plaque removed if it is found that they cheated their way into The Hall.  And, yes, we know of previous cheaters, some of whom I’m sure even Goose Gossage has heard of.

5)  Compassion and forgiveness are dead.  Christian believers though some of these writers may claim to be (at least in private), they appear to have forgotten Christ’s #1 message: Judge not lest ye be judged.  There is to be no forgiveness, no compassion, no humble awareness of our own fallibility. As long as we have fingers to point at someone else, we will keep those fingers busy.

6)  When the system is done with you, it will chew you up and spit you out.  For many years, team owners, managers, trainers, journalists and fans looked the other way while happily cheering the heroes they made for themselves.  Fame, fortune, and everything else that comes with celebrity in our culture was there for the taking.  The athletes were encouraged to partake as much of and for as long as possible.  Meanwhile, the baseball machine hummed along, making record profits.  The machine was fat and happy, and life went on.  But once the machine was threatened, it jettisoned any and all the human ballast it could as fast and as ruthlessly as it could.  Because the machine was never about the players; it was always about the profit, and nothing else.

These are six more lessons that we should be sure to teach our children as a result of yesterday’s Hall of Fame voting, if we are being honest with ourselves.


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12 thoughts on “Lesson’s Learned: Sleep With One Eye Open

  1. Reblogged this on The Ball Caps Blog and commented:
    Here’s a great take on the Hall of Fame washout from one of my favorite bloggers.

  2. Wow, those are some excellent points. Your comments regarding a lack of compassion are well-made. We’ve become (or perhaps always been, just in a different fashion) a very self-righteous, finger-pointing society. I remember thinking about that way back when Robert Downey was having his drug problems. My coworker, discussing it, shook his head and said reproachfully, “He’s had so many chances.” I thought ( and still think) “who did this guy hurt? ”

    And it is really unfair to untainted players. Griffey’s coming up in a couple years, and while it certainly wouldn’t affect his eventual enshrinement, it would be lame to see him snubbed.

    • On the topic of drugs, and not allowing people to mind their own business, perhaps you’ve seen the movie “Drugstore Cowboy” which came out back in 1988 or ’89? William S. Burroughs plays Tom, an old, defrocked junkie priest. Matt Dillon plays his young protege. Here’s a link to the key scene, where Dillon and Burroughs are sitting down in his hotel room, face to face, talking about the old days, and the future of American society.

      Let me know if the video doesn’t come through.
      Also, in Burrough’s “Thanksgiving Prayer,” he intones, “Thanks for a nation where no one is allowed to mind his own business.”
      Sounds about right to me.
      Cheers, Bill

  3. Northern Narratives on said:

    Maybe we should open up the HOF voting to the fans, like what happened to the All Star game !!! (its a joke but maybe not?)

    • I do think it should be opened up to more than just the writers currently recognized by the BBWAA. I’m not sure I’d put it out there for the fans in general. For one thing, the points of view I read expressed by many of the fans isn’t all that different from what I read from many of the BBWAA writers. Still, there has to be a better way….
      Have a great weekend,

  4. Allan Smorra on said:

    Good points, Bill. The rush to plant a flag on the Moral High Ground by the BHOF writers may just be an attempt to obscure the behavior of their mentors. I think that you make a good point about removing a player if/when they are convicted of wrong-doing.

    There is no need to punish everyone for the ‘sins’ of a few. If that is the case, shut down the HOF – somebody is bound to do something wrong in the future…

    • Thanks, Allan. The real test will be what happens next year. If no one is elected once again, I think even The Hall itself will finally have something to say about all this.
      Have a nice weekend,

  5. Reblogged this on Garlicfriesandbaseball's Blog and commented:
    “Innocent until proven guilty”. I’ve been thrashing around for the past few days trying to put into words how I feel about this year’s lack of Hall of Fame nominees. Bill does a pretty good job with this post.

  6. As far as I can tell, the only lesson our children learned from the Hall vote is that Craig Biggio should have retired a year earlier or a year later. Good job as usual, Bill,.

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