David Jenkins: Fractured Hall Of Fame Means This Is Year Zero

Saturday, January 5, 2013 - by David Jenkins

I do not expect the Baseball Writers Association of America to elect a single player to the Hall of Fame this coming week.

And that's as it should be.

The Hall of Fame as we knew it as kids is dead. Oh, the dirty old building in Cooperstown still stands and there shall be a ceremony this year to enshrine three long-dead old timers (i.e. "veterans") that none of us has ever heard of.

Fine. As big a mess as the Hall of Fame has become, there will continue to be tweaks and adjustments to what has already been established as a fickle, capricious “standard” that will move wherever Facebook and Twitter trends say it should go.

Right now, the main trend is the total absence of one, which means a few hundred well-educated, independent-minded sportswriters spent days staring at their ballots, waiting for someone to tell them what to do. No matter that at least seven players who would be legitimate Hall of Famers on any other planet except Bizarro World are on the 2013 ballot. In fact, I would not be surprised if 2013 set a record number of blank ballots submitted.

The reality is that this is Year Zero for the Hall. All that has gone before means nothing to what will or won't come in the future.

My long-standing, unchanging opinion is much like that of ESPN writer and Vanderbilt graduate Buster Olney, and that is that the Hall of Fame is, at its heart, a museum that is a record of Baseball (capital B).

The Black Sox happened. Pete Rose happened. Ballplayers injecting stuff into each other's rears in the bathroom happened. And so did Sosa/McGwire in 1998, Barry Bonds in 2001, Ken Caminiti in 1996. No awards have been retracted. No records erased. No one barred for life this time. In the most literal sense, it's all good so far as MLB is concerned.

But what are we hearing daily on some of the national sports channels? Taint of suspicion of steriod use on Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza – since when? What day did I oversleep and miss that allegation? Oh, okay. All that was strictly press box and locker room talk, we hear now, not presented as a "news" story since there was no apparent evidence to back it up.

And so why is it brought up now? To protect the integrity of the Hall of Fame, we're told. In the last year or two, there has been an unprecidented wave of stories, revelations or innuendo about this player or that. It has been widespread and darned effective, especially against Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza, who in the latter case, I've heard more about his "back acne" that I ever thought possible. I've seen one prediction that Craig Biggio and Jack Morris could beat the odds this year, another where Piazza rightly earns his place.

But by a huge number, the largest percentage of predictions is that it will be next to impossible for anyone to post 75 percent

I entered the debate doubting that Sosa and Bonds deserve being crucified for doing something that was not yet tested for. I walk away from it wondering if a Hall of Fame can be decertified for refusing to listen to its own fans. But that will only happen if the fans can reach something resembling a consensus -- which means it's your turn at bat.

In the short term, let's just agree to use 2013 to reset what used to be the grandest hall of them all.

e-mail David Jenkins at carty43@netzero.net

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