The Seattle Mariners did not get one of their own elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. Namely, Edgar Martinez was passed over again as the Baseball Writers of America saw fit to apply their own special criteria to the candidates.
This is obviously frustrating to fans and media members who recognize that Martinez is Hall-worthy and should be enshrined in Cooperstown. There are the usual contributing factors, such as east coast bias and the reality that the election process is at least somewhat based on a popularity contest. The DH issue comes up every year, even if this is a poor argument.
Unfortunately for Martinez, he is also caught in the middle of two major problem. One is the process itself, while the other issue is the ongoing distraction of steroids.
A number of writers have lamented the actual voting process, specifically because voters are required to vote for 10 candidates. What this does is force voters to rank the players on the ballot, rather than simply decide whether they meet the more general qualifications. The average voter is going to rank a Greg Maddux over Edgar Martinez, and that is certainly appropriate. However, the qualifications of Maddux does not mean that Martinez should be out.
The other issue is the so-called “elephant in the room.” Steroids are part of baseball history, and while they are an embarassing aspect of America’s pastime, this era did occur. The problem is that no one will ever be able to fully know which players used and how that impacted their game.
Because of the uncertainly, there are a number of players that have amazing numbers but are on the outside looking in. Players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro are essentially creating a logjam of talent that taint players like Martinez and contribute to an ongoing distraction.
I am certainly not a fan of rewarding cheaters, but I am getting to the point where I am in favor of the voters putting these guys into the Hall. Let’s face it. The Baseball Hall of Fame is not exactly a sanctuary of virtuous lifestyle. Translation? If you go through baseball history, I’m guessing that you will find some bad guys, and probably some players that cheated in a variety of different ways. Baseball has been skewed by steroids, but keeping a handful of players out of the Hall does not make this time period go away.
Even with testing, modern players are going figure out ways to use substances that beat the system.
For the voters to continue this moralizing of baseball is noble, but it is also a bit disingenuous. Teams, fans and media members went along with this charade during the 1990s. People knew, and they made money off of the game anyway. We all jumped up and down when Sosa and McGwire were launching monster home runs.
Now we have to pay for it.
If the Hall wants to put a little label on certain players that identifies them as a proven PED user, that is fine. As much as baseball wants continuity and a system of objective measurements, this is wishful thinking at best. Baseball has changed. The equipment is different. The ballparks are different. The rules have changed. Players today prepare very differently than they did in the past.
If the voters want to keep the alleged steroid guys out, that is their prerogative. There is certainly reason to keep proven cheaters outside the doors. However, it seems this has created a level of distraction that continues to hurt accomplished players like Martinez.
Adjust the system and clear the way for players like Edgar Martinez. He deserves election.