Posted: 11:20 am Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
By Jeff Schultz
Every year there is more confusion. Every year there are more arguments. Every year somebody feels compelled to “make a statement,” as was the case this year when at least one Baseball Hall of Fame voter chose to leave every “steroid era” player off of his ballot, even the clearly steroid-free Greg Maddux. (More on that shortly.)
There needs to be a change.
I’ve thought about giving up my Hall of Fame vote for the same reasons others probably have. There is a lack of clarity on how to deal with players who’ve either been caught, admitted to, or are highly suspected of using performance enhancing drugs. There is a lack of clarity on how voters should treat former players like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, both of whom have Hall-worthy credentials but some believe also used PEDs. (Piazza and Bagwell fall into what I term the, “I want to think about it for a while” category. For that reason, I’ve voted for neither.)
The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), the Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball need to collectively come up with clear guidelines for voters on this issue.
Should steroids be ignored?
Should steroids be factored in?
Should there be a mandate of proof and/or an admission of guilt before a Hall candidate can be red-lined?
What qualifies as sufficient circumstantial evidence?
What if a player admits he used PEDs but there’s a belief by a voter he would have had Hall of Fame credentials, anyway. (Best examples: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.)
Frankly, I’m tired of it all.
Later today, two clearly drug-free ex-Braves pitchers are expected to be voted in: Maddux and Tom Glavine. They are both first-ballot worthy candidates. I’ll be back later with a column on the vote.
We learned Tuesday that Maddux would not be a unanimous candidate. Ken Gurnick, a Los Angeles-based writer for MLB.com, revealed that he voted for only Jack Morris. His reasoning: Morris pitched prior to what Gurnick perceives as the pre-steroid era. He didn’t feel comfortable voting for anybody else.
Now, I feel compelled to weigh in on Gurnick’s decision because he’s taking a beating on various blogs and in the Twitterverse.
I’ve known Ken for over 33 years. We worked together in Los Angeles at the old Valley News (now the Daily News). Our sports staff included a number of young writers right out of college, including Gurnick, John Lowe (a long time Detroit Free Press baseball writer John Lowe), Eric Sondheimer (now at the L.A. Times), Jay Privman (lead writer at the Racing Form) and several others.
Ken is neither a dummy nor a bitter old man, as he’s been portrayed. He’s actually one of the premier reporters I’ve ever come across. When he covered the Los Angeles Rams for us, he broke every major story on the beat, hammering the Times, the old Herald Examiner (for whom he later worked) and every major suburban paper — including the South Bay Daily Breeze, which had a pretty good young reporter named Chris Mortensen.
Gurnick has taken the position that we don’t truly know who did or didn’t take something in the steroid era, and therefore he has chosen not to vote for anybody. You might disagree with that position but it’s his opinion.
Do I agree with his ballot? No. But I respect his right to have an opinion and the current voting system allows for an unlimited range of criteria. (Ken also announced this would be the final year he would vote.)
So here’s hoping the official parties create some guidelines for future votes. Right now, things are kind of a mess.
And, honestly, I’m not sure how much longer I want to do this, either.
About the Author
Jeff Schultz has worked at newspapers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta. He has been with the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution since 1989. He has been honored several times by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA) and several other organizations. He also likes puppies, rock and roll and anything with cheese on it.