I have a theory. Alex Rodriguez has just saved the Hall of Fame. Seriously. For some reason, prior to this week any time you talked about the presumed steroid abusers (Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, etc.) there was this self-righteous sense of disgust that seemed overwhelming in public opinion and even more so in the media. We’ve seen it in the Hall of Fame voting as well as in all kinds of media analysis. But the “A-Roid Disclosure” has had a sharply contrasted response. Now, yes there are still plenty of people eviscerating him for his misdeeds, but there is also a swell of sentiment to remove the Hall of Fame from Mount Pious (to steal a term from Dave Dameshek). Many sportswriters (from Jonah Keri to Tim Kurkjian to Joe Posnanski and more) have been taking a step back and proclaiming a crucial paradigm shift: The Hall of Fame is a Museum of baseball history, not the Big Building of Morals. If you want proof that they are right look at who all is in the Hall. There are some serious reprobates. But they tell the story of baseball. How can you justify a Hall of Fame Museum without Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod, or even Rose? They simply need to have more of a “full disclosure” approach to the Hall where they don’t pretend that everyone was a choir boy. But back to the main point…why do I credit A-Rod with this?
Secretly in our minds, we all believed that while Bonds was a pariah (tangent: having read Game of Shadows, I scoffed out loud when the major news media was reporting the “surprising” evidence that was unsealed in the Bonds case last week. Really?! You mean they had all of the evidence that was written about years ago, and you are stunned by this?! I feel that Seth Myers could do a nice feature on this…) his “reign” would be short-lived as A-Rod was coming and would erase most or all of the records and set history right, just as Greg Maddux had slid past Clemens letting us knock Clemens down a peg. A-Rod was the statistical hero coming to right wrongs. But this admission combined with the fact that we all STILL believe he will destroy all of the records and set them so high that, in an era where testing takes place, they will be nearly untouchable, made us have to come to terms with the reality that these records will be tainted, for all time. So instead of pretending we could return to how it used to be, we finally began to assess how to best frame history instead of pretending it didn’t happen.
So where do we go from here? We trumpet this new paradigm from the mountain-tops in hopes that it will be embraced across the board. We elect McGwire to the Hall of Fame. We re-instate Pete Rose’s eligibility. We point out that playing against juiced players is no more playing against an artificial group of the “greatest players in the world” than the Pre-World War II greats playing only against only the best white players that could be scouted within 50 miles of where a team was located (see Keri-Dameshek podcast from 2/11 for more). Seriously. And we should turn the Hall of Fame into the complete story of the greatest game ever invented, with the good and the bad. So thank you A-Rod. Even if you never explain why 2001-2003 seems “pretty” accurate as opposed to accurate, you just saved the legitimacy of the Hall of Fame.
Jamie “Torn” Cartledge
p.s. And don’t get me started on how the “specialization of bullpen roles” has ruined the game and how pitchers used to always go 9 innings. Go check out how long the starting pitchers went in all 7 games of the 1947 World Series and then try to sell me that bill of goods again…