Thursday, August 5, 2010
Numbers Don't Lie...
Unquestionably some of the greatest of their era, somehow Pete Rose, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (and to a lesser degree Mark McGwire) definitely have a tough task ahead of being voted into Baseball's Hall Of Fame. Although dominant on the field, their off-field reputations and other allegations either have or will continue to keep them from garnering the number of votes necessary to be granted the honor of being enshrined in the vaunted "Hall" of MLB's elite. I don't think the reasons are justified, considering the great numbers said players produced over the course of their careers.
We'll begin with Pete Rose, dubbed "Charlie Hustle" due to his all-out approach to the way he played the game. Rookie of the Year in 1963 & NL MVP 1973. In 24 seasons in the majors, Rose managed to accumulate the most hits in MLB history (4,256 to be exact), leading the league in that category 7 times! More hits than Ty Cobb. Over 2,000 more hits than the great Joe DiMaggio. Think about how consistently good you have to be to rack up a total that high. For good measure, Rose is is the career leader in games played, and ranks in the top 10 all time for doubles, runs scored, & total bases. He's also a 3-time world champion to boot. So how can someone with numbers like this not be in the Hall of Fame? Simply put, Pete Rose bet on baseball as manager of the Cincinnatti Reds between 1985-1989, reportedly as much $2,000 a day. These allegations subsequently led to a lifetime suspension from baseball, thus making him ineligible for the Hall.
Now let's look at Barry Bonds, all-time HR leader (762) and record 7-time MVP. His accolades include 14 all-star appearances, 8 Gold Gloves and 12 Silver Slugger awards. Bonds was the epitome of a run producer, and managed to swipe 514 bases in the process. Some even argue that he's the most complete player ever (I still say Griffey, but that just my opinion). He set the major league record for most home runs in a season with 73 back in 2001. Bonds was undoubtedly the most feared hitter in the game, annually leading the league in intentional walks. If memory serves me right, he was even walked with the bases empty at one point (who does that??). Where things get cloudy for Barry is that he played in what is now dubbed "the steroid era", where many of the top hitters in the 90's-early 2000's were suspected of using performance enhancing drugs and steroids to boost their power numbers. Many believe Bonds to be a central figure of the era and victim of a MLB witch hunt to prove his guilt. It doesn't make matters any better with Barry's tainted reputation of being a complete jerk and unapproachable to the media. The Balco case in still ongoing.
Roger Clemens could use a few lessons in verbal restraint. You would think he learned from Raphael Palmiero's rant that lying under oath is not the best idea. Still, Clemens was a dominant force on the mound from 1984-2007, amassing 354 wins (9th all-time), 4,672 strikeouts (3rd) 11 all-star selections, a record 7 Cy Young Awards and an MVP award just for kicks. He was known as a fiery competitor and had no problems throwing inside and hitting batters with his fastball which was regularly clocked 95+ mph, thus earning him the nickname "The Rocket". He owns a career winning percentage of .657 and only yielded a losing record in 2 of his 24 major league seasons. Clemens was in every sense the "Ace" of his era.
The moral is, I think Hall Of Fame status should be measured by a player's accomplishments on the field of play, not the measure of their character. We have known racists (Ty Cobb for example), criminals, alcoholics (the great Mickey Mantle, among others) and Lord knows what else already enshrined in the Hall. Put this into perspective; segregation was legal in Cobb's day, so his off the field and personal antics were accepted. Steroids were not a banned substance in the 90's when Bonds & Clemens allegedly used them, and I'd wager any amount of money the majority of players took some sort of performance-enhancing substance. It was the nature of the game at the time. Should writers and Hall voters hold this against them? I think not. They were the best at what they did during the era in which they played, and that's what should be rewarded. I can't say quite the same for Rose as his issues bordered on illegal, but I think 20 years of being banned should be punishment enough.
Put an asterisk (*) by their names if needed, but let's give the players their due. As the saying goes... men lie, women lie; but the numbers don't. And at the end of the day, that's all that should matter.