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Home » Baseball

Roger that

Submitted by on December 18, 2007 – 1:25 AM19 Comments

From Jerry Crasnick’s piece on Roger Clemens’s chances for the Hall:

“I would vote for Bonds on the first ballot, as I would vote for Clemens, because the Hall of Fame isn’t church,” Ratto said. “It’s the history of baseball, and this is part of the history of baseball. I can assure you that Bud Selig will be voted into the Hall of Fame, and he is the commissioner whose name will be linked with the steroid era by first ignoring it, then profiting from it, and finally blaming others for it.

“I know that Cap Anson is in the Hall of Fame, and he was instrumental in the creation of the color line, which is way worse than PEDs. So this discussion ends up being an excuse for people with no institutional memory or understanding to claim a moral superiority they’re not really equipped to display.”

…I must say, I hadn’t heard of Ratto before this very evening, but I would like to shake his hand. That’s brisk, baby.

Crasnick goes on to quote Graziano of the Star-Ledger as saying that he doesn’t feel obliged to reward Clemens with a vote if Clemens cheated. I can understand that point of view, and based on how the voting went re: McGwire last year, it’s hardly a minority opinion, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to throw in with Ratto. It’s the history of baseball. I’m not excusing what these guys did (…”allegedly,” whatever). I’m not saying I would object to a mass asterisking, and I’m not saying that keeping any of the players associated with steroids out of the Hall necessarily damages the game, even; it’s not like we don’t know who Shoeless Joe is because he’s not in Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame doesn’t dictate who we remember or what our relationship is with baseball, and a bronze plaque doesn’t mean Ty Cobb wasn’t a guy I would cross the street to avoid.

But as I’ve said before, it’s a Hall of…Fame. All fame is not created equal, of course, but refusing any of these guys entry to the Hall isn’t going to end the discussion, or address the issue. It isn’t “wrong,” necessarily; it just isn’t a solution.



  • robyn says:

    “…the Hall of Fame isn’t church.”

    Amen to that!

  • Laura says:

    Heh. Ty Cobb.
    Family legend has it that he chased my great-grandfather off the field with a bat for hitting him with a pitch.

    (I have nothing useful to add to the steroids discussion)

  • Sars says:

    I take it Great-Grampy escaped, otherwise you wouldn’t be here telling us this story. Heh.

  • fair_n_hite_451 says:

    I think anyone who sees withholding a HOF vote from someone as a punishment must also be buying in to the whole shtick that getting elected to the HOF “is the greatest reward I ever got from playing this game” (to paraphrase virtually everyone who was ever elected to a professional sports hall of fame anywhere.

    I don’t buy it.

    It’s the phat wads of loot that are the greatest reward you ever got, and we all know it. I doubt that Bonds or Clemons or Sosa or anyone who’s played in the last 10 years will cry themselves to sleep at night because they didn’t get it … and therefore, you’re not punishing them in the slightest, the baseball writers can get a ladder and get over themselves for this grand moral crusade.

    Where were they when they saw players using in the locker rooms, or heard the rumours about this trainer or that “associate”? Oh yeah, keeping their mouths shut so as not to slay their personal golden goose.

  • Colleen says:

    I think I’m now supporting this Ratto guy in the primaries.

  • cayenne says:

    Excellent article. I’m forwarding it to all those who participated in the loud discussion of this topic at dinner last Friday, with a big “SEE!” attached. “The Hall of Fame isn’t church” was basically my point, too (though wordier & more defensive), so yay to Ratto for saying it in print. I’m not sure the idea of a formal Rogues’ Gallery would work; it seems more of a CYA for those who want big numbers in the Hall but not the moral angst associated with the individuals. Asterisks seem just fine; let the visitors/fans make up their own minds.

  • Karen says:

    Fine. I’m actually fine with this attitude, because you’re right: it’s a Hall of Fame.

    So, where does Ratto stand on Pete Rose? Because, dammit, Rose belongs in the Hall. In for a penny, in for a pound, people.

  • sherry lynn says:

    None of the major leagues is completely clean and Ratto should be saluted for saying this about the HOF. I’m an O’s fan dealing today with our boy scout (B Roberts) admitting he took steriods once – but everyone thinks that like A Pettite, he’s just admitting the least amount he can get away with. I hate it but I’m ready to forgive and move on. No one has the rose colored glassses that professional ahtletes are better people than us mere mortals anymore – they just have more marketable (and amazing) talents. Implement a real testing policy and just let the past lie with all the asterisks baseball reporters can muster. I’d rather have what few illusions I have left (A Rod I’m looking at you) kept intact and enjoy the game again.

  • k says:

    Fair_n_hite – I grant you they want the cash money on the barrel, but in the case of Bonds and Clemens, all the narratives about their steroid use are linked to ego. Bonds was reportedly hella pissed that everyone was watching McGwire and Sosa and not his extremely talented not-white self, Clemens was stung by Duquette saying he was old old old. So actually I would argue for those two Hall of Fame matters a little.

    Granted, the more you hear about Hall of Fame voters and the BBWAA, the less of an honor it seems, but well, yes.

  • Annie F says:

    Karen: I am fairly sure Ratto has supported putting Rose in the HOF. Don’t quote me, but I read him regularly and it would make sense.

    I tend to look at it all in the context of the game at the time. And, if anything, the Mitchell report shows how prevalent the PEDs were (are). So, if everyone else is taking ’em, in order to level the field, you have to take ’em. Kind of a bad cycle. Not that it is right, but they also found a loophole, which doesn’t make it wrong, per se.

    What really worries me is that with the pres election coming up, this is suddenly going to become “an issue” that the candidates feel the need to talk about, rather than important things.

  • Grace says:

    Well, as of 2004, Ratto’s vote for Pete Rose for the HOF was nay:

    “Ray Ratto: I want to be a libertarian here. I want to be able to say that Pete Rose is actually two people, and that there is room in the Hall of Fame for a player who as a manager doesn’t deserve to pay his way into it.

    I wouldn’t vote for him because I fear there’s more. I fear the man who said he never bet on baseball (except for the four times a week when he actually did), the man who said he never bet on the Reds (until he got $1 million for saying he actually did), the man who lied so easily for 14 years isn’t nearly done with us. I’m waiting for a betting slip that has him betting against the Reds while he managed them, because I think there is now at least a 50/50 chance that one exists, and because I’m not willing to take his word on that, either. ”

    The Chronicle’s 8 voting writers split 4-4 on whether to vote for Rose in the HOF.

  • Josh says:

    Yeah, one of the problems with Ratto’s position is that you can basically never keep anyone out of the HoF, no matter what they do, thereafter.

    He’s saying the HoF ain’t church, but he’s also wrong when he’s treating it just as a historical repository of baseball. the building itself certainly is; it’s a great museum of the game and it should have a pretty serious exhibit on the Steroid Era, naming names and discussing the full aspects of it and everyone who was complicit from players to owners to agents to fans, reporters, etc. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that induction into the HoF as an individual shouldn’t still have standards.

    Ratto’s position devalues the membership. And maybe it’s already been devalued in a way that can’t be redeemed, by inclusion of virulent racists and awful human beings from the days when people didn’t know, condoned it, or whatever. But what’s left if it becomes nothing more than a historical abstract? Hell, then you don’t need voting at all, just draw a line with some numbers (like the LPGA does) and add people whenever they cross the line. But right now people care about who gets elected to the HoF. In Ratto’s new world, I’m not sure anyone will again…

  • Karen says:

    Thanks for the Ratto-Rose quote, Grace! I fear I think he’s being inconsistent. If the smoking gun he fears is a betting slip showing Rose bet against the Reds while he was a manager, so what? He’s sure as hell not going into the Hall for his record as a manager. He’s going in for being Pete Rose the player, Charlie Hustle, Mr Baseball. And the records he set as a player DO mean something.

    Those plaques aren’t for honesty.

  • Matthew E says:

    I look at it like this:

    Steroids are cheating.

    I’m against cheating, and I hope MLB can put a stop to it. But Gaylord Perry threw the spitball and he’s in the Hall, and Babe Ruth corked his bat and he’s in the Hall. So I don’t mind if Clemens and Bonds and McGwire get into the Hall too.

    Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe shouldn’t be part of this discussion, as it isn’t cheating that’s keeping them out of the Hall. It’s another issue entirely, which, especially in Jackson’s case, is far more serious than cheating.

  • MC says:

    I agree that the conversations about Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson are different, though I don’t know that what they did is more egregious. I don’t think one is necessarily worse than the other. Both harmed the integrity of baseball, though I think the steroid era has forced us to reconsider how we view statistics, in the wake of something that was so widespread that it affected numerous records that were previously perceived as incredible achievements. The distinction perhaps is that steroids affected performance, and the other did not dramatically alter the performance of the individual players, which is the main way we evaluate players and their salaries. Performance is so significant in how we compensate players now, whether a guy is a starting pitcher, etc. It grossly manipulates the game.

    No matter how wrong anyone thinks gambling or bribes may be, and most do agree that they hurt the integrity of the game and should make a player ineligible to play, no one can say that they drastically altered individual performances. If anything, Shoeless Joe Jackson probably would have had a HIGHER average in the 1919 series. Pete Rose, despite his imprudent conduct as a manager, was one of the great players of the game, and no one disputes his numbers.

    My argument is not that we should absolve one and condemn the other, but consider the differences in the offense. I don’t have an opinion about Clemens specifically, as I think it is too soon to form a decisive opinion one way or the other. In general, I think steroids are awful, and if any of the players with a substantial amount of evidence against them is considered for the HOF (what the barometer of “substantial” should be, I can’t be sure, since I don’t know enough about the nature of the evidence) there should be an asterisk, if they get in.

    I also think the real affect of steroids on the game is much more significant than whether or not Bonds would have be the home run king, or Clemens would have seven Cy Young Awards. I’m thinking of the little guy. You know, the guy that fluctuates between Triple A and the big show, trying to make it big, maybe getting the league minimum (which is still way more money than I will ever earn), who is trying to edge out the other moderately talented guys on his team. The trickle-down effect on college and high school players is not at all acceptable, and I have a big problem with giving the guys at the top a little leeway because their position was somewhere between greatness and epic greatness. It’s not consistent, and if we are going to punish the little guys, we have to punish the big guys.

  • funtime42 says:

    The Mitchell Report only mentioned Sammy Sosa in the context of players who refused to be interviewed (as did most players). He was not included in the list of players suspected of having taken PED. I wonder why the press, having already tarred him pretty heavily, have managed not to say “Oops” about that.

    I believe Pete Rose, the player, should be in the HOF, pure and simple. Of course I also believe the DH is an abomination in the sight of the Baseball Gods and that I would like to go an entire season without ever hearing another word about the Yankee and the Red Sox…

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