It’s time for Major League Baseball to change the Hall of Fame

Jan 26, 2021, 6:43 PM
In this Feb. 14, 2020, file photo, baseballs occupy a bucket after use during fielding practice dur...

In this Feb. 14, 2020, file photo, baseballs occupy a bucket after use during fielding practice during spring training baseball workouts for pitchers and catchers at Cleveland Indians camp in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

It’s time for unity. A time to heal. A time for all of us to come together and move forward in unison, leaving a dark and divisive era in our wake.

Forget politics. I’m talking about baseball, where absolutely no one was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2021. Not Barry Bonds and his big head. Not Curt Schilling and his big mouth. It’s a banner day for purists and patron saints.

The rest of us wonder when this tired sport will lose the high horse, the hypocrisy, the moral compass, the unwritten rules and its wacky code of ethics.

If Major League Baseball wanted to get real, displaying some courage, honesty and authenticity to its consumers, it would start by forming yet another committee. It would recognize the Hall of Fame is a museum, not a place of worship. It’s meant to celebrate the narrative arc of America’s former pastime, from start to finish: the highs and lows, the heroes and villains, the moments of great impact and the ones that transcend the sport. These moments tell the story of baseball.

After such a declaration, that committee will immediately:

Reinstate and induct Pete Rose to the Hall of Fame, the all-time hits leader who committed the cardinal sin of gambling on his own sport and his own team. Except Rose is 79 now and has suffered long enough, morphing into a pathetic lounge lizard who signs autographs for money. He’ll even sign his picture with the words, “Sorry I bet on baseball!” But you’ll probably pay extra for that.

There was a time when Rose was an iconic figure in America, when his buzz-cut, headfirst slides and sprints to first base following walks inspired a generation of baseball fans. And we’re about enter an era where sports gambling is not only embraced in this country, but facilitated inside our sports stadiums. It’s time for reconciliation with Charlie Hustle.

The committee will induct Bonds and Roger Clemens. They are the headline acts of the Steroid Era. They were also on Hall of Fame trajectories long before the clubhouse infestation of performance-enhancing drugs. And if we’ve learned anything about baseball in the past 100 years, it’s that the Hall of Fame would be nearly empty if you removed all the cheaters.

Finally, the committee will induct Schilling, who fell 16 votes short on Tuesday and fired off a letter to the Hall of Fame requesting to be removed from the ballot. Schilling said he would “defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in position to actually judge a player.”

Sorry, the Veteran’s Committee isn’t always the solution, either. Ron Santo was passed over three times during an eight-year stretch where the committee also elected nobody to the Hall of Fame. Santo was finally elected posthumously, after the committee changed its policy.

As for Schilling:

His rhetoric has become highly political. He was fired from ESPN for his social media posts. He once approvingly tweeted out a picture of a T-shirt that read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.” His reaction to Tuesday’s snub will only escalate his feud with the media.

Schilling was also one of the greatest big-game pitchers in baseball history. He won a championship with the Diamondbacks and helped break a curse in Boston. His baseball career and bloody sock belong in the Hall of Fame, even if the person makes you cringe.

And that should be true of all candidates from here on out. The Hall of Fame needs to reflect the humanity of baseball. It needs to champion the resiliency of the human spirit, as displayed by true heroes like Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. But it also needs the gritty, grimy stuff, too. There should be room for all the great players, even if their digressions must also be on display, requiring lengthy explanations. Because we all know baseball is not exactly pure and innocent.

Such a display of candor might also boost the popularity of baseball. It might help the game feel whole again, somewhat healed from the cracks and stress fractures incurred over the past few decades. Just imagine a late-summer ceremony from Cooperstown featuring speeches from Rose, Bonds, Clemens and Schilling, each of them put on the spot to summarize their own careers, verbalizing their own place in the Hall of Fame.

It would make for great theater. It could help the sport grow in new directions. Even if the newly-inducted are required to wear black hats on their Hall of Fame plaques.

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It’s time for Major League Baseball to change the Hall of Fame