Obviously I don’t agree with the conclusions Ken Rosenthal reaches in his Hall of Fame coulmn, at least with respect to steroid users (outside of that, his ballot is pretty much exquisite), but it’s more considered than most of the people who are going to withhold their vote from Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be, so it’s worth a read on its own terms. Still, there are a couple of points at which I think the line of reasoning that Rosenthal employs does more to disprove his position more than anything, particularly this bit on the character clause;
The Hall of Fame specifically instructs us that voting “shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
You may disagree with selective application of the “character clause.” You may believe that the clause should be eliminated entirely. And you may think that a player’s performance matters far more than his character.
All that is fine, but the clause exists, and it allows voters not only to take a subjective view of candidates, but also to apply a rather wide lens.
I think Rosenthal is really glossing over the point about selectivity here, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there. I find it to be silly, but I suppose you could think that “cheating” by using steroids is worse than by, say, doctoring a ball, or that using other drugs isn’t as bad as using steroids.
The real problem is that, as far as I can tell, the character clause has previously been invoked approximately never. It’s merely something that a certain segment of writers latched on to in order to justify their crusade against
Barry Bonds players who used “PE”DOTTUBHA* and had the nerve to break records held by players idolized by 10 year old Bob Costas. And I suppose you can argue that that’s permissibble under the rules as well, but that would put you in a rather strange philosophical position. The Hall of Fame already includes cheaters, drug users, vile racists, and Ty Cobb, but it’s players using steroids post-1997 that’s finally going to move us to take the “character clause” seriously as a criteria for choosing whom to vote for?
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to be the guy who says that Barry Bonds just isn’t good enough for the club that includes Cap Anson.