The news broke on Tuesday that Greg Maddux will not be the first unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame when MLB.com writer Ken Gurnick revealed that he voted only for Jack Morris and stated, “As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.” My initial thought was that anyone who didn’t vote for Greg Maddux as a Hall of Famer is either an attention seeking troll or a complete moron.
A simple Google search of Gurnick’s name shows that internet has not reacted warmly to his vote or lack thereof. While I certainly don’t agree with Gurnick’s omission of Maddux, as I give it more thought I can see the merits of an “all or none” approach to Hall of Fame voting in the steroid era.
I think everyone agrees that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens did steroids. Most people are comfortable assuming that Greg Maddux, who is built more like your high school chemistry teacher than Jose Canseco, didn’t cheat. The problem is that the arguments for or against most players that the writers are being asked to vote on aren’t so black or white.
Take for example the case of Mike Piazza. Judging by his career numbers he is clearly a Hall of Famer and almost inarguably the greatest hitting catcher of all time. He wasn’t elected last year, his first on the ballot, because of suspicions or rumors that he may have used steroids. There is no hard evidence that Piazza cheated. He never tested positive or appeared on any lists. He is guilty in the eyes of some because he was a muscular guy who put up exceptional numbers in the steroid era and he allegedly had back acne.
If you were to put a gun to my head and make me guess if Mike Piazza had ever done some type of PED, I’d probably say yes, but it would be nothing but a guess. No one really knows for certain if he used besides Mike and the guy who did or didn’t put a needle in his ass. I can’t really crucify someone like Gurnick if he’s not comfortable playing that guessing game.
The major flaw in Gurnick’s thinking is that if everyone voted like him we’d have no Hall of Fame or at least have to close its doors to new members for the foreseeable future. I hate the fact that many of baseball’s most cherished records are now tainted, but if we want to continue to put people in the Hall of Fame we are eventually going to have to allow players in who may have done steroids.
I don’t see MLB giving a Hall of Fame vote to a guy pretty much only watches Yankee games and started a blog to support his novel about hookers any time soon. If I did have a vote I would cast it in favor of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. They may be lying, cheating, scumbags but Bonds is the best hitter of my lifetime and Clemens is one of the top three or four pitchers. I would obviously vote for Greg Maddox, who probably doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with the cheaters of his era. That said, I can’t totally kill someone like Ken Gurnick who isn’t willing to make that distinction.