Monday, July 29, 2013

Will baseball Hall of Fame “disaster” take down Chicago-ties in 2014?

I’m sure you can find many pundits, baseball fans, and all-around cranks complaining these days because of the fact that the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday inducted a series of dead guys into their ranks.

It’s true. The sportswriters who cast the votes for ballplayers couldn’t agree on anyone this year – what with all the confusion of who was and who wasn’t using steroids to pump themselves (and their stats) up and what (if anything) should be done about it.

THE VETERANS COMMITTEE that gives older ballplayers a second chance, and also considers non-players who made a contribution to the grand game chose ballplayers, umpires and an owner from the first third of the 20th Century.

Personally, I think it’s intriguing that one-time New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert (he owned the ball club back in the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig) is now in the Hall of Fame.

But too many people want to complain because Sunday’s ceremonies saw a series of distant relatives had to be called in to accept the honor on their behalf. It made for a dud of an induction ceremony – which means Cooperstown, N.Y., didn’t get the tourist swarm it usually gets every August.

For that, you need living ballplayers – along with the fans who saw them play who make the trip so they can reminisce about their younger days (when they were a few pounds lighter).

THE COMPLICATION IS the steroids issue. Because theoretically, this should have been the year that the Chicago Cubs’ very own Sammy Sosa, along with Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants and Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees/Toronto Blue Jays/Houston Astros (I still remember his 2005 World Series appearance) should have been inducted.

Except that all three have aroused suspicions that they used assorted substances to bolster their strength and endurance beyond anything that is natural.

The other ballplayers up for grabs have so many detractors that no one could get the minimum 75 percent total of ballots cast to get into the Hall of Fame.
Is this going to happen again?

THIS BECOMES A Chicago issue because 2014 is the first year of Hall of Fame eligibility for players such as Chicago White Sox great Frank Thomas, along with Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux.

Remember him? He started, and finished his major league career with the Cubs, and he even managed to get his first Cy Young Award while pitching with a baby blue bear logo on his shoulder.

Although the Cubs, in their short-sightedness, let him get away to Atlanta – where he became the ace pitcher of a starting rotation some fans think is the best-ever. Another pitcher from that rotation, Tom Glavine, also will get his first shot at baseball immortality (which amounts to a bronze plaque hanging in a hall in Cooperstown).

Now I don’t have a ballot. And I also know the sportswriter-types who do have them are an unpredictable lot. Could it be that these three (whom I’d vote for if I had a ballot) will get lost in the same politicking as they desperately try to vote against people they don’t want?

OR WILL THERE be a need felt by people with a ballot to pick somebody (anybody) who is physically capable of showing up for his own induction ceremony?

We’ll have to wait a few months to see, although I think it would be bad if any of these deserving ballplayers get short-changed (although the Cubs-fan grousing we’re going to hear that Maddux ought to be considered a Cub more than a Brave will be annoying).

Although Thomas and Maddux likely will be the only Chicago-tied ballplayers we might hear from next year.

Because looking at the other local ballplayers who will come up for consideration the first time, I don’t see any athletes in need of immortalization. In fact, I’ll be amazed in any get even the 5 percent minimum standard to remain on the ballot for future years.

RAY DURHAM AND Keith Foulke may have been key parts of that division winning White Sox team of 2000, and Esteban Loaiza may be one of the few Mexican-American pitchers to win at least 20 games in a single season – but none of that strikes me as Cooperstown-worthy. Neither does anything about one-time Cub Jon Lieber.

And as for Moises Alou? Maybe his father or uncles (the famed Alou Brothers of the 1960s) ought to get some Hall of Fame consideration.

But the one-time Cubs outfielder got his moment of “glory” when we saw him whine back in 2003 when a Wrigley Field fan may have prevented him from catching a fly ball down the line – which would have averted the rally that ultimately caused the Cubs to (yet again) blow a chance at the World Series!


EDITOR'S NOTE: Just think of what Sunday would have been like if people weren't so freaked out about steroid use, and it turned out to be the day that Sammy Sosa (along with Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds) had been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Would Sammy's command of the English language have suddenly improved to the point where he could give a comprehensible speech reminding us of how wonderful he thinks his presence was? Would he have given us that heart-tapping, kiss-blowing schtick that used to nauseate White Sox fans? And will there be some nitwit with a Hall of Fame ballot who will want to believe that since Sosa has to wait on Cooperstown immortalization, Frank Thomas should have to wait as well? We'll find out next year.

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