Cooperstown Confidential is one of the best baseball books I have ever read. If you have any doubt on if a guy like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens should go into the Hall of Fame, or if you are misguided and already believe they shouldn’t: read this book.
the author Zev Chafets goes into great detail about the inner workings of the Hall of Fame. He dives into the veteran’s committee and its various shapes and sizes over the past 60 or 70 years and how it has led to some really poor players being inducted into the Hall of Fame and more recently been so tight assed that it has not inducted anyone into the Hall of Fame.
Did you know that all living Hall of Fame members split up a chunk of cash each year? Since 1995 the Hall of Fame has sold merchandise and split the pot three ways: the HoF itself (30%), MLB (40%) and living HoF members (30%). This chunk of cash equals about $6 million since 1995 (total from the time this book was published in 2009). Why would you want to add another person to this exclusive group and sacrifice some of your “hard earned money” to someone who didn’t get voted in by the BBWAA in 15 tries? Maybe Ron Santo was never voted in by the veteran’s committee because the committee didn’t want to add another person to take some of their cash?
The book goes deeper than this and talks about appearance money, autographs (especially during HoF induction weekend) and speaking money. Getting inducted to the Hall of Fame instantly turns any ballplayer into a guy who can easily make six figures a year just by appearing three or four times and giving kids or whoever a speech.
The real meat of the book comes towards the end and when Chafets discusses the steroid era. Not only does he point out that there is ZERO evidence that steroids makes an average player an All-Star much less a HoF’er but if everyone is using PEDs (more pitchers were mentioned in the Mitchell Report than position players) doesn’t the field level?
Now for my take on the Hall of Fame and the steroids era and a few players who have been passed over recently by the BBWAA.
Babe Ruth never played against Satchel Paige.
Bob Gibson pitched off of a higher mound.
Gaylord Perry cheated by spit-balling his way to the Hall of Fame.
Mickey Mantle missed out on the chase of the Bambino in 1961 because he was injected with a dirty needle. The injection? A mix of drugs that included steroids.
While many, if not all, baseball players used amphetamines (aka “greenies”) in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s they didn’t use steroids, or so they say. While teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 70’s were ‘roided up the only reason baseball players didn’t take steroids was because it was widely believed at the time that muscles on baseball players limited motion and were negative to a good swing. What if this was not the case? You want me to believe that if players in the 60’s thought steroids could help them, they wouldn’t take them? With the prevalence of recreational drugs in America and greenies in baseball I find that impossible to believe.
No one is beyond this point. Even the great Hank Aaron admitted in his autobiography to taking greenies to get out of a slump. If you believe he only took one greenie then I am guessing you think Ty Cobb was a nice man.
Speaking of Cobb; there are many reporters who will not vote for Bonds and not because of his alleged PED use but because he was an “ass”. Roberto Alomar was not voted into the HoF on the first ballot because some sports writers felt it is their obligation to be holier than thou because Alomar spit in an umpires face in 1996. Does Albert Belle have a shot at the HoF? No. Because of his attitude and not because he was one of the best hitters in baseball for about 8 years in the 1990’s. In Belle’s first appearance on the HoF ballot he garnered 7.7% of the votes. Belle was a lot better ball player than 7.7% would indicate.
Cobb hated blacks, Cap Anson was the first player to use his star power to keep blacks out of the game by boycotting, Tris Speaker and Rogers Hornsby were members of the KKK – all of them are in the Hall of Fame. I guess hating an entire race is OK but if you piss off the media you are doomed to sit out the HoF experience.
Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose are both missing from the Hall of Fame for betting on baseball. While Rose admitted (finally) to betting on baseball Jackson was acquitted by a jury of his peers. That didn’t stop Judge Landis (a racist and a card carrying HoF member) from banning him from baseball. They aren’t the only players in history who bet on baseball. Chafets lists others in his book who had scandals of their own and the powers at be looked the other way.
There is just no good reason to keep Bonds, Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palemeiro and Tim Raines out of the Hall of Fame.
Wait…what??? Tim Raines?? Yes, Tim Raines. Why else would a guy who got on base more often than Tony Gwynn not be in the Hall of Fame? Raines is arguably the best leadoff hitter in baseball history behind Ricky Henderson. Why isn’t Raines in the Hall of Fame? It wouldn’t be because he admitted to sliding head first so he didn’t break cocaine vials in his back pockets while playing with the Montreal Expos, would it? Mantle abused alcohol so much he missed games because of it and ultimately died because of it. How many pitchers kept their arms on their shoulders by injecting themselves with cortisone numerous times a year? Raines isn’t the first player addicted to a drug of some sort. I understand cocaine is not legal but it also isn’t a good reason to keep him out of the HoF.
Palmeiro finished his career with 3,020 hits and 569 home runs. The only other players to have 3,000 hits or more and 500 or more home runs are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray. I don’t care that in any single season Palmeiro wasn’t viewed as the best player in baseball and that his glove was made of stone; if you are included in a group of three as illustrious as these three you should be in the Hall of Fame.
I guess there could be a trio inducted into the HoF because they are part of a famous jingle. Oh, wait, we do: Tinkers, Evers and Chance. The famous trio from the Chicago Cubs infield in the early 1900’s was the making of a famous poem titled “Tinkers to Evers to Chance” and that alone got them into the HoF. It certainly wasn’t their performance on the field. Joe Tinker finished his career with a .269 batting average in an era when hitting .400 wasn’t too uncommon. His career on-base percentage of .308 is laughably poor and his career slugging number is a joke, too. In 15 years he only amassed 1,690 hits. Johnny Evers at least won an MVP but his triple slash of .270/.356/.334 is horrendous. The final name from the poem, Frank Chance, at least finished with a batting average near .300 (.296) and an on-base average close to .400 (.394) but still isn’t Hall of Fame worthy accept to the most disillusioned, diehard Cubs fan.
Tinkers, Evers and Chance should not be in the Hall of Fame while Sammy Sosa and his 600 home runs sit at home. Bill Mazeroski is in the Hall of Fame based on one famous home run and a huge marketing campaign put on by a fan of his from Pittsburgh (this is not uncommon, many players of today hire firms to help market their case to the BBWAA and veteran’s committee – wouldn’t you for a chunk of $6 million?).
McGwire finished his career with a triple slash of .263/.394/.588, 583 home runs and over 1,300 walks which almost equaled his strikeout total. McGwire swung hard and missed often but he also drew walks. McGwire never won an MVP but finished in the top five three times and received votes in 10 seasons. Mazeroski finished with a triple slash of .260/.299/.367, 138 home runs 706 strikeouts versus only 447 walks. A HoF’er with an OBA less than .300. Pathetic. Mazeroski finished 8th in MVP voting in 1958 and only one other time did he find his name listed when he finished 23rd in 1966.
The glaring discrepancy between Mazeroski and McGwire or Evers and Sosa or Chance and Palmeiro does one thing: make the Hall of Fame less credible.
When Clemens is passed over by the BBWAA and the greatest pitcher baseball has seen since Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan isn’t in the Hall of Fame but guys were recently inducted that took over 10 years of persuading to finally clear the hurdle are? Cooperstown loses some of its mystique. Guys like Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter aren’t in the same class as Clemens but they are in the Hall of Fame. Clemens will most likely get little support when his time on the ballot comes.
In 20 years if names like Bonds, Sosa, Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Palmeiro are not hanging with the plaques of much lesser ballplayers then Cooperstown is going to be no better than Canton or wherever the basketball HoF is located (both are a joke compared to Cooperstown). Cooperstown is a museum and it should tell the history of the game. Part of the museum pays tribute to the players who have made this game so great, an elite bunch (for the most part) not like any other in any sport.
It took the Hall of Fame 40 years to get Jackie Robinson’s plaque right and when they inducted Roberto Clemente they didn’t order his name correctly (originally his plaque read “Roberto Walker Clemente” and then corrected to read “Roberto Clemente Walker”). Maybe in 50 years they will realize that steroids were a part of the game just like the higher mound, Jim Crow segregation, scuffing baseballs, corking bats (Ruth did this) and now the new harder bats with double the shellacking and include the greats of the 1990’s and 2000’s where they belong: in the Hall of Fame.
I am off my soapbox now and still recommend that you read this book. It is fantastic.