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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: April 11, 2021 9:30 am PDT
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You are not going to ruin it for me. I’m not going to let you. You’re trying your best, but I am not going to fall for it.

I refuse to let you ruin the Baseball Hall of Fame voting experience or the pure joy of visiting Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

I am not going to let the controversies surrounding Hall of Fame voting take center stage. It is still a place and time of baseball joy.

And voting is too much fun. You are voting on the greatest players to ever play the game. Baseball used to be all about fun. Remember those days?

Baseball also used to be about winning, batting average, stolen bases, hit and run, run and hit, strategy, complete games, triples and yes home runs.

And in the end that is what voting for the Hall of Fame is all about for BBWAA members.

The Hall of Fame encompasses all of that and whenever I visit, I have a fabulous time. There is always a stop at Mickey Mantle’s plaque and a leisurely walk through the museum. On Hall of Fame Weekend in the plaque gallery you can be walking along and the plaque comes to life as that Hall of Fame player is standing right in front of you.

To get to that weekend you have to work through the voting process and on Tuesday night it was announced that no one made the 2021 class of Hall of Famers. At least the Hall of Fame has Derek Jeter and his HOF crew to count on this summer or fall when the 2020 Induction Ceremony finally is held.

Cooperstown in the fall would be a refreshing change.

And just imagine the absolutely insane possibilities for the 2022 Class. Much more on that later.

It is time to put things in perspective. That is what we do here at Baseball Or Bust.

The combination of the Curt Schilling Experience and the Steroid Era does make voting for the Hall of Fame a little bit more of a problem, but only if you let it be a problem.

It seems to me a lot of people are taking themselves way too seriously. That includes some writers and certainly Schilling’s temper tantrum where he says he wants off the ballot next year.

Get over it, Curt.

We should be talking about baseball here.

In the end, going to the Hall of Fame is such a wonderful experience. Does it really matter if some players are not inducted into the Hall of Fame? Just because they don’t have their plaques on the wall, doesn’t mean you can’t see what they contributed to the game throughout the place.

And with the passing of so many big-time Hall of Famers over the last few months, it is even a better time to go because you can see the extraordinary exploits of these players up close and personal.  Those exploits remain alive in Cooperstown. Their memories remain alive in Cooperstown. Their dreams remain alive in Cooperstown, despite all of the constant Hall of Fame lamenting that’s going on across the board on social media.

That is not real life, people.

Watching families walk down Main Street of Cooperstown, just thrilled to be there, is what this is all about.

curt schilling

Take it easy, Curt.

But these are the times we live in now. Everyone has a cause. Everyone has an opinion and if you don’t agree with that opinion there is no room for debate.

And that is sad. Absolutely zero debate. That has to change.

If your guy didn’t get enough votes, it is not the end of the world. There is tomorrow. At least for 10 years, then that player’s fate falls into the hands of Veteran Era Committees. Which is fine. They don’t always make the right choice, but they put in the time and I respect that and in a case like Jack Morris they made the right call getting him into the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame is a celebration. And on Induction Sunday, it is so special. The players, managers and front office people who make the cut and stand on that stage are smiling ear to ear.

They really are living the dream. I have been up in Cooperstown most every year the last 20 years to see that dream come true. It is the best weekend of the baseball season.

That’s why I am not going to let you ruin it for me.

If it’s not a steroid argument about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two players I covered and had many conversations with that enabled me to see what really makes them tick, it’s now Schilling and his antics.

Once again I voted for Schilling and he missed the Hall of Fame in this latest vote by 16 votes.

I understand why players get upset if they don’t make it when they are so close and you should too. These are the best players in the history of baseball. They believe in themselves and when they see they have the numbers to make the Hall and they don’t, they’re pissed.

Look back at some other players who came so close. They weren’t happy. So in that respect I will cut Schilling some slack.

Schilling was so upset he told the Hall to take his name off the ballot for next year, the 10th and final year he will be on the ballot.

It’s also the 10th and final year for Mr. Bonds and Mr. Clemens.

This is not Schilling’s call and like I said I will vote for him again next year.

Schilling’s former GM Ed Wade said this long ago of the right-hander, “He’s a horse every fifth day and a horse’s ass the other four.’’

If he doesn’t make it, then he is on to the Veterans Committee. So be it. Schilling has always been super opinionated and now those opinions are getting him in trouble with a number of writers and fans. Schilling, though, certainly has a right to his opinion.

Players are allowed to have opinions.

Schilling clearly despises the whole baseball writer world but you know what, from the time I’ve been going into clubhouses in 1977, I’ve run into players who have had it out with the writers. It comes with the territory. Deal with it and move on.

Schilling’s former GM Ed Wade said this long ago of the right-hander, “He’s a horse every fifth day and a horse’s ass the other four.’’

A talent evaluator who saw a good part of Schilling’s career in person, an evaluator I deeply respect, said much the same to me on Wednesday. “Every fifth day everybody loved Curt Schilling … He never had a filter.’’

Schilling would get himself in trouble with his mouth and that is still happening.

As far as we know there are no steroid clouds hanging over Schilling’s head, which brings us to Bonds and Clemens. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I don’t know how I will vote next year on Bonds and Clemens. I did not vote for them this year.

The Next Ballot offers more, as people like to say, “complicated’’ decisions. David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez join the Hall of Fame ballot party. Their numbers say Hall of Fame, but they have steroid issues, none bigger than A-Rod.

At this point in the game and considering all the controversy that will surround that ballot, all the noise that will be present in the voting for the Class of 2022, there is a side of me that says, let it roll.

Baseball didn’t take care of the steroid and PED issues so next year just vote them all in. Baseball – reap what you sow. Every player that has a PED question next to his name gets a check because let’s face it, they all have the numbers. They all have a Hall of Fame resume. Vote them in.

Barry, come on down. You too Roger, make room on the stage for Big Papi and A-Rod. Andy Pettitte you are on the mound. Manny Ramirez come back from Australia or wherever the heck you are still playing baseball and take a prime seat. Gary Sheffield, who I regularly vote for, you and Barry can talk about your Balco days at the Sunday night Cooperstown dinner, Hall of Famers only.

And have Schilling on board too. Perhaps he finds the lost votes and gets 75 percent of the writers to agree on something and all is good in Cooperstown.

Imagine that class.

The 2022 class

The 2022 class could look pretty interesting.

Imagine having all those saints and sinners on one stage along with the other Hall of Famers, who you can be sure are saints and sinners as well.

One big crazy baseball party. A Steroid Era gathering that puts the entire era in perspective. The Bad Boys who blew up the record books are forever enshrined and will now be enshrined together in one class: Baseball’s Outsiders are now in.

Imagine those speeches.

The Rocket will take off once more. Bonds will show the engaging side of his personality, believe me, it’s in there and one day I will tell you about my conversation with him on a Sunday morning in San Francisco (or maybe I will save it for my book), Pettitte will “Oh shucks’’ his way through his speech and A-Rod will smile and lovingly thank J-Lo who will be sitting first row, near the photographers.

It will all be there, the story of the Steroid Era front and center. And hopefully, like Hank Aaron said 12 years ago, on their plaques will be a comment about steroids.

For the entire weekend they will roam around the lobby and veranda of the classy Otesaga Hotel, having drinks Friday night at the Hawkeye Bar & Grill and then stepping outside into the inviting fresh air to have another round at the magnificent Fire Bar. It will be hot.

Stories will flow. So will laughs. There may be a few Hall of Famers who skip the ceremony in protest. They will have made their point, and more power to them, but also they will miss an amazing scene.

With all these characters in one place it will be like the bar scene in the 1977 Star Wars film. We are now on the planet of Tatooine. At some point maybe they will invite Pete Rose over for a drink after Rose is done setting up autograph shop on Main Street.

Watching the scene you’ll have to pinch yourself to see if it’s really happening. Is it a baseball dream? Or is it a baseball nightmare? That’s up to you to decide.

There sits Bonds and his seven MVP Awards, not to mention 762 home runs. Across from him is Clemens and his seven Cy Young Awards and 4,672 strikeouts, third all-time behind only Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Randy, of course, was Schilling’s World Series teammate and has stories to tell. An accomplished photographer now, RJ will be showing Clemens some of his amazing photos from the desert.

From a pure talent standpoint, no matter how that talent was helped along, this would represent the Greatest Class of Hall of Famers since that inaugural 1936 class of Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner.

I’m sure that first class of legends spent the night at the bar discussing the value of WAR and VORP.

No one was able to replace any of them.

By the way, did the public of that era know any of the political candidates those guys backed? All they knew was what Babe Ruth said one day that he had a better year than President Herbert Hoover and that is why he was paid more.

The Babe on Twitter would have been a blast.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the bar Big Papi will be holding court, laughing uproariously at an Alex Rodriguez joke, just like he does on TV while prankster Greg Maddux will be telling a joke of his own.

What a night, what a weekend that would be and you can be sure, watching it all with a slight grin, will be Derek Jeter, who headed the Class of 2020. There was Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller, who like Schilling wanted to be removed from the ballot.

Jeter & Co. will become an answer to a trivia question. What was the last HOF Class before Bonds and Clemens?

Such a steroid induction would mark the end of the onslaught of columns: “Why I voted for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens” and the equally overwrought:  “Why I Didn’t Vote for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.’’

That alone would be a positive for voting for Bonds and Clemens.

I’m not saying this is going to happen. But it could happen.

That’s the great thing about the Hall of Fame vote. You think you know what is going to happen but you are never sure until the announcement is made one night in January.

And remember, no matter who gets elected to the Hall of Fame or doesn’t get elected, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a fabulous place to visit any time of year. Here are just some facts to consider about the Hall:

– Opened its doors June 6, 1939

– 60,000 square feet to roam
– More than 17 million visitors have walked through the Hall
– 19 exhibit spaces over three floors
– Over 40,000 Museum artifacts in the collection
– 3 Million library pieces

– The newest permanent exhibit is Shoebox Treasures, all about baseball cards.

And most of all, baseball legends live there, and just knowing I had a small, small part in putting some of them in the Hall is a privilege.

44+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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