The Bagwell snub is just foreshadowing. Starting next year, when Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa are eligible, these Hall elections will be like so many other aspects of life: a do-the-best-we-can decision made under circumstances where there’s often no correct answer. In other words, it’ll be exactly the way we don’t want it.
Enjoy Larkin. Henceforth, we’re probably going to be forced to use a single standard to eliminate candidates or else grant them the benefit of the doubt — even if we have plenty of ’em. We’re not going to like it. It’s not going to be completely fair. But this is where we’re headed: Did he ever get caught cheating? If he did, he’s “out.” If not, he’s “safe.”
Unless you plan to demolish the Hall of Fame, or give truth serum to candidates, it’s the least offensive option is an ugly bunch of choices. It’s far better to let a scoundrel in than to keep a good man out and taint him for life.
(Per department policy, Washington Post writers do not participate in Hall of Fame voting.)
We love our stars to shine, as examples beyond the field. So, let’s praise Larkin, the Reds’ respected captain who represented much of what is best in a shortstop, hitter, base stealer, teammate and person.
These days, we know anybody could have a skeleton in his locker. But Larkin might rank close to dead last in probability. He was a 12-time all-star who won an MVP and led the ’90 Reds to a World Series upset of the Oakland A’s, a team whose biggest sluggers are confessed cheats. The first 30-homer 30-steal shortstop, Larkin hit .300 nine times, won three Gold Gloves and got awards for public service named after Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig.
But enough about Barry Larkin; why be happy when we can argue?
Over the next dozen years, baseball will confront seven of the best performers in history — all automatic enshrinees under normal circumstances — who have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, admitted PED use or been inundated by incriminating evidence amassed by MLB or appropriate legal authorities.
They are seven-time Cy Young winner Clemens, seven-time MVP Bonds and five others with at least 555 home runs: Sosa, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez. Together they will have earned $1.253 billion in salary. With business deals and endorsements, the sum could approach $2 billion. Hence, their motivation. A desire to win, please teammates and fans? Maybe. I’ll stick with the cash.