Barry Larkin is headed to Cooperstown as the lone member inducted by the baseball writers in 2012. It's a well-deserved honor for the MVP shortstop, but not one that will cause much reaction outside of Cincinnati where Larkin played out his 19-year career.
Elsewhere, there is rejoicing at the progress made by Jeff Bagwell and Jack Morris and hope for Lee Smith and Tim Raines. But the loudest cheers may be coming from those firmly entrenched against players who used performance-enhancing drugs, in anticipation of a looming battle.
Mark McGwire saw a drop in his voting totals, while fellow PED user Rafael Palmeiro saw his voting totals hover around 12 percent. It was another victory for the Hall, which seems hypocritical, considering the many other "cheaters" already enshrined.
The Hall of Fame's infamous "character clause" has earned its fair share of criticism, and rightfully so. It reads, "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played."
Many voters seem to be interpreting this in the strictest sense. What they are forgetting, however, is the blatant lack of integrity and sportsmanship already enshrined in Cooperstown.
The bat from Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" sits proudly on display in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Notably absent from the exhibit are the telescope located in the Giants' clubhouse used to steal signs from the opposing catchers, or the buzzer used to signal the bullpen what pitch was coming to let the hitter know.
Similarly, Gaylord Perry's plaque proudly sits on the wall in one of Cooperstown's wings. In case you may have forgotten, this is the same Gaylord Perry that wrote an autobiography entitled "Me and the Spitter," admitting that he would throw a spitball (which was illegal) as well as doctor the ball with Vaseline (again, illegal).
Ty Cobb, however, remains the poster child for Cooperstown's blissful ignorance of the character clause. Cobb was notoriously racist, as well as famous for sharpening his spikes to make sure nobody got in his way on the basepaths. Cobb even charged into the stands once to beat up a man with no hands. Then again, he also had 4,189 hits and is the all-time leader with a .366 batting average, so how can he not be in the Hall of Fame?
Baseball's past is fraught with cheaters and controversial figures, but it has found a way to look past those faults for the good of the game. Here's hoping that the Hall has the good sense to continue that practice with this new era of "character" players, and let them in.
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