Major League Baseball Hall of Fame conversation has, as we feared, shifted to almost entirely Major League Baseball Steroid Era conversation. The rhetorical questions always seem to include: Should we let a player in who did steroids before it was illegal? Should we let anyone in we're suspicious of? Should we let everyone from Big Mac to The Rocket to Barry Bonds in the hall? Where I stand is somewhere in the middle, but one thing is clear: the Hall of Fame needs Steroid Era players.
Andre Dawson, elected in 2010, gave a beautiful speech in front of a scattered crowd. Nothing compared to 2007 when superstars Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. brought record crowds. Nothing compared to what the crowd would be like if Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are elected. Maybe visitors would show up with giant needles and signs to boo, maybe fans would show up to cheer them in, the common denominator is that people would show up, and that's what the Hall of Fame is currently lacking.
Last summer, CNBC Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell wrote that in 2010 the Hall was on pace to draw fewer than 300,000 fans. Seems they could do that in a weekend if every national column, every sports report and every talk radio conversation surrounded the induction ceremony.
In no way am I calling for steroiders to be elected to preserve the Hall of Fame, but facts are facts. Rovell's report stated that the Hall of Fame lost $2.4 million from 2008-09.
The Hall blamed the economy; it seems more reasonable to blame the writers. Not only for keeping Mark McGwire out, which would be a cash cow for the Hall, but for keeping lots of players out. Over the last 10 years, only three pitchers were elected and all three were relief pitchers. From 1990-2000, 12 pitchers were elected including extremely popular aces such as Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Rollie Fingers, Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan. Sure, Bruce Sutter was a good pitcher, but he isn't bringing people in the building like Nolan Ryan. The standards seem so strict that the sheer number of players is incredibly limited. The logic is simple: if you vote in five players instead of one, more people will come in support of their favorite players.
The potential 2011 players are regional stars. Barry Larkin, Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker spent much time with one team and are beloved in those areas. Any of them would be an excellent pick for the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire would draw more fans than all three combined.
The crowds in 2013 for four of the greatest players in the history of the game in the same year would bring enough revenue to sustain the Hall of Fame until 2067. The Hall of Fame would shatter its previous 2007 records. Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza and Roger Clemens all on the same stage. If those superstars aren't elected in 2013: Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling are the only possibles - and if writers break down the stats, some will probably come up with some sort of PED argument for both. The “Bloody Sock” and 3000 hits might draw to an extent, absolutely no where near what Clemens, Bonds and Sosa would bring to the tiny town in Central New York.
There seems to be a good deal of irony in the fact that, in the end, the very thing writers are trying to protect, the sanctity of the Hall of Fame, is hurting the Hall. And, while ignoring PED players may not kill the Hall of Fame, mediocre stars certainly won't save it.
Matthew Coller is a senior staff member of the Business of Sports Network, and is a freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter
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