by Julian Spivey
Every year now when the Baseball Hall of Fame results are announced there is a backlash among fans that Barry Bonds hasn’t been inducted into the hall of fame. Some fans even go so far as to say the hall of fame is “meaningless” without Bonds being inducted.
It’s something that’s going to continue until Bonds either falls off the ballot after 10 years or until he’s finally voted in, which I believe will happen toward the end of his allotted tenure on the ballot. This year, in his sixth year on the ballot, Bonds received almost 54 percent of the vote, which is 21 percent below the 75 percent required for election.
I’ve never understood the uproar about Bonds not being inducted into the hall of fame. There isn’t an athlete in the history of sports who’s done more damage to his or her respective sport than Bonds. The only athletes that even come close are ones like Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez who followed in his performance enhancing drugs footsteps.
This is reason enough to keep Bonds out of the hall of fame, despite his bloated numbers and even though PEDs weren’t outlawed in baseball during his era. The Baseball Hall of Fame has an integrity clause in its rules that writers casting ballots are supposed to adhere to. The voting rules state: “voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Many hate the integrity part of the voting rules because they claim the hall features a few bad guys from racists to criminals to what have you … and they’re right. The hall of fame does have members who were less than stellar people. But, those individuals didn’t harm the game of baseball. Bonds did. He ruined what I always considered to be the greatest record in all of sports – the home run record. For decades the sport had Hank Aaron, a shining beacon of everything the game is supposed to be, atop the mountain. Then Bonds came along with his drugs and destroyed it.
I have never been able to understand the mindset that people who believe Bonds should be in the hall of fame have. I don’t believe it’s something I’m ever going to understand. It’s a moral issue for me. He destroyed something so pure and so special. And, he has no qualms about it. There’s nothing honorable about how Bonds played the game. So, why should he have a plaque beside players like Aaron and Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson and Lou Gehrig?
by Julian Spivey
I’m obviously not a part of the BBWA (Baseball Writers Association of America) that has the opportunity to fill out a ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame. But, every year I like to fill out a mock ballot of which players I would vote for if I did have a real ballot. I don’t understand how there are members of the BBWA who aren’t filling out 10 spots on their ballot recently. There are so many worthy players on the ballot now that I had to leave some players that I think are worthy of the hall of my ballot. And, I’ll come right out and say if you’re looking for players like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens on my ballot I will never include players we know to have used performance enhancing drugs on my ballot.
Chipper Jones is without a doubt one of the 10 greatest third baseman to ever play the game. He might even be one of the five best to ever play the game. He should be a no-brainer for first ballot selection. The only thing that could keep him out is seemingly some writers leaving him off their ballots because they don’t like him as a person – and honestly writers admitting to such should lose their ballots. Jones finished his all-star career with a .303 batting average, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI. He won the 1999 National League MVP, the 2008 National League batting title and was a member of the 1995 World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
Jim Thome is one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history and should also be a no-brainer first ballot hall of famer, but it doesn’t feel as if many believe him to be a no-brainer. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if he isn’t simply because he played in the steroid era and we’ve seen that affect players like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell before. Yes, Thome hit 612 home runs, eighth most in baseball history, but he’s never really been one of the suspicious names you hear about. I say if there isn’t reasonable evidence that he used PEDs it’s not right to punish him.
Vladimir Guerrero is one of the purest hitters I’ve ever seen play the game of baseball. There’s also never seemingly been any PED suspicion surrounding him. I don’t understand how he wasn’t a first ballot hall of famer last year and hopefully the BBWA rights its wrong this year and inducts him. The 2004 American League MVP was a nine-time All Star that finished his career with an incredibly .318 average (again, how was he not a first ballot guy?) with 449 homers and 1,496 RBI.
I’ve contended for years that Fred McGriff is the most screwed player from baseball’s steroid era. McGriff didn’t use PEDs, which makes his terrific offensive numbers not as impressive as the astronomical numbers of those who did. And, while the BBWA punished players (rightfully so) who did use PEDs they fail to consider that numbers like the ones McGriff compiled over his career (493 homers, 1,550 RBI, .284 average) would’ve gotten him into the hall of fame had he played in any other era. It’s clear McGriff is going to fall off the ballot and that’s a travesty. But, I have high homes that the veterans committee will one day elect him to Cooperstown.
The BBWA continues to show that they don’t believe designated hitters belong in the hall of fame and that’s wrong. I’m not a fan of the DH. I wish baseball had never allowed it and wish they would abolish it, but I’m not going to let my feelings toward the DH keep one of the best pure hitters of his era out of the hall of fame. I do believe Martinez is a borderline hall of famer, but he’ll appear on my ballot nonetheless. A .312 career average with two batting titles, 1,200-plus RBI and more than 2,000 career hits is enough for me. If Martinez ever makes the hall he’ll have to wait for a veteran’s committee.
Mike Mussina never won a Cy Young Award, given to a league’s best pitcher, and I believe it’s the one thing that’s keeping him out of the hall of fame thus far. I don’t believe that’s right. There’s only so many Cy Young and MVP awards to go around and Mussina pitched in the same league as Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez for his career. Mussina’s 270-153 career record and 3.68 ERA are good enough for me, not to forget he’s one of the best defensive players ever at his position with seven Gold Gloves.
The BBWA has always had something against closers. Trevor Hoffman retired with the most saves in baseball history and the primary job of a closer is to nail down saves. Arguably Mariano Rivera, who will obviously be a first ballot hall of famer when he’s eligible, was the only better player at the closer position in the history of baseball than Hoffman. Let him in.
Jeff Kent has more home runs than any second baseman in the history of Major League Baseball. He hit 377 in his career. Kent also had a very good .290 career batting average and almost 2,500 career hits. He also won the 2000 National League MVP and was a five-time all-star. For the second base position these seem like obvious hall of fame numbers. Yet, he’s never come close to being inducted in many years on the ballot. Why? The era he played in. People just don’t trust that he did it clean, especially because his career seemed to get off to a slow start and he didn’t really become the slugger he did until he teamed with notorious PED user Barry Bonds in San Francisco. But, I’m a fan of innocent until proven guilty and there just isn’t enough for me to keep Kent out of Cooperstown.
Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel
Here’s where my most controversial decisions come in. I’m not 100 percent sure that I believe Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel are hall of famers. They are two players that may fall more into the “very good” instead of “legendary” category. But, I don’t believe either should fall off the hall of fame ballot in their first year of eligibility, and I believe there’s a chance either one of them or both will. That’s why I would use a spot for them over say Curt Schilling who won’t fall off the ballot. Jones and Vizquel have some offensive numbers that say “yeah, put him in the hall,” but mostly they should be considered for the hall of fame because they are two of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game. Jones won 10 gold gloves in center field and is one of only six outfielders to win 10 or more Gold Gloves (the other five are either in the hall or will be). Vizquel won 11 gold gloves, which is second to only Ozzie Smith all-time among shortstops. Smith made the hall of fame essentially only on defense – so why not Vizquel?
by Julian Spivey
Over the years I’ve kind of come to terms with the fact that I’m just not a college football fan. I think I once was when I was younger and didn’t have responsibilities or anything better to do on Saturday afternoons, but not anymore. I haven’t seen a single college football game from start-to-finish all season. I intended to watch the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn all the way through, and it was on my television the entire time, but other things took my interest away. It just doesn’t matter to me much and this is something that’s hard to admit because it makes me an anomaly in the South and more importantly, I think it hurts my credibility as an all-around sports fan. But, you know I don’t really watch hockey, soccer or tennis either. So, I guess that was already out the window.
I didn’t see a single college football game this season and due to my work schedule next week I won’t see much, if any, of the national championship game either, but I’m still kind of irritated that UCF (University of Central Florida), recently off their impressive Peach Bowl win over Auburn of the SEC, never had a shot to play in the national championship game.
I will state that I’ve never seen a single UCF football game in my life, so there isn’t some sort of bias here. I just feel like the entire system is wrong.
I believe this is partially why my interest in college football has waned or never reached the interest of the NFL over the years. I don’t believe college football has a format that leads to true champions. All other team sports in professional or collegiate levels do have playoff formats that lead to this. Sure, the recent college football playoff system is better than the old BCS system used to be. But, only taking four teams and those teams seeming to have to come from the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 conferences just leaves too many possibly worthy teams out of the picture. It’s not fair and, though I know I’m likely in a vast minority of people, I believe it hurts the sport.
Teams in other conferences like UCF in the American Athletic Conference that have perfect seasons should have the opportunity to compete for a national championship through the playoffs. Will they wind up defeating an Alabama or Ohio State or Oklahoma to make it to or win the entire thing? Likely not, but then again UCF beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl and Auburn beat Alabama and Georgia, the two teams competing next week for the national championship during the regular season.
It just doesn’t seem right for only five conferences to control college football the way they do. I love how every conference gets a shot to win it all in college basketball. In the college basketball tournament, which many call the greatest month in sports, you can see teams in smaller conferences like Butler or Gonzaga have a shot at winning it all. College football truly needs to at least go to an eight-team playoff, which if the playoff committee was doing their job at all, would give a team like UCF a shot. I realize the playoff committee only ranked UCF at No. 12, meaning they would’ve missed even an eight-team playoff, which is dumbfounding to me. Maybe in my wishful scenario they would have been the eighth seed and would’ve had to play the first seeded Clemson, but at least they would have gotten the chance to compete for the national championship. That’s all anybody could hope for.
UCF’s athletic director Danny White caused some controversy on Wednesday, Jan. 3 when he announced UCF were National Champions, as the only undefeated team in the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and that the university would be hoisting a national championship banner and would have a championship parade.
White told ESPN: “If you take the long view of the history of college football, there's an awful lot of national championships being claimed by universities that didn't accomplish what we accomplished this year in those respective seasons, so we feel we're more than justified to claim our first national championship, and we think it'll be the first of many. I don't think our kids should be penalized because we weren't respected by the College Football Playoff committee, nor should our program be penalized because we weren't around 20 or 30 years ago when people were claiming national championships left and right.”
I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to consider myself a college football fan again. Even if they made changes to the sport to give other teams a shot at the title I still might find better things to do. But, I do know that if I don’t feel like there’s a true champion in the sport it’s going to be mighty hard to be anything but indifferent toward it.