Take keys from writers

By Chris De Luca
Updated: July 14, 2009

ST. LOUIS — Don’t look for Manny Ramirez to do any damage to the Big Mac Land sign at Busch Stadium during All-Star festivities this week. As White Sox broadcasting legend Ken ”Hawk” Harrelson would say, after 11 consecutive trips to the All-Star Game, ”He gone.”

Same goes for Alex Rodriguez, who had been an All-Star every year from 1996 to 2008, save for a snub in 1999, when he hit only 42 home runs in the season before landing his landmark contract.

Such All-Star streaks are usually broken because of age. But Ramirez and Rodriguez are sitting this one out because of steroids.

‘Clean’ slate

Tuesday’s 80th All-Star Game at Busch Stadium is being staged as a wholesome affair, with President Obama throwing out the first pitch to St. Louis Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols — perceived as baseball’s ”clean” slugger.

It’s the first time a sitting president will throw out the first pitch since 1976, when President Ford did the honor during a Bicentennial salute in Philadelphia.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who personally extended the invite to Obama, has outlined Major League Baseball’s plan to build this All-Star Game around community service and charitable initiatives — two causes dear to White Sox fan Obama.

It will be in stark contrast to the All-Star Game played two years ago on Barry Bonds’ steroid-stained stage in San Francisco. Baseball was summoned to the Bay Area to honor one of the game’s most controversial figures in the shadows of the BALCO laboratory.

Selig didn’t seem to be in such a celebratory mood that July.

And it’s difficult to come to St. Louis amid a gathering of baseball’s greatest players from the present and past and not think of Mark McGwire. He never played in this version of Busch Stadium, but he’s as much a part of the Cardinals’ past as those two red birds sitting on the bat. Yet don’t look for him to be allowed anywhere near Busch this week.

McGwire comes to mind not to pick at an old wound but because of another event that’s planned around the All-Star Game. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America held its annual national gathering before the game Tuesday. Selig attended the luncheon and conducted a question-and-answer session with the writers.

My biggest question: Why are baseball writers still voting for the Hall of Fame?

It will be interesting to see what the BBWAA does with a topic introduced last month — during the Cubs-Sox series at U.S. Cellular Field — when the Chicago chapter met to discuss how to handle Hall of Fame voting in the wake of the Steroid Era. The Chicago meeting was arranged by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander.

The BBWAA members eligible to vote on the Hall of Fame — writers or sports editors with 10 consecutive years of membership — have already faced the issue and dealt a defining blow to McGwire, who got 118 votes (21.9 percent, far below the needed 75 percent) this year, down from the 128 votes he got in each of his first two years on the ballot.

But with stars such as Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and the list could go on eligible to be on the ballot in the next few years, Telander wanted the BBWAA to at least address what will certainly be a thorny issue over the next couple of decades.

”I’ve just grown frustrated with us trying to be the arbiters of ethics and morality,” Telander said at the meeting.

The long-standing guidelines have told voters to consider a player’s ”record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Many members of the Chicago chapter honed in on the integrity issue and said that should be the trapdoor that excludes Ramirez and A-Rod down the road.

There’s no doubt BBWAA voting members will face agonizing decisions in the coming years. And there’s no doubt that when Sosa and Clemens appear on the same ballot, it will be a major story for those covering baseball.

That’s why the BBWAA should do the right thing and get out of the business of voting for Hall of Famers.

This idea doesn’t sit well with the BBWAA’s old guard. Controlling the keys to Cooperstown has been the BBWAA’s biggest toy — a prize that follows members long into their retirement.

But anyone who got into this business knows one of the fundamentals is to never become part of the story.

With the controversial Hall of Fame voting certain to be on the horizon, this is a story none of us should be a part of.

Several news organizations have already banned their BBWAA members from voting on baseball’s big postseason prizes such as MVP, Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year. But no one wants to give up the Hall of Fame vote.

Still, the BBWAA is a shrinking group thanks to the decline of newspapers. Only this year were select Web sites allowed to have staffers be included in the BBWAA, but membership has dropped 8.28 percent since 2007 — to 725 card-carrying members, only a fraction of whom are eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame. Too many fringe columnists and overworked sports editors who never get out to a game are voting on the Hall of Fame.

Let others decide

Better to turn over the voting to players, managers and coaches who have 10 consecutive years of service in the major leagues — people who have a far better understanding of the talent in each league because they watch the game every day.

It’s their Hall of Fame. Let them decide. And let the writers report on their choices.



Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Robin Ventura, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Kevin Appier, Ellis Burks, Ray Lankford, Pat Hentgen, Todd Zeile, Eric Karros, Mark McLemore, Andres Galarraga, Fernando Vina, Mike Jackson, Shane Reynolds, Dave Burba, David Segui, Andy Ashby.


Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, John Olerud, Kevin Brown, Larry Walker, Juan Gonzalez, Tino Martinez, B.J. Surhoff, Marquis Grissom, John Franco, Bret Boone, Al Leiter, Benito Santiago, Carlos Baerga, Raul Mondesi, Bobby Higginson, Wilson Alvarez, Rey Sanchez, Charles Johnson, Jose Offerman, Ugueth Urbina, Ismael Valdez, Dan Wilson, Paul Quantrill, Cal Eldred, Kirk Rueter, Steve Reed.


Bernie Williams, Tim Salmon, Brad Radke, Javy Lopez, Edgardo Alfonzo, Ruben Sierra, Vinny Castilla, Scott Erickson, Jeff Fassero, Joe Randa, Jeromy Burnitz, Eric Young, Brian Jordan, Bill Mueller, Matt Lawton, Jose Hernandez, Phil Nevin, Alex S. Gonzalez, Pedro Astacio, Carl Everett, David Bell, Rick Helling, Jose Vizcaino, Terry Mulholland, Jeff Nelson, Danny Graves, Dustin Hermanson.


Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Kenny Lofton, David Wells, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Steve Finley, Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Cirillo, Jose Valentin, Reggie Sanders, Jeff Conine, Jose Mesa, Royce Clayton, Bob Wickman, Ryan Klesko, Aaron Sele, Woody Williams, Rondell White, Mike Lieberthal, Tony Batista, Mike Stanton, Sandy Alomar Jr., Damian Miller, Todd Walker, Eric Milton.


Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Jim Edmonds, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez, Kenny Rogers, Ray Durham, Moises Alou, Richie Sexson, Shannon Stewart, Armando Benitez, Steve Trachsel, Mike Timlin, Keith Foulke, Todd Jones, Mark Grudzielanek, Esteban Loaiza, Jon Lieber, Damion Easley, Adam Kennedy, Trot Nixon, Jacque Jones, Hideo Nomo, J.T. Snow, Jose Vidro, Matt Morris, Jay Payton, Paul Lo Duca, Jose Cruz Jr., Eric Gagne, Paul Byrd, Sean Casey, Scott Hatteberg.