Joe Morgan—two-time National League MVP, all-time great, Hall of Famer, and vice-chairman of the Hall’s board of directors—sent an email today from the general Hall of Fame email address to current voters, arguing (among other things) that drug users like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, and that their fellow drug users should be excluded going forward.
Yes, this shit again. There are two full months until the next class of inductees is revealed; this will be two full months of arguing about steroids and Barry Bonds and what exactly “character” entails with regards to evaluating the career merits of the big men who play a game with a stick and ball, triviality at its most insufferable; and the reliably grating discourse being especially so was kicked off with a bang today upon the deliverance of Morgan’s letter in the inboxes of Hall voters today.
In it, Morgan wrote:
Players who played during the steroid era have become eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame.
The more we Hall of Famers talk about this – and we talk about it a lot – we realize we can no longer sit silent. Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans might think we are ok if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in Baseball. We don’t want fans ever to think that.
We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.
Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in. Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.
The issue here falls back on the contentious “character clause,” which allows voters to make decisions not only based on actual career production and value, but on who candidates are as people—a fully subjective criteria that’s torn apart Hall voters. Of course, the Hall is filled with shitty, shitty men but Morgan only has this to say about them:
The Hall of Fame has always had its share of colorful characters, some of whom broke or bent society’s rules in their era. By today’s standards, some might not have gotten in. Times change and society improves. What once was accepted no longer is.
Morgan draws a hard line here:
But it still occurs to me that anyone who took body-altering chemicals in a deliberate effort to cheat the game we love, not to mention they cheated current and former players, and fans too, doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.
Taken seriously, this would suggest that Morgan thinks Mays, Mantle, Aaron and various other players, including Babe Ruth, don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Does he actually think that? Almost certainly not—he’s fixated on a particular class of players using a particular grade of performance-enhancers. His teammate Pete Rose was a drug user, for instance, but Morgan supports his candidacy for the Hall. Whatever. Moving on, Morgan claims that allowing steroid users into the Hall would prevent current Hall of Famers from attending events at Cooperstown:
Some feel they can’t share a stage with players who did steroids. The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too. The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.
Morgan ends the lengthy letter by writing, “For over eighty years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, where the hallowed halls honor those who played the game hard and right. I hope it will always remain that way.”
The Hall of Fame, under the imprimatur of which this missive was sent out, sort of kind of says that this is sort of kind of an official stance, the sort they haven’t wanted to take for years now:
The bad news for Joe Morgan and the Hall of Fame is that the Hall of Fame isn’t some hallowed sanctuary, and has been full of guys—including key members of the Big Red Machine—who didn’t always “play the game hard and right” ever since its inception. Whatever.
You can read the full email on Joe Posnanski’s blog.