Our View: No inductees

Posted: January 12, 2013

There is little we find simpatico with the late Earl Warren, whose extended reign as Supreme Court chief justice gave new meaning to the reality of “judicial activism.” But with this sentiment uttered by Mr. Warren we readily agree: “I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

The problem nowadays, though, is that the sports page far too often far too resembles the front page, what with — take Friday’s news, for example — the NFL players union pondering a formal investigation of Robert Griffin III’s injury, researchers declaring that late NFL star Junior Seau had degenerative brain disease when he took his own life last year, and Major League Baseball deciding to expand its testing for human growth hormone. Not a lot of “accomplishment” there.

And then, of course, there was the big news of the week — the baseball writers opting not to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame this year. The 2013 “class” included the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa, all tainted by the suspicion — and tell-tale appearance, if truth be told — of using steroids. The writers’ obvious revulsion to their presence on the ballot — none came remotely close to the 75 percent of votes needed for induction — may have prevented such untarnished worthies as pitcher Jack Morris and infielder Craig Biggio from taking their place among the game’s greats.

That trickle-down effect was truly unfortunate — good cases can be made for Messrs. Morris and Biggio — but not so the writers’ reluctance to reward Messrs. Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa. All have the numerical credentials, and in a big way, but induction is, or should be, based on more than mere statistics. Among the stated criteria for election are “integrity,” “sportsmanship,” and “character.”

In our mind, all three players, not to mention others linked to steroid use — Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, for example — have been found wanting in these virtues. What else can be said about athletes who take it upon themselves to tilt the playing field in their favor? Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline summed it up best: They “cheat(ed).”

That’s sufficient for us — though, deep down, it may not be for others. No less a journalistic stalwart than AP national columnist Jim Litke writes, almost with an audible “tsk-tsk” directed at the likes of us and other naysayers, that one day the current cadre of writers will be either dead or retired, performance-enhancing drugs will be accepted and routinely used, and plaques in Cooperstown’s “hall” will feature the names Bonds, Clemens, and maybe even Sosa. In other words, moral relativism will eventually prevail.

Maybe Mr. Litke is merely being a realist — it’s not as if relativism hasn’t already raised its corrosive head — but, in the respective cases of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa, we hope that day never comes.

We feel certain Al Kaline would agree. And maybe even Earl Warren.