The Perils of Choosing the Best
Since the 2015 MLB Hall of Fame inductees were announced this week, the same tired, stale, we're-never-going-to-agree discussion manifested itself in Bay Area newspapers and comment boards: should one-time local hero, and now media pariah Barry Bonds be included in baseball's most prestigious club? And, if not, then what good is the Hall if the best players aren't in it?
Our beloved Giants announcers Kruk and Kuip made their feelings known about the HOF voting process, with Mike Krukow saying he was "disgusted" by how it's currently being done and Kuiper agreeing. This, of course, prompted hundreds of other opinionated folks to come forward and give their two cents. I read the reactions for about two minutes, then I sighed and closed my laptop. How many times have I heard all of these arguments? One side says it can't be the Hall of Fame unless the "best" players are in it, and Barry is the best of all time. Barry was putting up numbers against other pitchers who were also juicing, so it all evens out. Barry would have been a HOFer before he started juicing, so induct him for the early part of his career. This isn't the Hall of Boy Scouts. The other side says if you put Barry in then you have to add McGwire, Sosa, and all the other steroid-injecting freaks. We shouldn't be rewarding bad behavior. Like Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe, these guys cheated and cheaters have no place in baseball's most hallowed ground.
Then I read an article from a columnist who said: "Stop worrying about the past and focus on the future. We just won three World Series trophies in the last five years. I, for one, no longer care about the Hall. It's all a gigantic mess. I care about what's going on right now."
I thought that was a refreshing thing to say. There are so many factors that come into play when choosing the "best" of anything; whether it's whiskey or baseball's finest players. Sitting around and arguing about it might be fun for some folks, but ultimately no one opinion will win out, so why not just walk away from it? Many baseball fans like myself get fired up about this subject because we think it means something important, but it's so much easier to stop caring! Spending this much time thinking about legacy and stature often distracts us from the great things happening around us right now. Again, much like with reviews about wine and whiskey, we're cementing absolute truth or greatness with the opinions of a chosen few. If numbers don't get you in, then Cooperstown is ultimately just a fraternity building where, as time goes by, various groups of men decide who's cool and who isn't. There's nothing validating about being a member of any group when the validity of the process to become one is open for debate.
I loved watching Craig Biggio play in the early 90s. He was a fantastic player. I'm happy he made it this year. But he wasn't better than Pete Rose. Or Barry Bonds. But maybe getting to Cooperstown isn't about being the best. And if it isn't about being the best, then do you still care?