January 11, 2013
Baseball writers strike out
By TOMMY DREAMER - For SLAM! Wrestling
I am what you would call a big baseball fan. So this week's voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which resulted in not one single player being elected into the 2013 Hall of Fame, made me very mad.
It also ignited a feud on my Twitter account bigger than I have seen in a long time. Every person has a favourite team and a favourite player. People feel a connection with these athletes, whether it's seeing them play when they were growing up or watching them win championships for their team or crushing their hopes when a certain player does something memorable against their favourite club.
Sports and athletes dominate the news and headlines these days; people can't seem to get enough information on their teams and players. If an athlete says something, fans can dissect it online, or the media can spin it into a top story.
Think about how much revenue sports creates among newspapers, magazines, the Internet, TV, or from merchandise, ticket sales, endorsements ... the sports industry is a self-churning machine. An incredible number of people benefit from and make their livings thanks to sports.
In professional baseball, there is no greater honour than being inducted to the Hall of Fame. It's an exclamation point on a player's career. It is supposed to be the final journey and the ultimate honour for a player's contributions to the game.
To earn induction into the Hall of Fame, any eligible candidate receiving votes on 75% of the ballots cast is elected to membership. Votes are cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA). This year, 569 ballots were cast.
Yet somehow, in a year when the likes of Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, along with others like Jack Morris, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines all appeared on the ballot, not one was elected. How very sad.
This system needs to be changed. I'm not against a baseball writer having a vote. Most writers follow the players' careers from start to end. But I am against the writers having complete say.
I feel that existing members of the Hall of Fame should have votes, or perhaps even certain tenured players, coaches and general managers. Maybe even owners or someone who has been involved in the game for at least 20 years. Obviously, I'm not sure exactly how to fix this voting system, but I can't fathom the idea that people who never played the game at the professional level are solely responsible for the voting. Players, the very ones on the field, should have some say in who to put in the Hall, shouldn't they? Aren't they, after all, the most qualified to assess?
The big issue at play for many of the aforementioned stars not being elected is that many of them have been linked to the so-called Steroid Era.
Bonds holds the records for most home runs in a season and the most all-time home runs. He's also the only seven-time MVP in history. He has denied ever knowingly using steroids, but, in 2011, he was convicted of obstructing justice in testimony to a grand jury investigating the issue.
Clemens won the Cy Young Award a record seven times. In 2008, he denied using human growth hormone in congressional testimony. He was later indicted on charges he had lied to Congress, but last June, he was acquitted of all charges.
Sosa hit 609 home runs in his career, including 66 in 1998. He is the only player to have hit 60 or more home runs in a single season three times. He, too, appeared before a congressional committee in 2005, insisting he never used steroids.
That committee also heard from McGwire, who admitted to steroid use years later. He has been repeatedly denied access to the hall of fame, despite his 583 career home runs.
Most people I have spoken with had two view points: they deserve to get in or they cheated. When I hit them with the facts, they would only call them cheaters and refused to hear anything else. This infuriated me even more and spurred this week's column, which appears to be about baseball, but isn't entirely.
Is someone who made millions of dollars playing a game being snubbed by the Hall of Fame going to personally affect anyone reading this column? Not at all. I simply ask that people to do the necessary research before voicing their opinions.
Yes, steroids were banned in baseball in 1991, but they weren't tested for until 2004. The legendary home run chase between McGwire and Sosa brought the world's collective attention back to baseball after an image-damaging strike in 1994. Before that fateful chase, ballparks were empty and much of the world had lost interest in the sport and its players were deemed greedy.
The very same players who were praised and loved back then for arguably saving the game are now condemned.
The same writers who had jobs and fed their families off the backs of those players are the ones now taking a stand against them.
Many people I asked on Twitter said all the players up for election were guilty. Do your research, please. At least have the decency to research which players admitted to using steroids and which didn't, and were never convicted. Don't simply agree with the media when it lumps many players in that era as cheaters. Wasn't Roger Clemens found to be innocent? Yes. And it went to a federal jury; talk about a waste of taxpayers' dollars.
How many players took steroids and didn't have great careers? Steroids don't create great athletes. Just speaking for myself, I have seen many professional wrestlers who had used steroids in wrestling and they were horrible athletes in the ring.
I have been injured to the point where I couldn't walk or I was unable to lift my arm above my head. I saw a doctor, who injected me with something so I was able to perform. I couldn't tell you what was in that syringe, let alone the attending official's name. I would ask and would be told it was an anti-inflammatory or a steroid to help me with the injury. I would say thanks and go wrestle. You could argue what I did was dumb on my part, especially in hindsight, but then, all I wanted to do was perform.
What I ask my readers to take from this column is a message: do your research, and by research, I don't mean simply go on Wikipedia (I saw three mistakes on my own Tommy Dreamer page, including my birthday, of all things). No, I was not born on Valentine's Day. Don't just believe what the media or corporations tell you either. Have an open mind and hear others arguments. Form your own opinions, but don't judge others until you have walked in their shoes. Thanks for reading.
Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler and a father and husband who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action. His column appears in the Kingston Whig-Standard and on SLAM! Wrestling. Follow him on Twitter @THETOMMYDREAMER and check out his website at thetommydreamer.com. He can be booked for live appearances through his website. Check out his new, custom-designed T-shirts and merchandise on his website as well.