When Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer Joe Morgan sent a letter to Hall of Fame voters suggesting they not vote for steroid users, the reaction from voters was swift and very angry. There’s nothing angrier than an aggrieved Hall of Fame voter, it seems.
And I get it — to a degree.
If the issue is the messenger, I’ve got no issue with the complaints. As annoying as Morgan was announcing baseball games, he was fifty times more annoying than that in person. He acted like he had his own personal caste system, with himself at the top, other ballplaying greats next, people who could help him after that and the rest of us lower than the dirt he played on. There are a few other arrogant former players, but he was the king of arrogance.
In the letter he wrote, he stated that he has the utmost “respect” for writers. So I’m sure that annoyed writers who were disrespected by him over the years. (And he lost all credibility the moment he said he had the utmost respect for the voters.)
I assume anyone with a pen around in those days started off with a negative impression of Morgan, and it seems those who received the letter think even worse of him now, if that’s possible. (Not that it matters, but I didn’t actually receive a letter. Maybe he noticed my previous votes, or maybe it went to the spam folder.)
But anyway, here’s my unsolicited advice: Ignore Morgan.
Don’t get upset. Don’t lash out. And certainly don’t give up your vote (on that score, I may be too late in one case, as one of my writing favorites, Jeff Passan, swore off his ballot in the wake of the Morgan letter).
I get why some writers aren’t thrilled. Some Hall of Fame members, including Morgan, appear conflicted. They act like they have a vested interest in keeping membership as exclusive as possible, and based on years of arrogance and this letter, it’s easy to believe Morgan wants a small Hall.
I get that the Hall of Fame itself doesn’t want Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in, and that Morgan’s effort, as ineffective as it will prove to be, is surely backed by the Hall, even though he claims not.
I also get that the Hall of Fame already has steroid users in. But that doesn’t mean they all have to get in, particularly the ones who’ve been “caught,” the ones who’ve failed a test, admitted to it or showed up on the BALCO or Mitchell Report. None of those guys are in yet. And even if they get in, that’s doesn’t mean we are obligated to support anyone with great stats who cheated.
I don’t like the game being changed after it began, and unsolicited advice to skew the vote midstream is an attempt to change an outcome they are starting to worry about; Bonds and Clemens made it over the 50 percent barrier last time and finally appear to have a chance to make it in coming years.
I didn’t like it when the Hall decided players gets only 10 years on the ballot instead of 15, which was also very likely an effort to keep Bonds and Clemens out. It put Tim Raines, who deserved to be in the Hall, in a bad spot, and thankfully the voters put him where he belonged on his 10th and final year on the ballot.
But I don’t blame anyone for trying to help — or even pretending to try to help. We as writers did a poor job uncovering steroid usage in that era, and if our job in voting was made more difficult, so be it. And if someone wants to put in their two cents (even if it’s totally worthless), that should be OK, too.
And I personally think Morgan has a point (though that’s almost beside the point). The guys who cheated by taking performance-enhancing substances already stole an advantage, so I tend not to vote for them. There’s a big difference between greenies in Morgan’s era, which were widespread and helped mostly through energy and recovery, and anabolic steroids, which caused the erasing of baseball’s most sacred home run records. The late Dr. Gary Wadler, who was perhaps the foremost authority on PEDs, told me that over and over again.
If a writer in the greenie era wrote about its usage by someone, no one would have cared. When someone wrote about someone’s steroid usage, it made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Players who took steroids knew it was wrong, and almost to a man lied about it when they were found out.
Regardless, if someone believes steroid usage was part of an entire era, that usage is hard to know or prove, that on-field performance is all that matters or even wants to honor all the cheaters, that’s up to them. While I don’t necessarily agree, I have no issue with them voting their conscience.
But to act indignant over a Hall of Famer voicing his opinion (or even the museum’s opinion) is silly. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion. It’s nice that we have the privilege to vote, but to return Morgan’s arrogance with our own is unbecoming. We should just read the letter, and either ignore it or, if you want, weigh it (my guess is, 99.5 percent will ignore, and the other 0.5 percent may do the opposite of what he says).
Withholding your vote makes no sense. Withholding serves no person beyond a grandstand play.
There’s only one thing worse than paying attention to what Morgan has to say, and that’s letting him affect your life, even in the slightest of ways.