November 28, 2006

Ryan Howard and the Light of Dick Allen

The Phillies’ Ryan Howard was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player on November 21 by the Baseball Writers Association of America. It has been a busy month. Howard lead the Major League All-Stars to a five-game sweep of the Nippon Professional Stars in Japan and earned the series MVP award. As the series concluded, it was announced that Howard was voted the Players’ Choice Major League Player of the Year as well as the National League’s Most Outstanding Player. After two years in the majors, Howard has propelled himself into the elite of Major League Baseball.

At a press conference last Tuesday at the Phillies’ ballpark, Howard grinned alongside manager Charlie Manuel, general manager Pat Gillick, and team president David Montgomery. The city unfurled a 57-foot tall banner at City Hall congratulating Howard and mayor John Street held a celebratory press conference. That night, Howard received an ovation at the Sixers-Pistons game at the Wachovia Center. This is very exciting for the Phillies and for the city of Philadelphia for many reasons; one is that Howard has the chance to be the Phillies’ first great superstar of color.

Philadelphia has fallen hard for Howard. He is a brilliant hitter, surprisingly strong fielder, and he is gracious and friendly. Howard’s emergence as a superstar is refreshing in the shadow of the Phillies’ complicated history with race. By way of example, of the eight pre-1962-expansion National League franchises, only the Phillies do not have a player of color in the Hall of Fame, nor have they had a dominant Latino or black superstar. This history is a legacy of the Phillies’ 1947 anti-Jackie Robinson actions, the ball club’s own segregation of the 1950s, and the team’s ineptitude in managing Dick Allen, a player of color who could have been a Phillies legend but whose encounter with the white baseball-establishment in the 1960s the Phillies were unprepared to mitigate.

The Phillies acquired a reputation as unwelcoming to players of color for their treatment of Jackie Robinson when Robinson and the Dodgers integrated major league baseball in 1947. Before Brooklyn’s first road trip of the 1947 season to Philadelphia, the Phillies had phoned the Dodgers and instructed them “not to bring that nigger here.” The Phillies were lead by manager Ben Chapman, an Alabama-born bigot who encouraged his players to "make Robinson's color an issue." The Dodgers and Robinson did come to Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. The Phillies infamously lined-up on the top step of their dugout and pointed their bats, rifle-like, at Robinson when he came to bat. Phillies pitchers threw at Robinson’s head, and in the field, Phillies base-runners slid into Robinson, playing second, with their spikes high.

The Phillies’ behavior galvanized nationwide support for Robinson while the Phillies were known for their racism. Many major league clubs responded to Robinson’s success in Brooklyn and Larry Doby’s success in Cleveland – Cleveland won the pennant in 1948 with both Doby and former-Negro League star Satchell Paige - by rushing to sign Latino and black ballplayers. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and Ernie Banks broke into the majors in the 1950s and became popular and successful stars. Meanwhile, the Phillies continued to refuse to integrate their own club. It would not be until 1957, a full ten years after Robinson joined the Dodgers, that the Phillies integrated when they played John Kennedy in five games and gave him two at-bats.

But baseball was changing and when it came time to rebuild the Phillies in the post-Whiz Kid era, in 1959, 1960, and 1961, the Phillies invested heavily in young prospects, black, Latino, and white alike. They gave their largest signing bonus to a young black prospect from Wampum, Pennsylvania named Dick Allen. This would be a new era for the Phillies. The organization was integrating itself and building a contender. Only the Phils did not have a clue how to address the challenges that might face a young prospect of color coming up through its farm system in the early 1960s. Rather than dispel their reputation for racial insensitivity, the Phillies reinforced this reputation and enabled the city to turn on its young star.

Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey had famously had a conversation with Robinson before he signed and sent him to play, first in Montreal where he integrated the International League in 1946, and then the National League a year later. Rickey knew that Robinson would encounter the taunts and insults of fans, and be stigmatized by fellow players. Rickey instructed Robinson to withhold his anger and that Robinson and the Dodgers organization would be 100% supportive of him. Robinson was stoic in the face of these attacks and Rickey kept his word. Carpenter and Phillies general manager Pat Quinn could have borrowed this lesson from Rickey’s playbook before they assigned Allen to the Phillies’ AAA minor league club, the Arkansas Travelers, in Little Rock in 1963.

It had been at Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957, only six years earlier, that Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus joined local whites in resisting integration by dispatching the Arkansas National Guard to block the school’s entrance from its first black students. In 1963, Gov. Faubus was a regular at Travelers ballgames and while President Eisenhower had compelled Little Rock Central to integrate, the Travelers through 1962, remained an all-white ball club. 1963 would be the first year that Little Rock would be the Phillies top minor league affiliate and where else would they send their top prospect? Allen would integrate Little Rock.

Think about what was happening in the United States in the spring of 1963. As baseball season was opening in early April, Martin Luther King was arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Alabama where he wrote his seminal "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." The following month, during civil rights protests in Birmingham, Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene "Bull" Connor would turn fire hoses and police dogs on black demonstrators. The summer of 1963 would culminate with the March on Washington where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Dick Allen had just turned 21-years old in April 1963 and was entirely unprepared for the racism he would encounter in Little Rock. The Phillies did not offer support like Rickey did for Robinson and Allen reports that he came to feel isolated and under siege in Little Rock.

Allen survived the 1963 season, escaped Arkansas, and made the Phillies starting lineup in 1964. He hit .318 with 29 homeruns and 91 RBIs and was voted the National League’s Rookie of the Year. The fans loved him, he was excelling, and the Phillies had played championship baseball from April through August. The Phils had a talented young star and the fans had what appeared to be a young team built to contend. Tony Gonzalez, from Central Cunagua, Cuba, played centerfield and hit .278 in 1964. Ruben Amaro, from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, (the father of the current Phillies assistant-GM), split shortstop duties with Cuban Cookie Rojas. Tony Taylor, another Cuban of color, was growing into a fan favorite at second-base. At skin level, the 1964 Phillies had successfully integrated and were erasing the legacy of the 1940s and 1950s. But Frank Thomas and Allen would soon remind the organization and city that the situation was unresolved. They again illustrated the inability of Phillies management to protect its players and mitigate racial tensions.

The Phillies had acquired the veteran Thomas from the Mets in August 1964. Thomas had been a three time All-Star in the 1950s and led the 1962 Mets with 34 homeruns and 94 RBIs. At age 35, he was a veteran bat and the fans were fond of him. What the fans did not know was that Thomas had been riding the team’s young players of color in 1965 including Allen, and Allen’s best friend, outfielder Johnny Briggs. Before the July 3, 1965 game against the Reds, Allen’s and Thomas’s verbal sparring escalated into a full-out brawl. Allen knocked down Thomas with a left-hook to the jaw. Thomas recovered and took his baseball bat to Allen.

After the game, the Phillies released Thomas. Thomas was hitting .250; Allen was hitting .348. In his essay, “Dick Allen, the Phillies, and Racism”, William C. Kashatus reports what happened next: "Thomas took his case to the press, exploiting the role of a victim. 'I’ve always liked Richie,' he insisted. 'I’ve always tried to help him. I guess certain guys can dish it out, but can’t take it.' Fans began to blame Allen for the fight, booing him unmercifully."

Phillies management, in saying nothing, said everything. They set Allen up to be the scapegoat. It was the beginning of the end for Allen with the Phillies and with the city. The fans booed Allen in 1965 and through his last season with the Phillies in 1969. Major League Baseball celebrated its centennial in 1969 and the Phillies held a fan poll to elect their all-time team. Allen was so unpopular by then that even having been arguably the organization’s best first-baseman of all-time, fans voted Eddie Waitkis to the team; Waitkis’ lone claim to fame was his presence on the 1950 pennant winning club. Waitkis had never had more than 49 RBIs in a season for the Phillies; his highest average with the club had been .291. This is the legacy of the Phillies’ first would-be great superstar of color.

Certainly, the Phillies have changed since Allen’s departure in 1969, and the team has had very good players of color. Dave Cash was an All-Star in each of his three seasons with the Phillies in the mid-1970s. Garry Maddox won eight Gold Gloves playing centerfield for the Phils from 1974 to 1986 and was a star of the hard-fought 1980 National League Championship Series against the Astros. Three years later, Gary Matthews was named MVP of the Phils’ NLCS victory over the Dodgers.

By the 1980s and 1990s, the Phillies lack of great Latino and black stars was due to bad luck injuries, soft prospects, and poor draft choices. Jeff Stone, Ron Jones, and Ricky Jordan all sparkled in the minors before fading in injury or mediocrity. Juan Samuel found success in the late 1980s but was never the superstar he hinted at being when he stole 72 bases in 1984. Fans still bemoan the Phils’ selection of high school outfielder Jeff Jackson in the 1989 June draft ahead of Frank Thomas by the White Sox. Jimmy Rollins has emerged as one of baseball’s top shortstops but while popular in Philadelphia, he is not among the game’s elite. The closest the Phillies have had to a superstar has been Dick Allen.

There was a time when Philadelphia was perceived to be a hostile environment for athletes of color. When Allen was playing in the mid-1960s, whites were fleeing urban Philadelphia for its surrounding suburbs. The city neglected Center City and allowed black neighborhoods to become ghettos. Frank Rizzo was appointed Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner in 1967 and came to be seen as an antagonist of the black community for the nature of his public comments and the tactics used his department. One of the most notorious moves by Rizzo's police officers were the raids on the Philadelphia offices of the Black Panther Party in 1970. Rizzo forced the arrested Panthers to strip and stand naked in front of the news cameras. But Philadelphia in 2006 is a different place than in 1966. Mayor Street is the city’s second mayor of color. The Philadelphia Eagles are on their second All-Pro quarterback of color – a position historically denied to black athletes in the NFL. Sports have changed and Philadelphia has changed.

Ryan Howard and Philadelphia are all smiles enjoying this round of post-season accolades. This young player and this old city deserve it. Both hope Howard will continue his stellar play and enjoy a long and successful career with the club. His stardom for the Phils is welcome and long overdue.

November 21, 2006

Barry Bonds Tests 756 and Free-Agency

Barry Bonds will hit his 756th career homerun next season providing that his body holds, Major League Baseball and George Mitchell do not suspend him, and a team finally signs him. Bonds has hit 734 and the San Francisco Chronicle has its Bonds-O-Meter counting down to 755 on its Giants homepage. He really is close. To my generation, born in the 1970s, and raised on a baseball in which Hank Aaron was a retired legend and 755 a distant unattainable record, (as Babe Ruth and 714 was to a previous generation), Bonds’ approach to 755 could be an exciting time for us and for Major League Baseball. But there is little Bonds-buzz this off-season for his record or for him, and one senses that most of us would just as soon like to see Bonds call it a career, hold a press conference, and retire into the Pacific sunset.

Performing like that of a very good but no longer amazing player in 2006, Bonds hit 26 homeruns and once again led the National League in walks. Neither All-Star superstar nor bench-player, and yet on the brink of career homerun 755, not only have the Giants, his team of 14 years and that of his late father, not rushed to resign him, but other clubs are not exactly beating a path to the foot of his overstuffed clubhouse armchair. It was rumored recently that the Texas Rangers were a suitor. It is rare that one hears a denial of interest stronger or sharper than that of the Rangers’ owner Tom Hicks in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "You can be adamant in saying that Barry Bonds won't be signing with the Texas Rangers," Wow, are you absolutely sure about that Tom? On November 16, the Padres denied they had interest. As the national sports press reported that the A’s were interested, the San Francisco Chronicle was reporting on November 18 that the Athletics were in fact not interested, and were pursuing others to replace Frank Thomas at DH. What about the Giants? They are not saying anything much about Bonds, playing coy as they look at players like Carlos Lee to take Bonds’ place in the outfield and lineup.

This is how far Bonds has descended in stature and how little we value his career homerun achievement. Bonds may hit his 756th career homerun in 2007 to pass Hank Aaron on the all-time list and not one team is publicly displaying enthusiasm to have him on their team. Aaron finished the 1973 season with 713 career homeruns. He had hit 40 homeruns in 1973 and would be 40 years old on Opening Day 1974. Aaron was really going to do it and American noticed and cared passionately.

Many cared so passionately about the significance of Babe Ruth’s record 714 career homerun record that through the end of the 1973 season, and during the 1973-1974 baseball off-season, they sent Aaron hate-mail cursing him, a man of color, for approaching one of the great records of the pre-Jackie Robinson baseball-era. This was a baseball record that resonated deeply beyond baseball and American professional sports into the American soul with all of our collective ideals and light, contradictions and ghosts. What this anger showed, as well as the parallel pride and joy that many took in Aaron’s approach, was how much gravitas we attached to numbers 714 and 715. This was a huge deal and we took the record very seriously.

Bonds? We reveal our feelings about Bonds and his approach to 755 with our sweeping indifference.

Who in baseball believes – truly – that Bonds’ homerun mark is an extraordinary generational achievement? Our indifference belies our conviction in the insignificance of Bonds’ approach to Aaron. In late October, AP-AOL Sports released a poll that reported that 48% of respondents hope that Bonds falls short of 755. Jeff Borris, Bonds’ agent and a man hoping to collect his percentage of his clients’ next contract, responded by saying, "It saddens me. I think true baseball fans who know and understand everything Barry has done to get to this point should be pulling for him. They should feel fortunate that they'll have the opportunity to see him break probably the most hallowed record in sports." One hopes Borris was able to keep a straight-face as he tugged at our heartstrings. It is bad news when an agent has to implore fans that we should feel fortunate.

But it is precisely because true baseball fans do know and understand everything Bonds has done to reach this point that we are not pulling for him. When we look at Bonds, we look at achievement-inflation, and like converting between 1957 and 2003 dollars, we know that an Aaron homerun is of greater value than a Bonds homerun.

The team that signs Bonds this year will receive the public relations that will accompany his march to 755. They say that any PR is good PR but do not tell that to the front-offices scampering to distance themselves from any rumors of Bonds coming to their club. As Bonds approaches 755, the questions and dialogue will grow louder about the past steroid use. Bonds will attract media attention and it will not be the honorific attention like that for Pete Rose as he approached 4,192 hits or as Cal Ripken moved in on Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak. This will be prolonged public trial rather than national celebration. Which team wants Barry Bonds’ large armchair in their clubhouse? Who wants the shadows of steroid-use and denials? Who wants the ambivalence about how to mark number 756?

With his five-year contract expired, and his family friend Felipe Alou out as Giants’ manager, it is not clear that Bonds will return to San Francisco. Historical baseball rhythms bring homerun champions back to their first cities to close their careers. The Braves obliged Aaron and traded him to the Brewers in November 1974 so that Aaron could return to County Stadium in Milwaukee where he had begun his career with the Braves. Aaron would play two more seasons, finishing his career with the Brewers in 1976. Babe Ruth returned to Boston at age 40, to Braves Field, across the Boston University campus from Fenway Park where he had come up with the Red Sox in 1914. Willie Mays was traded back to New York City and played his last two seasons with the Mets, the team that carries the legacy of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. Reggie Jackson went back to the Athletics and played his final season in 1987 with the organization with whom he had begun. While such poetry dictates that Bonds sign with Pittsburgh, Bonds will not be wearing black and gold next season, or the Pirates’ frightening new red alternate jersey. [Note to MLB Properties: It is not too late to recall this concept before Opening Day!].

But Aaron returned to Milwaukee the homerun king. Ruth had long been crowned the homerun champion when he suited up for the Braves. Mays was already a sure-Hall of Famer when he again donned a NY cap. Rose returned home to Cincinnati to manage and break the hit-mark. Bonds is in free-agent limbo before he has broken the record, lingering at 734, so close, and no one team is laying out a welcome mat and stitching up a number 25 jersey.

Recent steroid-colored homerun hitters both burn-out and fade-away. Rafael Palmeiro was caught midseason, turned on his teammates, and was instructed by the Orioles not to return to the club. Sammy Sosa faded with the Orioles in 2005 and turned down the offer of a minor league contract for 2006 with the Washington Nationals. Two weeks ago, Sosa expressed his desire to return to baseball and no team has stepped up showing strong interest. McGwire burned before Congress and the Baseball Writers Association of America will punish him this January when they choose not to elect him to the Hall of Fame.

This would be all so much easier for us if Bonds would call a press-conference at AT&T Park and gracefully retire. The Giants are beginning a new era with their recent hire, manager Bruce Bochy and would like to turn the page. The Giants could celebrate Bonds, close the Bonds-era, and enter 2007 fresh. The Giants are hosting the All-Star Game next July and Bonds would throw out the first ball and be the National League’s honorary captain. The Giants would look good, Bonds would look good, and MLB would be spared a 756-public relations balancing act.

But this will not happen. Bonds will not submit to our public unspoken desire that he retire. The question remains: Who will sign him? Which team will accept his armchair into their clubhouse next April?

November 14, 2006

McGwire, Steroids, and the Baseball Hall of Fame

Mark McGwire appears on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year. He is the first of the steroid-superstars to be considered for induction and he will not be elected this year. Still, there are arguments for his eventual inclusion.

This discussion is not about whether McGwire should or should not be elected; this is about the nature of changing metrics and the redefinition of excellency that we as baseball fans do every generation as the game itself changes. Satchell Paige and Ted Williams illustrate an example of one such change that took place forty years ago and the time it takes for us to shift our baseball perspectives.

Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken will be first-ballot electees when the 2007 results are announced. Both Ripken and Gwynn were shoo-ins before they even announced that 2001 would be their final season. Gwynn was a fifteen-time All-Star and won eight batting titles. Ripken was a nineteen-time All-Star, two-time MVP, and he played in 2,632 consecutive games (this many games equals sixteen seasons; there are Hall of Famers whose entire careers did not last 16 seasons). More so, in the free-agency era, both played their entire careers for one team winning devoted fans in San Diego and Baltimore.

Gwynn and Ripken had previously announced that 2001 would be their final seasons and were celebrated as the season drew to a close. In November 2001, six weeks after the regular season had ended, ESPN reported that McGwire had told the network’s Rich Eisen that he was retiring. While unconventional for a player of McGwire’s caliber to retire through the press rather than at a press-conference, it looked like McGwire would make it a three-player party in Cooperstown in July 2007. After all, McGwire had 583 career homeruns, was a twelve-time All-Star, and had the best at-bats per homerun ratio in history. lists Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor score which “assess how likely an active player is to make the Hall of Fame. It's rough scale is 100 means a good possibility and 130 is a virtual cinch.” McGwire scores a 169.5.

McGwire was coasting towards election until he appeared before the House Government Reform Committee in March 2005. Previously, he had denied using steroids. However, when asked to put his money of the table and say-so under oath and before Congress, McGwire showed his hand when he refused to say that he had not used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. We heard his admission to steroid use when he responded to questions with, "My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself." Never had the fifth-amendment been so incriminating.

With his admittance-through-silence in Washington, McGwire’s Hall of Fame candidacy plummeted. Later that summer, at Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, baseball writers, who themselves would be voting in 2007, told me they would not vote for McGwire this year.

Does McGwire deserve induction in the Hall? What about Sammy Sosa and Rafel Palmeiro in 2011, and Barry Bonds in 2013? Do they merit plaques alongside Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, and Steve Carlton? McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, and Bonds were all among the best of their eras, strong criteria for permanent residence at 25 Main St.

We are now asked to calibrate our definition of greatness and Hall of Fame inclusion to this era. We have done this before in baseball – redefining who is in and who is out. In every baseball generation we encounter new questions. Enter Williams and Paige who were at the center of one such shift. These shifts take time and we will not decide today, or in 2007, how to treat the steroid-superstars.

In 1966, there was one ballplayer of color in the Hall. Jackie Robinson had been the first in 1962 and four years later, remained the lone player enshrined. Satchell Paige had ended his professional playing days 13 years earlier in 1953 (yes, he had pitched three-innings for the KC Athletics the previous summer as a publicity stunt). Cool Papa Bell had been retired for sixteen years and Josh Gibson had passed away, mid-career, nineteen-years earlier. There was consensus that these and other Negro League stars would have dominated the National and American Leagues, and therefore would have been HOF inductees, had not major league baseball segregated itself from 1885 through 1946. Yet the Hall was for those who had excelled in the American League and National League and in their systems of statistical record keeping and championship play.

So it was in July 1966 that Casey Stengel and Williams were being inducted into the Hall. During his Hall of Fame induction speech, on the stage behind the Hall’s library, Williams said,

The other day Willie Mays hit his five hundred and twenty-second homerun. He has gone past me, and he's pushing, and I say to him, 'go get 'em Willie.' Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel. Not just to be as good as anybody else, but to be better. This is the nature of man and the name of the game. I hope some day Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro players who are not here only because they weren't given the chance.

Baseball gives every American child a chance to excel. Those who excel are the best and recognized in the Hall. Williams was arguing that professional baseball had not fulfilled its obligation to give every child his chance. Now, Major League Baseball could recalibrate its metrics to recognize achievements and excellence which the current definitions failed to include.

That there was one ballplayer of color and no Hispanics in the Hall was a passive result and not an active decision on the part of the Hall’s stewards. Certainly Paige, Gibson, and Rube Foster were amazing but none had played in the American or National Leagues (Paige had, and his best years, for which he would eventually be honored, were in the Negro Leagues).

But Williams certainly had a point. These players were among the titans of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and themselves would have been perpetual All-Stars and record setters had Commissioner Landis and the owners not closed the doors to them. They did deserve honor but what would this look like? What was the appropriate way for Cooperstown to honor these giants? The current parameters no longer worked effectively so we needed new ones.

The movement to honor the Negro League stars gathered momentum when Dick Young, president of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America echoed Williams’ advocacy. It took five years and after much debate about the nature of the induction, Satchell Paige became the first Negro League electee. In July 1971, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn presented Paige with his HOF plaque. In 1972 it was Buck Leonard and to date, 35 individuals who starred in or lead the Negro Leagues have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The Negro Leagues basically folded around 1950 – that is more than twenty years for the Hall to open its doors to its players.

What this means is that the electors defined new standards – they did not lower the standards – they recognized that these individuals called us to redefine who is in and who is out. And these changes take time. They take years of thought and debate, newspaper columns and speeches at dinners.

The steroid-superstars have not been nor are they being marginalized as were the Negro League stars. How do we react and relate to changes in definitions? Williams called baseball’s attention to a perspective through which we had not looked at the Hall of Fame nor at these great players. We are now asking ourselves how to look at McGwire and his contemporaries.

We recalibrate our perspective in response to the soaring offense of the 1930s and the anemic hitting of the late 1960s (which would eventually result in the designated hitter). We are still debating the inclusion of relievers in the Hall. Bruce Sutter went in this past summer and we debate Goose Gossage. They do not fit our clean metrics of 300 wins and/or 3000 strikeouts so we find new ways to judge.

McGwrire finished with 583 career homeruns and is now seventh on the all-time list. We already knew that not all homeruns are created equal. Frank Baker earned the nickname "Home Run" during the 1911 World Series when he hit a go-ahead home run off Rube Marquard in game two and a ninth-inning game-tying home run off Christy Mathewson in game three. He lead the American League in homeruns for four consecutive seasons. What was his highest season total? 12! Carl Yastrzemski led the American League in batting average in 1968 with a .301 average; lead the league!

As we did for Baker and Yaz, we ask ourselves how to evaluate McGwire and Bonds and Sosa and Palmeiro. We will ask ourselves the questions we ask of all potential Hall of Famers: Would they have excelled in any era? Were they the best of their own era? Should their steroid-use exclude them from the Hall?

Like baseball encountering the Negro Leagues between 1966 and 1971, we are now rolling around their Hall of Fame credentials in our collective baseball minds. McGwire will not stand with Gwynn and Ripken this summer in Cooperstown. It will take us a few years to figure this one out. We are not used to saying that we do not know, that we are not sure. Sports is about instantaneous decision making – but not here. And the fans, in our collective will, and the sportswriters who vote for the inductees, do not have to make a decision yet. Players are on the HOF ballot for fifteen years for this reason.

To its credit, the Hall and baseball found a solution for the Negro League stars. Our generation, in time, will figure out how to understand the accomplishments of the steroid-era.