At the Winter Meetings this December the Veteran’s Committee will be looking at players from the so-called “Golden Era” of 1947-72 for induction into the Hall of Fame. One of the candidates for whom I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot of agitating is Roger Maris.
Via a link at Baseball Think Factory we are treated to some of the earliest agitating for him in The National Post. As I expect we’ll see from a number of writers between now and December, however, the case for Maris is couched not in terms of his baseball accomplishments but in terms of him as some moral paragon. A virtuous figure who we can use to throw dirt on Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and other sluggers of the Steroid Era:
Bonds, McGwire and Sosa put up six seasons between them with more than 61 home runs, the old record held by Maris. Absent the steroid era, Maris would still have the record. If Maris were in the Hall, while the steroid triplets were kept out, it would be fitting way to honour the real home run record — held by a decent man who brought honour to the game.
Yet Roger Maris is not in the Hall of Fame, despite his record, despite being a two-time league MVP, despite various campaigns and petitions to get him inducted. Four years ago I wrote that inducting Maris would be a correction to the steroid era. In the intervening years, baseball’s steroid stain has only spread. Maris is needed now more than ever.
Spare me. One can admire Roger Maris and loathe Bonds and company all they want, but such moral judgments are not the stuff of a Hall of Fame induction. As I’ve written before, Roger Maris had two great seasons — although it’s worth noting that in both 1960 and 1961 Maris was not even the best player on his own team — a couple other good ones, and a lot of innocuousness in a short and otherwise pedestrian career. If you put him in the Hall of fame you are essentially saying that overall career value doesn’t matter, and then you’re inducting guys who had a couple of great seasons like Dwight Gooden, Fernando Valenzuela and Tony Conigliaro.
The argument for Maris’ induction to the Hall of Fame is a political argument, not a baseball argument. Given the shabby treatment that Marvin Miller has received from the Veteran’s Committee I suppose that they’re not above politics, but dammit, they should be.