The Merc’s Tim Kawakami thinks he sees something:
Once Jeff Bagwell and Roberto Alomar (both born in 1968) get voted into
the Baseball Hall of Fame next January, there will be a strange
generation gap in Cooperstown . . . For multiple reasons, the players born from 1961-1967 will be
markedly unrepresented in Cooperstown for at least another year or two
and maybe more, even though this is historically when my age-peers
should be plowing into the HOF in solid waves. Hmm.
Kawakami notes that the there is only one guy in the Hall — Cal Ripken — who was born after 1960. He goes on to say that PEDs have something to do with this, suggesting that they (a) prolonged many guys’ careers, bumping their eligibility back in time; and (b) squeezed out a generation of guys by making what were once Hall-worthy statistics appear lacking. So no Will Clark, for example.
I suppose I’d consider his argument a hell of a lot more seriously if we couldn’t go way back to the year 2000 and see that back then there were only two guys — Robin Yount and George Brett — who were born after 1950. In 1990 there were four guys born after 1940: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer and Catfish Hunter (and let’s be honest; Hunter probably didn’t deserve induction). I suppose you could call that a trend, but it’s not much of one.
And if I had to guess the reason for it I’d say that it has way more to do with ballplayer salaries than it does PEDs. There was a time — just before the time that guys who were born in the late 30s and early 40s were retiring — when a famous ballplayer could make more money leaving the game to open a car dealership or to pursue a job in broadcasting than he could by hanging on for an extra year or two playing. Indeed, contrary to the lazy “players don’t need to play as long these days with all of their millions” line of thinking the prospect of making many millions of dollars a year provides an incentive to keep playing. Who’d a thunk it?
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin and — if people don’t let steroid derangement syndrome cloud their judgment — Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds should all be inducted in the next few years. At that point we’ll likely be talking more about the large number of 1961-67 vintage players in the Hall of Fame, not the lack thereof.