John Harper of the Daily News is, in my view, wrong when it comes to Barry Bonds and the Hall of Fame, but in approaching the matter, I think he frames the question just perfectly:
But in saying here that I won’t vote for Bonds when he becomes Hall-eligible next year, let me respond to the other side of the debate with a question: Should the Hall of Fame merely be a museum of sorts that reflects the history of baseball, for better or for worse?
Yes. Yes it should be. And I’m not sure what’s so hard about that.
But there is still something I like about Harper’s approach. He adds “I just think the Hall should stand for more than that.” And with that he injects an honesty that he is, in fact, trying to make a moral stand out of all of this. In some ways it’s a lot more respectable than those voters who say “well, the rules require that we take character into account” and leave it at that.
I like Harper’s approach because I think that if you vote with the Hall of Fame ballot’s famous character clause in mind, it should be incumbent upon you explain the ultimate end of the character clause. To say what the Hall is supposed to stand for. To say what morals and ethics are served by keeping guys like Bonds out. Most don’t, however, because I suspect they can’t come up with a coherent set of ethics that fits (a) their voting choice; (b) their personal moral code; and (c) the Hall of Fame as it currently exists.
So good for Harper. I disagree with him, but good for him for being up front about what he wants out of the Hall of Fame. Would that other voters who vote similarly explain that they are, in fact, making a moral stand. And explain what, exactly, that moral stand is. I don’t think they can. At least in any coherent fashion.