I’ve tried really hard to not think too deeply about what the Bill Conlin allegations might mean for the Hall of Fame. For a couple of reasons, really.
For one thing, the Spink Award, which makes Conlin “a Hall of Famer,” isn’t really an induction into the Hall of Fame. It’s really just the inclusion of his photo and bio in a broadcaster and writer exhibit in the museum. Yes, it’s an honor, but the conversation about “should Conlin be removed from the Hall of Fame” is kind of beside the point. No offense to the other Spink winners, but if they do anything to him it’s more akin to taking a guy’s picture off the Employee of the Month display than it is like taking Jefferson’s face off Mt. Rushmore.
But really, the largest reason this conversation seems inappropriate is that it seems really wrong to use what is the most awful and nightmarish thing imaginable — child abuse — as a means for pivoting into what is basically a political argument about the nature of the Hall of Fame.
Yes, like a lot of people, when I immediately heard the news about Conlin I thought “well, what does THAT mean for the Hall’s character clause?” But it was a fleeting bit of defense mechanism snark before the enormity and awfulness of the news set in. With a few moments’ reflection, the notion that there is any kind of appropriate equivalence to be drawn between steroids and a player’s induction and molestation and a writer’s exclusion is just too difficult to get my brain around. I will argue about almost anything if given the chance, but I can’t, at the moment anyway, make those kinds of analogies with anything approaching gusto.
Some are, though. And that’s fine. My issues with this are my issues with it. I’m a father and I’m not objective so I don’t trust myself to bring anything approaching reason to bear on the matter. The best I can say is that, rather than anyone rethinking the character clause for future Hall of Fame inductees, the Conlin stuff is more likely to make the BBWAA and the Hall of Fame look for ways to drum people out after they are inducted or honored, as the case may be.
I have no faith, however, that whatever happens will be well-considered. This kind of stuff inspires the exact opposite of reason in people. And that, in turn, inspires rash and ill-considered acts.