Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, marking the fourth time that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has elected four players in one year – and just the second time since 1955.
Jones and Thome were elected in their first year of eligibility, receiving 97.2 and 89.8 percent of the vote, respectively. Guerrero received 92.9 percent, while Hoffman received 79.9 percent.
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, meanwhile, fell short of the 75-percent threshold. They received 57.3 and 56.4 percent of the vote.
Steve Phillips believes both players should be in Cooperstown.
“The way I look at it is this: Every era of baseball has had performance-enhancement,” the former MLB general manager and current MLB Network Radio host said on Taz & The Moose. “Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, but he wouldn’t have if he played against the other best players of the time. He didn’t play against any of the great Negro League pitchers who would have reduced his number of home runs if he played against some of the other best players in the game.”
The game has also changed in numerous ways. It has altered stadium dimensions, lowered the mound, and added the DH, to name a few. Players also used amphetamines – “forever,” Phillips said.
“Many of the guys in the Hall of Fame who are casting stones at the guys they believed cheated for steroids, they used amphetamines, and many have admitted it – that they used amphetamines – but they’re saying, ‘Well, it wasn’t illegal then,’” Phillips said. “No, it was illegal. There wasn’t a rule to test for it. Just like if a guy used steroids in baseball before there was testing but we found out he used steroids, people wouldn’t vote that guy into the Hall of Fame. I just think the Hall of Fame is a museum to document the history of the game, and throughout history performance has been enhanced. Put the players in and then tell the story of the era.”
Phillips, though, doesn’t know if that will happen.
“I think they’re in trouble,” he said of Bonds and Clemens. “They’ve got a few more years, and the younger voters are voting for them. So the question is will there be enough over the next several years to sway it? I think in the end, they’re going to need a change of heart or they’re going to need some direction from the Hall to the writers on how to deal with this situation. It may be that many of the writers are going to make them sweat it out until the bitter end and then finally they’ll give their vote on it. We’ve seen minds changed. . . . (But) I think they’re in trouble unless there’s a groundswell and a change in the way people look at them or guys are just going to make them sweat it out (until) their tenth year on the ballot.”
Taz and Moose both see a difference between Bonds and Clemens and, say, Mark McGwire, whose power was the main source of his value. Still, Phillips would put Big Mac in the Hall.
“It’s a legitimate question,” Phillips said. “I would, because of where his numbers and performance ranked in the era over the years, I would put him in. I would put Manny Ramirez in. I would have put Rafael Palmeiro in because he had (over) 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. It was enhanced, but I would put them in and tell the story. Give me the best players from the era, and if there’s a reason why their numbers might have been a bit more fortified, the just tell me that. Explain it to me. Let that wing of the Hall tell us some part of the story – because otherwise, 50 years for now, people are going to go, ‘Wait a minute, how come these other guys (aren’t in the Hall)? Tell me their story of what this was.’ I think we should just tell it. Don’t hide from it. Don’t stick our head in the sand from it. Tell the story.”