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What will happen to the Hall of Fame?

Bill James once wrote a book called Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? My question is, what will happen to baseball’s Hall of Fame now?

Today, the Hall of Fame will unveil its class of 2013. This is the first year of eligibility for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa, three stars of baseball’s steroid era, all of whom were tainted by it. “Exit polling” of those who vote on Hall of Fame membership apparently suggests that none of the three will make it this year.

Regardless of the outcome, the Hall is in an untenable position. What sense does it make to have a Hall of Fame that doesn’t include the most successful hitter (Bonds) and the most successful pitcher (Clemens) of the past 50 years? Both players presumably would have coasted into the Hall of Fame based on performance that preceded the period during which they are believed to have been on steriods.

On the other hand, it seems like a breach of good faith to bestow baseball’s ultimate honor on cheats. That, at least, seems to be the sentiment of a number of Hall of Famers who have said they will boycott its ceremonies if Bonds, Clemens, or Sosa is admitted.

In my wasted youth (i.e., up until the age of 45), I used to spend hours poring over baseball statistics trying to determine, say, the top 20 second basemen of all time. Who in his right mind would indulge in such a hobby now, when we don’t know (1) which players from the 1990s and early 2000s gained an unfair advantage through drugs, (2) the precise period in which they gained it, or (3) the extent of the advantage?

If the game didn’t care enough to maintain the integrity of its history, why should we care enough to obsess about that history or even to worry who makes the Hall of Fame?

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