The most recent column from ESPN.com's Bill Simmons came through the ol' Google Reader this afternoon, and one passage in particular caught my attention:
(Quick tangent: By definition, the Hall is a museum that teaches visitors about baseball history. Shouldn't it reflect that history? It can't pick and choose its lessons, for the same reason the Smithsonian doesn't ignore nadirs in this country's history like slavery, Hiroshima or Vanilla Ice. Pete Rose's plaque needs to be in Cooperstown and so do those of Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and every other disgraced legend, even if the plaques are crammed into a creepy, poorly lit basement that makes every visitor feel like Clarice checking in on Hannibal Lecter. The athletes would be simultaneously honored and dishonored, which is only right.)
Sound familiar? It should - Simmons wrote virtually the same thing in January 2007, shortly before Mark McGwire received 23% of the votes in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot:
Let's stop pretending that the Baseball Hall of Fame is a real-life fantasy world -- a place where we celebrate only the people and events we can all unanimously agree deserve to be celebrated -- and transform it into an institution that reflects both the good and bad of the sport. Wait -- wasn't that Cooperstown's mission all along? Shouldn't it be a place where someone who knows nothing about baseball can learn about its rich history? Isn't it a museum, after all?
If that's the case -- and I say it is -- then how can we leave out Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader and most memorable competitor of his era? And how can we even consider leaving out McGwire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, the three most memorable hitters of the 1990s? We're supposed to stick our heads in the historical sand and pretend these people were never born? Imagine if the rest of the world worked like this. Word is, JFK cheated on his wife. Should we change the name of the airport and remove all his memorabilia from the Smithsonian?
Bill Simmons is an intelligent man, but for some reason he simply cannot wrap his mind around the fact that the Baseball Hall of Fame is comprised of more than just the plaque gallery. He doesn't appear to understand that while induction is the highest individual honor a player can receive, those who touch the game in a variety of ways can still be represented within the museum.