Here's an idea: Next baseball season, have all the games be played in an underground bunker in Utah. Then at the end of every week, combine all the highlights from that week's games and show them in order, without anyone knowing the outcome. If they broadcast them at the ballpark on massive jumbotrons in the middle of the diamond I would even buy season tickets to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ooo! And strippers! They should be trotted out between every other inning to entertain the crowd. No, make that every inning. Never mind, let's just hit the strip-club and call it a day.
Regardless, even though I'm not a baseball aficionado, I am a huge fan of their Hall of Fame. The Baseball Hall of Fame gets it right, and why? Because they hate virtually everyone.
This week, the Hall elected Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. Even if you don't know about baseball, you probably know about Cal. He's the player who helped save baseball by actually-get this- playing baseball. He was out there playing every single game for 2,632 consecutive games. An impressive record, though Brett Favre's starting every football game since 1992 blows it away in my opinion. It's one thing to play a game where you throw, catch and try to hit a ball three or four times a contest, but quite another when you're facing almost a dozen 300 lb. men whose only job is to run at you as fast as they can and break your legs. Suck on that, Cal. Still, he was a no-brainer for the Hall.
Tony Gwynn also belongs. He would have hit .400 in 1994 if Major League Baseball hadn't called off the season on account of Bud Selig being a tool. Tony also has the distinction of being the best baseball-playing fat-man since Babe Ruth, giving hope to doughy losers like myself that if we only got our big break, we too could stride out on that diamond and get hit in the face with a Roger Clemens fastball. For this, Tony deserves entry.
Now let's talk about those people that the Baseball Hall of Fame shut out this year: Everyone else on the planet. This is a good thing. The more exclusive the membership, the more valuable and memorable the induction. This is one area where the National Football League drops the ball. Their Hall inducts six players every single year. Want to know who entered the Baseball Hall last year? Don Sutton.* Want to know who entered the Football Hall? So do I. I completely forgot, and I actually like football.**
Here's my sole criteria for induction in any Hall of Fame: when someone asks you if a certain player should be in a Hall of Fame and you go, "Hmmmm..." he's out. If you have to think for longer than it takes to take a breath, it's over. The Hall of Fame is for those who have blown everyone away with their undeniable greatness, and "hmmmm..." doesn't cut it.
Let's go over a partial list of this year's failed nominees:
- Rich "Goose" Gossage: Tremendous closer, better nickname. Almost cried when Tom Cruise got him killed in Top Gun. Came closer than anyone this year who didn't get in, and I wouldn't have had a problem with it if he'd made it.
- Lee Smith: Most saves ever. No cool nickname, so he's out. Let that be a lesson to you.
- Jack Morris: Not the best in the regular season, but an absolute stud in the playoffs. Baseball doesn't seem to factor in this statistic I call "winning" into their calculations, apparently. I'd let him in.
- Don Mattingly: "Mr. Baseball" did have a nickname, though it was pretty egomaniacal of him. How about just "Mr. First Base"? Afraid of being branded a light-petter, Mattingly? Oh, and he never won a championship while playing his entire career with the New York Yankees, who I hear are pretty good. Plus, they won the World Series the year after he retired. Coincidence? Probably, but he's out. His new nickname is "Mr. Nose Pressed Against the Glass of the Hall of Fame Door, Crying Like a Goddamned Schoolgirl".
- Albert Belle: An utter psychopath. Let's see, he cheated with a corked bat, screamed obscenities at Hannah Storm (because he thought she was Leslie Visser. Hey, we've all been there, Albert), routinely glared with white-hot hatred at little children who wanted his autograph, whipped a baseball into the stands at a fan and hit him, charged the stands and personally attacked another fan, ran down rowdy trick-or-treaters with his car, was convicted of stalking a woman from an escort service, even going so far as to secretly install a gps system in her car... it's a phenomenal list. Personally, I'd induct him into the Hall just to see the terrified looks on the faces of the crowd and his fellow inductees. I can easily see him stepping up to the podium and then hosing down the crowd with a submachine gun a la the Penguin in Batman Returns. Steroid probability: 75%, Crazy probability: Off the charts. We're talking Bruce Dern-level crazy here. If you see Albert Belle, contact the authorities immediately and commence praying, because Albert has already attached a gps and knows where you are!
- Ken Caminiti: Died because of cocaine, fast cars and steroids. Steroid probability: 100%, duh.
- Jose Canseco: A marvel of biology. Jose is an entity consisting of a myriad concoction of steroids encased in skin. He also dated Madonna. Steroid probability: damn... can't find the "infinity" symbol on the keyboard...
- Mark McGuire: Saved baseball after the strike. Has the magic number of 500 home runs that automatically gets you into the hall of fame. Good teammate, gives to charity and strongly suspected of having cheated by taking steroids. Steroid probability: Impossible to say. Trying to think of the exact number. Thinking, thinking...
And it's over. Sorry, Mark.
But not really. You see, being enshrined in a Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor and privilege, therefore being excluded from membership is not a punishment****. We don't have to prove that someone doesn't belong. It's not innocent before proven guilty. They need to prove they belong, and if there's a shadow of a doubt over almost everyone from the 90's because of steroids, well that's something that could have been avoided if the players who weren't using had had the courage to stand up and demand testing to expose the ones that were. Does that sound difficult, calling out your fellow players? Does it sound like such an action would take extraordinary courage? You bet your ass it would. It would take someone with monumental resolve, strength and honor.
Sounds like a Hall of Famer to me.
* They shouldn't have inducted even one player last year. Don Sutton has no business in the Hall of Fame unless he buys his ticket like everyone else. Even then, I'd make him pay double. Check the mammoth white-man-fro he's kickin'. Yo, Napoleon Dynamite, when they construct a Hall of Not Bad for A Very Long Time, you've got my vote.
** List of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees for 2006 and my meaningless votes for each:
- Troy Aikman- No problem with this one at all. He doesn't get a ton of credit for the success of those Dallas Cowboys teams of the 90's, but I always thought he was underrated. His mechanics were flawless (Ditka even used film of Aikman to show Jim Harbaugh how to throw a football, which pissed Harbaugh off to no end).
- Harry Carson- Hall of very good. Two rings with the Giants, excellent player, but he benefited from playing with the greatest linebacker of all time.
- John Madden- Is he even still human? I can't bear to look at him anymore. I dare you to stare into his eyes for just one minute and retain your sanity. No, no! Look away! Save yourself!! Anyway, great coach but not for long enough. If it takes the Hall 25 years to induct you, that's a pretty big "Hmmmm...". He got in because he stayed famous, period. I would have kept your fat ass out, Johnny. BOOM!
- Warren Moon- The most borderline guy on the list for me. A ton of yards, but no rings and he played a quarter of his career in the Canadian Football League... damn, no, he's out. But it's close.
- Reggie White- The most feared Defensive lineman of his era. Held the record for sacks all-time. No question a Hall of Famer. I idolized the man, so of course he later unleashes a racist diatribe at the Wisconsin statehouse. Every goddamned time I look up to an athlete they wind up breaking my heart, with the exception of Brett Farve. This of course means that within the week we'll be hearing the words "Favre, nuns, helpless kittens, coke-fueled, machete and bloodbath" in the same news story.
- Rayfield Wright- An offensive lineman for Dallas I've never heard of, but that means nothing. Offensive lineman are like referees or your own spleen: if you suddenly become aware of them, it usually means they're fucking up.
*** Off-field stuff counts in the Baseball Hall. In football, off-field doesn't enter into it. This is why no one had a problem voting Lawrence Taylor into the Hall despite him being a huge crack-head even while actually being inducted. Plus, like Albert Belle, no one was going to tell LT that he wasn't getting in for fear of being torn to pieces and eaten. Even if he hadn't been enshrined, they just would have let him walk on stage and mumble a speech before staggering off to find more crack.
**** We'll tackle the Pete Rose issue another time.