If he had a vote, filmmaker Ken Burns would not let the likes of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza and other PED-era players into the Hall of Fame. At least not this year or next.
Burns, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter that takes a somewhat shocking turn when he uses a particularly crass insult, says a little waiting around should be in order for the so-called cheating generation.
Ken Burns: … We know some pitchers extended their playing careers, we know some people hit the ball farther, but nobody hit .406, nobody had a 56-game hitting streak, no pitcher won 30 games, no pitcher won 35 games, no pitcher won 25 games. Maybe that helps you make it less onerous, but at the same time, those motherf---ers should suffer for a while.
Well, THAT came out of bleeping left field. Mother-what-ers?! Mister Burns! That's a lot of contempt and righteous indignation (not to mention a dash of sadism), along with a shockingly vulgar word for someone associated with PBS. My grandmother (were she alive) might be less-inclined to renew her subscription if she heard that — Lawrence Welk tote bag or not.
Instead of allowing entry to the Hall of Fame someone who might or might not have broken the rules (which might or might not have been rules at the time), Burns wants to "wait and wait and wait. Because it makes it impossible for us to judge excellence in this era."
Wait and wait and wait. For what?
Confessions? Harder evidence? No. Parole. Until the probably guilty of something, have "suffered" enough. Burns doesn't have a vote, but he still obviously views his colleagues who do like a sentries at the gates of heaven, guarding Cooperstown from contemporary scoundrels. While his views might be easy to ridicule — or maybe you agree with him — this is actually a helpful interview because it gives us insight into what many of the electorate in the BBWAA are thinking.
Some of keeping Clemens and Bonds and Piazza and Bagwell and whomever seemed 'roided up out of Cooperstown is about punishment, doled out by self-appointed "Guardians of Baseball." Some of it is a misdirection play, a way to hide embarrassment for not lifting two fingers to catch anyone in the act, or finding a dealer, or blowing a whistle when they had the chance. Yell "mother-(bleeper)!" from the rooftops loud enough, and hope one will notice you were half-asleep while these so-called cheaters allegedly stole from the game. There are a handful of journalists who are exceptions, but they all came after the fact and most of them are not voting for the Hall of Fame.
In the Hit and Run blog for Reason magazine, writer Matt Welch makes a relevant point about Burns:
Ironically, Burns was doing promo for his latest documentary about the Central Park Five, who were unjustly treated by a system that assumed their guilt.
When he had the chance in "The Tenth Inning," a four-hour addendum to his epic "Baseball" documentary, Burns — a journalist — didn't break much ground on steroids, though we did get Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post telling his "Jose Canseco Milkshake story."
Stuff like this makes me wonder what else Burns hasn't gotten quite right.
Big BLS H/N: @JamesKann on Twitter