"I used to love voting for the Hall of Fame," Rosenthal writes in the lead to his elegy. "Now I hate it."
Rosenthal's main complaint centered around the wave of Steroid Era players now becoming eligible for induction and how the writers' already-difficult beatification process has become a muddied mess because of all the PEDs that were ingested during that time.
It's clear that Rosenthal doesn't relish his tough task as much as he used to — "at least before steroids, the comparisons were baseball comparsions," he laments — and I'm here to write that he's not alone. My interest in the Hall debates as a non-voting fan is also gone.
When it comes to this year's ballot, I can't summon an ounce of passion. The part of me that used to care has shriveled up and died. D.O.A. Completely bluelined. Cold to the touch.
OK, so I've admittedly never been too much for impassioned and detailed Hall of Fame debates or long-winded responses to those who publicly post their ballots. I've never led the parade for a deserving player and I haven't wrung my hands after seeing someone left on the wrong side of the threshold. It's not really in my nature.
As our pal Drew Fairservice wrote so eloquently on Walkoff Walk last January:
"I can't imagine caring TOO much about the fate of a long-retired player. I need the here and now."
That's exactly how I feel, too, though I've always enjoyed reading the findings and arguments of those who have taken up a particular player's cause. I respect their dedication and selling the candidacies of players like Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines rank among the greatest achievements in Internet history.
Plus, announcement day in early January is always usually a good time as it's fun to see Cooperstown's next crop get ready for their moment in the sun later in the summer.
But now? Well, our traditional midwinter pick-me-up is venturing into eye-glazing territory with camps choosing their sides in this freshly born Jeff Bagwell debate. The former Houston Astros slugger is the first real candidate that hasn't been tied to any evidence, but hasn't been able to escape the suspicion of some anyway. The result is everyone dusting off their go-to arguments about PED use from the past decade and again trotting them out in one boring and nap-inducing line.
So just when you thought Mark McGwire's admission earlier this year spelled the end of sanctimonious stances and attacks against those sanctimonious stances, it turns out that they've merely relocated themselves to a forum we used to anticipate and enjoy.
I guess this really shouldn't be too surprising, as we all knew it would dominate the discussion one day. (And if you think this Bagwell grandstanding is bad, just wait until higher-profile guys like Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez(notes) become eligible. Whoo boy.)
But it is discouraging because it guarantees that there's no end in sight to the PED debate we've tried to work past — or at least, around — the last few years. Like the hallowed home run records before it, the Hall of Fame induction process has now fallen victim to the steroid use and what used to be a fun statistical anointment has turned into another series of yawn-worthy and doubt-inducing witch hunts and morality plays.
It was fun while it lasted.
- Ken Rosenthal