In the middle of Wednesday, a day so bottlenecked it might have been held in an election year in Fort Lee, Pete Rose offered a thought on those overlooked in the Hall of Fame process. He is the expert.
Pete, turns out, tweets a lot about the Hall of Fame. In this instance, he mentioned Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza. If he could have located a "sigh" emoticon, that would have followed.
And then he pecked, "However we don't live in a perfect world."
He is the expert.
Pete, who is not on the ballot and never has been, received no official votes again, though rumors had the presence of a write-in or two, which is odd, because there isn't room on the ballot for that. Perhaps in the margin, appropriately.
Anyway, Pete has this ability to be asymmetrically astute – maybe astutely asymmetrical – and given the events of the day and what they must mean to him annually, it's of little surprise he came upon the perfect description. As Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were being announced as a damned fine class, one that followed a vacant class (and shrillness filled the skies for both), along came Pete and his subtle vote for perspective, a grasp of which he'd once been decidedly inexpert, but seems to be gaining on.
Alas, few listen to Pete anymore.
So we quickly honor the new Hall of Famers before reminding ourselves this is first a referendum on the BBWAA, and Winstrol, and whether the Hall itself should be burned down or razed by a bulldozer. It's less important that Maddux will be enshrined than it is to uncover the 16 scoundrels who did not consider him worthy. Jack Morris fell off the ballot, having had his 15-year run, apparently gone too soon. Biggio was short two votes out of 571, and the take-away is that the system is broken – no, irretrievably broken – because, dammit, Craig Biggio is a Hall of Famer so it must be broken, unless Craig Biggio was a serial compiler so it must be broken.
Yes, it's an imperfect world, where not everybody gets a trophy, and some players are held accountable for their decisions, and, turns out, it's very, very difficult to have played so well for so long at an exceedingly hard game, only to fall just short of elite. You know, until next year, when the chance for elite returns, seven years after retirement. The standards are ridiculously high, or about where they should be, and the system could be better. The people acting within the system could be better. Not all of them. A few. And this isn't even counting the guy who gave his vote to Deadspin, because the result was better than many of the alternatives, and let's hear it for the voting public.
But, around that, and for a little while – a couple hours, maybe – we got three really good ballplayers taking the phone calls of their professional lives, and hugging their families and then trying to put all of that into words. Six months from now, Maddux, Glavine and Thomas will stand beside Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre in Cooperstown – "a great little town," Maddux called it – and look out at all the people, and wonder where the time went, and how it led to there.
All the other stuff, such as the hits taken by the candidacies of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, will be gone. The outrage over one stray ballot or another? Gone. Whether a man should be allowed to cast 10 votes or 40? Gone.
Yes, it's flawed. No, it's not a disaster. Yes, there's time and opportunity to fix it. No, that time wasn't Wednesday afternoon.
That morning, Maddux, not surprisingly, stuck to his routine. He sent his kids to school.
"You gotta go to school, don't ya?" he said.
His wife was there. So was his mom. In that room, with those people, he became a Hall of Famer. Like Glavine, he'd carved through an era heavily invested in its offense. Like Glavine, better than Glavine even, he was amazing at it. Neither is a big man. Neither threw exceptionally hard. They just figured it out before anyone could figure them out.
"We kept the ball down," Maddux said, like the answer was there for everybody all along.
"One of the things I'm certainly proud of," Glavine said, "is helping to further the notion in baseball that there is more than one way to get it done. … There's nothing imposing about it."
Imposing was out there, though.
"Eh, I don't think we spent a lot of time worrying about who was doing what and what the impact was," he said. "I think we were worried about how to get guys out."
Of the three, only Thomas emphatically stated that he hoped the Hall could be clean of steroids, or as clean as it could be, but he's said that before. It seemed unfortunate that he, or any of them, had to be pestered about it on Wednesday, but that's the nature of it now. The story is the story, no matter the moment, no matter the view.
"You can't worry about what others have done," he said.
That seemed a quite reasonable tone for the day. And it was as close to perfect as the world was going to be. We'd all have to live with that.