The Hall of Fame "guidance" canard

I feel like I've said everything that there is to say about the matter of not voting for Jeff Bagwell's Hall of Fame candidacy over "suspicions" that he used "PE"DOTTUBHA*, so if you feel like you need another dose of that argument, I will simply recommend that you head over to SB Nation and read former IIATMS contributor Mike Bates' take on the matter. Suffice it to say, the fact that the case against Bagwell consists entirely of the fact that he played with juicers and had big muscles himself (and that no one is willing to actually come out and accuse him, for that matter) makes it downright unconscionable to exclude him from the Hall.

That said, I do want to add a bit to this part of Mike's article:

Writers like Bob Brookover, are clamoring for additional guidance from the Hall itself to resolve this issue. In a kind of brain-dead, misguided protest, Brookover is taking the character clause to its extreme and only voting for Dale Murphy, since he's convinced Murphy was "a terrific player who showed great integrity, sportsmanship and character" (and ignoring the fact that he's simply guessing that the integrity, character, and sportsmanship of Bagwell, Piazza, Trammell, Raines, and company falls short). Personally, I don't know what the Hall of Fame can say to make the BBWAA's job easier.

This notion that the voters need "guidance" from the Hall is a pretty common one, and what the people asking for it generally mean is that they want a clear bright line from the Hall as to whether or not the use of "PE"DOTTUBHA should be a factor in their consideration. The Hall of Fame simply isn't going to do this (mostly because the people running the institution don't want to have anything to do with something so trivial as the voting process for inducting new members), but baseball has done it for them in a very real sense.

One thing that I think doesn't get pointed out nearly often enough in this debate is that the idea of using exclusion from the Hall of Fame as punishment for misdeeds while playing is an incredibly radical one. Yes, the character clause does exist, but it has literally never been used to exclude a clearly deserving nominee from enshrinement until hysteria over "PE"DOTTUBHA came along, and in all likelihood it will never be employed as an argument for excluding anyone for any other sin. As far as decades of Hall of Fame precedent go, there's only one sin that the Hall of Fame, and baseball, have declared merits punishment so severe as to include exclusion from Cooperstown: gambling on baseball.

And it's not as though baseball has been silent on the matter as it relates to "PE"DOTTUBHA. You may or nay not have noticed that baseball does indeed have a drug testing, and while a lifetime ban is a part of the disciplinary proceedings, it is not triggered until an offender fails a third test. That's materially different than the zero tolerance policy the league maintains for gambling (and that's without noting that, during the time period in question, drug use was perfectly fine with everyone other than Fay Vincent). That sure sounds like a good indicator of MLB's stance on the issue to me.

*"Performance enhancing" drugs other than those used by Hank Aaron

Update: If you want more of Bates' take on the Hall of Fame, you're in luck: he'll be joining Stacey and I for a special Hall of Fame centered edition of On the Money tomorrow night at 9:00 EST.