This may seem like an overreaction, but I personally think the two selections for the Baseball Hall of Fame this year are the best thing that could’ve happened for the sport, for both the historical piece and the current state of the game. The first half may seem obvious, the second not so much.
Now I can honestly say, outside of the playoffs (which I really only watched while sitting at work with no football on) or a few random Red Sox games, I didn’t watch much baseball this year. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t have that same interest or same drive to watch the sport that I did growing up. A lot of people will say it’s because of the end of the big-swinging, steroid-taking stars that dominated the league or because all the big rivalries that used to push the sport forward all ended. I will admit that those studs being gone may have to do with it, and the fire that used to be evident in the sport has died down significantly in the last decade, but I don’t think that’s it.
Personally, the biggest thing to me is the lack of clear beasts in the game today. I know there are some great players, both pitching and hitting, in the league today that baseball fans love to watch. However, I’m talking guys like the two recently selected to become members of the Hall of Fame: Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza.
It may have been the time period they were around in and the talent they were surrounded by, but those two players always stood out to me when I was a young kid. I remember when I would get up every morning and watch SportsCenter highlights for hours on end to watch what these guys were doing and what crazy plays they were making. I loved watching Griffey play, and just knowing that he did all he did and hit all the home runs he did while never being caught or accused of doing steroids was awesome to me. It’s the reason he’s my favorite player of all-time, and he really peaked my interest in the sport as I grew up.
Piazza was a little different, as he was on that other end of the steroid spectrum. It was always cool, like I said earlier, watching him succeed like he did behind the plate and achieve as much as he did offensively from the catcher spot. However, he was one of those guys to me that I can’t look at the same way because of the allegations that he used PEDs, just like I can’t think of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, whoever you can name the same way that I look at a guy like Griffey. I guess it’s a good thing that writers are moving on from this idea that steroids need to keep guys out of the Hall of Fame so we can stop making it the only conversation that ever comes up when you talk baseball with someone. It just sucks that it’s a situation where “Well he’s in, so why can’t Bonds be in? Or Sosa? Or Clemens?”
It’s a double-edged sword, and a conversation that will go on until they’re both inducted in July. It is huge for the sport, though, because of the idea of celebrating the ones who made history the clean way, and those who still changed the game whether it was clean or not. These guys made baseball a huge thing in the 1990’s and 2000’s, and they deserve to be recognized. It’s also huge for the current era, as these are two players, at least from my partial outsider standpoint, that can get fans back into the game, and create a search for the next Griffey or the next Piazza who can add that same spark to the game that these legends did. At least, that’s my wishful thinking for the sport and for its fans.