The Men of the Game
January 16, 2014
by William Szczepanek
With the Baseball Hall of Fame voting for 2014 in the books, we see Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas as the newest inductees into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. Craig Biggio fell just 2 votes short of being elected. Biggio, like Nellie Fox and Pie Traynor, missed election by the smallest margin in Hall of Fame balloting history. It is likely that Biggio missed out because he played largely during the Steroid Era and some writers have refused to vote for anyone who played during that time, but with 3,060 hits he will likely be elected in the future.
It is difficult to say who has and has not used performance enhancing drugs and therefore who should or should not be eligible for the Hall of fame, but there is still something wrong with the culture of today's players that give them the idea that illegal action is allowable. It goes against the notion that real men don't need to do those things. Where are the real men of the game? When real men see others taking unfair advantage of a situation why aren't these offenders called out by the players themselves, since the offensive action could be detrimental to the team, the game or even themselves. The unfair advantage does not just go to the star who becomes a consideration for the Hall of Fame based on their stats, but it also more widely goes to the average players who use drugs which allow them to play in the the Major Leagues and keep other players from doing so.
If we look to the past we see players like Ted Williams who wanted to be known as the best hitter in baseball. We can see that if he cheated then he could never be that exceptional person in his own mind. That is the largest difference between players of the past and today ─ pride in their work. Williams did care about what people said about him personally. He carried a chip on his shoulder and would defy anyone to knock it off, but no one could deny his natural ability to hit. Williams was skinny his entire career, as was Greg Maddux.
Stan Musial was the gentleman of the game, probably one of the best liked players of all time. He would never say a bad word about anyone. He would just beat you with his game ─ a squeaky clean game.
Mickey Mantle, the all American icon, is criticized for his drinking problems which ultimately killed him. But drinking too much did not enhance his game, if anything it made it more difficult for him to compete. Babe Ruth had similar problems and Pete Rose's gambling problems were not a part of his performance.
Maddux, Glavine and Thomas are today's men of the game. They played well and deserve the accolades. But when will the real men of the game take the game back by standing up for their own performances. This most recent Hall of Fame voting has made a statement to those players who want to enter the halls of the best. But, if a player can make millions in other ways does it matter to them whether they make the Hall of Fame? It just may be that players are paid too much for what they do.
Baseball, like life, is not perfect or fair. It just seems like it should be. And baseball's stars don't need to be perfect, they just need to be real men.