Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Spoiled ballots: My thoughts on no one entering this year's baseball Hall of Fame

This appears in the Monday, January 14, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.

Spoiled ballots: 
My thoughts on no one entering this year's baseball’s Hall of Fame.
by rick olivares
pic from

When former National League President Bart Giamatti suspended Pete Rose for shoving umpire Dave Pallone during a Cincinnati Reds-New York Mets game at Riverfront Stadium in a game in 1988, he also berated the television analysts –Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall – for “their unacceptable behavior in inciting the fans” who threw debris on the field during the game.

Now I am not a Cincinnati Reds fan although I did loosely follow the Big Red Machine in those replays on Armed Forces TV. It was largely because of Pete Rose (and later Paul O’Neill who would move to the Yankees where he was a major part of their 1990s dynasty) that I checked on the Reds. And yes, they did have a very controversial owner in Marge Schott so who didn’t check on her latest comments that would shock the crap out of everyone.

Giamatti’s comments during his censure of Brennaman and Nuxhall left a lasting impression on me – “Nothing justifies (such) unprofessional behavior”.

Are there no ifs and buts about that line?

I cannot even begin to pretend I know.

I followed Rose more than the Reds because there’s something about a player when he’s nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” and becomes baseball’s all-time hits leader.

When Giamatti became MLB commissioner replacing Peter Ueberroth (who I first knew about for making the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics the first profitable Olympics in history) in 1989, he pursued the allegations that Rose had bet on baseball that is a direct violation of the game’s statutes.

The Dowd Report, named after John Dowd who investigated the betting scandal, found Rose guilty. Charlie Hustle admitted to betting on games but not against the Reds although Dowd believed otherwise. There was no proof against Rose betting against the Reds but mere suspicion that he did.

It didn’t help that Rose served time (five months) in prison for filing fraudulent tax returns.

Then Rose was banned from the baseball Hall of Fame; something that stands to this day.

I got to see Pete Rose a long time ago in New York where he was signing autographs for fans. The line was rather long and I decided not to fall in. Besides, I am not into signatures but more of photographs.

At the time that Rose bet on games, he was the Reds’ manager and in a capacity to influence games by his line-up, substitutions, decisions on the batting order, how to play a batter or pitcher.

Rose is the game’s all-time hits leader and it’s a damn shame that he is not in Cooperstown. But I keep thinking back to Giamatti’s comments: “Nothing justifies unprofessional behavior”.

And when I look at how the Baseball Writer’s Association of America’s decision not to elect Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mike Piazza to the Hall then I, like everyone else, is in a quandary. For the second time in 42 years, no one is going to be enshrined save for one baseball writer. So the writers made it about the writers. It’s not so bad because they perform a check and balance.

How is it possible that the all time home run king who is Barry Bonds, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner who is Roger Clemens, the man who broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record who is Mark McGwire, and the man who has hit the most 60-plus home runs seasons who is Sammy Sosa are not in the Hall of Fame?

Sure. They cheated, right? They used performance enhancing drugs to reach those milestones. Some were not indicted for OJ Simpson like loopholes but the fact of the matter is their accomplishments are there.

I have always wondered if Major League Baseball is just as culpable in this. In this era, they never came out and said it was wrong to use PEDs and they certainly never put in measures to stop it. Instead they celebrated that summer home run record chase while the media wrote about these glorious seasons and achievements.

It was only when Barry Bonds finally retired that people got a reality check and said, “Wow, we’ve seen a string of seasons where seemingly untouchable and unbreakable records were broken” then went after these players.

If they were guilty then why are their records still intact and not stricken from the official record book? Why has baseball not taken back titles and championships? Why isn’t baseball’s leadership taken to task for this?

Why? Because it’s a mess. To do so we render everything that has happened in the last 20 years almost meaningless. You know like how the NCAA decided that Penn State’s wins didn’t amount to anything at the time that Jerry Sandusky was allowed to run unchecked with his garrulous ways. Like how Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France titles were taken away.

The full scope of those who used steroids will never be known. The witch hunt is deplorable in the light of how MLB and the media allowed it to happen.

So do I think that Rose, Bonds, and company belong to Baseball’s Hall of Fame?

Let me answer the question with another question -- Is Cooperstown lily white clean?

Not at all. You have people in there for corked bats, racists, convicted drug addicts, and people who presided over segregation etc. It’s an imperfect Hall of Fame in an imperfect world.

Now once and for all, MLB and the custodians of Cooperstown ought to sit down and discuss this thoroughly. When they arrive at a conclusion, then we can abide with what the decision is for better or worse.


Here is something I wrote about the matter last year for Business Mirror. It's titled: A Hall of Fame question  . 

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