With all the debating and soul-searching over the Baseball Hall of Fame voting, there's one thing everyone agrees on: We're sick of all the debating and soul-searching.
It's so unnecessary.
This year's HOF vote will be announced Wednesday, and it looks like nobody's getting in, except three special-committee honorees already announced. Suspected drug cheats Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa got juice-balled.
Nobody gets in, except three dead guys! How uncool is that? It's like kissing your sister when the game is rained out on dime-beer night.
The Hall is in big trouble, now and for a long time. The same boring debate will come back every year, like a re-re-re-gifted fruitcake.
How is this in the best interests of baseball, and, more importantly, in the best interests of us fans?
It's crisis time for the Hall. It's also a golden opportunity.
I was discussing the vote recently with fellow Bay Area columnist Monte Poole. I don't have a HOF vote (something about my criminal background), but I told Poole that if I had one, I probably would not vote for the cheaters.
Poole said he would vote 'em in because (and I paraphrase) the HOF should salute the grand panorama of baseball, the heroes and characters, and even the heroes without character. Bad guys and shady behavior are part of the great show.
Wise man, that Poole. Baseball is not now, nor has it ever been, a gentleman's game (excuse me while I spit tobacco, adjust my cup and sneak back to the clubhouse to chug a six-pack). Why should its Hall of Fame be a gentleman's club?
For starters, we need a simple language fix. Since the Hall opened, voters have been instructed to consider a candidate's character. Lose that clause. If the U.S. Constitution can be changed and reinterpreted, we can tweak the HOF voting criteria.
Can you imagine the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if it had a character clause? It would be Barry Manilow, Taylor Swift and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The HOF character clause is crazy, anyway. Ty Cobb, on an average day, broke seven or eight Commandments before breakfast. And the idea of guys like me making character judgments is laughable.
Besides, times change. In the Hall's early days, people wanted their heroes pure and chaste. The Hall has been -- as the paper strips on motel toilets used to say -- sanitized for your protection. Now we're more into honesty and reality.
While we're making the change in voting criteria -- and I hereby call for serious discussion on that matter -- we should also make fundamental changes to the physical exhibits.
The Hall is, and always has been, in denial. It focuses entirely on the players' heroics, while overlooking their foibles and felonies. There is nothing to let you know, for instance, that Mickey Mantle was a peeping tom and a proud self-inductee in the Beer Drinkers' Hall of Fame.
I don't propose that we rechristen the sport's shrine the Baseball Hall of Open Sores, but part of the game's charm and rich history is the dark side.
The New & Improved Baseball Hall of Fame could have, for instance, an exhibit on equipment modification -- how bats are corked, how balls are scuffed and loaded, and what players went there.
I'd love to see an interactive adults-only video exhibit titled "A Night on the Town With Babe Ruth."
How about an exhibit featuring the two sides of the currently blackballed Pete Rose -- "Charlie Hustle/Charlie the Hustler."
How about an exhibit on the steroid era? Not a glorification of juicing, but an acknowledgment that an entire generation of players Incredible Hulked themselves with horse syringes.
"Gee, Dad, is that really the Oakland A's clubhouse bathroom stall where Canseco 'roided up? Is that what made him funny in the head?"
The Hall must change to remain relevant -- and to survive. What are we going to do? Go 10 years when the only new enshrinees are the San Diego Chicken and Don Zimmer?
If the HOF doesn't wake up and smell the pine tar, there will be an opportunity for some enterprising baseball lover with a ton of money. Open up your own baseball shrine and blow away Cooperstown.
No law can stop you from launching a knockoff, a Super Hall of Fame. With your unlimited budget, Mark Cuban or Donald Trump, you could buy tons of precious memorabilia, the jerseys and bats and toilet stalls.
Cooperstown is sacred, you say? Sure, but places like Coney Island and Playland at the Beach were considered the ultimate amusement parks until a guy named Walt took the concept to a higher level.
The HOF can survive, but only if we treat it like a fixer-upper.