Hey everybody, I've got some news!
Now, there's no need to stop the presses -- no need to slap a BREAKING NEWS tag on it -- but in a rather strange development, I recently discovered I'm not nearly the baseball fan I thought I was.
All this time I've been pawning myself off as true fan, a baseball nerd almost. And by "nerd" I mean one of those people who gets all weepy thinking about how it's more than just a game, it's a national heirloom and a mystical force that bonds generations together through unforgettable statistics, common heroes and Iowa cornfields.
Turns out I don't care nearly as much as I thought I did.
See, last week when the divinely-led Baseball Writers of Association of America decreed there would be no Class of 2012 in the baseball Hall of Fame, I realized being a true fan is just too exhausting.
Oh I still love the game and enjoy following my favorite teams each summer; and I suppose I always will. However, with regards to the Hall of Fame, I've concluded I'm simply too weak-minded to properly debate which players belong and which ones don't.
Believe me, it's no fun admitting this. I once prided myself on being a so-called baseball purist. Now I see I'm just some schmuck who likes the game a lot, but doesn't love it enough to go through the mental gymnastics of determining what it currently means to be Hall of Fame worthy.
Last week voters determined no eligible player was good enough -- or "clean" enough -- for the Hall. Granted, this is not a new thing. This is now the eighth time in history voters refused to give one or more players the required 75 percent needed for enshrinement. This time, however, we're seeing the fallout from baseball's steroid era.
Players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro put up Hall-of-Fame statistics during their careers and most certainly would have been voted in. But those five in particular have strongly been linked to the use of performance enhancing drugs and most voters agree that precludes them from the Hall.
Still more players have been tainted by the mere assumption they "may have" taken PEDs.
I'm all for justice and the notion of accountability. If a player is known to have broken the rules, he shouldn't be eligible. Trouble is, we're not likely to ever know definitively which players used PEDs and which didn't. That, unfortunately, means we can expect several more years of hand wringing and guilty-until-proven-innocent debate.
Sorry, but I don't have the stomach to keep up. Therefor, I give up.
If being a real baseball fan means forever engaging in this depressing did-he-or-didn't-he speculation, I'm checking out now.
But before leaving, I'd like to offer a solution.
With regards to the use of PEDs, why not simply create a "Steroid Era wing" in the Hall of Fame? Slap a big sign on the wall and let everyone know some of the players in that section used PEDs and some didn't.
If there's strong evidence a player used, by all means, put it on his plaque for all to see. The ones who didn't use will still be loosely associated with the era -- and that's a shame -- but perhaps that's price one pays for not speaking out in the first place.
And finally, let's get rid of the BWAA voting process and go to a small panel of current and former players; baseball executives, media members and, yes, fans.
If a player is eligible for enshrinement, simply ask the question: "Is (fill in the blank) a Hall of Fame player?" Then apply the 10-second rule, which means if it takes more than 10 seconds to answer affirmatively, the answer is "Sorry, maybe next year."
After five years, a player is no longer eligible ... unless one day he comes waltzing out of an Iowa cornfield then it's time to reconsider.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265.