The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is based in Cooperstown, NY. (Imagn Content Services, LLC)

It’s Baseball Hall of Fame voting season, so once again, we are here to discuss morally bankrupt frauds and Cooperstown. We might even get around to talking about the players, too.

But first, let’s push the rewind button to about this time last year, when pitcher Curt Schilling fell just 16 votes short of election. That outcome almost certainly was connected to Schilling’s addiction issues: Despite the obvious effect on his own welfare and those who care most about him, the man simply cannot stop self-destructing on social media, the textbook definition of an addiction.

Approving the lynching of journalists, praising the insurrectionists, and comparing Dr. Fauci to Nazis? The probability is high that it’s going to take more than a 12-step program to clean out the toxicity in Big Schill’s system, which evidently persuaded enough folks that perhaps it wasn’t in anyone’s best interests to give him the platform of baseball immortality to spew all over the rest of us.

Schilling’s response was to petition the Hall to remove his name from consideration this winter, which is his 10th and final year on the writers’ ballot. Better to wait, he said, to be selected later by a committee that takes up the candidacies of those players who fail to win election by writers’ vote.

“Former players will be the ultimate judge as it should be,’’ Schilling wrote on Twitter, linking to a Facebook post outlining his grievances about the process that was long enough to fill up the front page of any daily newspaper. “I won’t allow a group of morally bankrupt frauds another year to lie about my life.’’

The Hall turned down Big Schill, but that doesn’t mean card-carrying members of the Baseball Writers Association of America can’t honor his wishes. He’s one of the best postseason pitchers of all time – just one of a long list of credentials that make him eminently worthy of induction – but if he’s willing to wait a year (which is when he is first eligible to come up for consideration by "Today’s Game" committee), this fraud will graciously oblige and withhold my vote. But wait till Big Schill finds out there are writers on the committee, too.

Anyway, it could be that the writers should think once and for all about removing themselves from this business of deciding whose plaque should hang in the 13326 zip code. The Steroid Era has just made such a hash of what used to be (mostly) an exercise in judging whether a player’s performance measured up. Barry Bonds isn’t worthy, but enabler Bud Selig is?

David Ortiz is reported to have tested positive for PEDs in 2003 by The New York Times, but Big Papi gets a pass from commissioner Rob Manfred while Roger Clemens, who was named in the Mitchell Report but never failed a drug test, is a pariah?

A-Rod and Manny are two of the greatest right-handed hitters who ever lived, but both failed tests after MLB belatedly put a testing system in place. How big a difference should there be between suspected cheaters and known cheaters, and should it even make a difference to voters? We’re talking about a museum, not a cathedral, with room for both saints and sinners.

Amy and John Isenberg of West Wyoming, PA, tour the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, last year. (Imagn Content Services, LLC)

Amy and John Isenberg of West Wyoming, PA, tour the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, last year. (Imagn Content Services, LLC)

But then again, should that museum reserve a place of honor for someone like Omar Vizquel, the gifted shortstop whose Hall candidacy took a direct hit when his ex-wife went public last winter with accusations of domestic violence? Are baseball writers supposed to pretend that #MeToo never happened?

The whole picture is muddled by the “integrity, sportsmanship, character” clause included in the instructions given to Hall voters. The moralizer who was the driving force behind that clause was Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the commissioner who vigorously defended baseball’s white's-only policy for almost a quarter of a century.

Character?

"Wake up the echoes at the Hall of Fame and you will find that baseball's immortals were a rowdy and raucous group of men who would climb down off their plaques and go rampaging through Cooperstown, taking spoils, like the Third Army busting through Germany," former team owner Bill Veeck once said, which a writer for Bloomberg View reminded us of some years ago.

There’s another wrinkle, too. The sportswriting business has changed, too. No cheering in the pressbox? Lots of writers now openly root for their favorite players and teams; these are the people we expect to vote objectively on the Hall of Fame? Don’t think so.

Movie critics don’t vote for Best Actor. Broadway critics don’t cast their votes for Best Musical. TV critics aren’t handing out Emmys. The industries decide themselves whom they wish to honor. It shouldn’t be any different in baseball. MLB bans Pete Rose from appearing on the ballot; does that mean it tacitly endorses anyone else whose name appears?

Let them sort through their own contradictions.

I’m casting my ballot this year for:

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • David Ortiz
  • Todd Helton
  • Gary Sheffield
  • Scott Rolen
  • Jeff Kent

But after this? Enough.

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