Good morning, baseball fans.
It’s a tough week to call myself one, if I’m being honest. The unwritten and arbitrary rules of who can and cannot enter the Hall of Fame keep ruining what should be joyous moments of recognition and celebration in the world of baseball.
Instead, two of the most iconic players in San Francisco Giants history, two players that rocked the world of baseball as a whole, fell off the Hall of Fame ballot on Tuesday.
I grew up a Giants fan by birthright, but if it weren’t for Barry Bonds becoming a Giant when I was a child, I wouldn’t have become passionate about the game. And if it weren’t for Tim Lincecum, I wouldn’t have stayed after Bonds was unceremoniously ousted from the sport. Careers like they had, and this is how it ends.
Bonds was great even before the steroid era, but you don’t need me to tell you just how great he was. Plenty of better writers than me have been doing so all week, so I’ll just share my experience.
Watching Barry Bonds play baseball for the San Francisco Giants was like my religion as a child, teenager and young adult.
My dad would take me to games after school, where we would wear matching t-shirts; his emblazoned with Willie Mays’ number and mine with Barry Bonds’. I’d be on the edge of my seat, ready to explode with excitement when he hit a home run, or jeer and wave the rubber chicken around in the air if he were intentionally walked, and then do it all over again in a couple of innings.
Later, Tim Lincecum became a jolt of much needed electricity and joy into the franchise and my continued involvement with it. He ultimately became a bridge for many of us from the Bonds era to the Buster Posey era. His career didn’t last as long as we would have liked, but what a career it was. What an impact he made on the game and on the fanbase in such a relatively short amount of time.
When Timmy was pitching in his prime it was must watch television for most of the baseball world and the hottest ticket in San Francisco. It was equal parts confounding and mesmerizing.
You slap five more years of him as even a slightly better than average pitcher onto that career and he gets in. But considering that wasn’t the case, I knew he was unlikely to. It still would have been nice to see a few more writers throw a vote his way in acknowledgement of his extraordinary accomplishments to keep him on the ballot for another year, but, well....
Like I said, I didn’t really see a path for Lincecum in the end, but I thought people might come around on Bonds. Not to diminish David Ortiz, who deserves this recognition, but I can’t get over the hypocrisy of voting for Ortiz, who tested positive for PEDs, but not voting for Bonds, who never did. It feels like performative and selective morality policing by a minority of the voting-eligible writers. It diminishes the value of even the concept of the Hall of Fame when someone like Barry Bonds is left out. It feels cruel and calculated when they later do things like this to players who didn’t get voted in:
As overheated as HOF takes can get, only one thing truly disgusts me about the process: how special committees strung along people like Buck O’Neil and Ron Santo, then elected them after they were dead. It’s cruelty. They deserved better. And we’ll never hear their speeches.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) January 26, 2022
The whole thing has got me feeling sad in a way that sports has never made me feel sad before. Not in a “Kyrie Irving dagger at the buzzer to put a stop to the perfect season” or “Umpire called a checked swing to end a 107-win season” kind of sad.
No, this is a weary sort of sad. A feeling of “is this game even worth the investment of my time and passion?” And it is. At least, I’d like to think it is in spirit. But the politics of it all are just exhausting. Which doesn’t improve the already exhausting politics of the current lockout. It’s hard to find joy as a baseball fan right now.
It’s hard to be a fan of a game that often seems to be run by people who are not. Run by people who seem to want to do their best to squeeze every dollar out of you as a fan but not invest it in the players you paid to see. Run by people who seem to want to use the cheap labor provided by the minor league system to churn through human lives made to live miserably by the game they love. By the game I love.
Some days, I can’t even be sure that that last sentence is true anymore.
A programming note
As was announced earlier this week, McCovey Chronicles will be switching to a new commenting system starting today. For the time being, comments made on the old system will not be accessible. I’m not certain at the time of writing this if the new system will be rolled out after this is published or before, so just keep that in mind.