Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Carlos Beltran, a superb hitter and gifted outfielder, becomes eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2023. Time may dim the current furor over his prominent role in the Astros' sign-stealing scandal, but it's hard to imagine his candidacy won't be impacted by it.
Is it enough to keep him out of Cooperstown? That's unknowable now.
Maybe it sinks what some believe is a borderline case, or at least gives undecided voters pause. Some longtime voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America I spoke to Thursday say they now consider the scheme part of the data that they must evaluate in Beltran's case.
But perhaps Beltran, a nine-time All-Star, was so good that all will be overlooked. One voter said Thursday said he won't view the star's candidacy any differently in light of the sign-stealing.
After all, plenty of those caught in the scandals of baseball's yore are already in the Hall of Fame or annually get votes. Maybe one is elected when the Class of 2020 is announced next week. Can you really withhold a vote for Beltran for this if you are voting for Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens?
But the controversy already cost Beltran his job as the new Mets' manager. And it's at least possible that we don't know everything there is to know about what plots the Astros and other teams hatched to get an electronic edge - social media is already abuzz with daily conspiracy theories - so while there's time for repair, there's also time for more dirt to emerge.
Beltran played in the majors for 20 years and won the World Series in 2017 with Houston, his final season and the one now marred by controversy. He hit 435 home runs and stole 312 bases and is one of the finest postseason players in history.
As Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs pointed out, Beltran is just one of 13 outfielders with 2,700 hits and 400 homers. All of the others, save Bonds, are in the Hall of Fame.
Those qualifications are compelling to voters, even in light of the scandal.
"Unless it's revealed that Beltran was a serial career electronic sign stealer, which I'd doubt, this serious foul in his final MLB season does not impact my feelings," said one voter, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I tend to think he's a Hall of Fame player.
Dom Amore, a writer for the Hartford Courant who has voted for Cooperstown since 2007, believes Beltran's involvement is fodder for voters because, "When you're talking about a player who is not a slam dunk, everything and anything attached to his name could be a factor for a voter.
"However," added Amore, "in this case, to switch your thinking from yes to no on Beltran, would be unfair. There are incidents of this kind of 'cheating' dating back to the 1890s. It has often been romanticized in the past. Times have changed, yes. Gaylord Perry's doctoring of baseball was fun and games, catch-me-if-you-can stuff in his day and no one flinched when he went into the Hall of Fame."
In his 2018 book, A Franchise on the Rise: The First Twenty Years of the New York Yankees, Amore wrote about a 1909 sign-stealing plan by the then-Highlanders in which the club got signs from a man in an apartment across from Hilltop Park using binoculars, a mirror and sunlight.
The 1951 Giants stole signs, too, Amore noted. Leo Durocher, who managed the team, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 after being voted in by the Veterans Committee.
Now, Amore said, "The expectations of integrity are raised in all sports and that's a good thing. But to penalize Beltran as a Hall of Fame candidate on this basis, in this case, would be wrong, in my opinion."
Not everyone agrees. A third voter said Beltran had an incredible career and had done wonderful things off the field. But the voter is troubled by Beltran's involvement in the electronic sign stealing.
"The character clause, for me, has become one of the criteria that's really important," the voter said. "This would really make me think hard about Beltran's candidacy because not only is it cheating, but I think in some ways it's almost as bad if not worse than gambling because you're affecting the outcomes of games.
"That doesn't sit well…If you ask me today, yes, definitely, it would affect my decision on him. I would have to think about it."