Monday, December 6, 2010

Has the Boss lost best shot at Hall of Fame?

George Steinbrenner is not headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame, at least not yet. But has the Boss lost his best chance at election?

When someone passes away, it is human nature to focus on the good in that person’s life and the positive impact he or she had on the world. For Steinbrenner, that means focusing on the great things he did in baseball such as his constant demand for greatness from his teams and forever changing the sport’s revenue model. It also means more attention paid to his charitable contributions, including all the kids he put through college without them even realizing he was their benefactor.

With his July death fresh in the minds of voters, I thought that sentimentality might carry him across the finish line and into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, overwhelming any reservations they had about Steinbrenner's notorious misbehavior. But his recent death seems to have had the opposite effect, with some members of the Veterans Committee thinking it was too soon for the Boss to be enshrined. The Boss will get another chance at the Hall in 2013, but all that sentimentality will be long gone by then.

Does that mean that the Boss won't get into the Hall of Fame? Not at all. Time could actually be on his side, as memories of his various misdeeds fade away while his imprint on the game remains permanent and gets more attention with every major free agent the New York Yankees sign. His credentials dictate that he should be in the Hall, with seven World Series championships under his reign, but the felony conviction and two suspensions from baseball will continue to haunt his candidacy.

Steinbrenner’s candidacy has a lot of support from many of the right people. His good friend and sometime-adversary Commissioner Bud Selig gave it a resounding endorsement and I don't see him backing down. Dave Winfield, one of those most wronged by Steinbrenner, has forgiven the Boss and advocated for his induction. I also fully expect to see future first-ballot Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera continuing to campaign for their Boss to be enshrined with them (perhaps if Jeter hadn't been so distracted by his nasty negotiations with the Steinbrenner sons, he could have been more vocal about their dad's credentials).

I'm on the record as saying that I don't think the Boss should be enshrined, but it's not my call. He'll get another chance and perhaps his odds will improve with the passage of time.

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