Forget about these veterans

By Mike Szwaja

Imagine, two months from now you are about to graduate with honors in your respective college. You will be part of an exclusive club, one many of us hope to be a part of one day. That is, until reality sets in after our first few grade reports. But now imagine your college gives those who failed to match your accomplishment a second chance.

The college tells everyone graduating with honors they will be allowed to review the student records of those in the college who failed to qualify the first time and vote for those students, who for one reason or another were looked over the first time, to join them on the honors stand. If any student garners 75 percent of their votes, he would be allowed to stand next to them on graduation day.

What would happen?

It should be obvious. Nobody would make it in. Why would the honor students vote in someone who came up short the old-fashioned way? It just doesn’t make sense. In fact, the whole process would be stupid – a complete waste of time. False hope for those who didn’t make it the first time would be the only thing to come out of the process. It just doesn’t make any sense. Does it?

Then tell me why there’s a Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee, which essentially does the same thing as the group in the example above. They create false hope. The “new and improved” version of the Veterans Committee voted for the second time in its brief history on Wednesday on players who were overlooked by the writers on their first chance to make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The committee is made up predominately of living Hall members.

Among those players who missed out again was Ron Santo, the legendary Cubs third baseman turned palm-sweating WGN radio color man for Cubs broadcasts. Surprisingly, he fell just eight votes short.

Growing up a Cubs fan, by default I’m supposed to be upset that Santo isn’t in the Hall of Fame while Brooks Robinson is. Take one look at their career numbers, and I am willing to admit there’s a fair argument there.

Santo: 2,254 hits, 365 doubles, 67 triples, 342 home runs, 1,331 RBIs, .464 slugging percentage, .277 batting average and a 95.4 fielding percentage.

Robinson: 2,848 hits, 482 doubles, 68 triples, 268 home runs, 1,357 RBIs, .401 slugging percentage, .267 batting average and a 97.1 fielding percentage.

Robinson had 2,511 more at-bats than Santo, and more importantly, won a World Series – something Santo should have done in ’69 but did not thanks to the worst final two-week breakdown in the history of sports.

What many fail to realize is just how exclusive the Baseball Hall of Fame really is. They’ve been playing professional baseball for more than 100 years, yet there are only 12 third basemen in the Hall. Does Santo deserve to be in? Yes, probably, considering the era in which he played. Is it a travesty he’s not in? I don’t think so.

Does he want a plaque of his own hanging in Cooperstown? Sure he does. Wouldn’t you? The Cubs retired Santo’s No. 10 in 2003, a tradition usually reserved for Hall of Famers, and Santo has said in the past that means more to him than the Hall.

So, why can’t we leave it at that? Why do we have to keep teasing a man, who because of diabetes needs no extra anxiety in his life, with the illusion that is the Veterans Committee?

Something needs to be done with the Veterans Committee – either change it or get rid of it. With self-admirers like Joe Morgan leading the charge, false hope is all that’s left for guys like Santo and Gil Hodges, who, like Santo, fell eight votes short this year. To tell these guys they have a second chance is comical, because the Veterans Committee vote is a joke.

In reality, the vote is just a subtle way for living Hall members to laugh at those who continually fall short. Well, there’s nothing funny about watching Santo, a man who has lost both his legs below the knees thanks to diabetes, hang his head in agony every other March. This can’t continue much longer. Until then, all hail the “10” flag hanging from the left field foul pole at Wrigley Field, because Santo deserves better than this.