Heller: Integrity Should be Unanimous and Consistent Across Sports

While the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and their respective Hall of Fames are all separate entities entirely, one word should be paramount among them all. Integrity, and the double standard around it, must be crucial.

The recent punishments handed down to the Houston Astros for their elaborate sign-stealing scheme saw punishments that included the suspensions and subsequent firing of the Astros’ general manager and manager. It also led to the “mutually agreed upon” stepping down of Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Mets manager Carlos Beltran. They were both parts of the fallout because they were both involved in the Astros’ scheme in some capacity.

It’s still debatable if the punishments they received were enough. Commissioner Rob Manfred has stated that the league will not strip the World Series titles of the Astros or Red Sox, who are also allegedly amidst a similar scandal. He admitted they used technology for the scheme, which is a negative thing. But minutes later, he announced the use of robo-umps, using technology for the league’s benefit. If successful, this could ultimately lead to eliminating human umpire jobs.

When your commissioner is all but being a hypocrite himself, what does that say about integrity from the very top of the league?

The integrity of the game? The whole sign-stealing controversy seemed to wear ever so slightly on the Baseball Hall of Fame voters. While no, they didn’t get elected, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens saw a spike in their percentage of the votes, which is the complete opposite of the trend ever since their names were put on the ballot for the first time.

Cheating is cheating and it should not be compared. Will Mookie Betts or Jose Altuve get selected to the Hall after their careers are over even if Clemens and Bonds don’t? Betts and Altuve may have or may not have been key components in their teams’ schemes, but regardless, they have a World Series title on their resume, and it is now a tainted one.

Bonds is not in because of suspected steroid use, although he never tested positive for steroids.

Pete Rose has a lifetime ban for gambling. This has kept the all-time hits leader out of the Hall of Fame. Gambling, alleged steroid use, and cheating all affect the integrity of the game.

Yes, each sport’s Hall of Fames are different in many ways, but they can also be similar. Take football, for example. Tom Brady will get elected without a doubt, but is Deflategate not cheating? And how long was he doing today before getting caught? A couple games? A season? Or all along? Nobody knows for sure except for him. And for that matter, what about Spygate? Will that lead to Bill Belichick or any member of those Patriots teams not being elected to the Hall of Fame?

Admitting you showed up on gameday drunk or high on cocaine, an illegal substance, can cause multiple suspensions from the league as a result of test results for illegal substances but still land you in the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, suspicion of steroids, with no positive test results, gets you blacklisted.

Again, these are different sports and entities, but the whole argument goes back to integrity. Either you want in explicitly or you can’t claim to have or want it at all. You can’t claim it for one person or issue and not another.

Their fear may be that if elected, damaging evidence will come to light, and the league’s and Hall of Fame’s faces will be left with egg on it. Once elected, there’s no taking them out, no matter how damaging.

What if say Kobe Bryant said he did x, y, or z for a game or two. Would he never get enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame? Probably not. If a hockey great also said something similar, would he not be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Is Mike Tyson not one of the greatest boxers ever despite his many instances of questionable behaviors? He’s in the boxing Hall of Fame.

Brady, Belichick, Bonds, Clemens and Rose all deserve their rightful spots in their respective sports’ Hall of Fames. The fact that some will get in while some may never is a major problem. While granted, not every instance is black and white and all of the sports and their respective Hall of Fames have at least a few grey inductees. Some are just a lighter or darker shade.

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