WASHINGTON — Steroid use shouldn't keep baseball's best sluggers and pitchers out of the Hall of Fame, the head of the players' union said Wednesday.
Michael Weiner told the National Press Club he thinks the Hall "is for the best baseball players that have ever played." The executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association also said he thinks Pete Rose should be in the Hall despite Rose's history of gambling — just as team executives aren't barred for engaging in collusion against the players in the 1980s.
"It's a museum," Weiner said. "If you want to have some notation on their plaque that indicates that they were either judged to have used performance enhancing substances or accused of having done that, so be it."
Weiner said he was speaking his personal opinion and not an official position of the union.
"There will be people in the Hall of Fame who have been judged by several arbitrators to have engaged in a massive conspiracy called collusion to defraud the fans of free competition," Weiner said. Those people belong in the Hall of Fame as well. So, from my perspective, the Hall of Fame is for the best baseball players and most influential executives that have been involved, and they should all be in."
Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, two of the most prominent names from baseball's steroids era, have fallen far short of earning enough votes for the Hall despite career statistics that would otherwise have made them shoo-ins. Roger Clemens, who is eligible for Hall induction in 2013, goes on trial next week on charges he lied to Congress when he denied using steroids and human growth hormone.
Baseball is enjoying an extended run of labor peace following an agreement on a five-year collective bargaining agreement in November, giving Weiner leeway to address a number of topics without his every word being parsed in light of a possible work stoppage. He even took advantage of the non-sports setting to venture into political territory, criticizing measures that have stripped public employees of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and Indiana.
"It's just not true that state and municipal employees making $40,000 per year caused the present fiscal crisis. ... The economic health of our country will not be revitalized by depriving workers of their voice," Weiner said. "In 2011, baseball demonstrated that collective bargaining can produce progressive and productive agreements if each party respects both the power and the ideas of its counterpart."
Prompted by questions from the audience, Weiner also touched on several other baseball matters:
- He downplayed the prospect of a truly global "World Series."
"I'm not sure that we'll get to a stage where the World Series champion in North America plays a team in Japan," he said. "There's a lot of challenges there. But the World Baseball Classic really gets to that. ... I think that the World Baseball Classic has within it the potential to be that kind of true 'World Series.'"
- He said the designated hitter isn't going away any time soon.
"Neither the owners nor the players came to the bargaining table this time looking to change the rules regarding the designated hitter," he said. "I don't think anyone would design an industry where one league has one set of rules and the other has another, but I think that compromise, if you will, is here to stay for a long time."
- He dismissed any correlation between high player salaries and high ticket prices at the ballpark.
"Ticket prices are set based on supply and demand for that product," he said. "The owners set their prices as high as they can based on the demand for those tickets. They really don't have anything to do with how much money" the players make.
- He said the players' union shouldn't have any say-so when baseball's owners choose their next commissioner. Besides, he joked, it will be "20, 30, 40 years from now" before current Commissioner Bud Selig retires.
- Weiner even dared to answer the most entertaining question of all: Which two owners would he choose to have with him on a desert island?
"Does an owner want to be on that list?" he asked.
He opted for the owner of the Boston Red Sox and the famous new face of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"Maybe Tom Werner would be a good choice because he's responsible for having created all those wonderful television shows and all this great entertainment, so he'd be an interesting guy to have," Weiner said. "Let's see, I guess Magic Johnson — because who wouldn't want to be on a desert island with Magic Johnson?"