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Thursday, January 10, 2013
Hall of Fame needs rehab assignment

By Doug Glanville
ESPN.com

On my road to recovery from a torn hamstring, I was sent on a rehab assignment to the minor leagues. From the day I limped out of the operating room, I had been working to get back on the field. Underwater treadmills, ultrasounds, weights and crawling around on scooters were just some of the rehab efforts. At one point, I stopped making progress: I had hit a brick wall. I could not move forward, my leg was throbbing, I couldn't get loose. It was the moment when I reflected; the moment when I looked back and tried to make sense of how I got to that particular moment and what it all meant. I also wondered if this was the marker that meant my career was over.

The hard worker in me could not imagine stopping even for a day. By taking a day off from doing everything in my power to get back on that field by working, I thought I was cheating myself, cheating the Texas Rangers and my free-agent deal. But after having no success in getting loose, I took a day off. I had to fight the "powers that be" for it, but I felt I had no choice; my body was not responding to anything. It turned out to be the best thing I could have ever done.

National Baseball Hall of Fame
Which players belong in the Hall of Fame? Based on Wednesday's results, the voters aren't so sure.

The Baseball Hall of Fame has taken that day off; in fact, it has taken a year off. The voting body is frozen -- frozen from uncertainty, frozen from impossibility, frozen from the sheer knowledge that nothing can happen until everything is rethought. And this may well be what is necessary for the Hall of Fame to move forward.

When I took that day off, I took inventory. I rested. I got off the turbo treadmill that drove me to work so hard that I missed the idea of taking a day off to heal. Regrouping is every bit as important as gaining ground by limping through a wind sprint.

Baseball already has the challenge of seemingly having no beginning or end; it has always been a continuum, a never-ending story that folds back onto itself. When you get the gift of playing at the major league level, you bring no clock, you set no clock, you play without a clock. You are always in between. In between Brian McRae and Corey Patterson, in between Lenny Dykstra and Shane Victorino, in between alternate uniforms, even in between Jackie Robinson and diversity. You do not get a minute to ask how or why you do what you do in the middle of your career. You have no time, because there is no time.

A rehab assignment may be the most sobering and time-sensitive experience a major league player can have in understanding what this game means to him. It is then when you redefine your purpose.

And that's exactly what the National Baseball Hall of Fame needs: a rehab assignment. That self-regulating moment that demands change. Like the game itself, the Hall can hardly stop as history is too busy being made in the inevitable collision between the cold hard facts and the aspiration of honoring the greatest players who made those facts come to life.

But I like the idea of taking inventory, doing spring cleaning, going through the archives and realizing that some things can be thrown out.

As the Hall of Fame has explained, it is also a museum. It marks the foul lines of everything that happened in this game as it happened, just as the steroid era, the deadball era and the era of integration all happened. But proudly, for a long time, it has been a gold standard, qualifying the quantifiable, bringing meaning to what we are counting so obsessively.

Yet, we are lost, just as the game lost its way when the numbers were inflated, floating into space on the helium of false hope. We lost why we were counting, what we were counting. Those, like the voting body, who helped bring the game into context stopped understanding what they were seeing. We no longer trusted anything because the numbers were lying exponentially.

This Hall of Fame logjam was inevitable; it was the natural progression of winning and producing at all costs with nothing but self in mind. It began with a few players having suspiciously exceptional years, and it now sits with exceptional performance no longer being believable. The Class of 2013 with all its big numbers is collectively now considered exceptionally impossible.

Then the Hall of Fame began to ask itself, "What are we without some of the greatest that ever played?" A lost era of the game was played by altered supermen who crashed to earth, leaving everyone to interpret the wreckage. We found, in baseball, that what goes up individually still must come down, together.

After that day off, I improved every day. My leg felt better, I had no setbacks, I steadily got my speed back and my timing. The Hall of Fame now has its day off, too. And it can either redefine greatness or decide to focus on just letting baseball's story be told as is. Enhanced or not, it's still an exceptional story.