The following sentence is so loaded with danger that we hesitate to use it, but we don't hesitate enough not to try it out.
Randy Moss is the NFL's Barry Bonds. Kind of. Sort of. If you squint your eyes tight enough that light gets in but shapes are indistinct.
Now before you grab for the pitchforks and lighted torches, understand the following. We are only speaking in terms of the difference between his Hall of Fame qualifications and the resistance to his Hall of Fame inclusion. And that's it. Don't draw conclusions that aren't there, or we'll turn the car around right now, Mister.
|Randy Moss' terrific numbers can't overshadow the 'what if he actually gave a crap' argument. (Getty Images)|
And their positions are not just held by disgruntled colleagues, but by many in the profession. The line of thinking goes, "He was great, when he felt like it," and is delivered with a drench of sarcasm and rebuke. "Moss didn't care often enough" is a now a matter of football orthodoxy, rightly or otherwise.
And that, we will wager with some confidence, will keep him out of the Hall of Fame for a very long time. Just as Bonds' demeanor and side issues will do the same for him.
Bonds has the ghost of PEDs to contend with, found semi-guilty of something close to use in his recent trial (pending the standard appeal-fest). And his personality ... let's say "quirks" ... also have some voters predisposed to want a reason to vote against him, at least once.
Baseball Hall of Fame voters, though, are so many in number that it takes a lot to move them in one direction or another, and there is a fascination with the now discredited "first-year inductee" standard that erodes in Year 2. Bonds' eventual inclusion, therefore, seems likelier than not.
(For the record, your humble author has a vote. Also FTR, he will cast one for Bonds every year he is eligible. The Hall of Fame isn't church, it's the history of the game. If baseball wanted to look the other way when PEDs were rampant, and it did, it shouldn't be allowed to look the other way in its designated shrine. Period. End of sermon.)
Moss, on the other hand, has a much harder time convincing a group of 44 people he was devoted to his craft ON THE FIELD, which is not an issue re: Bonds. Nine votes can keep him out, and the "he didn't care" argument is right up there with the "he cursed at orphans" argument for closing a mind.
His skills are eye-of-the-beholder level. His numbers are indisputable, because they are numbers. But there is no reasonable debating point when the topic shifts to "Yeah, but what would he have done if he didn't take plays, games and entire teams off?" You can't fight perceptions that can't be disproved, and when enough people inside the game say it, it becomes easier for those in a committee room to say, "Look, even his peers thought he didn't give a damn all the time."
You can shriek "Injustice" all you want if you believe in Moss, but these are facts. One, you'll look like an idiot if you do it during a staff meeting, and two, you can also yell "Injustice" when you're tossed off a rooftop but gravity is still going to do its duty.
And Moss has never advocated for himself, either not caring enough to try or unwilling to face the possibility that it might be futile. Moss is not a fool, and he is not very flexible when it comes to media exposure. He doesn't like it, and it doesn't like him.
That is also something he has in common with Bonds, even though Bonds has had his moments where he tried to figure how to get along with the opinion-shapers without compromising his essential disdain. Moss left things on the field, endeavor-wise, and that sits less well with voters than Bonds' crimes and/or misdemeanors.
(For the record, your humble author does not have a vote in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and therefore hasn't given the issue much rigorous thought; he has enough trouble navigating the supermarket).
Are they the same sides of a coin? No. Different people entirely, with different résumés and different circumstances. But they are mortal-lock Hall of Famers who won't be any such thing, because being a Hall of Famer is a matter of nuance as well as data -- whether the data kids like it or not.
And nuance can sometimes be a real bitch, even with strained analogies like this one.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.