Baseball writers dodged the “steroid guys” one more time on Monday, with the election of Barry Larkin as the lone baseball Hall of Fame inductee in the class of 2012.
The writers better hope that the end of times prophecies are correct, if they want to keep avoiding the subject. The year 2013 is undoubtedly the end of their time to delay making a precedent-setting decision on those “steroid guys”.
The Question: Should proven, suspected, or even alleged steroid users be voted into the MLB Hall of Fame and be recognized as one of the greatest ever?
The Answer: To quote famous sports agent Drew Rosenhaus, “next question”.
That has been the response from baseball writers up to this point on the single biggest issue in baseball, since the abolishing of the reserve clause and advent of free agency in the 1970s.
Several people I talk to and even a few of my close friends often say that one of the biggest problems facing the world today is the lack of true leadership. More specifically, people in the position to make a change, or set a standard are often too afraid to for fear of political incorrectness and backlash.
That is exactly what baseball writers have been doing since the first group of alleged steroid users started becoming Hall eligible in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Fortunately for the indecisive writers, up until this point there has not been a slam dunk by the numbers performer that was implicated in the steroid witch hunt, by either the Mitchell report that named 89 former ballplayers, or any other report or investigation.
Some would argue that Mark McGuire, if not for his ties to PEDs, would be that guy. However, I would argue that even at his best, McGuire was a one dimensional, very beatable player, who struck out a great deal (100 or more strikeouts in a season 10 times in 15 years), was a poor defender, did not hit for a great average (over .300 just twice in seasons in which he played 85 or more games), and had zero speed to speak of.
Of those looked over by the writers that were most qualified to join Larkin in Cooperstown this year, one could make a capable argument for Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, the aforementioned McGuire, Fred McGriff and Rafael Palmeiro.
All five of these guys, with the exception of Martinez, are either directly tied to steroid use or in the case of McGriff, suffer in sort of a guilty by association kind of way.
But now the time for straddling the fence is over. All of the guys to come to the ballot so far from the “steroid era”, who had any ties at all to PEDs, have up to this point been just that, fence candidates.
However, 2013 is a different story.
The Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine of the steroid galaxy Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who are two of the most dominant players of any generation, will appear on the ballot for the first time. It will test the scruples and core criteria of every writer on the panel.
Simply put, the steroid issue aside, Bonds and Clemens are the very definition of Hall of Famers. Transcendent figures both on and off the field, who combined won two world titles, eight MVP awards, seven Cy Young’s, eight Gold Gloves, hold innumerable records including the all-time home run record (762), and were elected to 25 All-Star games.
But unfortunately, the steroid issue is there and needs to be addressed. It’s time once and for all, for the writers and keepers of baseball’s long, illustrious history to put some closure on an issue that has already robbed the sport of so much of its history. And it stands to rob even more, should this issue linger.
You can’t take back eight home runs from Barry Bonds to leave him one-shy of Hank Aaron on the all-time list, nor can you add eight to Aaron’s total. You can’t simply live in the distant past, while lamenting what has happened in the recent past. That mindset has gotten us where we are today, baseball purgatory for numerous all-time greats.
While I do have a solution that I think would work to solve this problem; that is hardly the point.
One way or another the writers have to decide how to proceed, then we as fans and perhaps more importantly, the former players being directly impacted by whatever ruling comes down from the voters, can learn to live and adjust to the newly set precedent.
Just like when they played, Bonds and Clemens are going to force people, including the voters who comprise the Hall of Fame election committee, to have an opinion on them.
Writers couldn’t ignore them while they played. They won’t be able to ignore them when they come calling this time next year.