Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens: Baseball's Eroding Legacy

Ryan HoganCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2009

Imagine the NFL Hall of Fame one day without Joe Montana, Jim Brown, and Jerry Rice. Think of the void in keeping out Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar as NBA Hall of Famers.

Athletes such as major league slugger Mark McGwire, who was left out of the MLB Hall of Fame after accusations he used steroids while playing, face a rough road in being elected in their respective shrine, largely because of speculation that the player might have been juiced.

Two more of major league baseball's greatest players face a more immediate challenge, however, as slugger Barry Bonds faces 10 counts of making false statements to a grand jury, while pitcher Roger Clemens is being investigated to determine whether he lied under oath while testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Allegedly, Bonds and Clemens lied about taking steroids.

Bonds could face a sentence ranging from probation to two years in prison.  Prosecutors investigating Clemens are still months away from filing charges—if they file chargers at all.

Their situations remind observers that it’s not so much crime that gets people in trouble, it’s the cover up.

However, it’s doubtful either one will spend a night a jail.

In the Bonds’ case, a federal judge recently excluded three positive drug tests from evidence because they lacked a direct link to him. In Clemens’ case, his accuser is his former personal trainer, the less-than-credible Brian McNamee.

The fortunes they earned on the diamond will pay for their legal defense, but no amount of money can repair the damage they wrecked on their legacies.

Bonds is baseball’s home run king with 762 career home runs, and is a seven-time Most Valuable Player.

Clemens has won seven Cy Young Awards, and is one of only four pitchers to amass 4,000 strikeouts. He’s also won 354 games.

Their legendary accomplishments fail to surmount the stigma of cheating that comes with taking steroids. Voters don’t like it when players, no matter who they are or what they’ve done, step on the integrity of the game.

After all, these are the same voters who didn’t support Pete Rose after he was banned for betting on baseball.  Actually, baseball’s all-time hits leader, with 4,256, was officially banned from induction.

All this leads to quite a sobering realization. Major league’s baseball greatest hitter, greatest home run hitter and greatest pitcher won’t be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.