2013 Hall of Fame Ballot in the Steroid Era: Why Bonds and Others Must Get in
The 2013 Hall of Fame (HoF) ballots were distributed on Wednesday, and among the more notable names are Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens. And, rather than express outrage at their potential selection due to cheating concerns, this author suggests we put them all in.
Now, before you go thinking that I am naive, consider the fact that I have written many articles over the years railing against the entire steroid era, suggesting it tarnishes Bud Selig's legacy and disgusts this baseball fan for the greedy and selfish nature of players that would risk their health and jeopardize the integrity of the game and the sanctity of the rules by injecting themselves full of PEDs.
But I've since decided that such a viewpoint is just plain stupid. For one, probably half of baseball was on steroids during the height of the era, and perhaps much more if you believe Jose Canseco.
So the playing field was relatively level. And while it's true that some, like Bonds for example, seemed to go overboard with the juice, making his head seemingly explode as muscles poured out of every fiber of his body, I say so what?
In Bonds' case, he was Hall-worthy even before he tripled in size. As a skinny kid playing in Pittsburgh, he was a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder who could fly while hitting for average, getting on base and yes, hitting for power, albeit lacking the kind of outrageous power he would go on to develop as an alleged steroid abuser.
Bonds, in fact, was convicted of obstruction of justice for lying to a grand jury about using steroids and human growth hormones, while Sosa was never formally charged, although he was caught using a corked bat in 2003 while with the Chicago Cubs.
Clemens, meanwhile, was accused of using steroids by his former trainer Brian McNamee and he was named in the Mitchell Report. However, he was acquitted of charges that he lied to Congress when he said he never used PEDs. Does that make him innocent? Not in many people's eyes, but it is what it is.
Other players from the steroid era have become eligible for the HoF recently but have not been granted entry, most notably Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. McGwire admitted his PED usage, while Palmeiro denied ever knowingly taking them.
But the issue of whether or not a player was caught using the stuff seems irrelevant to me. There was no drug policy in place during the steroid era, and anyway, how do we know that PED users haven't already been enshrined?
Hey, cheating in sports is nothing new. Professional athletes have looked for any edge they could get forever. Back in the day, it was "greenies" and now it's Adderall and even Viagra. Pitchers have been doctoring the baseball since the game began.
Heck, spitballs were legal in baseball until 1920. And how can you penalize players in a sport where "stealing" is part of the game?
I'm not saying that cheating is right or even justifiable, I'm just saying that it was and still is part of the game. So go ahead and create a steroid wing or affix an asterisk next to their names if you must, but we cannot ignore those who excelled during this era.
There is little doubt that steroids increase power. but they don't help you hit a round ball with a round bat. Increased power alone does not make a HoF'er.
There probably are other benefits to PEDs, especially for pitchers and those recovering from injury, but again, if more than half the sport was taking them, what's the problem?
Players who took amphetamines had an unfair competitive advantage, right? So why penalize only those who took the PEDs from the steroid era?
The main thing I hate about the whole era is that the home run king was determined through questionable means. As I wrote before, I feel that Bonds was a certain HoF candidate well before he got huge, but I doubt he would have broken Hank Aaron's record and become the all-time home run king without assistance.
Still, do we know with absolute certainty that Aaron, Roger Maris or even Babe Ruth never did something to enhance their performance? I mean, how can we ever be 100% sure of anything in this world?
It may be a legitimate question whether McGwire belongs in the HoF from a pure baseball perspective. But to keep him out because of steroids is silly, in my opinion.
Also, what criteria do you use to determine which players form the era get enshrined and which ones do not and is it totally fair? If a player was convicted and admits usage do you keep him out?
And if you do, isn't that penalizing someone for being truthful? Is that really what we want to do?
I know, so many questions, so little common sense. Still, as much as I dislike Sosa, Bonds and Clemens, both for what they did as well as the kind of men they are, I feel they deserve a place among baseball's immortals.
With all the uproar and furor, I'll be dating Candice Swanepoel before all of these steroid guys get elected on the first ballot. Yet I hope that the writers who vote for this honor will see beyond the needles and look at what they accomplished.
Would they have accomplished what they did without use of PEDs? Well, it doesn't matter because the fact is they did accomplish all they did and if you just look at the numbers they are more than deserving of enshrinement.
One thing I find almost as distasteful as the cheating are the writers who are using their vote as a bully pulpit to express their ideals. Look, professional sports aren't a place for being sanctimonious and anyone who thinks they are just need to look at Lance Armstrong to understand.
Sosa and McGwire were credited with saving baseball after the strike, when their historic home run chase went viral. Selig and others conveniently looked the other way when it was to their benefit, so it would be hypocritical to now condemn them as frauds.
Of course, Selig was a used car salesman so I'm sure that logic escapes him. Say anything you have to to get the job done, right? The job being, in this case, saving his legacy.
Selig wants to be known as the man who cleaned up the sport, rather than the one who enabled the cheaters. Yet enable he did so now it seems awfully repugnant for him not to support the candidacy of these sure-fire HoF'ers.
As baseball fans, we all want our teams to win championships and our players to perform to the best of their ability. Yet when the smoke clears and dust settles, we forget what that competitive drive sometimes leads grown men to do.
One final thought: wouldn't it be delicious for a player to admit PED usage at his HoF induction ceremony? That would be appointment television—it would certainly enhance his performance.
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