Home-run king Barry Bonds is statistically one of the most coveted hitters to ever walk into a batter's box, but it will be having given in to an era full of off-the-field temptations that will keep him out of the hallowed ground of Cooperstown.
Thus, the name Barry Bonds will likely always be associated with felony rather than history, and his Hall of Fame status will remain in question.
The argument of whether or not the gates of Cooperstown should be opened to PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs) users has been a controversial one. A decade with such widespread cheating has never before been seen in sports.
In an article by Buster Olney of ESPN, he argues that Hall of Fame voters should admit PED users and put the steroid argument to rest. Olney claims that any success guys like Bonds and Mark McGwire had “was rooted in that culture.”
Olney, who’s one of the more well-known baseball analysts over at ESPN and a personal favorite of mine, is wrong.
If PEDs in the 1990s and 2000s were “rooted in that culture,” than what about the era of gambling in baseball’s early years?
Putting the infamous Black Sox scandal aside, gambling was rampant and a true epidemic in Major League Baseball prior to 1921. Like today, gambling by players, coaches and managers was illegal and considered a form of cheating.
Under Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was in office from 1920-1944, 14 players, managers and owners were banned from baseball and the Hall of Fame for betting and throwing games.
Landis, a former District Court judge, was a true pioneer in laying down the law to help fix a broken game. His vehicle for doing so was handing out harsh punishments that included exclusion from baseball and baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Gambling was certainly “rooted in the culture” of baseball during the beginning of the twentieth century, and players were banned from the game. Yet, Mr. Olney believes that steroids were simply a product of the times and all those convicted should be allowed a shot at a Hall of Fame Ballot. It just doesn’t make much sense to me.
While baseball undergoes a healing process as it exits the steroid era, the threat of cheating is far from over. Commissioner Bud Selig initiated tougher drug testing in 2006, but is it really enough?
Manny Ramirez tested positive for PEDs…twice. The first time he was convicted in 2009, Commissioner Selig suspended him for 50 games. The second time, Selig gave him a 100-game suspension that pushed the 40-year-old into retirement.
Manny Ramirez ended his career with 555 home runs, 2,574 hits, 1,831 RBI and a chance to still make his way onto a Hall of Fame ballot.
It’s time to fix this game. It’s time for Commissioner Selig to refrain from his passive legislation of the old and begin Landis-style judgment for convicted steroid users.
But even if the commissioner begins banning players, it still leaves the case of Barry Bonds, who was never formally convicted for steroid use.
“I went through the system. I was never convicted of steroid use,” said Bonds. While he’s quick to admit to being a felon, he continues to deny ever using steroids.
We're living in a country where you’re innocent until proven guilty, and, hypothetically if Selig decided to start banning PED users, it would be difficult to lay the hammer down on Bonds.
That’s where the Hall of Fame voters have and will continue to provide a barrier for PED users.
“A survey by The Associate Press shows that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, as well as slugger Sammy Sosa don’t have enough votes to get into Cooperstown” when voting commences in January, The Huffington Post reports.
As sanctions for PED users get tougher, testing gets stricter and the steroid era dwindles down to a mere few instances, I believe we’ll see these prominent PED users of the steroid era begin to fade away from ballots and conversation entirely.
PED users will continue to receive votes, but it will never be enough. The debate has turned into an almost political argument of integrity vs. proportion, and right now integrity is winning.