"I am very ... VERY ... humbled."
I never thought we would hear that sentence come out of Ricky Henderson's mouth, but that's what the greatest base-stealer of all time had to say as he was inducted into Cooperstown last week.
Ricky was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, one of the greatest of all time, and he knew it. There was no doubt about whether he would be a first-ballot candidate; you could have put it in the same vein as death and taxes.
But at one time, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro were all thought of as future inductees to Cooperstown.
Until a senator named George Mitchell came around and claimed the unthinkable: That these great players, who didn't need steroids, had in fact taken steroids.
Then it happened again and again and again.
Slowly, names would slip off the list, and you would think, "Yeah, how could I not see it before? It makes perfect sense."
Two more names were released this week. One name shocked no one as we have come to accept the fact that Manny Ramirez took steroids. Some, including Manny himself, claimed ignorance and stupidity.
But that all was shot out to Mars when it was leaked that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz had both done steroids. Immediately the question came up: "Do they go to the Hall or not?"
Most of the time, if you had to think about who would use steroids, you would think about the guy who is just clinging to the majors, not the guys who already had the talent. With the popular names of A-Rod, Man-Ram, and Big Papi all being announced this year, the question is constantly, and will constantly, be proposed.
One man had his voice heard on the subject. It wasn't Ricky, but none other than Hank Aaron.
Aaron is probably one of, if not THE most respected baseball figure today. So when he talks, everybody listens. You take notes. You hang on his every word. And what he said about steroids being in the Hall—his Hall—spoke volumes.
"You guys have got a tough job. I don't envy you," Aaron said. "But if a player is elected who's known to have used steroids, then I think there ought to be an asterisk or something mentioned on the plaque that he used steroids. To be safe, that's the only way I see you can do it.
"I played the game long enough to know it is impossible for players, I don't care who it is, to hit 70-plus home runs. It just does not happen, somewhere on the plaque beside his name, 'Hey, 73 home runs, he was accused.' That's the only way you can do it."
Let's not forget that Aaron was the guy who refused to follow Barry Bonds around as Bonds tried to, and eventually did, break his all-time HR record.
That's what a Hall of Famer thinks. Let them in, but make it known that they weren't clean.
After thinking about it, I tried to put myself in that 9-year-old kid who idolized A-Rod and had to find out he cheated, like the "Say it ain't so, Joe" kid in 8 Men Out.
So, I put it to the player I am a fan of the most. His name is Ryan Howard.
I've followed Howard since he played in Lakewood, Fla., and talked him up to anyone who would listen. And while it hasn't happened often, whenever steroid talk would come up, I would brush it away with the argument that "His brothers are bigger than him" and "When he got into pro ball, that's when they started hardcore testing."
I still claim this when asked if I think Howard took steroids. I still say no way; Howard is clean.
But I thought to myself, "What would you do if it came out tomorrow that Howard did steroids?"
The answer is, I would be shocked and would never look at Howard again. I would be disgusted and ashamed to ever have worn his shirt. That's when it hit me, that I am 100 percent against steroid users in the Hall of Fame.
To be in the Hall of Fame is a privilege many will never see.
And for the A-Rod's, Man-A-Ram's, Big Mac's, and Slammin Sammy's, the guys who didn't need to use steroids, it's like cheating on your wife when all she does is love you. It's selfish, and you deserve to get caught.
You deserve the divorce, and in this case, the divorce is from a marriage that will never come: A life-long bond in the Hall of Fame.
If Shoeless Joe is still not in the Hall of Fame after the amazing career he had, then why should A-Rod? All Joe did was go to a meeting.
All he did was hit over .300 in the WS, never committing an error during the WS, hit the Series' only HR, and flat out didn't throw the WS. But Joe was banished.
Then there's Charlie Hustle, Pete Rose. He played the game the right way: hard. He was tough, gritty, the way that makes you proud to be a fan.
But he was a crappy manager and a degenerate gambler, so he's not in. Even though he is one of the greatest baseball players to ever live, he bet on baseball, and that means he is out.
If using steroids is cheating, and you can still be considered for the Hall if you use steroids, then what is going to a meeting and placing a wager? Bud Selig has his priorities screwed up on this one.
I urge the zero baseball writers reading this who have a vote for the Hall not to vote. So far, it has worked. They have tarnished the game for no reason other than greed.
The American Way screwed up America's game, and I, for one, say, "Not in my Hall of Fame, not in my league, not on my ballot."