Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bonds and Clemens Belong in the Hall

It seems that every year I end up writing a post opining the  "sanctimonious nonsense" of Hall of Fame voters regarding their personal hangups over voting for suspected steroid users:
It's ridiculous. I don't need baseball writers to teach me about morality, thanks all the same. I want to see the best of the era in the Hall of Fame, and if that includes PED users (and it most certainly does), so be it. Why should some players get the benefit of the doubt, while some get tainted by the brush of their peers?
This year we saw a little movement in the vote totals for players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, not to mention the actual election of one Mike Piazza. Rumors of steroid use have followed Piazza for years - and most people within the sport are reasonably convinced those whispers are true.

Steroids or none, Mike Piazza was one of the greatest offensive catchers in the history of the game, and he deserves his plaque in Cooperstown. But you know who else deserves to be enshrined in those hallowed halls? The best pure hitter of a generation, Barry Bonds, and the Rocket himself, Roger Clemens (both of whom were enjoying Hall of Fame worthy careers before they allegedly began dabbling in artificial enhancement).

There's no way for any of us to truly know who was clean and who was using; some estimates bandied about in the baseball industry guesstimate that up to 70% of players between 1990 and 2005 used performance enhancing drugs at some point. Even if the real number is much lower, who are we to make the judgment call about who was clean, and thus deserving of admiration, and who was dirty, and deserves to be ignored or scorned?

Baseball in the era of free agency is completely transformed from the pastoral game that once took up lazy afternoons across the country. The season is longer, the money has exploded, and with that there have been advancements enjoyed by today's players that those of yesteryear couldn't conceive of.

It's perfectly legal (and really, expected) for players to employ personal trainers and chefs, to get lasik eye or Tommy John surgery, and to generally take advantage of every modern edge they can to mold their bodies into the best possible tools to win. Decades ago, players drank and caroused all season, then spent the offseason working another job, because baseball didn't pay the average player enough to live off year round.

Why are some modern enhancements encouraged and others shunned as despicable cheating? Who does this line in the sand benefit? Anyone interested enough in baseball to visit the Hall of Fame already knows that Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, et al are suspected steroid users, but if it makes you feel better, we could demarcate every plaque between 1990 and 2005 with an asterisk denoting the era they played in, and the suspicions that accompany that.

Mike Piazza will enter the Hall of Fame in a few short months. Personally, I'm hoping that Bonds and Clemens eventually follow suit. You can scream about the sanctity of the Hall all you want, but so long as it includes avowed racists, drunks, and misogynists, that argument is absurd.

The Hall of Fame has never been the Hall of Saints. It's a place meant for the best of the best from every part baseball's illustrious (though sometimes shameful) history. If you don't think Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens fit that bill, I don't know what to tell you.

1 comment:

  1. Kayla, I completely agree with you and even give you additional ammo for your argument. If the sanctimonious HOF voters are keeping out the likes of Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and others because steroids are "illegal," then they should retroactively go back and REMOVE ALL OTHERS IN THE HOF WHO WERE KNOWN USERS OF ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES!!!

    Wanna know why they won't? Because this group would include the ENTIRE FIRST HOF CLASS except for Honus Wagner. Gone would be Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson, all of whom drank alcohol during Prohibition - WHEN IT WAS AN ILLEGAL SUBSTANCE IN THE U.S.

    And let us not forget the immortal Babe Ruth - immortal as much for his hitting prowess as he was for his alcoholic consumption (again, DURING PROHIBITION) and his use of cocaine and amphetamines. So either we kick out the Sultan of Swat, or we allow in the Rocket. To do otherwise is duplicitous.;