By Mike Pound
Just a few words to cheer up Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens: Hey, it could be worse. At least you’re more popular than Congress.
If you follow baseball, you probably know that it was announced Wednesday that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America decided that — at least this year — no one belongs in the Hall of Fame.
I can sort of see that.
It has pretty much been a given that despite their denials, some of the best players in recent history used steroids or some form of performance enhancing drugs at some point during their careers. And since baseball authorities — a bit late, if you ask me — decided that using these drugs was cheating, the baseball writers decided that Bonds, Clemens and others who have been accused of using them don’t belong in the Hall of Fame.
I agree with them. Look, I like Mark McGwire. He is a great guy, and he was a great player.
But he cheated.
At least Mark finally admitted that he cheated. Others, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, continue to deny that they used steroids.
Former Houston Astros player Craig Biggio came the closest to making the Hall of Fame, with 68.2 percent of the vote; 75 percent is needed to get in. Former Dodgers and Mets catcher Mike Piazza picked up 57.8 percent. I read that some writers declined to vote for Craig and Mike simply because they played during the steroid era. Guilt by association. If that’s true, it’s wrong.
But that’s where we are in this whole steroid debate. No one really knows how many players during that time period used steroids. Was it 100 percent? Was it 50 percent? Was it more like 10 percent? We don’t know, and we probably never will.
Of course, part of the reason we don’t know is that baseball — both the owners and the players union — for years opted to look the other way when it came to steroids.
As long as fans continued to pour into ballparks, it didn’t matter that many of the players looked like cartoon characters. A guy who never hit more than 10 home runs in a season suddenly hits 45, and everyone says, “Wow, he must have really worked hard in the offseason.”
A lot of baseball fans think Hall of Fame voters shouldn’t act like the judge and the jury when they cast their ballots, and I understand that position up to a point.
I mean, you can make the argument that baseball players have cheated in one way or another since the game was invented. But does that make it right? I don’t think it does.
The sad thing is that if Bonds and Clemens hadn’t gotten implicated in the scandal, they would have received close to 100 percent of the vote and would be practicing their acceptance speeches right now. Bonds was one of the top three hitters in the history of the game, and Clemens was one of the most dominating pitchers of all time. Sure, by many accounts, both guys were jerks, but being a jerk doesn’t keep you out of the Hall of Fame.
I’m pretty sure that eventually, Bonds and Clemens will both be elected to the Hall of Fame. And once that happens, a bunch of other guys, such as McGwire, will also make it in. But even then, there will be a taint to their careers. In one way that’s a shame, but in another way it’s a good thing. It’s nice for kids, for example, to see that there are consequences for your actions.
But still, time will pass. Younger baseball writers will become Hall of Fame voters, and those writers perhaps will view the steroid era a bit differently. And if, at some point, those young writers decide to elect guys such as Bonds and Clemens, I’ll probably say the same thing I said when I heard about this year’s vote.
I can sort of see that.
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