The Baseball Writers Association of America has yet again tarnished the Baseball Hall of Fame by leaving out Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling. They weren’t left out because there is any question about their place amongst the greats. They have been denied because of their controversies with PEDs or writers who are punishing them for not being “nice guys”. Denial of these greats is not only unfair and biased, but it also crushes the integrity of the Hall of Fame itself.
The criteria for entering the Baseball Hall of Fame: Can you tell a history of the era without mentioning this player? If we are talking about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, or Kurt Schilling, the answer is a resounding no! It is laughable that neither Bonds, Clemens, or Schilling received more than 60% of the required 75% votes.
MLB Turned a Blind Eye To PEDs
First and foremost, the MLB league office, owners, coaches, writers, and even fans have completely fumbled the handling of the PED/steroid era of baseball from the beginning. This includes commissioner Bud Selig who is in the Hall of Fame. The best approach would have been to put the past behind them with a strong hand moving forward. Let the league know you will have strict drug testing, but you can’t change the past. This would have gotten rid of the retroactive witch-hunts. When you look back in sports history, actively searching for “misdoings” such as performance-enhancing drugs, it is almost impossible to do so fairly and unbiased. Hindsight detectives narrow their search on the biggest names of the eras. They aren’t searching through the thousands of MLB players during that time. There is no chance to find all of the people who used PEDs.
The league turned a blind eye to steroids/PED usage while capitalizing financially from the home runs chases after the 1994 strike. Then the league turned on its players after the Mitchell Report came out. It has let the writers conspire to keep some of the games greatest players out.
The Time Has Come to Let the Greats In
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were baseball titans. Bonds is not only one of the best players from his generation, but he is also considered by many, the greatest hitter of all time. Bonds, in his 22-year career, is a 7-time MVP, a 14-time All-Star, in addition to setting many records in his time. Clemens was an 11-time All-Star, an MVP and tallied 7 total Cy Young Awards. When fans thought of hitters, they thought of Barry Bonds. When they thought of pitching, Roger Clemens came to mind. They defined the era.
However, because of baseball“purist”, neither Bonds nor Clemens has been entered into the hall because of their PED scandals. It is a travesty to the game to leave these greats out. Especially when the Hall of Fame has inducted players such as Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, and Tim Raines. Even the commissioner Bud Selig who presided over the “steroid era” was voted in. Piazza has admitted to having used Androstenedione and amphetamines during his career before they were listed on the banned substance list. Bagwell likewise admitted using it, but only admitted using it up to the 1998 season. Jose Canseco, in his book “Juiced”, accused Pudge Rodriguez of using PEDs. Most absurd of all is the case of Tim Raines. Raines confessed to playing while under the influence of cocaine, while also concealing a vile of cocaine with him on the field. He did this for years. While many performance-enhancing drugs are “illegal” in accordance to the rules of professional baseball, Tim Raines used drugs that are criminally illegal. Each of these players, as good as their numbers were, have drug controversies surrounding them.
Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Famers Before PEDs
With that being said, let’s review Clemens and Bonds pre-1999. As Piazza and Bagwell have defended their drug use in the steroid-era, we can also defend Bonds and Clemens. Before the 1999 season, Bonds already had 3-MVP awards, 8 Gold Gloves, and had become the first MLB player with 400 stolen bases and 400 home runs. Clemens himself had 3 Cy Young Awards, an MVP Award, led the league in ERA four times and strikeouts three times. This was all before the 1999 season. Before the circus. Before the controversies. Those stats alone would be argument for his Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not arguing against players like Piazza, Bagwell, Rodriguez, or Raines. They were great players. Pudge was the 2nd-best catcher of all time and the others certainly have their numbers. But Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens lifted the league higher than any of them did. But because the PED stories surrounding Bonds and Clemens were louder than the others, they are denied their glory. It’s another case of sports history becoming a shadow of itself due to “morality”.
Good Guys Don’t Go to The Hall of Fame, Great Players Do
Unlike Bonds and Clemens, Curt Schilling finds himself without induction due to his personality. The writers and many fans don’t like him for some of his political and public remarks and posts. He’s certainly said many things that would disqualify him for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. While this may be true and his character may be in question, that should not hold any weight in voting on his play. His stats and accomplishments should put him into the hall, yet he was refused acceptance.
The Baseball Hall of Fame needs to be consistent. It can’t give into identity politics, popularity contests. This is professional sports, not election season, or a good guy of the week award. Retroactive research and biased opinions should equally lack validity in defining the greats of their times. Baseball needs consistency and a stance. Doing otherwise is a disservice to the game.
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