The Baseball Writers Association of America got it wrong Wednesday denying Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds a bid into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
We all know the back story, Clemens and Bonds are two of the greatest baseball players of all time regardless of position, Clemens with more than 300 wins on the mound and Bonds with the all time home run record of 762. Those numbers however, have been enhanced by the use of steroids, and that’s where the slippery slope begins.
Regardless of their steroid use, the BBWAA was wrong to leave two of the all time greats out of the Hall of Fame.
Let’s back track to the days before Clemens and Bonds started juicing. Bonds was a five tool player and a consensus Hall of Fame outfielder, nobody would argue that at the time.
In 1997 Clemens left the Red Sox for the Blue Jays with Hall of Fame numbers, nobody would argue that at the time either.
Then came the steroid era, where Clemens and Bonds were two of hundreds of players that used performance enhancing drugs to put up ungodly numbers. Hitters used, pitchers used, the same fans and pundits who now condemn it loved it at the time and Major League Baseball turned a blind eye because of the games increased popularity that took a big hit after the 1994 strike.
Sure the integrity of Major League Baseball’s record book took a huge hit during the steroid era and Bonds’ home run record is at the forefront of the controversy. But the competitive balance of the game did not take a hit. The playing field was level in those years. All players could use steroids without fear of being punished and without fear of taking a drug test, and all players had equal opportunity to do so. One would have to be crazy and maybe even dumb not to use steroids during that era.
Bonds and Clemens, along with the vast majority of baseball players, made the decision to better themselves, albeit illegally, for the good of their teams and respective careers. They were just playing by the rules set in place by Major League Baseball, and those rules did not police the use of performance enhancing drugs.
The should-be Hall of Famers were also just looking to keep up with the trend, and if they didn’t keep up with the trend the game would have left them behind.
In addition to their Hall of Fame caliber numbers, Bonds and Clemens never failed a drug test after drug testing was implemented in the 2005 season. In fact Clemens put up ERAs of 1.87 and 2.30 in 2005 and 2006 while being tested for steroids. Bonds put up a combined 54 home runs and was walked at a greater rate than any player in history in 2006 and 2007 while being tested.
Unfortunately this issue runs deeper than Bonds and Clemens. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa will not get in because of steroids, yet the home run chase of 1998 saved the game of baseball from fading into oblivion, and fans loved it every step of the way. One could argue that Sosa and McGwire did more for the game than any player in league
Mike Piazza, who may have been robbed of a selection more than Bonds and Clemens, will not get in despite the fact that he hasn’t been linked to steroids because he was a power hitter in the steroid era and has drawn “suspicion” because of his appearance. Forget the fact that he is one of, if not the best offensive catcher of all time (it’s either Piazza or Johnny Bench), he had muscle mass and hit for power. Same goes with Jeff Bagwell, a player never linked to steroids but hit for power in the steroid era.
But Craig Biggio gets the highest percentage of the vote this year (68%) and will probably get into the Hall in the future because he wasn’t a power hitter in the steroid era. Biggio, however, was a career .281 hitter who only had 3,000 hits because he played for 20 years, not because he was one of the dominant players of his era.
The process is clearly broken.
In my opinion this era needs to be taken for what it is. Yes the vast majority of players used steroids and it has tainted the record book. But the playing field was even and great baseball still existed.
The BBWAA members need to either vote in the best players of the era or vote in nobody at all because it’s impossible to project who used and who didn’t in a lot of cases, and it’s impossible to project what these players would have done without steroids. Voters should look at who had the best numbers (a 500 home run and 3,000 hit bench mark is no longer viable for this era) and who was the most dominant and vote those players in regardless of steroid use.
The members of BBWAA also need to get off their high horse of self importance and self righteousness and put themselves in the shoes of the players. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of these writers and pundits condemning the players for steroid use would have used themselves if all their peers were taking steroids and it meant a salary increase of millions of dollars with no repercussions from the league.
Baseball is still picking up the pieces of the steroid era, an era that it is completely responsible for creating. Now we are left with a Hall of Fame that is missing deserving players in the name of performance enhancing drugs that, at the time, the league did not police.
It’s a shame that Bonds, Clemens and more of the best to play the game will not be enshrined in Cooperstown, and it’s an even bigger shame that these all time greats are being penalized for the era they played in.
They may never get into Cooperstown, but history will show that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were two of the greatest players to ever play the game, and that will mean more to them than a subjective Hall of Fame vote by agenda driven baseball writers.