Hall of Shame: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens gaining on Cooperstown

SHARE Hall of Shame: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens gaining on Cooperstown

Barry Bonds, left, received 53.8 percent of the Hall of Fame vote, and Roger Clemens received 54.1 percent. (AP Photo/File)

What an embarrassment.

Barry Bonds and Rogers Clemens once were rightly shamed for loading up on performance-enhancing drugs and making a mockery of baseball statistics, but many Hall of Fame voters, in the grip of soft-spined surrender, are pushing the pair toward Cooperstown.

When the Hall made balloting public Wednesday, Clemens had gotten 54.1 percent of the vote and Bonds 53.8 percent. Seventy-five percent is necessary for induction, which means that both former players have a good chance of getting in during their last five years on the ballot.

I assume that those who did vote for the pair don’t live in a vacuum and that they’re reflecting the deterioration of backbones among baseball fans, too. If so, then shame on everybody.

I didn’t vote for either man or for anyone who has the least bit of PED taint to them. Nothing has changed since the Steroid Era except, almost inexplicably, attitudes.

It has been years since Bonds and Clemens did their damage, and the discussion has turned to whether we all overreacted. Hearts soften. Attitudes change. OK, fine. But we seem in an awful hurry to go from forgiveness to coronation.

What’s happening here isn’t like serving your prison sentence and getting released. It’s like serving your prison sentence, getting released, then being short-listed for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

If you lie about using PEDs, as Bonds and Clemens did during and after their careers, that speaks to their character, and character is one of the factors voters are supposed to consider. Those players cheated because they thought they would get an edge competitively, and they most certainly did get an edge. But they never wanted to face the consequences of their actions, so add cowardice to their crookedness.

How using PEDs went from a major failing to a muffed grounder is an exercise in moral gymnastics. But all the arguments about why Bonds and Clemens should be in the Hall fall apart upon examination.

Everybody was complicit during the Steroid Era. No, everybody wasn’t complicit. But for the sake of discussion, let’s say that the commissioner, the managers and the media all turned a blind eye to what was going on. Does that mean the actions of Bonds and Clemens weren’t so bad after all? Not even close.

Bud Selig is in the Hall of Fame. If the former commissioner ignored the growing PED crisis because it was good for business — and there’s no solid proof of this — then it’s a travesty he’ll be inducted this year. But it doesn’t follow that because he’s a Hall of Famer, Bonds and Clemens should be, too.

Lots of players were doing steroids. This is true. And? We should have a blanket amnesty? All it means is that lots of players were doing steroids. It doesn’t lessen the baseball sin.

They entertained me! Yay, you.

Major League Baseball didn’t test for performance-enhancing drugs back then. Correct, but anabolic steroids were and are an illegal drug if used without a doctor’s prescription. Finish the sentence: If it’s against federal law to use steroids, . . .

Steroids don’t help you hit a baseball. Right. That’s why so many players used them and why statistics from the era are so out of whack with the numbers that came before and after.

Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Famers before they started doing PEDs. If someone was a great lawyer before he started siphoning money from a client, does he belong in the American Bar Association Hall of Fame?

Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa saved baseball after the 1994-95 strike. No, they didn’t. That assertion has taken on a life of its own and softened views on steroids. Baseball’s attendance increased by 4.2 percent in 1998, the year the two players chased Roger Maris’ home-run record for a season. That was a little less than the increase of the year before. Attendance actually decreased by 1.8 percent the year after the McGwire-Sosa duel. Let’s not reward the cheats for something that never happened.

Steroids are a victimless crime. How many impressionable teenagers started using ’roids when it became apparent their heroes were chemically fueled? No one knows. In 2002, the National Institute of Drug Abuse said that 2.5 percent of eighth-graders, 2.5 percent of high school sophomores and 4 percent of high school seniors who participated in its study admitted to using steroids. That’s a lot. That’s too much. Besides long-lasting heart and liver damage, steroids can lead to depression.

OK, but who else did it hurt? The people who might have been under the silly impression that what they were watching was real. Sure, maybe they were naive. And maybe it was for the better that they finally saw what was behind the curtain. But no one can say we were better for the Steroid Era. To shove Bonds and Clemens in the direction of the Hall is to imply we were.

And yet, all of this matters less and less to people.


Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.

Email: rmorrissey@suntimes.com

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