Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens didn’t get into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, a development his backers will chalk up to puritanism, geriatric issues or stupidity among voters.
Clemens was on 57.3 percent of ballots. Bonds, another jumbo juicer, was at 56.4 percent. Seventy-five percent is needed for induction. That neither of them showed much movement from last year’s vote suggests that their hopes for getting into the Hall are in serious trouble. Or, as I would summarize it analytically, yay!
For those of us who believe that the use of performance-enhancing drugs should forever keep a candidate out of the Hall, it was a huge victory. The mere thought of Bonds and former White Sox slugger Jim Thome, who by all accounts played the game fairly and cleanly, being voted in the same year would have been too much for some of us. So, yes, Wednesday was a good day.
A popular argument among the look-the-other-way crowd is that the Hall risks becoming irrelevant the longer voters keep Bonds out. Any hall of fame that doesn’t include one of the best players in history is a fraudulent one, we’re told.
Please help me see the logic in that. The Hall will become a sham if one of the biggest shams of all time is denied access? Is that it? That it looks bad if perhaps the greatest athlete the game has ever known isn’t in the Hall, even if drugs helped create that greatness?
If you covered a windshield with a blanket, it would be a smaller blind spot than the one many voters now have toward the use of PEDs. Somehow, the Steroid Era has gone from an outrage to a wink.
Here’s their message: We the people want to be entertained, and we don’t care how you entertain us. Rather than feel dumb that we fell for a fraud, we’d rather frame it in a way that gives us the feeling of being in charge of the fraud.
Bonds and Clemens cheated and … so what? I never thought I’d see something so egregious so easily dismissed. It’s no different than being caught cheating at cards and then having the pot pushed toward your already massive pile. The ’roid enablers will say the only way that example works is if every player at the table were cheating. Lots of baseball players were taking drugs during the Steroid Era; therefore, the argument goes, the playing field was level.
It follows – somehow – that because PEDs were rampant when Bonds and Clemens played, we should not just forgive the cheaters their baseball sins but honor the most successful among them. My head hurts.
It’s interesting that many of the same people who love statistics are comfortable with juiced players who skewed stats almost beyond recognition. Bonds took a jackhammer to the record book, and the stats freaks frolic in the rubble. A sport whose history can be told in numbers has a 20-year span when the numbers were out of whack, and tons of people shrug. I don’t get it.
Bonds’ champions say he was well on his way to becoming a Hall of Famer before he started using steroids. Never mind that none of those people knows when Bonds began taking PEDs. They’re probably going by when his body and head grew to resemble the Hulk, but who’s to say if that’s the before-after point for the drug use?
Much more important than when it happened is that it did happen. The evidence is overwhelming that Bonds cheated, as it is with Clemens and others. They cheated to get a competitive advantage. The drugs made them stronger and helped them heal faster from injuries. The drugs worked. And the drugs were illegal without a doctor’s prescription.
But now, with time healing all wounds, we want to applaud the cheaters with the loudest applause possible, the Hall of Fame.
If Bonds and Clemens get in, then Sammy Sosa should too. He finished with just 7.8 percent of the vote. If you don’t think steroid usage should be a barrier to the Hall, that paltry percentage doesn’t make any sense. Sosa’s numbers are very similar to Thome’s, and Thome became a first-ballot selection Wednesday.
It looks like Hall voters are now in the business of deciding which cheaters would have been great without steroids. Sounds a lot like those of us who are accused of being the morality police. Instead of deciding who did or didn’t use steroids, these voters will decide, with all their medical and physiological expertise, who benefitted the most from PEDs.
What a mess.