The baseball Hall of Fame defines itself. It’s a museum that’s dedicated to the famous people that helped build the sport into what it is today, and to celebrate the amazing achievements that have taken place since baseball became professional in 1869. The all-time greats live on there, smiling down on as we walk through time. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame is about to go through the next 10 to 20 draft classes with a significant road block concerning who gets inducted. That road block is named steroids.
The recent baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony made me think about the the next few years, which will essentially mark the beginning of the “steroid era” of the Hall of Fame. Players that put up amazing numbers and broke record upon record during the 80s, 90s and 2000s will be eligible. The elephant in the room will be the clear bottle of liquid and syringe that parked itself over the heads of these players during the last 10 years of steroid investigation. These players put up gaudy numbers, but the authenticity of their stats has been called into question when they were then then accused and/or found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs. Should they be allowed to enter the hallowed ground of Hall of Fame glory? Do these players still deserve it?
No, these players do not deserve it, nor should these players be allowed in the hall of fame. It’s not a new idea by far, but it’s a conversation that needs to be had before it’s too late and the Hall of Fame is tainted with people who decided to chemically enhance their bodies to gain an edge. Let’s put it more bluntly: they cheated. Plain and simple.
Let’s take an example: If I go into an exam for class with an iPhone and use the internet to help falsify my test and appear to have more knowledge than I do, I am cheating. If I get caught, I fail the class and face expulsion from the school. There are no other outcomes. I cheated, I got caught, I suffer the consequences. Now in baseball, if you use “performance enhancing drugs” and get caught, there are a whole slew of ways to wriggle your way out of punishment. “The trainers didn’t tell me what the substance was that they shot into me” (because who would ask right?), “I was told it was something different.” “It was an accident.” For the majority of cases, this has somehow worked! Investigations have came up with a lack of evidence to find the players guilty, or a technicality let these players off the hook. Hell, Mark McGwire refused to answer any questions and absolutely nothing happened to him! In no other forum can that be a legitimate answer in an investigation. Ryan Braun was crowned MVP last season, immediately accused of steroid use, and got off on a technicality. I wonder when he’ll be eligible?
The truly sad part about all these players juicing throughout the late 80s, 90s and early 2000s is that they absolutely dominated. They dominated so much that they obliterated records left and right, truly great records from truly legendary baseball players. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire both broke Roger Maris’s record of 61 home runs in a single season. For nearly 40 years that record stood and then two people happened to break the record in one year, with McGwire finishing with 70 home runs that year. Gone was the Roger Maris legacy, replaced with a record built on syringes and lies. Don’t worry though, McGwire’s record only lasted for three seasons, when an aging Barry Bonds jacked 73 home runs in a single season. I mean, that’s what happens when you’ve been in the league for 13 years, you decide that’s when you going to hit 73 dingers, which was 24 more home runs then he had ever hit in a single season and 27 more home runs then he would ever in a single season until he retired! I guess that season someone ate their Wheaties.
Barry Bonds, in my opinion, is the epitome of everything I hate about the steroid era (the fact that I even have to label and era in baseball as the “steroid era” makes me sick) and why people that use steroids shouldn’t be elected to the Hall. You take a player that dominated parts of the sport for years, putting up great AND reasonable numbers year in and year out for a decade. As he begins to decline, as all players should do, instead of aging gracefully into the makings of a surefire first ballot Hall of Fame career, he decides to give his career a boost back into superstardom. Now I know that nothing has ever been officially been recorded concerning Bonds’s steroid use, but you have to read between the lines. It’s highly unlikely that a 37 year old baseball player is going to have an explosion of offensive production that late in his career and at that magnitude without help. It is completely illogical to think that Barry Bonds did that by himself. The thing that hurt the most though was when Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record in the 2007 season. Though Bonds technically hit 7 more home runs than Aaron, he did it with the help of steroids. Aaron hit all those home runs with two things, his bat and his love for the game. He didn’t have anything else. He didn’t need anything else. Barry Bonds showed us the disrespect of breaking that record solely for his own selfish ego. He didn’t earn that, he wanted it and he took it through his use of steroids. It’s a sports tragedy that Aaron had to congratulate that cheater on breaking his record that stood for 33 years. What I was proud of was that Aaron did it with a smile on his face. That’s integrity.
Leading the draft class next season is going to be Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza, all of whom have had admitted or been accused of steroid use. My solution? Don’t give any of them a single vote. You make have been a great baseball player, but the Hall of Fame has it’s integrity to uphold. I’m not saying these players were bad baseball players. All four, even without steroids, had at least a fighting chance to get into the Hall of Fame. In fact, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds essentially had their bags packed and their tickets bought. Their use of steroids was purely based on selfish motives and/or money. They were afraid of losing a step. I hope they realized they lost more then a step in the eyes of the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire hasn’t received over 25% of the vote to get into the Hall of Fame, 50% short of the designated 75% it takes to be inducted. Rafael Palmeiro hasn’t gotten over 15% since he was eligible. I hope that the Baseball Writers Association of America electorate continue their crusade with trying to keep the halls of Cooperstown clean and safe from contamination. It’s just a shame that Barry Bonds, someone who is within range of several significant hitting milestones: he needs just 65 hits to reach 3,000, 4 runs batted in to reach 2,000, and 38 home runs to reach 800, needs 69 more runs scored to move past Rickey Henderson as the all-time runs champion and 37 extra base hits to move past Hank Aaron as the all-time extra base hits champion, shouldn’t make it into the Hall of Fame. Granted we could never determine what those numbers would be without steroid use, but damn, those numbers are great.
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