What does it mean to be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame?
Does it mean those who are so honored are beyond moral reproach?
Of course it doesn’t. And when Hall of Fame voters consider morality, they’ve begun to slide down a very slippery slope. No doubt, some bad men who did bad things — albeit great baseball players — are enshrined in Cooperstown.
The 2013 Hall of Fame class will be announced on Wednesday and it will not include arguably the greatest hitter and pitcher in baseball history.
Neither Barry Bonds nor Roger Clemens, both of whom used steroids whether they want to admit it or not, will approach the 75 percent of the vote required from the baseball writers who are trusted with this important assignment.
Steroids are a different anabolic for me.
I know pitchers used to doctor the baseball to gain some kind of an advantage. I probably should be up in arms about a guy like Gaylord Perry being in the Hall of Fame, but what he did was so passive. And what Bonds, Clemens and every other player who juiced did was an assault on the integrity of the game and the records it has produced.
Have players throughout baseball history gained an advantage by popping amphetamines?
But a greenie or two before a game doesn’t carry the same negative weight as an injection of steroids, meant specifically to enhance performance and to create an atmosphere in which other players, who might otherwise never approach a needle, feel pressured to keep up with the Bondses and the Clemenses.
So far, no player implicated in the steroids scandal has been voted into the Hall of Fame.
The most likely players to be voted in today are Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio and pitcher Curt Schilling, one of the best postseason hurlers the game has known. Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza, both of whom have aroused steroids suspicion, seem to be gaining among those who do the voting but probably will fall well short. Pitcher Jack Morris is also a possibility.
I’m not a voter. But if I was, I would not vote for a player who has either admitted to using steroids or for whom there is substantial evidence against.
Holier than thou?
No, and anyway that’s not the point. Throughout history, it’s the numbers that have defined a Hall of Famer. Those who flaunted steroids also flaunted the historical significance of those numbers. And I can’t forgive them.
Bonds was a no-doubt Hall of Famer before he started pumping himself with steroids, reportedly jealous that another juicer, Mark McGwire, was taking away the attention reserved for guys who hit the long ball.
Clemens looked to be on the downside of his incredible career as he entered his 30s. From 1993-1996, he was 40-39 for the Boston Red Sox, then left to sign as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Clemens won 162 games and four Cy Young awards after turning 34. He had a 1.87 ERA for the Houston Astros in 2005, when he was 42. He turned baseball into an Ang Lee movie with some of the greatest special effects you’ve ever seen. All that was missing was a tiger on the mound when he pitched.
You know what they say, if it’s too good to be true.…
Bonds was even freakier.
During his first 10 years in the National League, Bonds averaged 28.6 homers and 43.2 stolen bases per season. He was a superstar, a complete player who won as many games with his legs as with his bat.
Then, from 1996 through 2004, Bonds transformed into the Incredible Hulk. Growing incrementally, but noticeably bigger, he averaged 45.7 homers. He became the most feared hitter in the game, and not because the steroids gave him a glow. To Bonds’ credit, it’s not as if the supplements helped him square up the ball. That’s testament to his amazing ability.
But the steroids obviously boosted his strength. And when he smashed Mark McGwire’s three-year-old home run record in 2001, a record we later learned McGwire had come by illicitly, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing.
Come to find out, we were seeing a manufactured home-run hitter. One who might as well have come off an assembly line.
That’s why Bonds or Clemens won’t get into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday. They stuck a needle into the public’s trust. And don’t tell me there should be a wing in Cooperstown for the steroids abusers. If you think these guys and others should be in the Hall, close your eyes and make it happen. It would be as real as the numbers they put up.