With the recent election of Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the most notable names selected still continue to garner just as much attention as those that missed out. For Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the fame they allocated during their playing days has been severely swept under the rug.
Labels can be deceiving. Was the Steroid Era really a tainted time in baseball or was it a time in which baseball had reached a new level of popularity. As much as we love Pedro Martinez and Craig Biggio, in order to grow your sport, you must have larger than life superstars like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
Bonds captivated the MLB, clobbering everything in his path on route to 762 home runs throughout his career. The often term associated with identifying Hall of Famers is the “5-year peak”. In Bond’s case, he had a 14-year run in which he was the top player at his position both offensively and defensively. Yet, because of PEDs, voters disregard all the fame he accumulated because he was seen as someone who violated the integrity of the game.
Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer, at least by the criteria the Baseball Hall of Fame presents. BBWA Election rules say nothing about cheating, drug usage, or even how well players conducted themselves as a human being. If the Webster’s Dictionary defines fame is the maintenance of public eminence or widespread reputation, I would say that Barry Bonds lead the league in fame every year he played and every year he has been on the election ballot.
But, Bonds was not elected this year and neither was Clemens by the BBWA. Clemens unequivocally is in the same talent class as Bonds as a once in a generation superstar but suffers from the imaginary character clause imposed by Hall of Fame voters.
The BBWA seems to hold both Bonds and Clemens legal clashes in court against them. At the time the MLB chose not to punish Clemens or Bonds for the allegations, but the acclaimed writers who vote players into Cooperstown are.
As much as the BBWA wants to discredit all the accomplishments PED users had by negating them from the Hall, they need to understand that the Hall of Fame chronicles baseball history. To say that six of the 15 greatest home run hitters, including the all-time home run leader, will not enter the Hall of Fame is a farce. To say that Roger Clemens, the only pitcher to win seven Cy Young awards is not a first ballot hall of fame is egregious.
Let’s leave what happens off the field to politicians and judges, and focus strictly on what players did on the baseball field. Debating how great a closer Trevor Hoffman is compared to Billy Wagner is what baseball writers are qualified for, not the ethics of steroid use and how it affects player performance.
PED speculation has made Hall of Fame candidacy an issue of sportsmanship which was clearly violated with PED use; however, fame is an issue of gamesmanship. Is it wrong to use PEDs, yes, but the Hall of Fame is not electing Nobel Peace prize candidates; they are electing the greatest baseball players of all time.
If they have violated the rules of the game to the point that they had to be punished by the MLB then don’t elect them into the Hall of Fame. But, if they lost no time to PED use and are backed up by the supreme court then let what they did on the field speak for themselves.
One glimmer of hope for any players under the PED cloud, is that recent Hall of Fame inductee, Ivan Rodriguez was mentioned in Jose Conseco’s book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, as being personally injected with steroids by Canseco, yet Rodriguez has his place in the Hall of Fame. Allegations aside, time will be Bonds and Clemens’ greatest ally as we get further and further from the Steroid Era.
- I'm a 19-year old sophomore dual major in Journalism and Sports Management at Eastern Nazarene College. Born in Boston, MA raised in Brockton, and just happy to be here at NGSC Sports.