Once Again Barry Bonds And Roger Clemens are on the Outside Looking in

The other day it was announced that four players had been selected as Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2015 inductees.

Three of the inducted players were making their first ballot appearance while the fourth was elected on his third year on the ballot after missing induction by two votes last year.

While the four elected players represented the largest induction since 1955, once again players who were deemed tainted by the steroid era in baseball were left on the outside looking in.

In fact several of the roughly 500 men and women who comprise the voting members of the BWAA have gone so far as to say that they will not vote for any players who spent their careers in the steroid era regardless of whether or not they ever failed a drug test.

In taking this stance, the anti any whispers of steroid use voters cite the character clause in the Hall of Fame selection process as their reasoning for boycotting players from the so-called steroid era of baseball.

And speaking of the character clause that seems to be so en vogue with certain voters, are we to believe that every member of the Hall of Fame was an Eagle Scout and a scholar off of the field?

There can be character clause cases made against a number of the titans of the game who currently reside in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

Two players currently caught in the crossfire of the character clause point of view are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

I grew up watching both players and aside from a collection of baseball cards with their likeness on them, I was also fortunate to see both players in action at Minute Maid Park.

Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other players who were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting members of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them. Photo R. Anderson
Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other players who were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting members of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them.
Photo R. Anderson

While neither Bonds nor Clemens would be the type of athlete I would want to emulate off of the field based on the amazing egos both men seem to possess, by all accounts those very same egos drove them throughout their careers and should have made them locks for first ballot induction to the Hall of Fame.

Both men had lengthy careers and put up the type of numbers that made a statistician blush and opposing players and fans curse.

Unfortunately late in their careers both Bonds and Clemens were caught up in the net of suspicion regarding performance enhancing drugs and were brought in front of a congressional subcommittee to face charges that they lied about their use of PEDs.

Despite both men being acquitted of the charges against them, and with Hall of Fame caliber numbers, they still are not in the Hall of Fame despite calls from more than 75 percent of fans to let them in.

This year only a third of the guardians of the gate with their golden ticket votes determined that Bonds and Clemens are Hall of Fame worthy.

With only a few more years left on the ballot it is entirely possible that two of the best players of their era will be on the outside looking in when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And therein in lies the rub and the disconnect related to Hall of Fame voting.

The Hall of Fame is decided by around 500 people who have been BWAA members for at least 10 years.

There is no requirement that they ever played the game but merely that they have covered the game as members of the media who have paid their club dues for 10 years.

Another wrinkle in the BWAA rules is that only 10 people can be included on any given ballot despite there being more than 10 eligible players each year.

I am not suggesting that the Hall of Fame turn into a sort of American Idol situation where fans can call in their votes for their favorite players.

But, I am also not sure that allowing 500 members of the media, who have different philosophies on what constitutes a tainted player, should be the only people guarding the gates of Cooperstown and determining who is in and who is out.

In all likelihood I will never be a member of the BWAA nor will I ever cast a Hall of Fame ballot.

But if I were able to ever cast a ballot I would be sure to do my homework on the players and consider their numbers as a whole and not in a vacuum. I would also not use my vote as some sort of political platform.

If steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe, than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players so they should not be banned from the Hall of Fame, especially if no proof exisits that they ever took banned substances. Photo R. Anderson
If steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe, than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players so they should not be banned from the Hall of Fame, especially if no proof exists that they ever took banned substances.
Photo R. Anderson

For example if steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe, than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players.

And by all means with players such as Bonds, Clemens and others who never failed a drug test for any substance banned by Major League Baseball, one cannot ban them from the Hall of Fame because they might have been dirty.

I might have run a red light today, or I might not have.

Should I get randomly pulled over by a police officer and given a ticket just because at some point when no one was looking I may have run a red light? Of course not.

That would be overstepping the authority of the police and go against the letter of the law that one is innocent until proven guilty.

So players need to be judged on their on-field performance and if their numbers support admission they need to be admitted.

Yes, there was a time when the game of baseball was riddled with steroids but it was not the only time in the history of the game where players sought to get an edge.

Are we supposed to go through all the way back to Babe Ruth and others to determine if their numbers were enhanced through supplements? No we are not.

I am glad that drug testing is part of the sport and I do hope that the use of steroids can be contained. However, players always have and always will look for an off the field edge to help their on the field performance.

The practice of using some vague interpretation of the character clause as a way to deny admission to players who have been found guilty of no crime but only appear guilty by association needs to be stopped.

Unless a player drops their pants at home plate and injects steroids into their buttocks in front of 35,000 witnesses, we need to give them the benefit of the doubt and give those players with a Hall of Fame career their proper enshrinement in bronze if they have never failed a drug test.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about baseball has me craving a hot dog.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

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