Time for Hall to acknowledge steroids era

barry-bonds_lightbox

No matter whether he took PEDs or not, Barry Bonds was hardly the same player (or person) by the end of his career.

For the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to elect a single new member to the Hall of Fame. With names like Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa on the ballot, it’s not shocking that the writers shied away from the stench of performance enhancing drugs. Baseball fans knew it was going to be a controversial year. Bonds and Clemens represent two of the greatest players at their positions of all time and had PEDs not been an issue, both would’ve likely been elected to the Hall with well over the 75 percent of the vote necessary for induction. However, that’s not the case and Astros’ legend Craig Biggio was the only player that came close to the 75 percent bar.

Fans are outraged, spewing venom at the writers, calling the voting system antiquated, and the writers clueless. This humble blogger feels differently from the angry fans, who of course were all going to flock en masse to Cooperstown over the summer for the induction ceremony (yeah right…). I don’t blame the writers for failing to elect a single member to the Hall, in fact, I applaud them. The Hall of Fame should be a place for players that truly made an incredible, game-altering contribution to the game. Oh, and they must also represent the highest character possible. I know, I know, we have some terrible human beings like Ty Cobb in the Hall and Babe Ruth wasn’t exactly a saint, but now’s the time to change what’s been done. 

What the Hall of Fame should do, is acknowledge the dark, disturbing, and evil eras of America’s pastime through a permanent exhibit at the Hall. Performance enhancing drugs remain a problem in the game (umm, hello Melky Cabrera), and until baseball finally comes clean about the drugged out era of the 1990s and early 2000s, our favorite pastime is damaged goods. The dangers of the drugs aren’t always taken seriously, but when many of these former sluggers start to feel the repercussions of steroid use, the world will see what the drugs can do. Before that happens, baseball can admit that there was a problem and do the best they can to educate baseball fans and young athletes the dangers of performance enhancing drugs.

We shouldn’t let it become commonplace that the stars we once idolized regularly face criminal charges (i.e., Bonds and Clemens) as a result of their alleged drug use. Instead, we should say never again and realize that no matter how good you were, if drug allegations circle around your head like vultures around a decaying animal, your career is forever tarnished. Using Bonds and Clemens as the prime example, both were first ballot hall of famers before they ever alleged took PEDs. Clemens won an astonishing seven Cy Young Awards and Bonds was even more impressive winning seven MVPs (although he won some of those after the alleged PED use started).

We must question why an athlete is driven to drug use even when his credentials already merited a trip to Cooperstown. Bonds and Clemens had no need to allegedly take drugs, but their competitiveness almost required them to do something to stay on top. Bonds for example, went from a guy who hit the ball, stole bases, and was a Gold Glover in the outfield, to a mammoth of a human being, whose sole purpose in life was to mash home runs at a rate never seen before or likely will be seen again. Clemens dominated AL hitters in the 1980s and early 1990s and as his career started to wane, he allegedly took a dangerous route in order to stay on top and dominate for the Yankees in the latter years of his career.

Why?

Was it just the competitive nature or baseball’s best or was baseball so blinded by the glory of these and other players that they simply let it slip past them? Regardless of the answer, we can’t let it happen again. Baseball shouldn’t be a game where an asterisk next to a player’s record becomes commonplace or we are always questioning a player’s overnight success. Again, using Melky Cabrera as our scapegoat, his career turnaround in Kansas City and San Francisco raised far too many eyebrows, and after a drug test, sure enough, he was taking PEDs.

Before another baseball takes the field with the intent of gaining an unnatural advantage over other players, we must put an end to this madness. Rather than using the writers as bait for the fans, it’s time for Major League Baseball, the Hall of Fame, and others to publicly say what we’ve known for years, the game has a stain that cannot be removed. Focus on making sure future ballplayers avoid performance enhancing drugs and let’s start playing the game the right way. The game might be tainted as far back as the late 1800s, but it doesn’t mean we have to suffer through another 100 years of cheating, unfair competitive advantages, and dangerous decisions.

In a final note, I do believe that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will make it to the Hall. Their credentials more than merit a trip to Cooperstown, however neither man will get to make a speech thanking the writers, the Hall, or the game of baseball. The Hall will let them in well into the future when both Bonds and Clemens are no longer walking this Earth. It’ll be the closing chapter of a very dark era in baseball and the fans still here that remember those days will reflect and hopefully be thankful that the game was never again faced with a crisis quite like the steroid era.

Next year should be a big year for the Hall of Fame as Braves’ legends Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are eligible for the first time, along with former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas. All three should get in on their first try, because as far as we know, these three were some of many class acts that played in the heart of the steroid era.

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