The Hall of Fame Needs Barry Bonds - In the The Steroid Cheaters Era Wing
I am not a fan of Barry Bonds. I believe that he cheated the game. I discount his season & career counting numbers because he cheated. His head and feet grew!
Growing up in Washington state, I've always been a huge fan of Ken Griffey Jr., and Bonds was The Kid's main competition for Best Player in the Game throughout the 1990's. And Bonds isn't even a nice guy from all reports, not that I have ever met the man. Feels like sacrilege.
All that being said - Barry Bonds belongs in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. His bronze plaque belongs in Cooperstown.
The Class of None
For the first time since 1963, there will be no living Hall inductees in 2013. This being the first year Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens - another assumed cheat - are eligible for induction. I believe that both men cheated, personally. But how many others cheated along with them? How are we to know everyone who used? We can make assumptions about guys - Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmiero, Jose Canseco, Brady Anderson, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettite, Alex Rodriguez, the Giambi brothers. Did they use? Maybe so, but how could we ever really know after all of these years?
Now I am not saying that we reward cheating. It's not quite that simple. Major League Baseball - and the owners specifically - chose to reward those players by writing checks and looking the other way. From a player's perspective, if you see the other guy cheating and getting rewarded for it, you might see it as cheating yourself not to maximize your own potential by any means. Blame the owners, and blame the writers, and blame the fans.
If the cheating was that prevalent, then they were on a level playing field. How much did it help them? Pitchers recovered faster between appearances, and hitters could more easily stay in the lineup through nagging injuries. It's disgusting that it all went down the way that it did, but those were the times. It happened, and we can't simply ignore it.
Look at what has just happened; no one is going into the Hall this year! What an utter cluster this is. It's a complete disgrace. It's a joke. I get it - if you don't vote for Bonds or Clemens, then how can you call yourself voting for Piazza or Biggio? And yes, Clemens and Bonds will surely garner the required 75% for induction next time around. It's a message sent. Fine.
The Steroid Era Wing
But are the Baseball Writers and the Hall of Fame going to shun an entire generation of ballplayers simply out of whispers and suspicion? How can they ignore an entire generation? The Hall of Fame is not valid if it rejects the best playesr in the game. Are the Baseball Writers supposed act as judge and jury concerning who did and did not use PEDs in decades past? And why should that be their responsibility?
Solution? Have separate wings in the Hall for the respective eras. Call it the Steroid Era wing if you want. We can have the Dead Ball Era wing, and the Lively Ball wing, and the Integration Era wing, and the Free Agency wing. We can't really compare Cy Young to Sandy Koufax, or Satchel Paige to Greg Maddux, or Walter Johnson to Randy Johnson, or Bob Feller to John Smoltz, or Satchel Paige to Tom Glavine. How do you compare Cal Ripken Jr. to Loius Apparicio? Alex Rodriguez to Brooks Robinson? Craig Biggio to Jackie Robinson? Josh Gibson to Mike Piazza? Barry Bonds to The Babe? Frank Thomas to Jimmie Foxx? Vlad Guererro to Ty Cobb? Juan Gonzalez to Frank Robinson? Jeff Kent to Nap Lajoie? Ken Griffey Jr. to Willie Mays?
The ballparks were big, the ballparks were small. Players used PEDs, and players used greenies. Mounds rose, mounds fell. Ball were wound, balls were humidified. Integration, free agency. Things change. Times change.
Judge the players by their performance. That's the only reasonable answer. Judge players against their contemporaries, and vote accordingly.
Why does Barry Bonds belong in the the Hall? Because he was dominant. He struck fear into pitchers like no other man before. 7 MVPs. 762 & 73. 2558 & 688 - career walks and intentional walks - both all-time career records. Sure, he had elephantitis of the head. But I remember the guy who struck fear on the base-paths in Pittsburgh and was good for 30/30. And let's not forget The Fan, Wesley Snipes with that Hummer and crazy-stalker-guy Robert DeNiro - we all know Snipes was based on Barry in San Fran. That has to count for something, right?
And Clemens, too. Another reprehensible man, in my humble opinion. But he dominated the game too. 7 Cy Young Awards. 354 wins. Hurling broken bats at base runners and looming over batters in his burly fashion and striking out 20 Mariners.
Put both men in the Hall next year, along with Maddux, Glavine, Biggio and Piazza. I realize that's six guys, and the only time the Writers elected as many of five players was the initial Hall of Fame class of 1936. Whatevs. Do it big.
Leave out McGwire, he was a one trick pony. Leave out Sosa, he was an exiting player, but ultimately a small window of dominance. Leave out Palmiero. Pettite and Sheffield? Possibly, but how does that effect Dave Parker and Jack Morris? A-Rod? Sure, why not? We'll have to see where the final numbers lie.
But that's my whole point... judge these guys on their performance, not on rumors.