Let a man’s Hall of Fame plaque reflect his scarlet letter if he bears one.
Let a man’s bronzed career epitaph reflect for all time not only the gaudy accomplishments but also the shame and controversy that swirled around his election, including a timeline of admitted or verified PED use.
Bonds and Clemens should be in Cooperstown, N.Y., on undeniable merit even in the context of steroids — but only if their plaques tell the whole truth. Same with the likes of fellow PED’ers Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire or anybody else who isn’t as clear a pick but whose candidacy might at least be arguable if it could be determined the Hall-worthy numbers were there before the steroids.
(The point would be the same with Pete Rose and gambling, for that matter. Rose, the all-time hits leader, is as Hall-worthy as Bonds or Clemens, but you’re damned right his plaque, should he ever get in, ought to mention why it took him so long.)
And if an elected player didn’t agree to that warts-and-all plaque? If he boycotted the induction ceremony because of it? So be it.
This compromise I suggest would allow baseball to stop its endless punitive action against select tainted players whose greatness was far bigger than steroids, while also allowing the sport to maintain integrity by making that taint a matter of record.
As it is, the Hall and voters have heads buried, pretending like all is normal.
On Wednesday, the only allusion to the rejection of Bonds and Clemens by Hall president Jeff Idelson was: “We realize the challenges voters are faced with in this era.”
It is a challenge largely because the BBWAA includes the following sentence on its Hall ballot: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
That makes it too easy for voters to too harshly penalize a man’s fallibility and to decide, as jury and judge, that any association with steroids merits a life sentence.
MLB Players Association director Michael Weiner on Wednesday called the exclusion of Bonds and Clemens “hard to justify.” The thing is, it’s the opposite. It is too easy for voters to justify it by casting that too-wide steroids net that ensnares entire, otherwise legendary careers no matter how big or small a role steroids played.
Grow up, baseball.
Get over yourselves, voters.
This isn’t the hall of perfection or the gates of heaven.
This sport loves to boast how difficult it is by saying you’re considered a great hitter even if you fail seven of 10 times at bat.
Well, Bonds and Clemens are flawed humans who failed in at least one major choice. They also are the greatest hitter and pitcher of their generation, none of which comes in a needle or vial.
It means they aren’t saints.
It shouldn’t mean they aren’t Hall of Famers.