Later today the results of Baseball Hall of Fame voting will be announced. There are many interesting candidates on the ballot and with that in mind, it is a bit disappointing that the otherwise very interesting discussions will be overshadowed by the one that will come up instead about the suspected drug cheats who are on the ballot. But it is what it is and the argument about honoring those from the steroid era is hardly unimportant.
The biggest names on the ballot from the so-called Steroid Era are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but there are others as well. None of them should be awarded baseball’s highest honor. The argument in their favor tends to go along the lines that they should only be judged on their on-the-field performance and that in any case the allegations are not proven.
The first part is utterly fallacious; one needs look no farther than the example of Pete Rose for an example of someone whose performance merited election to the Hall oF Fame, but who was denied due to his other actions. The Hall of Fame is not merely about numbers, it is about honoring the greatest of the sport and there is an integrity component to that.
In fact, one can make a much better case for Rose than the suspected drug cheats of this ballot. In Rose’s case his numbers and achievements are at least unarguable, but that is not the case with those accused of being drug cheats as should be clear from the word ‘cheat’. The numbers of Bonds and Clemens are certainly very impressive, but there is very good reason to believe they were not achieved legally.
One would not claim that a man who used an aluminum bat was the greatest home run hitter in history; the same argument applies to Bonds and an analogous one to Clemens. If nothing else, the fact that one cannot trust the numbers put up by these players should be a strong reason not to vote for them. Even if one believes that there should be no other argument than on-field performance, the fact remains that the likes of Bonds and Clemens have not earned election to the Hall of Fame.
But such a belief would be an utterly misplaced one. Integrity and fair play is vital to sport; there must not only be a level playing field, but there must be confidence that the playing field is level and that all of the participants are competing fairly and to the best of their abilities. There is no such confidence in Bonds and Clemens. To honor them would be to extend baseball’s worst public relations disaster since the Black Sox scandal and to give more fuel to the view that crime does pay in baseball.
The baseball writers must do their part to put an end to this, to show that baseball truly is a clean game worthy of trust and admiration. That the allegations are not proved does not matter. Most things can never be proved, but one must weigh the evidence both for and against and in this case the evidence is overwhelming.
The names of Bonds and Clemens are forever tainted; electing them to the Hall of Fame would thus taint by extension what is arguably baseball’s most sacred institution. This must not happen. Above all else, above all arguments about whether Bonds and Clemens have earned their numbers and above all arguments about integrity there remains the simple fact that it is not right to sully the Hall of Fame by putting the likes of Bonds and Clemens into it. The Hall of Fame ought to be the shining example of the best of the sport. Hopefully the baseball writers have seen fit to defend that.