Padanilam: Baseball fans must prepare for Hall of Fame elections of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens
Benjamin Padanilam | Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Wednesday marks one of the most important days of the baseball offseason: the day the Baseball Hall of Fame announces the election results of the votes cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).
For players like Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell, who fell just shy of the 75 percent threshold for election last year after making major leaps, induction appears to be inevitable as more and more ballots have been made public ahead of the official announcement Wednesday.
These same ballots, however, also appear to indicate the inevitability of controversial giants such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Perhaps this year is not the year they see their induction, but the number of voters willing to put them on their ballot continues to increase at a rate indicative of future election — at least if they avoid stirring up further controversy that would upset voters in the way Curt Schilling has with his social media posts.
And this pattern could be indicative of a future trend: players from the MLB’s Steroid Era might no longer be blocked from passage to the Hall of Fame.
There’s no doubt that on numbers alone, Bonds and Clemens are two of the greatest to ever lace them up and step onto a diamond. Bonds is baseball’s home-run king with 762 career long balls, and he has seven MVP trophies to his name. Clemens is his pitching equivalent, holding seven Cy Young awards.
But both have long been tainted by their poster-boy status for the sport’s Steroid Era. At least, it seems, until now.
In 2015, the Baseball Hall of Fame changed its voter eligibility rules, eliminating voting rights for members of the BBWAA who were previously voters but had not “been active in the game” for at least 10 years. Known by many writers as “The Purge,” it took votes away from old-school journalists who would never consider giving Bonds or Clemens their votes due to what they considered disregard for the sanctity of the game.
And soon after, the writers who covered these larger-than-life legends during baseball’s darkest times were the ones whose say mattered. Bonds and Clemens were no longer viewed simply as villains to the game’s integrity, but great players who stood out in an era where use of performance-enhancing drugs was rampant. Tainted by their era? Yes. But unworthy of Hall of Fame consideration when considered in the context of their time? No more.
Yet, that logic seems flawed to many. Cheating just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make cheating acceptable or appropriate. Players like Bonds and Clemens shouldn’t get a pass just because they come from an era in the sport where steroids was the norm rather than the aberration it was before.
And that’s the dilemma fans today face: deciding for themselves whether the use of steroids in the Steroid Era is cheating to begin with; determining whether cheating automatically invalidates the achievements of the players who chose that path; figuring out if they can reconcile steroid use with the incredible heights these players achieved in comparison to those of their era and those of the past with whom they compete for a spot in the Hall of Fame now.
And it’s a dilemma fans of the game must come to their own answer for because, whether they like it or not, players such as Bonds and Clemens will more than likely be in the Baseball Hall of Fame in the very near future.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.