Chicago Cubs Sammy Sosa practices at Pro Player Stadium Thursday Oct 9, 2003. (Photo/jeffrey Boan)
THE TOP 20 VOTE-GETTERS
Candidates must receive votes on
75 percent of ballots to be inducted.
Updated: January 9, 2013 11:23PM
Of all the arguments I’ve heard in favor of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa getting into the Hall of Fame, the flimsiest are the ones that give a nod to the prevalence of cheating in baseball.
The arguments come in two forms. One, steroid usage was rampant in the game from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s, and Bonds, Clemens and Sosa shouldn’t be singled out. Two, cheating has always been a part of baseball, and with spitballers, amphetamine users and other scammers already in the Hall, the door shouldn’t be slammed on these three players for gaining a competitive advantage.
The fatal flaw in both arguments is best summed up by what mothers forever have told their crowd-following kids: Just because everybody’s doing it doesn’t make it right.
Just because people have cheated, are cheating and will continue to cheat in baseball doesn’t make it right. And it certainly doesn’t mean the rest of us should shrug, capitulate and ultimately celebrate these people.
Hall of Fame voters on Wednesday failed to give Bonds, Clemens and Sosa enough support for induction, which is a huge success if you’re a believer in the importance of clean sports. Nobody was voted into the Hall, the first time there has been a shutout since 1996. If you want to say that innocent bystanders such as Alan Trammell were victims of the Steroid Era this time around, go right ahead. Just don’t blame the voters. Blame all the people who took pills and injected themselves in the hopes of getting stronger, faster and richer. They’re the ones who cast shadows on everyone else in the game.
I was nervous before the announcement. More than a few high-profile writers said they had voted for the trio. Then the results came out: Clemens 37.6 percent, Bonds 36.2 percent and Sosa 12.5 percent. Sorry, fellas. Seventy-five percent was needed for induction.
For those of us who see this issue as almost completely black and white, it’s hard to understand how anyone could look at Bonds, Clemens and Sosa without being transfixed by their purported steroid usage. How do you get past that?
By blaming it on Major League Baseball’s lax drug policy at the time? Sorry, doesn’t work. MLB didn’t begin widespread testing for performance-enhancing drugs until 2003, but that doesn’t remove the taint from what came before. Steroids and other drugs that players used for a competitive advantage were illegal on the street without a prescription.
Chalk one up for the good guys — the voters who left the three players well short of induction and those who played the game cleanly. That last category is the difficult part. How do we know who played the game without the benefit of performance-enhancing drugs? We don’t.
But again: not our fault. Nor do we have to apologize for being skeptical of any successes that occurred during the Steroid Era. That’s the cross the players have to carry, and it’s one they hoisted on their shoulders. The players who didn’t use drugs should blame the current predicament on the players who did. Nobody else.
I don’t care if Bonds was so physically gifted that he didn’t need to cheat. I care that enough evidence suggests he did.
I don’t care if you can guess at Bonds’ pre-steroids numbers and still make a case for his induction. I care that character and integrity are supposed to matter when contemplating whether someone belongs in the Hall. And they should matter.
I don’t care if there are unsavory people already in the Hall of Fame. That has nothing to do with us or with the former players trying to get in now.
Look, we’re all tired of steroids talk. A steroids fatigue has set in, and some people, rather than fight, have given in, hoping it goes away. But that’s what the cheaters are hoping for.
It’s what Lance Armstrong banked an entire cycling career on until it became obvious that the mountain of evidence against him wasn’t going anywhere. Now he’s taking the Great American Apology route, in which he’ll undoubtedly tell Oprah that “mistakes were made.’’
If you fall for it, you’re the suckers Armstrong thinks you are.
No former baseball player received enough votes this year to get into the Hall of Fame. Does that mean everybody’s a victim of the Steroid Era? Yes, but especially you, the viewing audience.
Feel free to blame Bonds, Clemens and Sosa for that.