Friday, July 24, 2015

The New York Times' Harvey Araton sez Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. I agree.

Like many baseball fans, I have had a number of thoughts and emotions over the years on what MLB should do/should have done about performance enhancing drugs. It is bizarre to me the way this has all shaken out. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who are HOFers even if you cut out their steroid years, are left out of the Hall. Meanwhile, Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, and Bobby Cox, who won championships based on PED users, are in the Hall.

Oh, and Matt Williams is an MLB manager, Mark McGwire is a trusted hitting coach, and Nelson Cruz and Ryan Braun make it to the All-Star Game, and Jason Giambi was a beloved elder statesman of the game. Andy Pettitte is getting a monument plaque in Monument Park and a retired number. All admitted PED users. There is little or no consistency.

Not to mention that the players who use PEDs assume all the risks and the punishments, while the ownership that profited and still profits off their use just gets to cash the checks.

Anyhow, the New York Times' Harvey Araton has a terrific column that touches on this issue. Now that the feds have finally dropped their last remaining charge against Barry Bonds, after the obstruction of justice count was overturned on appeal, Araton argues that Bonds deserves to be in the Hall.

The whole thing is worth a read, but here are some of the most relevant points (emphasis added):

It has long been argued that Bonds had pretty much earned a spot in the Hall as Skinny Barry, with a decade’s worth of greatness before the 1998 preponderance of steroid benefits produced by McGwire and Sammy Sosa seemingly, and rather infamously went to Bonds’s head. What came after was surely a distortion of his previously immaculate stats. But in the context of continued revelations about baseball’s culture — foremost among them the Mitchell Report, which fingered Roger Clemens and shattered all notions of steroids as primarily a slugger’s scourge — the achievements of the bloated Bonds can no longer be permanently and completely discredited, viewed in a vacuum.
And this:
Baseball’s original sin wasn’t that it had — and certainly still has — athletes surreptitiously seeking an edge. It was management’s willful neglect of the problem for the sake of profits along with an obstructionist union wrongfully working to shield the guilty at the expense of the innocent.
As I always say, do you think Brian Cashman didn't know that A-Rod was juicing before they re-signed him? Heck, he could have known before trading for him in the first place!

Speaking of Rodriguez, Araton cites him as a positive example of somebody who has been accepted again into the game:

For many, it would no doubt be painful to hear an induction speech from Bonds, Clemens and the like. But wasn’t the notion of A-Rod again circling the bases after all that went down equally distasteful just months ago? Now what you hear is that he’s a great teammate, who served his time, paid his dues. So, in many ways, has Bonds, albeit with a smirk or a sneer. But how he has acted is not the point in the grand scheme. He deserves to be in the Hall, and baseball deserves to have him there, to deal more realistically, or honestly, with the industry’s original sin.

Ultimately, to me, it comes down to a number of things when it comes to putting PED users in the Hall:

  • Bonds et al had to compete against pitchers who were juicing (and we will probably never know the full extent of that!) And Clemens had to compete against hitters who were juicing. And they were still superstars.
  • PEDs themselves don't make you a great player, or Jeremy Giambi and Randy Velarde would have been big names.
  • Bonds, Clemens, Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, etc. were the best players in the game in their era. How can you represent their generation in the Hall if they have been left out? 
  • Jose Canseco has said there is at least one PED user already in the Hall. When that ever comes out, what will be the justification for keeping the rest out?
  • What about players (cough, David Ortiz) who get a pass for PED use? Should they go in because writers like them, and they were never punished for such use?
It is a complicated subject, to be sure. But it seems to me that Bonds (and Clemens) need to be in the Hall of Fame. It's time for some consistency on this issue. If Torre, Cox, and LaRussa can be in, then so can Bonds and Clemens.

One other note on Bonds: for a guy who is supposed to be such a jerk, Greg Anderson, his trainer and childhood friend, literally went to jail -- twice! -- so as not to testify against him. Think about that for a second. I don't care how much money one could be given for doing so (some have suspected Bonds paid him off). Nothing is worth sacrificing your freedom that way. It says something about Bonds that Anderson did so for him.

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