Hall of Questions
By Michael Brooks
On January 25 Major League Baseball will announce the 2022 Hall of Fame inductees and no matter who gets elected, a large group of people will have to change their way of thinking. I can say, with no exaggeration, this is the most important year for the future of the baseball Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame in any sport allows only the very best, the ultra-elite in their sport a plaque. For baseball, this year is in question because it is the final year for the voters to make a decision on whether Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens get in.
The 2022 HOF ballots are full of both suspected and known major league baseball performance enhancing drugs users. The ballot has had users on it since players from the 1990’s and early 2000’s (the so-called “steroid era” of baseball) began retiring, but the difference is, two of the best ball players of all time will fall off the ballot if they aren’t elected this year and is it really a Hall of Fame without the best of the best, no matter outside circumstances?
There are 30 names on the ballot this year and seven of them almost certainly used P.E.Ds during their playing days. The interesting thing is, only two of the seven actually ever had a positive test: Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez.
Bonds is without a doubt one of the best players of all time. I say he is the best player of all time, but even if you don’t have him at the top of the list, he has the numbers to be in the HOF. I would go over all the records he holds, but then this column would consume the entire newspaper. The reason he isn’t already in the HOF is because of steroids. Everyone knows he used PEDs, but he never failed a test, and never admitted to it.
I’ve listened to voters and there are several schools of thoughts on Bonds. Almost everyone agrees Bonds started using after seeing Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s epic home run battle in the 1998 season. Bonds was a better player than both before that season started, something his three MVPs before 98 can attest to. Three MVPs already tied Bonds for the most ever...and he ended up with seven. During the 1998 season, Bonds became the first, and still only, member of the 400 steal, 400 homer club. (Before he retired he became the only member of the 500/500 club as well). Remember, all this was before the time it is widely believed he started using PED’s.
The problem is, Bonds’ ego is even larger than his head would become. (If you don’t know what I mean, Google it. Seriously). He knew he was the best player in the game and he wasn’t getting the spotlight. So, the belief is, this is when he started using. If you dig into the details, it is obvious he used, but he was never busted, and never admitted to it but for the sake of brevity, I’m going to say “yes he used, but he still needs in.” And use the same argument for Clemens.
Clemens pitched a long time in Boston but with falling numbers, he was traded to Toronto, and suddenly he found new life and became possibly even a better pitcher than before. Clemens won seven Cy Young awards, the most all time, and three before he went to Toronto, where most people believe he started using PEDs.
I don’t believe Clemens was the top pitcher ever, but I do believe he was a top 20 all time. Hall of Fame worthy for sure.
There are many arguments against allowing PED users into the Hall of Fame and this is where all the problems begin for voters. Did they test positive? Manny Ramirez and A-Rod did. Personally I believe they also both belong in the HOF, but this isn’t their last chance. A-Rod just got on the ballot this year, and Manny still has a few years left. Bonds and Clemens never failed a test, so this argument doesn’t work for them.
Also, did they ever test positive after failing a test became a suspendable offense?, Again, Manny and A-Rod did, Bonds and Clemens did not. (MLB implemented suspensions for failed drug tests in 2004. Before that point, tests were used to determine the percentage of players using. The tests were supposed to be anonymous, but names were leaked anyway. Jose Canseco, the “Godfather of Steroids” in baseball said, at its peak, 85 percent of baseball players were using PED’s. It’s unknown how high the numbers actually were, but Canseco has been right about a lot of things concerning steroids in baseball, so the number could be close to accurate.)
Were they Hall of Famers before they started using? This one is difficult to answer because how can you pinpoint when they actually started using? If you go with the above-mentioned time of their believed starting points, once again, the answer is yes for both of them. Now, the biggest argument is “They cheated, they don’t deserve to be in the HOF.” Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry was a widely known cheater, and was a great pitcher because of his spitball. There are others, but for this argument, Perry is more than enough. His cheating is known by almost anyone who knows baseball. This is also the reason I think Sosa won’t get in this year, also his final year of eligibility. Sosa, another suspected PED user, who never failed a test, if you forgot, was caught using a corked bat during a game. He said he grabbed it by mistake, and though that is possible, the truth is, the little bit of chance his 609 career home runs gave him of entering the HOF, exploded all over the field that day, along with a lot of cork and wood.
Others say they cheated by using drugs that enhance their performance. Hank Aaron admitted to using “Greenies” which are amphetamines. Or how about Tim “Rock” Raines. Yes, Rock really does stand for the drug you think it does. Both are in the HOF. Players throughout baseball history have used all kinds of things to give them energy. Besides, I don’t like this argument because the player still has to have the eye to be able to tell the difference in balls and strikes and have the ability to put the good part of the bat on a pitch. PED’s don’t help that.
One point that I absolutely will agree with about the PEDs the ‘Steroid Era” guys were using assisted them staying healthy longer. Bonds probably would not have been as productive as he was up until he was 42. Clemens may have never had the return to form he had in Toronto. That is most likely true, but they were both already Hall of Fame guys early in their careers.
Another point is, how do we know there are not already PED users from the “Steroid Era” in the Hall of Fame? Canseco said Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez used, and Pudge was elected a few years ago. Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza are two more highly suspected users who are in. The problem is, nobody really knows, and if users are in, you can’t have a Hall of Fame without Bonds and Clemens.
The voters will make a stand this year, and will have to continue making their choices for years to come. A-Rod still has nine more chances. He served a lengthy suspension for PEDs and yet, he still has a legitimate case for the HOF. If the voters let Bonds and Clemens fall off the ballot, they will have to let A-Rod and Manny, and any other PED user fall off the ballot as well, or be labeled hypocrites.
This whole argument is moot if they get elected in a few weeks.
Besides, who wants a Hall of Fame without the best players no matter what “Era” they played in?