Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa & Roger Clemens belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame. No reservations or qualifications. They belong. And if they are not voted in later this week and inducted this summer it will be a travesty of epic proportions.
Now it seems there is quite a bit of opposition to this. At least there have been rumours to that effect. Very well, the arguments against allowing any confirmed, confessed or alleged PED users into the HOF are easily countered, as I will demonstrate.
They cheated. Ah yes, the battle cry of nine year olds of all ages. Then by that logic no batter with otherwise HOF numbers who ever corked a bat should be allowed in. The same goes for any pitcher who, post 1920, ever threw a spitter. And are we to retroactively give the 1951 NL pennant to Brooklyn because of Bobby Thompson's stolen sign shot heard round the world? Will one of George Brett's career HRs be stricken from the records because of a few inches of pine tar? This is major league baseball, not an elementary school gym class. Let's grow up, shall we?
They made it impossible to judge their records against those of "clean" players. Aside from the fact that we'll never know about the ones who had the good fortune and/or intelligence not to get caught, baseball is the one sport that obsesses over both all-time and single season records and strangely is the one with the least justification to do so. Quick, how many points did Wayne Gretzky retire with? How many did Gordie Howe have when Gretzky passed him? How many rushing yards did Emmitt Smith retire with? How many did Walter Payton have when Smith passed him? No one knows off the top of their heads. No one cares. Greatness is greatness. End of story. But not so in baseball. Numbers like 762, 755 and 714 scream out with meaning to even the casual baseball fan. But this is clearly ridiculous, and has been ever since the founders of the game thought it was fitting to go forward with non-standardized outfield dimensions and foul territory. How can one adequately measure Hank Aaron's 755 HRs against Willie Mays' 660 when Aaron played in Milwaukee County and Atlanta County Stadiums (two launching pads) while Mays played in the Polo Grounds and Candlestick Park (two wind tunnels)? And just how many of Babe Ruth's 714 were hit off of a white man taking a roster spot from a superior black pitcher?
Many times the problem isn't so much how a record is being broken, but that it is being broken at all. Roger Maris initially got an * after his 61 HR season because Ford Frick, MLB Comissioner at the time, had been a good friend of Babe Ruth's. Bud Selig scowled and grimaced his way through Barry Bonds' chase of 755 because Selig is a good friend of Hank Aaron's. To his credit Aaron himself remained silent, possibly in part because as he approached 714 he received letters that would start "You black animal..." and then get nasty. Perhaps Aaron saw more than just a hint of that in the anti-Bonds sentiment both from fans and media.
Then there's the most absurd reason of all. They broke the law. Fine. Then let's purge the HOF of all the coke heads from the 70s and 80s, the speed freaks from the 50s and 60s, and the alkies from the 20s (I'll take Baltimore natives for 500). And that doesn't even cover the HOFers guilty of crimes with actual victims. However I expect that's beyond the understanding of the sports writer who considers vehicular homicide, domestic violence and animal cruelty committed by athletes to be one day, more-sorrow-than-anger stories, but who then turn around and act as if the PED user ran over HIS kid, attacked HIS wife or electrocuted HIS dog.
Sports writers can be absolutely barking mad on this topic. For example, on The Sports Reporters on ESPN one of the writers had a "parting shot" about Ray Lewis. He was praised to the sky for putting the "unfortunate incident" of 13 years ago behind him, doing all his fine community work and continuing to play outstanding football. Fair enough, but then the next writer spent his time spewing two minutes of hate against Lance Armstrong. Why? Because there was a report the Armstrong might be admitting that he did, in fact, use PEDs and that all his denials were lies. And when drugs are involved that's all it takes, just a hint of a trace of a scrap of a story to get the bile and venom flowing. I point this out not condemn Ray Lewis. It seems as if he really has grasped the meaning of, "Go and sin no more". But to believe that covering up a murder (committed by someone else) is objectively less serious than covering up one's own drug use, and that all of the awareness (not to mention money) that Armstrong has raised to fight cancer is somehow negated... Well that's the sign of a twisted mind.
Now if all this still remains unconvincing, consider that in many cases the writers planning to vote against admitting suspected PED users into the HOF are basing that decision on improperly obtained evidence. In 2003 there was an agreement between MLB and the player's union to randomly test players in order to get an idea of just how widespread the problem was. In return for submitting to drug testing the players were assured that no names would be attached to individual results and that no positive results would be used against a player until a formal policy could be established. But somehow these results were leaked. Leaked by lifeforms similar to disease carrying pests that skitter under the fridge whenever someone turns on the kitchen light. And the writers who published this information and/or plan to use it in their HOF consideration are bottom feeders. And we all know what bottom feeders live on.
And the madness doesn't stop with HOF voting. There are those who seriously advocate penalizing teams with players who test positive with loss of draft picks, fines and even forfeiture of post season appearances should they qualify. Because nothing makes more sense than punishing Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain and Buster Posey for the actions of Melky Cabrera.
Then again perhaps it's not reasonable to hold baseball writers to higher standards than the Federal government lives by. Consider the Congressional hearings held on steroid use in baseball. They were not held to obtain new information or consider the effectiveness of old laws. They were held for no other reason than to degrade and humiliate the players called to testify. Sadly Mark McGwire accommodated his inquisitors to the fullest, but Sammy Sosa fared somewhat better with his "no hablo ingles" routine. When questioned about whether this sad spectacle was really the best use of Congress' time, one of the Representatives responded, "We can walk and chew gum at the same time." To which I would say that that clearly assumes facts not in evidence.
None of this is to say that there's anything noble or heroic about using PEDs. Bonds, Sosa and Clemens aren't necessarily good guys. Just infinitely better than the self righteous vindictive writers who would deny their on-field greatness and the chest thumping, grandstanding politicians who would use them as props in their insane drug war.