The 2018 class for the MLB Hall of Fame was announced last week and with it came what is quickly turning into an annual tradition. For players to make it into the Hall of Fame, they have to receive 75 percent of votes from writers and sports analysts around the country.
The controversy came with two players who didn’t reach that threshold: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Since 2013, the two have been clamoring to get into the Hall of Fame and if you look at their career achievements, it would seem like a no-brainer to put them in.
Bonds has the most career home runs ever, set the record for the most home runs in a season with 73 and is a seven-time National League MVP. Clemens won two World Series with the New York Yankees, two-time triple crown pitcher and won the Cy Young Award seven times.
By numbers alone, the two should be in. The problem lies in the story behind those numbers. In the sports most infamous period, these two rose among the rest as the face of steroid use.
In 2007, a former U.S. Senator published a report based off a 20-month investigation which is now known as the Mitchell Report. The report found a rampant use of steroids in baseball and named 89 players that were alleged to have taken steroids. Among those names was Bonds and Clemens.
Clemens and Bonds were both called to testify in front of Congress and both were charged with perjury for allegedly lying during those testimonies. Both had their charges dropped but it didn’t matter, the media drama surrounding the controversy and the enormous, perhaps even irreversible, damage it had done to baseball’s reputation had turned it into something even non-sports fans were familiar with.
Since becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame, a debate has raged on whether or not the two should be inducted. Bonds is arguably the greatest hitter of all time and many would rank Clemens as one of the best pitchers in recent memory. Some say they should be on because their numbers are so great. They say since neither one has ever admitted to using steroids, it is unfair to continue to judge them for a crime they didn’t commit.
The first problem with that is Bonds did admit to it. His lawyer told a jury on Bonds’ behalf in 2011 that he did use steroids but was misled by his trainer to think it was something else. Clemens, to his credit, has vehemently denied using steroids despite former player and admitted steroid-user Jose Canseco saying Clemens was well-versed in steroid use. Clemens was also named by pitcher Jason Grimsley, who also ousted another player who admitted Grimsley was correct.
So we have an admitted steroid user and another whose guilt has never been proven but there is clearly a mountain of evidence to go along with the accusations. The main argument for letting these players in is because it is known at the time that there have been plenty of players who were using and never got caught and so baseball should accept what happened and admit Bonds and Clemens were the best players of that era and be allowed in.
This is a ridiculous argument. Just because everyone might have been cheating and some may have gotten in who used steroids, that doesn’t mean the Hall of Fame should just openly accept those who have been accused so heavily with so much evidence to support it.
Letting players in who likely used performance-enhancing drugs is a disservice to those who enhanced their performance through hard work. I don’t want to see Chipper Jones, who had a great career through that era without ever being accused of steroid use, standing next to Barry Bonds whose records will forever be tainted by his mistakes.
To be clear, I am not saying anyone and everyone in the Mitchell Report should be denied entry. What I am saying is in Bonds’ case, even if he is telling the truth about not knowing what he was putting in his body, steroids were there. In Clemens’ case, not only is his name in the Mitchell Report but two players have pointed to him as a steroid user including one who correctly identified another abuser. This is too much evidence to ignore.
For those of you who say they were great before the time they allegedly began using, that’s true but again it’s ignoring history. Since they were so great before, their supposed use of steroids becomes even more undeserving of the Hall of Fame. They put in the hard work and it was paying off but they selfishly wanted more and put up numbers that made players of the past look cheap in comparison.
Those past players didn’t deserve to have their records broken because they played fairly and others did not.
Allowing two of the biggest faces of the Steroid Era into the Hall of Fame not only will open the flood gates for all cheaters to get in but it will be a sign that baseball has accepted the Steroid Era as an unfortunate fact yet still celebrate it.
There were naturally good players in the game during the Steroid Era. They should be the ones celebrated for rising above the muck, not rolling in it and they should not be forced to revel in their accomplishments next to someone who achieved the same because they took the easy way.
It’s very possible some players have been inducted who did use steroids but just because one cheater may have made it in undetected does not mean every cheater should get in. A few drops of oil in water is nothing compared to spilling an entire gallon in.
Bonds and Clemens have both seen their voter numbers slowly climb since 2013 finishing with 56 and 57 percent respectively. That’s a 20 percent climb for both since they were first eligible. They have four more years to get in before they can no longer make it so it’s likely both will go in the Hall of Fame at some point in the future.
Younger sports writers are being awarded votes and on average, younger writers don’t take as hard of a stance on the Steroid Era as others. So it is possible the two will be enshrined in eternal glory in Cooperstown.
And that will be a sad day for baseball.
Tad Desai covers sports and education for The Sealy News. He can be reached at 979-885-3562 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.