Why ‘cheaters’ should be in the Hall of Fame – an editorial by Aaron Charles

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Gas used to be $2.00 a gallon, friends used to have to talk to each other to get a status update and 700 home runs used to get you in the Hall of Fame. Not anymore. It’s that time of year again when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America gathers to vote on which players should be enshrined into the hallowed ground of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Or whether any players should get in. For the first time since 1996, the writers declined to elect any players into the Hall of Fame when the results were released on Jan. 9. It was only the eighth such occurance in the Hall’s history – and it wasn’t because of a lack of star power.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were shut out of the recent Baseball Hall of Fame voting because of steroid allegations.
Among the candidates were Craig Biggio (a member of the 3,000 hit club), Sammy Sosa (hit over 600 home runs) and two other pretty good players…Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Bonds is the all-time home run king with 762. He was also issued the most walks of any player in history, hit the most home runs in a single-season (73), has nearly 2,000 RBI, stole over 500 bases in his career and won seven Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards. But none of that is Hall of Fame worthy of course. How about Clemens with his 354 wins, 3.12 earned run average (ERA), 4, 672 strikeouts and seven Cy Young awards? Nope, not good enough either. A player must be on 75 percent of the 569 ballots in order to gain entry to the Hall of Fame. Clemens received 37.6 percent and Bonds 36.2 percent. Not even close. So what on earth could keep these two baseball icons out of the Hall? Well, they kind of maybe sort of cheated a little. Bonds and Clemens have been linked to steroids more than Lady Gaga is linked to meat suits. But let me be clear: I don't think either one ever cheated. The thing is neither Bonds nor Clemens have ever failed a drug test or been proven as steroid users. So why do we automatically assume that they are cheaters just because they became bulked up meat-heads at the end of their careers? Last time I checked we believe that in America someone is innocent until proven guilty. Show me where these guys have been proven guilty and then I might help you lock the doors at Cooperstown. But even if they did use performance-enhancers, I think the case can be made that Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Famers before they started using steroids. Here’s why. Let’s say that we disregard all of Bonds’ stats beginning with the year he hit 73 home runs. His career stats become 494 home runs, 1,405 runs batted in, 471 steals, a .289 batting average and three MVPs – a pretty good Hall of Fame resume. If you just take Clemens’ years in Boston, he would have 202 wins and three Cy Young awards – also pretty compelling. If Bonds and Clemens did use steroids, all I think the drugs did was take two already Hall of Fame worthy resumes and make them some of the all-time best. Still, if Bonds and Clemens ever are proven to be cheaters, I think I could get behind the voters in shutting them out. But in the meantime they deserve to be in. But the Bonds/Clemens railroad is just one problem I have with this year's vote. If you think I'm coming down off my soap box, then you are as mistaken as Sarah Palin in her freshman history class. I think the bigger problem here is that, while voters have qualms about voting big name players into the Hall because of steroid allegations, they also shut out players from the same era who deserve to be voted in but whose stats are not as eye-popping. Craig Biggio should be in the Hall of Fame. He did receive the highest voting total, coming in at 68.2 percent. Still, it's a travesty that he was shut out. He has 3,000 hits for goodness sake! But somehow he was overlooked. Jack Morris has been kept out for 14 years now even though he was the best starting pitcher on three different World Series teams and had arguably the most classic pitching performance ever in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Morris has only one more year left on the ballot before he goes to the Veteran's Committee ballot. His total only went up about 1 percent from last year as he came in at 67.7 percent. It will be tough for him to make the jump to get in next year. The voters can't have it both ways. If you don't want steroid users in the Hall because they cheated, then the best players of the same era who didn't cheat shouldn't have a hard time getting in. But if you put steroid guys in, then you can't discredit the others just because their stats don't match up with the "cheaters." This is a major double standard and I think the voters should be ashamed of themselves. I’m not saying all steroid users with big numbers should get in. Players like Mark McGwire, Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro are tougher to advocate since they have either admitted to using steroids or have failed a drug test. The voters seem to agree since none of the three received higher than 16.9 percent of the vote. They simply aren't getting in. But the few who are all-time greats and have never been proven as cheaters should get the vote. And without a doubt the players who haven’t been implicated in the steroid saga who post Hall of Fame stats should easily get in. It seems like common sense! But maybe I’m just crazy.
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